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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Doctor Who: The Cold War




Probably the only person outside of North Korea to be thrilled with Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threats this week is Mark Gatiss. It gave an extra frisson to his Cold War set episode, that ended up centring on a war with an entirely different sort of cold; the Ice Warriors. A Gatiss penned episode is not normally greeted with excitement but I think he has silenced his critics with this one. Bringing back a classic monster certainly worked far better than his multi-coloured Daleks.

The TARDIS lands on a sinking Russian submarine in 1983. The crew have picked up what they think is a mammoth encased in ice and one of them is daft enough to thaw it out. Turns out it’s an Ice Warrior, essentially looking like a scaly Cyberman. They are Martian reptiles with cyborg armour to protect against extreme cold. Ice Warriors only leave their armour as a last resort and when this one does, we only see glimpses of him and shots of long claws, which is very effective. There is a lot of running down corridors in this episode, which I understand is a key component of classic Who, but I sense they’ve added in a new square on the Doctor Who bingo card: The Matt Smith Serious Moment. It consists of a slow head turn and then a stare just off camera. Extra points are awarded to the director if they get a flashing light behind Smith’s head.


Anyway, the Ice Warrior, who is a greatly respected Marshall in the Whoniverse, gives the crew the run-around on the ship, ripping them apart (off camera, this is a kid’s show) and ssspeaking with sibilant s’s. The TARDIS has disappeared owing to the Dr tinkering about with its defence mechanisms, in what I hope was an important plot point and not just Gatiss trying clumsily to get out of the ‘why don’t they just escape in the TARDIS’ conundrum. The Dr gives one of his long speeches on mercy, and as was the case last episode, it doesn’t work until Clara chips in. I know the assistant has always helped the Dr and in some cases is actually more helpful but the writers aren’t being very subtle with Clara. Maybe I’m just getting picky. I’ve had my nose put out of joint with all those lingering looks we were getting. The Dr is married. Married. End of.

The BBC continued its tradition of having foreign characters played by actors with cut glass English accents (explained in Who by the TARDIS translator) and to this end roped in Tobias Menzies. Now to my mind Menzies is a tremendous actor who could easily lead a show (though probably not quirky enough to play the Doctor hiself) so I am baffled as to why he was so chronically underused, not to mention typecast in this episode. Please Tobias, have a word with your agent and explain that while everyone would give their right arm and their Grandma just to be an extra on Doctor Who, you deserve a little better than that.

Having complained about Clara’s dress sense last week, I liked her pale blue silk dress in this episode. However, I’m furious that Jenna Louise Coleman spent her first scenes with the dress clinging to her and dripping wet. Can we move on from old-fashioned sexism please? I notice Matt Smith didn’t have to endure a ‘Mr Darcy’  moment. Next week appears to be sensible cardies as we go on a ghost hunt with Jessica Raine from ‘Call the Midwife’, until then, I shall be wondering about the following:

  •  ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials featured in last week’s episode and was released in 1981, the same year as ‘Vienna’ by Ultravox, feature this week. Also featured was ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ by Duran Duran from 1982, are the 80’s significant to Clara’s mystery?
  • Rose sent Bad Wolf across the universe and we know she’s back in some way. Was ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ a reference to this or a red herring designed to make the internet go crazy?
  • Did no one get a really bad cold filming in all that dripping water?
Contributed by Victoria Prior 

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