Doctor Who Review: "The Cold War"
Mr, Gattis, I salute you!
I’m more than happy to stand on stage singing Ultravox songs with you because after 40 lonely years of waiting you went and revealed The Doctor likes Barbie! Pink Barbie, too – hidden away in those transcendental pockets along with a ball of string and a pair of Elvis glasses. I’m glad the Doctor didn’t sing – even though you got David Warner warbling "Hungry Like the Wolf" – rattling off those 80’s icons of musical misery alongside a terrified Russian submarine crew who are wet around the ankles facing an Ice Warrior who is a tad upset his alarm clock is 5,000 years overdue. Yeah, you went and did what I thought was impossible after the misfires of "Night Terrors" and "Victory of the Daleks"; you went and scripted an absolute corker of an episode.
I still have reservations of Moffat doing just self-contained 45 minute stories this season. Last week’s effort had a lot of padding to make up the time, and this week I think there was a slight dip as the ending was rushed to accommodate the slot – but hey it’s one of a few minor quibbles because "Cold War" had so many great moments by far making this my fave episode to date.
First off, the re-introduction of the Ice Warriors here taking the form of Grand Marshall Skaldak, the most decorated Martian solder that ever lived. The Martians are revered as one of the series top five monsters – but unlike the Sontarans who like to blow things up for the sake for honour and glory of grabbing a few medals – this story rightly builds on the Martians’ nobility and strict moral code. Skaldak has every right to be angry; realizing everything he knew has long turned to red dust; remembering the daughter he had and wanting to lash out at the humans – here aptly on the brink of nuclear Armageddon at the height of the Cold War - a very clever use of a specific time period to give major depth to the Martian’s plight.
New fans will have the impetus to go and look at the scant other stories they’ve appeared in, and I’m sure if their creator Brian Hayles was still alive today he’d thoroughly approve of how his creation was brought back on to the small screen. He’d probably be in two minds about the reveal of the real “Ice Warrior” from within its cybernetic mobile armour – thankfully the exterior an excellent throwback to the classic 60’s design, but a bit too Daleky when its cracks open. The CGI rendered Skaldak was a bit of a let-down, too; could have been done with rubber and stuff along with the freaky craws grabbling victims up into the submarines’ conduits.
Speaking of the sets: Well, I liked the Alien/Thing vibes here – very compact and well rendered – and water! Lots of cold water dripping everywhere – ensuring we don’t forget we’re on a crashed submarine. I also liked the fact that Gattis loves to acknowledge Classic Who by bringing back the HADS – that’s the Hostile Action Displacement System (way back from "The Krotons" in 1968) when the Tardis goes and dematerializes leaving the Doctor and Clara on the sub.
The regulars were on fine form as usual - with Jenna-Louise becoming ever more favourable as Clara. David Warner – a classic sci-fi veteran was great as the Ultravox loving nutty professor and kudos to Liam Cummingham as Captain Zhukov. The music was also good this time around capturing the cold and compacting paranoia of this era.
After two so-so episodes, this second half of series 7 is now beginning to bubble a bit, and next week’s story "Hide" looks even better. So the Doctor gets scared in that episode!
For now lets bask in the honor and glory of Mark Gattis - and lets hope he brings back the rest of the Phobos Clan next time.