Time Lord on a submarine! Not quite as catchy as Snakes on a Plane but it’s still a helluva a good time. Cold War is the much-anticipated story written by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) that sees the return of classic Doctor Who villain The Ice Warriors, or in this case a singular Warrior, in an episode that doesn’t really advance much of the overall plot but is an excellent stand-alone thriller.
Hilariously adorned in Elvis glasses, The Doctor thinks he’s taking Clara to Las Vegas but as The TARDIS said in The Doctor’s Wife, she takes him not always where he wants to go, but where he’s needed. The location couldn’t be much further from Vegas than a Russian submarine sinking in The North Pole, and to make matters worse they have a very dangerous cargo: a long frozen now revived Ice Warrior named Grand Marshall Skaldak. Cold War is very much a classic Doctor Who episode with many of the core ingredients in place, such as being a period piece set in Earth’s past (1983 to be exact) as well as being a fairly self-contained story that is pretty claustrophobic and intense.
Here’s what Steven Moffat had to say in the interview we took part in from a few weeks ago about Cold War:
We’re looking forward to the return of the Ice Warriors in the upcoming episodes. What was your impetus for wanting to bring that particular villain back, and what were some of the challenges in reimagining that old foe?
The impetus really was Mark Gatiss. I wasn’t that keen initially on bringing the Ice Warriors back. They’ve never been any special favorite of mine in the old series. I thought they were good, but I never quite got into them, but Mark Gatiss kept nagging me about bringing them back and then he came up with an idea, which – I’m going to leave that as a surprise in Cold War, which really made them come to life for me. I think that could be brilliant.
So at that point I really got into it but that was Mark’s creativity rather than mine. The challenge, well there were a number of challenges I can’t talk about, but one I will talk about they are far, far less familiar to the general audience than say the Dalek or the Cybermen or any of those things, where you feel you have to bring the changes a bit with the look of them because, you know, they’re very familiar.
With the Ice Warriors they wanted to create a really good, super-duper version of the one that’s already there. So it’s a design classic buffed up a bit for HD rather than change or revise, and that was the challenge to make.
The classic Ice Warriors were indeed pretty goofy as Steven Moffat attests, but the newly designed look and effects are quite cool. This episode used CG and practical effects extremely well in addition to the JAWS approach of not actually showing much of the monster throughout. Long term fans will delight at the prospect of seeing an Ice Warrior for the first time outside of its armor, although don’t expect a good long look at armor-less Skaldak – just enough to know he’s not someone you want to mess with.
Clara is anxious to prove herself in Cold War and gets some opportunity to show her bravery and compassion this time around. It felt a bit wonky to me that three episodes deep into her run as companion, she suddenly feels so insecure after being so confident. She really has nothing to prove to justify being with The Doctor – her utter ambivalence is sort of what attracted him in the first place – but she does have some sweet scenes involving the professor on the submarine and a certain Depeche Mode song that plays into the finale. Cute stuff.
Doctor Who has yet to break through into 5 star territory with the last half of this series but Cold War continues the unwavering quality of the show as it approaches the half way point of Series 7b.
A submarine? Cool! The perfect blend of CG and practical effects. The Ice Warrior. Suspenseful claustrophobic scares.
Clara is a bit off this week. No overall plot advancement. Nobody sounds or actually speaks Russian on a Russian submarine (although it’s explained but still weak).
An entertaining throwback episode to classic Doctor Who that revamps an old villain while placing the story in an exciting setting that provides thrills, suspense, and awesome effects.