Ah, Ah, Ah… Spoilers
A The Day After Tomorrowesque intro sequence tells us that we are at the North Pole and it is 1983. It’s Alex Drake, she was shot and that bullet sent her back to Doctor Who. Is she dead? Or in a coma? Err, sorry, right year wrong series. So it is 1983 and we are aboard a Russian nuclear submarine who speak with very convincing English accents. They are about to fire nuclear missiles when David Warner interrupts with a rather poor rendition of Ultravox’s Vienna (now you see why I got confused with Ashes to Ashes?). David Warner saves the world again, huzzah! Well not really, it was a drill. A shame Doctor Who got cancelled at the end of the 1980s, I think he would have made a good Doctor.
To prove their Russian-ness, the very English Tobias Menzies and Liam Cunningham discuss NATO aggression. Menzies goes off leaving Warner and Cunningham to discuss “the specimen” and they decide it is probably a mammoth. Deep in the bowels of the sub, we see something in a block of ice. Clearly not a mammoth as it is humanoid in shape, a grease monkey decides to take it upon himself to thaw the thing out because they can’t wait to get it back to Moscow (yes, we’re Russian get over it!) The thing thaws slightly and then a hand shoots through the ice and grabs the grease monkey by the throat. Nope, that’s not a mammoth.
Something has attacked the sub and it has sprung a leak – sinking fast – when the TARDIS materialises much to the annoyance of Clara who thought they were going to Vegas. There’s some shouting along the lines of “who are you?” “no time for that, I can save you” “but who are you” “let me explain what is wrong and how I can stop it” “oh, ok then.” BANG! The sub hits solid ground but seems to be teetering on the edge of an Abyss (let’s not wait for the water based life forms – probably not going to be any here which also means no Michael Biehn either). Introductions are made, The Doctor and Clara are searched while the former gives the latter a quick history lesson on the Cold War and is relieved of his Sonic Screwdriver prompting the TARDIS to make a bolt for it – more weird shit from her. This girl is getting flaky in her old age.
Then the recriminations start up again. Naturally nobody trusts The Doctor even when he tells the Captain the truth about who they are and how they got there. They all step back; The Doctor is convinced that they are seeing sense so he fires off question after question about the state of the sub until he realises there is something behind him and turns around. Oh hello Old Friend – long time no see!
More introductions are made and the Ice Warrior introduces itself as Grand Marshal Skaldak. Recognition flickers across the face of The Doctor. The creature is zapped and collapses unconscious. The Doctor berates the person who does it to which Clara asks the obvious question “you know him?” Yes he does and the best thing to do is restrain him before he wakes up even more cranky than he was before.
Meanwhile, the now lucid Skaldak sends a beacon for his friends to come and pick him up. Back with The Doctor and Clara can’t understand why the Russian submariners and herself and The Doctor can understand each other. The Doctor informs her he will tell her later but Clara persists. Menzies – clearly the one with the trigger finger – decides that the pair are western spies and the Ice Warrior is a western weapon. The Captain sends Menzies away with a flea in his ear and The Doctor tells the Captain that they should have left Skaldak alone – he points out how dangerous the Martian is. The Captain wants to talk to Skaldak but The Doctor insists it must be him – The Captain disagrees leading Clara to volunteer.
So it is the two of them – Clara and the big scary green thing. The Doctor insists on being the one to talk – something that Skaldak gets wind of quickly. He realises that everything he had, everything he had known is gone because of his extended lie-in. Clara takes pity on him and gets closer, something that The Doctor warns against. But she sees that something is wrong… he’s not in his suit! After a brief altercation, the trio of The Doctor, The Captain and the Professor (Warner) race to Clara. The escaping Skaldak doesn’t hurt her and he pushes past all four of them in his escape.
The Doctor notices that the suit has stopped transmitting – which means that Skaldak stopped it – which means he has nothing to lose and will think only of himself and they are on a submarine full of nukes. Tobias Menzies is in the bowels of the sub when he hears a noise. Skaldak grabs him… and the two form a tentative alliance. Meanwhile, the Captain is giving his men an update on their awful state of their vehicle and points out that the creature might turn the cold war into a nuclear one.
Next, The Doctor and Clara philosophise about nuclear war and the state of the world in 1983 and The Doctor is keen to avoid rewriting history. Soon, the crew are organised into teams to search the submarine for Skaldak. Clara asks about the suit and The Doctor tells her why it is a great taboo for an Ice Warrior to exit his armour. The Professor hands back the sonic screwdriver – and a barbie – to which The Doctor emits great delight.
On the journey, the Professor attempts to bond with Clara by encouraging her to sing some 80s classics – specifically Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. The pair are alterted when they hear Skaldak growl and some men screaming for their lives. It’s the other team and it is not a surprise that he has attacked them because the people in that team were not characters we were led to care about. They had metaphorical red jumpers from the moment it was suggested “let’s split up!” Skaldak has taken apart one of the bodies to work out about how they work, lovely!
We follow the remaining teams as they try to find Skaldak, discover some more bodies and generally worry about the state of the submarine. Back with “our team” and we have another bonding moment. Clearly the Professor accepts they are from the future because he pleads with Clara to know what happens. She refuses because she can’t reveal the future to people in their past… but he demands to know “Do Ultravox split up!” At which point Skaldak grabs Clara and the Professor shoots him and he goes again… but reappears seconds later grabbing the Professor. Noooooooooo! The Doctor shows up and the negotiation begins. The suit is reactivated and it begins its walk to their position.
Along comes the Captain and The Doctor has to stop him shooting Skaldak – the Ice Warrior has already decided that the planet is forfeit because the Professor shot at him. What on earth will he do if the Captain shoots him too? I dread to think! Though it will probably lay claim to his entire collection of vintage vodka or something. The suit arrives, Skaldak pops himself back in and marches off proclaiming a bloodbath. He goes to the launch room to arm the nukes and is chased by The Doctor who tries to talk him down again. Damn Russkies, every time he talks some sense into Skaldak them stinkin’ commies shoot at him again! Not worked, so The Doctor threatens to blow up the sub to save the Earth. The stand off continues and The Doctor convinces Skaldak to take his mask off – giving fans the satisfaction of seeing what they look like. Hmmm, we waited 40 years for that?
Clara also tries to talk him out of it but the sub is suddenly shaken – a tractor beam is lifting it off of the sea bed. So there are more Ice Warriors after all! They lift the sub all the way to the surface and then pick Skaldak out of the crowd. A few tense moments pass as they wonder whether he will get his brothers in arms to launch an attack either against the sub or the planet but the missiles are disarmed and the Ice Warrior ship flies off instead. I guess that won’t be the last we see of him. On the top deck, Clara asks why the TARDIS disappeared. The Doctor tells her it was because he was fiddling with the security settings. But unfortunatley it has rematerialised at the South Pole. Oops!
Next week, a ghostly tale.
Another pants episode and waste of a good return of an old enemy – and I think it is a return that nobody really cared about. I mean, who ever said their favourite villain was the Ice Warriors? If anybody did I’m sure they are re-evaluating after this incredibly disappointing offering from Mark Gatiss. A waste of talent as well in Liam Cunningham, David Warner and Tobias Menzies.
The TARDIS is doing weird shit and I discussed this in the previous episode. A throw away comment made by The Doctor about tinkering with the security settings doesn’t ring true for me. Perhaps he believes the weird stuff is because of that but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. After all, the TARDIS wouldn’t let Clara on board last week but The Doctor isn’t aware of that. If this is the case as explained here, I’m going to be annoyed that another potentially interesting plot device has been ditched without so much as a second thought.
Seeing an Ice Warrior outside of its armoured suit for the first time was a bit of a let down but I guess when all you know is that they are green, lizardy, humanoid and like to wear orange-tinted sunglasses I guess you don’t have too many options.
From the point of view of the return of the Ice Warriors, I guess we will be seeing more of them in future. Their greatest ever leader, believed to be long since dead, is alive and well and no doubt enjoying the adulation of his people and they will look to him to lead them into a new golden age no doubt. No, I doubt we have seen the last of him or them.
Another episode light on character development. When are we going to get some answers about Clara? Perhaps not in this half of the series – perhaps not even before the 50th anniversary edition. We need clues, we need hints at what is to come and the last two episodes have wasted some good opportunities. Maybe next week’s episode (a ghost story reminiscent of the companion-heavy Ghost Light from McCoy’s era) might start to give us some answers… Let’s hope so.