Saturday, 13 April 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.8: Cold War

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The Doctor meets Skaldak.
Argh! Yay! This is the first Ice Warriors story since 1974, and their 39 year absence from the show has meant that they've gained something of a fabled status in the Doctor Who Fandom. I myself only took a look at one of the Ice Warriors stories, The Seeds of Death, a couple of weeks ago. They're such a great villain because behind an admirably scary exterior thay have a complex biology and a set of societal rules that makes Star Trek's politics look fairly uncomplicated. Cold War wasn't perfect, and contained a number of things that were rather odd, but it was a perfectly executed base-under-siege story and both honoured and revived the Ice Warriors in the manner they deserve.
     It's 1983 at the heart of the Cold War, and an Ice Warrior awakens from a block of ice on a Russian submarine, having slept for 5000 years. Just as things are getting prickly, The Doctor and Clara arrive, in time to discover that the Ice Warrior is Skaldak, an ancient Ice Warrior "hero" known for breathtaking feats in battle. They try to keep him in chains while The Doctor tries to sort out the democratic incident that this has created, but Skaldak escapes from his armour and almost triggers the submarine's nuclear weapons in an attempt to kill humanity. Just as Skaldak accepts that there isn't really a reason to commit genocide, an Ice Warrior spaceship turns up to whisk him away.
     Mark Gattiss delivered this week what was probably his best script, balancing his habit of turning the episode into a period piece with a genuine stab at an old monster that both respected their complexities from the Classic Series while also adding other elements. There was always the danger that a modern writer could turn the Ice Warriors into generic, slow-moving aliens, and I am very glad that Gattiss was able to pull it off. Skaldak, certain dodgey pieces of CGI aside, was a wonderful villain with tons of nice juicy complexities.
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Clara finds that Skaldak has left his shell.
     As is Base-Under-Siege tradition, we also had a fair number of guest characters. Liam Cunningham, last seen in Game of Thrones after the embarrassment that was Outcasts, works the standard leader role and isn't given the standard "evil Russian boat captain" schtick that usually arrives with these kinds of characters. Of notability was the rather odd Professor Grisenko, whose boundless enthusiasm in the body of an old man made me immediately suspicious of everything he said and did. (It's that kind of show).
     Basically, a barn-storming success. Cold War was Doctor Who at its most classical - a blending of Classic and Nu that united the two in glorious union. I can't really think of any way that this script could have been better, and it's given me a really positive feeling about what it currently looking like an excellent string of episodes. The first half of Series Seven was very hit and miss, but somehow the second half has managed to recapture the essence of the show that I originally grew to love. Cold War didn't just follow that, it cemented it, and I'm sure that it'll be remembered as a classic for years to come

Thanks.

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