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What happens when machines get ideas above their station? And how close are we to the age of the omnipotent supercomputer predicted by Doctor Who?
Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) tries to reason with K1 in Robot (1974-75).
The ‘ghost’ of the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in Before the Flood (2015).
Professor Brett (John Harvey) comes under mental attack from WOTAN in The War Machines (1966).
The Doctor (William Hartnell) listens as Arbitan (George Colouris), the Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, relates his planet’s history in The Keys of Marinus (1964).


The Oxford English Dictionary defines artificial intelligence as ‘The capacity of computers or other machines to exhibit or simulate intelligent behaviour.’ The Doctor uses the term in Before the Flood (2015) to refer to a feature of a hologram which can display a limited range of interactions and deploy some pre-recorded phrases.

More ambitious machines have appeared in Doctor Who on a regular basis, almost since the programme began. Several of the Doctor’s robot adversaries and friends have qualified as artificial intelligences, from K1 in Robot (1974-75) to the Doctor’s robot dog K9, first encountered in The Invisible Enemy (1977). However, almost all of Doctor Who’s intelligent robots have been easily individualised and their threat defined through physical size or force (as with K1), or else they’ve had characteristics that make them little different from an organic being, such as Drathro in The Trial of a Time Lord (1986). Intelligences that reside in objects, or which have no obvious physical form, are potentially more threatening because they’re harder to identify.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Ever since the TARDIS was first revealed in 1963, Doctor Who has presented a bewildering array of alien technology and gadgetry. Human scientific knowledge can do nothing to explain the mysteries of the astonishing devices and phenomena that the Doctor takes for granted. This is the first publication devoted to the incredible ideas that the series has made its own. Highlights include a comprehensive guide to the sonic screwdriver, the secrets of the Time Lords and the weaponry of the Doctor’s most dangerous enemies.