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Digital deviants: The many MAD COMPUTERS of Doctor Who

Through space and time with the universe's worst IT

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The Master Brain

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The computer that ran the Land of Fiction in 1968’s The Mind Robber was particularly problematic, because it had the bad habit of plugging itself into living people’s brains. By tapping the thoughts of a writer known only as the Master - no, not that Master, a different one - it was able to synthesise a world of characters, creatures and places drawn from literature.

But after spending decades with the Master Brain controlling his mind, the Master had had enough. He schemed to have Patrick Troughton’s Doctor take his place for the next phase of the Master Brain’s plan: turning humankind into “a string of sausages”, all alike and all under computer control.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'The Mind Robber'

Plug your brain into this beauty and you can control reality. Downside: your brain is plugged into it
Source: BBC

What we’d like to know is who built such a computer in the first place? For what useful purpose? And who would volunteer to have their brain plugged into it?

Never mind. Blow it up. Naturally, the Doctor was too clever for the machine. After a battle of wills, he managed to free the Master from the Master Brain’s control and caused the computer’s own White Robot drones to destroy it – which is, after all, the only sensible way to deal with a computer in Who.

The BOSS of Global Chemicals

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Apparently the Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor, the supercomputer in charge of multinational conglomerate Global Chemicals in 1973’s The Green Death – you know, the one with the maggots - was built too late to have watched The War Machines when it was broadcast, because its plan was essentially the same as WOTAN’s. By linking itself with all of the world’s computers, it would assume total control of the world with humanity as its slaves.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'The Green Death'

Creates giant maggots, wants to rule the world, and loves Wagner. What's not to like?
Source: BBC

But the BOSS did its dirty work with so much more aplomb than WOTAN. In addition to the usual mind-controlling and executions, it also dumped chemicals into a mine that gave birth to giant, plague-bearing maggots, and it carried out its plans while singing Wagner and cracking jokes.

It was cleverer than your average AI, too. Jon Pertwee’s Doctor tried to stump it with a variation on the liar paradox, but even that trick wouldn’t make it race out of control and explode - BOSS just called in the guards and had the Doctor locked up. Not that BOSS was above such things like racing out of control and exploding, mind you – it did that later, after the Doctor shorted its circuits. It was only a computer, after all.

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