So. What I thought as I watched Doctor Who: ‘Cold War’

This isn’t so much a review as a stream of consciousness,  with very occasional moments of discussion and/or rants. (Well, there’ s a sort of review at the end, but don’t expect anything too deep.)   If you haven’t seen ‘Cold War’, this probably won’t make much sense.

So yes, we are back on good old Planet Earth, complete with an intro shot that swoops over various icebergs and an actual subtitle telling us where we are; North Pole, 1983. Has the show ever done this before? I can’t remember seeing a specific subtitle telling us the location of the week, usually they leave that to the Doctor or the supporting cast to explain.

Oh no, not a camera plunge into the water, I hate those! Not that they’re bad – often they’re crucial in helping to set a scene – but it’s a pet peeve of mine. Gives me the shivers.

And here we have the bottle of this bottle episode; a submarine. Really, is the TARDIS going to be able to fit into that? They appear to be about to launch torpedoes  and I am distracted by the fact that Davos Seaworth and Edmure Tully are on board. Or rather Liam Cunningham and and Tobias Menzies, but two Game of Thrones actors in one episode of another series altogether; what are the odds?

Also, David Warner as the professor, who spoils what turns out to be a drill by enjoying his Ultravox. I don’t know who Ultravox were/are and I don’t care, I love this character already and he’s barely spoken.

The tension between the submarine captain and his…second in command, I’m not going to pretend I know how the Russian navy works, runs its course, and we get our first mention of the ‘specimen’. Naturally, it is a mammoth; what else could it be? Nothing can possibly go wrong.

What am I saying? This is a pre-credits sequence. Stuff going wrong is kind of standard.

Poor Piotr, you were dead as soon as the Professor mentioned you were keeping an eye on it –

– wait, are you using a welding torch to melt the ice? You’re honestly using a welding torch to melt the ice. I take my pity back; you’re an eejit and you’re going to get your face bitten off.

Handy hint; if there’s something moving inside a block of ice you’re currently thawing, retreat to a safe distance with all expedient haste. Run. Run, why aren’t you-

– oh right. Pre-credits sequence.

All right, fair enough, you didn’t get your face bitten off, you just got grabbed by the throat. That still isn’t going to be terribly good for your health.

I haven’t mentioned this before, so I’ll stick it in here; I do like how these latest opening titles include Matt Smith’s face, rather like the openings of the original series.

Surprisingly to me at least, we’re still on the sub – I thought we’d cut to the Doctor and Clara dancing about during travel, but no matter, no matter. The thing in the ice is no longer in the ice and is now on a rampage. Everyone’s running around panicking, then we get the key scraping of incoming TARDIS. Once more, with feeling; surely a submarine does not have tall enough ceilings to allow the TARDIS to fit inside it?????????? –

And, once again, Doctor and companion emerge thinking they’re somewhere else entirely, and thus are dressed completely inappropriately for the present environment. Or at least the companion is, the Doctor never seems to change his clothes unless it’s between seasons.  You’d think by now the Doctor would get into the habit of checking where they’ve ended up before he flings the door open and rushes out. It’s been flat out admitted in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ that the TARDIS often takes him where he needs to go, as opposed to where he wants to go, yet he still doesn’t have a way of ascertaining he’s landed where he intended to? Surely he has some sort of camera that allows him to see what’s around the TARDIS while he’s in it, so that he can make certain he hasn’t parked in a very conspicuous and awkward place?

In any case, Clara comes out dressed for Las Vegas and promptly gets soaked, though to be fair so does the Doctor. He’s able to forestall getting restrained by explaining how they can save the sub from crashing. He learns this from the sonic screwdriver. Is there anything this little baby can’t do at this stage, aside from wood? The captain takes his advice and the day…night…whatever, is saved. Sort of, since they’re stuck on a oceanic ridge at 700 metres below the surface.

The second in command has them searched and oh, so now the Doctor has stuff in his pockets. Why does he have a Barbie doll? Or was Clara carrying that? I can’t tell, and I’m actually curious now. Then there’s a particularly large bang and the TARDIS runs off, the dirty coward, possibly performing the Doctor Who equivalent of removing all use of mobile phones from a horror film. Now they’re well and truly stuck.

Clara is submerged in what I can only presume is fairly cold water and yet does not develop hypothermia because someone put a jacket around her. Of course! The Doctor for once doesn’t beat around the bush – someone trying to throttle you will do that – and reveals they’re time travellers. “You saw it happen!”

“I didn’t!” the professor chimes in. Oh, I love you.

In the midst of all the clamor, there are hissy breaths. Naturally the Doctor is the very last to notice, although, again, threats of death will do that, plus he was facing in the opposite direction.

Still: IT’S STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU, YOU CLOT. Come on, you’re much more genre savvy than this!!!

“It’s not a mammoth.” Thank you, Captain Obvious, although it’s…nice isn’t the word I want, let”s go for great – great that you really get a sense of both fear and ‘oh for the love of!’ in the Doctor’s voice.

Ah, here’s something new! At least when it comes to the new series. I’ve never watched any of the episodes concerning the Ice Warriors of Mars, so hopefully this will be fun.

You really do get a sense of the Doctor’s fear, especially when he hears the name ‘Skaldak’.

Locking Skaldak up isn’t going to do any good, yes? Just checking.

Oh, is Piotr still alive? Good on him, I suppose.

Personally, I think Skaldak sounds great!  Nice info dump on Ice Warriors for those who weren’t watching in 1974, or who neglected to catch up in the interim years.

Ah, I revise my statement from last time – the TARDIS’s translator matrix does work on Clara! It’s still suspicious that she could understand the human looking aliens but not the non-human one.

Soviet mindset ahoy. How long before the second in command dies? Not that I dislike him, exactly, but he’s generally the sort that dies by the end of the episode. That or learns the error of his ways, but I’m leaning towards dying.

‘Harm one and you harm us all.’ Oh dear.

Naturally Clara’s the one to negotiate, with the Doctor coaching in her ear.

Skaldak’s a daddy! Or was, at least. This just keeps getting better and better.

Oh Doctor, the villain of the week never wants your help. You must accept it!

WHAT????

How did Skaldak get out of that armor????? Howwhowhatwherewhenwhy aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

So basically Skaldak’s going to make like ‘The Thing From Another World.’ Possibly ‘The Old Ones’ from The Mountains of Madness as well.

What with the hissing and the hiding out of sight, why not just throw a little of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ into the mix? Everything’s good!

Good job, Clara; now Skaldak’s out!

Doctor/Clara relationship, I adore you. Please keep it up.

So they’re stuck on a sub 700 metres below the surface, with a raging Ice Warrior Martian reptile thing on the loose, and a whole lot of nukes. “How bad can it be?”

Oh, and the ridge is giving way beneath them and the sub’s flooding. You just had to jinx it, Doctor.

Well hell-o, second in command standing all by yourself in some lonely corridor! (Should you really start opening fire in a submarine? I don’t know; enlighten me.) After some demanding who’s there and amping up of tension, clawed hands creep over his shoulder and settle on his head. I know I shouldn’t find this funny, but his face really is hilarious, like that commander who got bitten in the back of the head and reached up to pull off a bit of his brain in ‘Aliens: Resurrection.’

And he’s going, going, gone. Goodbye Tobias Menzies, you were good while you lasted. I look forward to seeing you finally arrive on the Westeros scene in Game of Thrones 3×03.

The captain expects every man to do his duty; the world is more important than they are. Note that; the world, not just Russia. Good sentiment.

Oh, wait, the second in command is still alive, although probably not for long, especially since he’s a dirty war mongerer, tut tut. Dude, you electrocuted him, why would you think he’d want to form an alliance? Stop giving him clues as to how he can wipe out the world. Right, so now he’s going, going, gone?

Clara thinks everything will be find since she’s here to prove it, fair enough, but once again time is in flux, wibbly wobbly timey wimey, this isn’t a fixed point etc. I don’t know why Pompeii being destroyed and a colony being blown up on Mars are fixed points when this isn’t, but, as the Doctor points out, time can be rewritten.

The Doctor and the captain form a plan of attack and get to work. The Doctor, Clara and the professor team up, yay, this is everything I could have wished for! Ummm…possibly could do without the da da das, though.

Oh possibly-Piotr, I admire your enthusiasm, although I do wonder if ‘bloody’ was actually used as slang by the Soviet Union. Then again, what do I know? And down come the arms and goodbye, possibly-Piotr. All right, definitely an ‘Alien’ theme. And it wasn’t Piotr after all, it was Onegin. Sorry for mixing you up with Piotr, Onegin, you deserved better than that. The officer he was with possibly gets it in the neck too, complete with a discretion scream.

The Doctor runs into a room where an arm is sticking up into the shot. It’s always bad when an arm is sticking up into the shot. Back to reminding me of ‘The Old Ones’; Skaldak’s dissected the men he caught in order to learn about them, just like those unfortunate explorers in ‘The Mountains of Madness.’ 

The Doctor’s very determined to keep Clara safe. It’s sweet.

Oh professor, don’t sit in that open doorway! That’s just asking to get dragged backwards into the shadows screaming, and I like you! You’re probably the best character in this episode! Can they take the professor with them when they go? He’s kind, he’s supportive, he’s great fun, why can’t he go with them????

The captain’s doing even worse than they are. “It’s in the walls!” Hold it, wasn’t the Doctor just in that corridor – oh, wait, submarine, I guess a lot of the corridors look the same.

So, is the second in command – who I presume is name Stepashin – dead now? I think he is! Going, going, gone! At last. Though it’s rather poignant, what with that photograph of someone dear to him spattered with blood.

So the sonic screwdriver is a motion detector now?

The professor just wants to know if Ultravox broke up. I love you; have I mentioned that already? Well, I’m mentioning it again.

And he saves her!!!!! Take him with you, I know you won’t listen to me but I’m saying it anyway!!!!

Noooooo, don’t hurt the professor Skaldak, please don’t!!!

The suit starts beeping and slots back together, and comes to back Skaldak up against the captain and his men. Incidentially, I’m curious; how can Skaldak communicate with everyone besides the Doctor and Clara? The TARDIS was only on the sub for about a minute before it vworped off; it hardly had time to impose its matrix on everybody, including Skaldak who I don’t think was even in the immediate vicinity at the time. How does this translation matrix work? Is it if you’ve traveled in a TARDIS, or if you just happen to be near it for a few seconds?

Well, anyway, the Ice…Warrior’s armor cometh, Skaldak gets back into it and stamps off being all dramatic and talking about making a second Red Planet, “red with the blood of humanity”. At least the professor’s still alive, hooray!

Unfortunately those two firing at Skaldalk will shortly not be. Huroo.

So now Skaldak…’hacks’ the sub computer. I can’t really call this ‘typing’ since no typing is involved, just little leads on his gloves, so…’probing’, perhaps? The nukes are primed. The Doctor and everyone else gets to the control room and tries to stop him.

I shouldn’t think history is going to remember him as anything, Doctor; he’s going to get blown up along with everything else, unless he’s made a broadcast proclaiming ‘Skaldak woz ere’ or something.

The Doctor gets serious and threatens to blow the sub up. Just another exciting day of travelling with the Doctor.

This is all just a metaphor for the Cold War, set during the Cold War. I feel so smart.

Ooo, we actually get to see what an Ice Warrior looks like? It’s fairly late to mention this, but Skaldak’s voice really reminds me of Rassilon in ‘The Five Doctors.’

“Which of us shall blink first?” That’s cheating, Skaldak, I don’t think you actually have eyelids!

Clara plays on the theme of Skaldak’s daughter. Huh. I guess you can blink.

Tractor beam!

SPACESHIP!

More Ice Warriors have come to pick Skaldak up. He goes, without any repercussions for killing six people, but hey, we’re running out of time, let’s get this over with.

Clara sings ‘Hungry like the wolf’, which helps…I think. Skaldak shuts the nukes down anyway, from the spaceship. More ‘probing’. Time for hugs!!!

You are all at best fairly damp and at worst sopping wet. Why are you going up onto the top of the sub why are you resting your hands on the sides they are gonna stick to the metal you are gonna freeze.

That’s a big spaceship.

The TARDIS has re-located to the South Pole. Of course.

Sure you can have a lift, Doctor! Let’s not worry about the fact that the sub is most likely heavily damaged from all that crashing and being yanked about! Oh, and when we get back home we still have to explain how six of the crew died – at least three of them being literally torn apart – with absolutely no proof whatsoever, since it’s unlikely you’re going to stick around!

This half of the season is very big on esoteric happy endings. But they’ve just saved the world from nuclear war, I’ll give them a pass.

So, what did I think of ‘Cold War?’

An enjoyable episode, if nothing spectacular. This must have been a hell of a shoot, with all that water all over the place constantly. The supporting cast were excellent – especially Liam Cunningham and David Warner, as you might have somehow guessed – although Staldak himself was a tad lacking. His ‘raaaaar, one person attacked me so I shall destroy all of humanity because I am alone and sad and somehow that is your fault’ attitude was annoying, and he really did look quite daft under that helmet. On the other hand, it was a good reintroduction of the Ice Warriors and explained a lot of things without going over the top.

The air of the episode was also good, owing a lot to all those films or books where the heroes have to hunt down a ravaging beast in an enclosed space and get picked off one by one.

The Doctor/Clara relationship has really grown on me as she gradually grows into her role and he continues to be adorably protective of her. And…one more try can’t hurt; pleeeeeeeeeeease take the professor with you, he’s brilliant!

On the whole, this was satisfying, if hardly groundbreaking. I’m still waiting for an outstanding episode this season. Maybe the next one will fulfill that desire…

On the next episode of Doctor Who: Ghosts! Ghosts! Did we mention ghosts? Ghosts! Except they might not be ghosts, because this is Doctor Who, when was the last time we had a plot that didn’t have something to do with aliens? (Probably back in the William Hartnell era, sheesh.) Ghost like things, and a gothic mansion, and ghost hunters, in ‘Hide’!

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