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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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Xoanon

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So think you might have a mad computer on your hands. What do you do? You call in the Doctor to fix it for you, right? Wrong. Turns out that’s probably the worst possible thing you can do.

The fourth Doctor tried to fix a computer once, instead of just blowing it up. It didn't go well. He got it working again, but he also left an imprint of his own consciousness in its data banks, causing it to develop multiple personalities, including his, and go insane. The Doctor had to deal with the outcome many centuries later in 1977’s The Face of Evil. The Face? It was the Doctor’s own.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'The Face of Evil'

Here’s what happens when computer repair goes horribly, horribly wrong
Source: BBC

The addled machine then proceeded to declare itself the god Xoanon, enslave the entire crew of the ship it was designed to run, and run a decades-long eugenics program on the humans, reducing them to primitive, warring tribes.

The Doctor eventually managed to complete his repairs to Xoanon, but not without a lot of tears along the way, with Xoanon nearly destroying the entire colony with a self-generated atomic explosion. Is this really the guy you want showing up at your desk when you put in a trouble ticket with PC support? We think not.

The Matrix of Gallifrey

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So why does a man as intelligent and dedicated to science as the Doctor seem to have such trouble with computers? Clearly, Time Lords in general just never got the hang of such things, because the vaunted APC Net - Advanced Panatropic Computation Network - of Gallifrey, more popularly known as the Matrix, is arguably the worst computer system in Who history.

Oh, it contains the collected knowledge of the entire Time Lord race, sure. But what good has it ever done? It does a bang-up job of creating truly realistic virtual reality, but it’s all full of awful bogs, crocodiles, samurai warriors, and creepy clowns, as the fourth Doctor saw in 1976’s The Deadly Assassin.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'Trial of a Time Lord'

The Master demonstrates just how crap Gallifrey’s IT security really is
Source: BBC

It doesn’t seem to have any security measures at all. The mad Time Lord Omega had no trouble stealing the Doctor’s “bio-data” from the Matrix in 1983’s Arc of Infinity. The Doctor’s nemesis the Master absconded with secrets from it in 1986’s Trial of a Time Lord, as did a bunch of roving sysadmins from the star system “Sallostophus in the constellation of Andromeda”. The Doctor’s own evil future-self, the Valeyard, was seemingly able to edit its contents at will.

Little wonder, then, that the Doctor never seemed able to get along with computers. He did his undergraduate computer science work on the most poorly designed system in the universe. The Time Lords may be the undisputed masters of space and time, but trust us, their IT certifications aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They “long since stepped aside from the barren road of technology”, and it shows. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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