Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Doctor Who #182: The Ice Warriors Part 1

"Then suddenly, one year, there was no spring."TECHNICAL SPECS: One of 4 episodes that still exist from this 6-part story, it has not yet been released on DVD, but can be found on the Internet. I've listened to the Lost Episodes narrated audio CD release fairly recently, but this will be my first time SEEING it. First aired Nov.11 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in the future where glaciers have advanced on Britain and a strange alien warrior has been found in the ice.

REVIEW: After the introduction of the Yeti, the introduction of the Ice Warriors. An important three months at the heart of Season 5, then. And though we superficially have the same "base under siege" set up we've seen many times before now, each one feels very different. With the Ice Warriors, it's in part thanks to the music. The siren song reminds me of Star Trek, of all things, and its melody is mirrored in the base alarm! It's a strange juxtaposition, but not the only one. The high-tech computer (with its strange and not always easy-to-understand voice - the Mechanoids' descendent?) is housed in a contemporary manor, while a futuristic shelter has bearded men in skins coming out of it. It's the theme of man versus nature I've always known this story to be about, but showcased in ways I didn't. Synthetic sound vs. voice; over-designed uniforms vs. pelts; and the Doctor's brain vs. the computer's. And of course, central to the plot, weather control technology (the ionizer MacGuffin) vs. a new Ice Age. Are the Ice Warriors supposed to represent what could happen to humanity? One is found trapped in ice, nature's victim, and as we'll discover, these guys are advanced enough that we can't tell where their bodies begin and their cybernetics start.

So as a set-up, it works and has depth, but thankfully, the characters are well served too. For the regulars, this means some comic bits of business, stress relief after the end of the previous adventure. The TARDIS lands upside down, sliding down a slope, and the crew have to climb out of them (again with the 2nd Doctor references in the 11th Doctor stories!). Jamie's knee crushing the Doctor's hand. Jamie finds the future fashion style quite sexy, while Victoria finds it too revealing (not sure why), so Jamie lasciviously asks if she would ever wear something like that. He's a coarse boy and she's a proper lady, but I'm surprised people don't make more of this when they start discussion hanky-panky in the TARDIS. In the guest cast, Peter Barkworth as Clent is a revelation (though other performances are good and nuanced as well). Stiff base commanders are a dime a dozen, but Clent intrigues me more than others have. It's like he's stifling his inner life. He asks questions, but quickly moves on before answers are given. His time is too precious for answers. He's got a computerized schedule to keep to. The Doctor intrigues him, and you can tell he wants to know more, but he always reigns it in in favor of his regimented duties. Clearly, it's not really working for him. His men just want to have fun and he's losing control. The Ice Warrior isn't the only guy that needs to be thawed.

There are missteps, such as the heavy exposition in the middle of the episode (just how long does Clent think the Doctor was in his Tibetan retreat that he feels he must explain all of recent Earth history?), the hogwash science, and the callousness of the guys who laugh off the death of a man. Otherwise, lots of cool little things. The show is still experimenting with its title cards. The wind and snow are rather well realized and cut together more seamlessly than usual with stock footage. The body tumbling in the avalanche. World building that includes, for example, the role of Africa during this glacial era. Victoria thinking all scientists are the same, as she did grow up around them after all. Director Derek Martinus and writer Brian Hayles are on their way to both outdo themselves.

THEORIES: So WHEN is this? The Talons of Weng-Chiang may provide the answer this serial refuses to give. In that later story, the Doctor refers to an Ice Age around the year 5000, and Magnus Greel apparently comes from the 51st-century. As in this story, where Africa has taken on a certain political or functional importance, Talons talks about the Philippines. This is all of particular interest because it is also Captain Jack's home era.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - New monster, strong thematic underpinnings, subtle acting, and actual character moments for the regulars. Shame about the science, but this is a recurring problem in Doctor Who.


Anonymous said...

Man, what does it take to get a 'High' from you? You weren't this tough on Star Trek! :-)

Thanks for the great reviews as always.


Siskoid said...

As a story gears up, the score of its individual episodes may too. And of course, the cumulative effect may make a story High, even if its separate parts don't quite reach. But point taken.

As a point of reference, the episodes that scored High were:
-An Unearthly Child
-The Firemaker
-4 parts of The Daleks
-Marco Polo (story) and 4 of its 7 parts
-All 4 parts of The Aztecs
-Part 1 of Reign of Terror
-Dalek Invasion of Earth (story) and half its episodes
-All 4 parts of The Romans
-The Crusade (story) and its first 3 chapters
-The Chase Part 6
-The Tenth Planet Part 4
-The Power of the Daleks (story) and its 2 first chapters

I must say that I consider "Medium-High" to be quite high a rating, acknowledging however that there are problems with it. Don't worry, The Ice Warriors is heading for better things.