Doctor Who #187: The Ice Warriors Part 6

"What are your qualifications for existence?"TECHNICAL SPECS: As it's not yet on DVD, back to the Internet for viewing. First aired Dec.16 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The Ice Warriors are defeated when someone finally makes a decision and uses the ionizer on them.

REVIEW: The base personnel simply can't take the computer's waiting game, and there's dissension in the ranks as the conflict between true, intuitive humans and circuit board-clad logicians flares up. Clent is a man on the cusp of throwing off the computer's shackles, but ultimately unable to break protocol. I'm sensing a generation game here. Miss Garrett puts all her faith in the computer, but the older Clent might remember a time when computers weren't so infallible. As we find out in the last scene, he's always written his reports himself without help from the machine. As crazy as it sounds, Clent is a traditionalist within his computerized society. There's a sort of desperate bravery to him when he confronts the Ice Warriors and smiles when they let slip the ionizer could destroy their ship. But once all the data has been accumulated, he hits a wall and can't commit to taking a big risk. Even after the decision is made by others, he freaks out much as the computer did. It seems neither were programmed for this extraordinary set of circumstances.

It's up to Penley, the true man, to do something. There are some random heroics (raising the temperature, revealing a second Ice Warrior weakness, and an odd one for reptilians), but he's also the hero in the real climax, which is all about choosing to take a risk. He pretty much paraphrases Captain Kirk's "Risk is our business" speech, and the theme blossoms - in his ability to gamble, Man can both fail disastrously or succeed beyond anyone's hopes, something the sum zero mind of a machine cannot do.

While that's a lesson for the humans of the 51st century, it's par for the course with the Doctor who is always taking risks. In this episode, he fires a sonic blast at the base, intuiting that the Ice Warriors will be more gravely affected than the humans, though admits it could kill them all. It takes Victoria to remind him that Jamie's in there, but it doesn't change the plan. It works, but the Ice Warriors wake up before the humans do, which means his intuition was actually wrong. And poor Victoria! For some reason, Deborah Watling couldn't be there to film the final scenes, so she becomes an off-screen voice told to get back to the TARDIS just before the climax. Not that she would have had much to do going by what Jamie was given. In the end, it's really more about Clent and Penley, and they get the final scene, a rather sweet one where they come to terms with each other. It's probably the best scene of the entire serial, and the regulars have nothing to do with it. Ah well.

THEORIES: Another step closer to the sonic screwdriver as the Doctor modifies the Ice Warriors' sonic cannon and explains its principles to Victoria. We're very close to a pocket version now.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, the computer is called ECCO and is treated as a character readers can empathize with.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Making the climax about the humans vs. the machine as much as it is about the Ice Warriors carries the theme to term, and there are some great scenes featuring the guest cast. I just wish our heroes had a less peripheral role to play.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Ice Warriors are introduced, the production values are high, and the theme of man vs. machine is reasonably well explored. High marks to Mr. Barkworth who makes Clent more than Just Another Base Commander(TM).

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