7.234 "The Cold War" - SPOILERS

Synopsis from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War_(Doctor_Who)

The episode opens on a Soviet submarine sailing near the North Pole in 1983, during the fear of nuclear attack known as the Cold War. A nuclear weapons launch drill they are running is interrupted by Professor Grisenko. In the submarine’s cargo hold, a sailor comes across the block of ice that Grisenko believes contains a frozen mammoth. The ice block is not due to be defrosted until the submarine docks, but the sailor begins to use a blow torch to defrost the block of ice prematurely. An arm bursts out of the ice and grabs the sailor by the throat.

The submarine begins sinking as the creature in the ice escapes and runs amok, with water pouring into the vessel. The TARDIS materialises inside the submarine; Clara and the Doctor tumble out, believing that they are in Las Vegas. Although the sailors try to restrain them, the Doctor convinces Captain Zhukov to maneuver the submarine off to the side, landing it safely and preventing it from imploding. During this the TARDIS inexplicably dematerialises. The Doctor tells the captain and his crew that he and Clara are time travelers. They then encounter the Ice Warrior, Grand Marshall Skaldak. The Doctor convinces them that they must be peaceful, but a frightened soldier shocks Skaldak from behind with a cattle prod knocking him out cold. The chained Skaldak calls for his brothers to find him.

The Doctor convinces Captain Zhukov that someone must speak to Skaldak. The Captain insists but the Doctor refuses, saying that as an enemy soldier, Skaldak will not talk to him. Zhukov refuses to let the Doctor do it. As the only one who knows the Ice Warriors, the Doctor is too valuable to risk. Clara volunteers, and although reluctant, the Doctor allows her to go. Wearing headphones and lip mic she begins to relay the Doctor’s words to Skaldak, but he knows that the Doctor is listening. After learning that he has been encased in the ice for 5000 years Skaldak laments the loss of his daughter and his people. Skaldak escapes from his armor, and stops broadcasting the signal to the other Ice Warriors, believing himself to be the only one of his kind left. The Doctor surmises that, thinking himself alone in the universe, Skaldak has nothing left to lose.

Hiding in the dark corners of the submarine, Skaldak manages to grab and kill three members of the sub’s crew before the Doctor and Clara catch up to him. Finding the crewmen’s remains, the Doctor surmises that the killing was “forensic” and that Skaldak is seeking to analyze the humans’ strengths and weaknesses. After learning of the ongoing Cold War and the mutually assured destruction, Skaldak informs them that he plans to use the submarine’s nuclear missiles to provoke a global thermonuclear war and destroy humanity as revenge for the humans attacking him earlier, as under Martian code humanity as a whole has declared war on the Ice Warrior race. Reaching the bridge, he is able to connect himself to the sub’s missile guidance systems and activate the double-keyed arming sequence. The Doctor attempts to persuade Skaldak to show mercy, and has almost succeeded when the sub is rocked by the impact of a tractor beam from above. The Ice Warrior’s people have arrived in a spaceship hovering over the site of the sub’s undersea grounding, and haul it to the surface with their beam through the packed polar ice.

Skaldak is beamed aboard the Ice Warriors spaceship, though the missile launch system is still active. Showing mercy, Skaldak deactives the missiles remotely. When the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver informs him the TARDIS has reappeared, he informs Clara that it had “relocated” automatically as part of the H.A.D.S. (short for “Hostile Action Displacement System”) which the Doctor had reactivated shortly before. However, the TARDIS reappeared at the South Pole, and so the Doctor is forced to sheepishly ask Zhukov for a lift.


Very little to say about this episode so far. I wasn’t entirely impressed. I’ll watch it again to see if I missed anything.

Here’s what I did pick up so far:

  • The TARDIS is either acting up, The Doctor is an incompetent TARDIS driver (which we know), or The Doctor specifically landed the TARDIS on the sub instead of Las Vegas.

  • Clara once again avoided any personal information when the Professor asked her what she liked to do

  • The Doctor admitted to fiddling with the TARDIS settings

  • The TARDIS translation matrix was working for Clara this time

  • The Ice Warriors are back, another reference to something picked up from the doctor’s deep past

That was it. There wasn’t anything else significant that I picked up.

~ Shooter Out

Shooter, I am with you on this one. A capable episode, but I was disappointed in missed potential. One of the things I love about Doctor Who is its ability to take that which is old and make it new again, making me see things in a new and unexpected way. They did that with the Ice Warrior, well done chaps. Capital. Updated the suit, gave us a bit of history and showed us something never seen before: what is in the suit.

The Good
[li]Clara. Clara volunteering to go confront the Skaldak and then later reflecting on it were solid character building moments[/li][li]The Russian crew. Top notch acting. Wanted more from them and sorry to see them go.[/li][li]The Professor. Dude played Sark. ‘nuff said http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001831/?ref_=tt_cl_t9[/li][/ul]
The Bad
The major flaw for me of this episode was the submarine. I love a good submarine story as a plot device, but it has been done. A lot. If you are going to take on this Hollywood trope you need to be ready to blow the doors off because this is well explored territory.

This is where the episode failed. It was like they had a submarine trope checklist and went through it one by one:
[li]Submarine is sinking uncontrollably and an ensign reads off the depth meter by meter[/li][li]Submarine lands on a ledge hanging on precariously[/li][li]The pressure is so great outside that the submarine may implode. Creaks remind you of this[/li][li]We come precariously close to launching the missile, but don’t quite get there[/li][li]Second in command who disagrees with the commander to the point of selling him out[/li][/ol]
It was like Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October and Das Boot had all hooked up with the same woman the same night and she gets pregnant. Nine months later a baby is born that resembles all of them and none of them. I think they got so wrapped up in bringing by the Ice Warriors and setting the show in the 80s they overlooked the potential of the sub and relied on familiar.

The Ugly
[li]The T.A.R.D.I.S. disappearing was a pretty heavy handed plot move that I found really distracting. They of course had to do it to up the ante, but seriously folks, have a beam fall in front of it to make it inaccessible or put it in a compartment that is flooded. Making it go poof? Meh. (although after researching I do appreciate this is a callback to the second Doctor, but still…[/li][li]Big potential missed with Skaldak out of the suit. They could have amped that up significantly in creep factor and chosen to draw more inspiration from Alien(s) for being in a confined space fighting a creature that is lightning fast and an unknown[/li][li]The Doctor not knowing how to drive the T.A.R.D.I.S. is getting old. Fast. Again, I know it is necessary to get him on the sub, but that combined with the aforementioned disappearing T.A.R.D.I.S. was a lot to swallow back to back[/li][/ol]
All that being said, not a bad episode, just not a great one. They had all of the ingredients ready, they just didn’t mix them to the standard that I have grown accustomed.

So I watched this episode a couple more times and a few things pop out at me.

First, even though this episode appears as a 1 show pop-off, I highly doubt with the limited episodes available per series and in-depth writing of the franchise these days that there is nothing in this episode of value. Could it be Skaldac? Could it be Clara singing Hungry Like The Wolf to save the Earth? Could it be the TARDIS leaving? Maybe all of the above.

Also, perhaps the biggest key to the Clara mystery was that she sung Hungry Like The Wolf.

I’m sure we will see Skaldac again. He was just too good not to bring back.