Cold War

The Doctor and Clara land on a Soviet nuclear submarine in 1983, just as a long-frozen Ice Warrior is defrosting in the hold.

After The Rings of Akhaten aired last week the esteemed writer Paul Cornell tweeted thus:

“Hello, the new Sarah Jane.”

There is certainly an almost undefinable quality they both share. A likeability and screen presence that she shares with Matt Smith himself. Clara is great on her own terms, as opposed to, say, Rose, who was introduced as a nineteen year-old shop assistant, then within weeks she was saving the day ahead of our Time Lord hero. Clara has a vulnerability and lack of confidence that is hugely endearing. It’s difficult to imagine the more -self-assured Rose or Amy seeking reassurance that she did okay in an alien encounter as here. She also doesn’t give away too much about herself (“stuff”), which is refreshing in the age of ‘elevator pitches’ (“I’m the Doctor, I’m an alien from outer space, I’m a thousand years old, I’ve got two hearts and I can’t fly a plane.” See also: every time Vastra introduces herself). It makes her more attractive to be a little mysterious beyond her inherent ‘impossible’ mystery. The comparison with Sarah Jane is strengthened in Cold War with Clara revisiting two of Sarah Jane’s classic moments: how can they understand other languages? and how their knowledge of Earth’s future surely means the world won’t end in the past.

I’m sure some will say that the episode is derivative of Alien, but lets not forget Doctor Who pioneered the ‘base under siege’ format in the Troughton era. And The Ark in Space pre-dates Alien by five years. The format and mosnter are not the only homage to the Second Doctor here, with the HADS (from The Krotons) making a re-appearance (continuing the theme from The Bells of Saint John of the Doctor wishing to keep the TARDIS out of harm’s way. Possible this will pay off in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS). The Ice Warrior entombed in a block of ice is much like their original appearance in The Ice Warriors. The length of episodes now means he’s defrosted in the pre-titles, not as an end of part one cliffhanger. The name ‘Ice Warrior’ isn’t examined here. The Doctor has a lovely line in Dan Abnett’s Eleventh Doctor Ice Warrior novel The Silent Stars Go By:

“…as I remember it, it was a friend of mine called Victoria that first called them Ice Warriors. Then they started to refer to themselves as Ice Warriors. It’s confusing.”

I love the idea of races such as Ice Warriors and the Sea Devils reclaiming their human-given sobriquets. Maybe they should be ‘Ice Warrias’. And if we’re going to reclaim a name, maybe go with ‘barkas’.


The update to the look of the Martian meanies is great; respectful to their Sixties and Seventies forebears, but updated to look genuinely tough and unstoppable. The new twist on the alien’s abilities makes total sense, and now we know how Mark Gatiss persuaded Steven Moffat to let him resurrect these monsters. Much of the time Skaldak’s actual appearance is frustratingly hidden, so that the final reveal is satisfying and doesn’t disappoint.

The cast really sells this story. Liam Cunningham, David Warner and Tobias Menzies are terrific actors with plenty of gravitas. Menzies’ character Stepashin seems like he’s going to play a bigger part in proceedings. The scenes where he is in conflict with his captain are just great dramatic acting. Liam Cunningham is one those no-nonsense men that look like they would have no truck with acting in the first place, so have a huge advantage in terms believability.

The Doctor potentially having to detonate the nuclear missile and kill everyone on the submarine brings to mind his dilemma in Bad Wolf, and on that occasion he couldn’t go ahead with it. Its almost a shame this isn’t explored a little further. It would be interesting to see if there is difference between the decisions the two incarnations would make.


Purchase Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]

On Blu-Ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [Blu-ray]


2 thoughts on “Cold War

  1. Pingback: Cold War reviewed | Red Rocket Rising

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