The Doctor and Clara materialise on board a sinking soviet submarine at the height of The Cold War. As if the rather pressing matter of nuclear annihilation wasn’t enough, our unfortunate comrades soon find themselves contending with something a bit more green and a lot more dangerous: one of The Doctor’s oldest adversaries,The Ice Warriors.
After Steven Moffats fast-paced action filled Bells of St. John and the emotional but rather lacklustre Rings of Akhaten from Luther creator Neil Cross, Doctor Who seems to be on a lot more sounder ground with the Mark Gatiss penned ‘Cold War’.
Yes, this is the 50th anniversary year of Doctor Who, and show runner Steven Moffat has promised us episodes that are going to be bigger and better than ever before.
In all the spectacle, and attempted cinematic blockbuster episodes, there’s been muttering from some corners of the internet (I say muttering… it’s actually a lot worse) that we’re kinda loosing what makes Doctor Who…well, good old Doctor Who.
Thankfully, ‘Cold War’, harks back to the days of classic Who television, pitting The Doctor against a very classic foe, Ice Warrior General Skaldak, and makes this third episode of the new run the most enjoyable so far,
Not that ‘Cold War’ is without it’s headaches.
And it’s before the title credits even role that we get our first head scratching moment and it’s with the introduction of General Skaldak himself. We’re on a limited running time of 45 minutes and I appreciate Gatiss wants to introduce Skaldak as quickly as possible, but the person deciding “Oh let’s just to thaw out whatever is hiding in this block of ice, before arriving back at Moscow” was just moronic.
So many of these things start with human stupidity and personally, I would have preferred to have seen a more creative approach.
General Skaldak is more than just your average ‘monster-of-the-week’ and Mark Gatiss takes time to flesh out the Ice Warrior, giving him real motivations and generally creating a character you can sympathise with.
You can understand General Skaldaks reasons for attacking the submarines crew (once again the stupidity of humans in firing first) though the General does seem to suffer from the most irrational of personalities.
Waking up after 5000 years of ice induced sleep, I’ understand you’d be feeling more than just a little groggy and suitably pissed off that either a) your entire race is dust or b) they’ve just forgotten about you.
It struck me very odd though how Skaldak went from the brutal forensic killer, dismembering two hapless crew members to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the human anatomy, to deciding to spare David Warners character Professor Grisenko, especially after seemingly taking a bullet from the professor.
All in the space of about 5 minutes of air time.
Nevertheless General Skaldak was a lot of fun. The claustrophobic setting of the submarine served the Ice Warrior well, and made him look way more imposing during his Robocopesque-marching-up-and-down-the-corridor sequences.
The jury is still out on him out of his armour though.
Companion Clara Oswald seemed a little out of her depth this week (excuse the pun – who am I kidding, I love puns) not so much the feisty young girl who can apparently out speak The Doctor.
I’d like to think that Clara has had a bit of a reality check after coming across the dismembered bodies, and has learnt that travelling throughout the entirety of time of space isn’t always going to be the awesome family picnic she thought.
The Doctor was without his TARDIS and sonic screwdriver for the majority of the episode, and whilst I don’t think we can ever have too much of the TARDIS on our screens, I was glad that the sonic screwdriver took a bit of a back seat, especially after the ridiculousness in last weeks‘Rings of Akhaten’ and the door-that-should-never-of-opened.
Unfortunately, despite not having access to the TARDIS at all, or use of his sonic screwdriver (until the last 15 minutes), I never felt The Doctor felt vulnerable, or that he was being pushed to to his limits. This is surprising considering how much he generally relies on the sonic screwdriver.
This was handled a lot better in “The Doctors Wife” where without his TARDIS, the Doctor genuinely felt exposed and didn’t know what to do.
Despite what seems to be me writing about of things that bugged me during ‘Cold War’ it still remains an enjoyable episode. Mark Gatiss’ love for Doctor Who is evident throughout and it’s very much a piece he’s made his own. Whilst never ever approaching scary, something you may expect from a Gatiss script with his love for the genre, tensions nevertheless remain high which will ensure you’ll keep bums on seats for it’s entire 45 minutes duration.