Sunday 22 November 2020

Story 235 - Cold War

In which the crew of a Soviet nuclear submarine discover a figure entombed in the ice near the North Pole. The year is 1983, and the Cold War between East and West is at its hottest. One of the crew decides to thaw out the figure, but it comes to life and kills him. It then sabotages the vessel, causing it to sink, out of control. In the middle of the emergency the TARDIS materialises on board. The Doctor and Clara had been aiming for Las Vegas, but the ship has gone off course. Shortly after they emerge, the TARDIS dematerialises on it's own, leaving them stranded. They are confronted by Captain Zhukov and his crew, who assume them to be spies. The Doctor gives Zhukov some advice on how to stop the submarine sinking further, by moving itself laterally onto a rocky shelf. He then discovers the reason for the emergency, as an Ice Warrior storms onto the bridge. It identifies itself as Grand Marshal Skaldak, who is known to the Doctor due to his fearsome reputation. One of the crew uses an electric prod, intended to ward off polar bears, to disable the Warrior.
Stepashin, the submarine's political officer, wants the Doctor and Clara locked up, but Captain Zhukov decides to trust him due to his saving of the vessel, and his knowledge of the alien. A scientist named Grisenko, who had the icebound figure brought on board in the first place, also wants the Doctor and Clara to remain free. Clara finds that he is more interested in western pop music than their current predicament. The Doctor is concerned about the attack on Skaldak, as this will automatically trigger a response. To do any less would be dishonourable to the Martian.

He advocates a parlez with Skaldak, who is now chained up. He and the submarine crew will be regarded as enemies, so it is agreed that Clara should be the person to negotiate with him as a neutral figure. She goes to see the Ice Warrior and speaks with him, but the Doctor becomes suspicious. Clara discovers that she has been talking to an empty shell. Skaldak has emerged from his armour and is now running loose in the vessel. The Doctor warns that this will make him even more dangerous.
Skaldak runs amok, killing anyone he encounters. Stepashin attempts to forge an alliance with him, but fails and also dies. When he captures Grisenko, however, Clara manages to talk him into letting him go.
The Ice Warrior regains his armour and takes control of the submarine's nuclear missiles. He plans to trigger a full scale war in retaliation for his treatment. He has attempted to call on his own people for rescue, but has received no response. The Doctor succeeds in convincing him that starting a war which would kill millions of innocent people could never be an honourable course of action. 
A Martian spaceship suddenly arrives above the submarine, and Skaldak is teleported away, but still has control over the missile launch sequence. This deactivates after a few minutes, and the Doctor realises that Skaldak had taken on board what he had said about honourable actions. 
He, Clara, Zhukov and Grisenko see the spaceship depart. The Doctor receives a signal from the TARDIS. He had set the HADS - the Hostile Action Displacement System - and it had automatically relocated to the Pole when it found the submarine on the point of destruction. Unfortunately it is at the South Pole, rather than the North. The Doctor enquires of Zhukov if they can get a lift...

Cold War was was written by Mark Gatiss, and was first broadcast on 13th April, 2013. It marked the first appearance of the Ice Warriors after an absence of almost 4 decades (their final on screen appearance having been in The Monster of Peladon, which was on screen exactly 39 years before). At the time, this was the only Ice Warrior story not to have been written by their creator, Brian Hayles. (It's also the first Ice Warrior story not to feature Sonny Caldinez).
Gatiss, a big fan of the Pertwee era, had asked Steven Moffat about bringing the Ice Warriors back, only to be told that the showrunner wasn't too ken on them. He regarded them as stereotypical big green monsters, who could be easily outrun as they were so slow and cumbersome. Gatiss managed to convince him, and resolved the mobility issue by having Skaldak able to emerge from his armour and move quickly around the submarine.
The Ice Warrior first appeared in two stories during Patrick Troughton's era - and this is reflected in some aspects of the script. Skaldak is found entombed in ice, just as the original Warrior Varga had been, and the HADS is mentioned. This had only appeared once before - in The Krotons.
The submarine setting came from Gatiss' love of movies set on such vessels - especially The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide, which have a Cold War setting.

The story has an impressive cast list, though some of the actors are poorly served. As Zhukov we have Liam Cunningham, who was one of the strongest contenders for the role of the Eighth Doctor back in 1996. As Grisenko we have David Warner, a friend of Gatiss. He had portrayed an alternative Doctor on audio. Stepashin is played by Tobias Menzies, who took over from Matt Smith as Prince Phillip in The Crown, and who, like Cunningham, had appeared in Game of Thrones. In a minor role, as a crewman named Onegin, is James Norton, who was just about to become a big TV star thanks to his role in 1950's detective drama Grantchester.
Playing Skaldak is Spencer Wilding, who had previously played the Minotaur in The God Complex, and the Wooden King in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. He would go on to play Darth Vader in Rogue One. The Ice Warrior is voiced by Nick Briggs, meaning he had now voiced the "top three" monsters.

Overall, a reasonably good story with a strong cast, the return of a fan-favourite monster, and a claustrophobic setting. However, fans have never really warmed to it.
Things you might like to know:
  • One reason why fans might not have taken to this story is the way the Ice Warrior is represented. The controversial thing is Skaldak's abandoning of his armour and running around like Gollum. Original costume designer Martin Baugh stated in interviews that, as far as he was concerned, the armour wasn't something which the Warriors could remove - it was part of their body. The creature's elongated hands don't fit with the claws of the armour, which are no longer large clamps as in their previous appearances. The fur sticking out of the joints is also missing. It does seem rather pointless bringing back the Ice Warriors, to then not show the Ice Warriors for most of the episode running time. Why not just have a new monster for this story?
  • Grisenko's love of music is mainly a devotion to what was known as the New Romantic style - Ultravox and Duran Duran.
  • Skaldak is a Grand Marshal. One Ice Warrior of this rank was seen in The Seeds of Death, but then he was of the "Ice Lord" design, like Slaar, Azaxyr and Izlyr.
  • Many aspects of the Ice Warrior' s background come not from their original creator but from subsequent books and comic strips.
  • This is the first story since 1978's The Power of Kroll to have no female characters other than the Doctor's companion.
  • An original draft had Skaldak not being found in the ice, but travelling back through time from the 31st Century to destroy the Earth in 1983 and prevent a future human invasion of Mars. Grisenko was a villain in this version, and the Doctor and Clara would have been rescued by a British submarine at the conclusion.
  • Stepashin gest his name from Sergei Stepashin, Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin. Zhukov led the Russian European forces during World War II, and Onegin comes from the novel Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin.

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