"There's no hope." "You mean hope happens to be inconvenient."TECHNICAL SPECS: Still not out on DVD, the Internet provides. First aired Dec.9 1967.
IN THIS ONE... The base agonizes over using the ionizer or not in case it makes the Ice Warriors' nuclear reactor blow. Jamie is dragged back to the base as bears attack. And the Doctor stinkbombs the Martians.
REVIEW: The two MVPs of the episode are the Doctor and Clent once again. I love how the Doctor walks into the Martian ship and tries to slip right out when he sees how big the Ice Warriors are, only to then start to dictate terms. Ultimatums fly and we're left not really knowing who has the biggest hand in this poker game. The Doctor has the ionizer on his side, which could either free the Martian ship or destroy it. The Ice Warriors have Victorian hostage and the potential for assured mutual destruction on theirs. Of course, the Doctor has another card up his sleeve, a stinkbomb that acts as Ice Warrior kryptonite. (Some may chuckle at Who monsters because they all seem to have a sort of every day weakness, but it's a device that's ultimately important in a series where the characters are essentially non-violent.) He's also got Victoria who for the second time in this serial subverts the way SF/horror heroines are used. She's still screaming and whimpering, but here it's to cover the Doctor's planning. Doctor Who girls are expected to act like this, but Victoria turns it into an advantage.
Leader Clent's girl Friday is Miss Garrett, who seems to almost worship the computer and gives herself over to it completely. That makes her far less interesting than Clent himself who does much the same, but is clearly fighting an impulse not to. He realizes the computer is playing for time by not acting, putting its own survival before the success of the mission (and the fate of Earth). It's going all HAL 9000 two years before A Space Odyssey comes out. Clent is smart enough to know this, and yet remains paralyzed (and is it any coincidence that Barkworth's portrayal gives Clent a stiff, limping gait?). He's a man who's never learned to make big decisions without having all the facts and doesn't take naturally to it. In the same way that he gets opposition from his staff when he even tries to, part of his paralysis is because he's afraid of what his superiors and the world will think of him. He's a man isolated, awkward with the social niceties, and I can't help but see a parallel between Miss Garrett putting her hand fondly on the computer, and Clent's total freak-out when Penley and Jamie touch him.
Director Derek Martinus adds an extra layer of technical achievement with things like the Ice Warrior crosshairs effect (how'd they do that at the time?). And the film sequence in which Jamie is dragged through the snow looks they went out and shot it on location. It adds a lot to convince us Britain is buried under ice and snow, especially now that we're used to the base, ship and ice tunnel sets. Remarkably, the sequence with their bear was shot especially for this and isn't stock footage (nor does it look dropped in like stock). Sure, you can tell it's just a baby and there's no direct interaction with the actors, but it's still a great little bit, well integrated into the episode.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Another great chapter, well acted and produced. Like the computer, it's playing for time, but finds set pieces that hardly make us notice.