Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Cold War

Originally Broadcast 13th April 2013

Written by: Mark Gatiss

In a nutshell: Arriving onboard a Russian Sub in 1983, the Doctor and Clara find one of the deadliest Ice Warriors onboard. And he has nothing left to lose.

Review: I’ve just sat through the pre-titles and I’m not really sold on this episode yet. I’ve been a big fan of the Ice Warriors since, well, forever. One of the first Whos I remember watching was The Curse Of Peladon so I was desperate for their return to the show but nothing in the opening suggests a story we haven’t seen before. Speaking of similar things, we’ve been witness to the Doctor arriving at the wrong place so many times, yet it’s still something that’s funny and exciting and Matt sells it well. The ‘Vegas’ glasses he’s wearing are pretty cool as well, it would’ve been fun to see him keep them for the episode but then we get the contents from his pockets a la Tom Baker’s Doctor. A Barbie doll? Brilliant!

The meeting between the Doctor and the Ice Warrior is just great fun, it’s very much written for the eleventh Doctor, with him thinking it gas at first. I’d love to find out just how many facial expressions Matt Smith has, he seems to have one for everything! There are a couple of really cool shots of the Ice Warrior, such as his arm breaking from the ice in the opening as well as the slow-motion effect when he hits the ground after being electrocuted. It gives the monster a sense of grandeur despite him being at his weakest here.

In similar ways to the last episode, this one is good, it holds the attention and goes at a good, steady pace but it isn’t groundbreaking or breathtaking or a stand-out winner for DWM’s series poll. The magazine described Gatiss recently as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and I’d definitely agree. He understands the show, he knows how it works and how to write these characters, but he never does anything bigger and better in the way Moffat, Gaiman or even, heaven forbid, Steve Thompson do. It results in him writing good strong episodes but ones which don’t leave a lasting impression.

A fantastic redesign!
Sending in Clara to talk to the monster is a good moment for her to stand out as the new companion. She’s still very much the new girl so to put her right in the heart of the danger is a good move to get us to sympathise to her more. Once we find out the Ice Warrior is out of his armour it’s a great moment. A shocking moment and a brilliant unseeable twist which the Doctor has to tell us makes the creature more deadly.

It’s very clear where this story is going now and we’re only at the halfway point, I can’t help but feel it’ll take a while to get there. The Warrior is picking off the crew of the submarine one by one with gangly fingers and hanging from ceilings which I’m just not buying. It has horribly long fingers yet when it’s in the shell we get nothing of this. I’m afraid all this is getting lost on me.

Clara is asking all the right questions in this episode, such as the TARDIS translation system and the fact the world can’t end in the 1980s as she was alive in 2013, I feel this is her first real episode as a companion and not an ‘introduction’ companion. Meanwhile the Doctor has his screwdriver and, thankfully, his Barbie back.

Whilst the first half of this episode dealt with set up, the second half isn’t going anywhere either, it’s just setting about the searching for the creature. There have been two very clear cut parts to this episode but both have failed to impress me. It’s a shame because, like I said, I love the Ice Warriors and the redesign is absolutely stunning. The creature looks magnificent, but only when it’s in his armour, which sadly doesn’t last too long. When it’s running about the ship sans shell suit it just feels like a disappointment. I think the directing leaves a lot to be desired too. It’s always made very clear where the Warrior is going to attack next. Oh and then we get to see his face through some mist and smoke. At this point I’m praying we don’t see more, I already think this is as far as we can travel without ruining these monsters for the future.

True love at last?
Whilst the base-under-siege storyline is very much done to death, I feel as if the submarine location during the Cold War has given the theme a new life. Whilst not being a great story, the sub gives a sense of enclosure and deadliness to the plotline as well as looking so authentic and amazing. We’ve finally reached the showdown with the nuclear missiles being the prize at stake and the Doctor reveals his sonic has red settings which River predicted back in Silence In The Library!

The episode has just sunk for me by showing the Ice Warrior’s face outside the helmet. I think it’s some of the poorest CGI this show has had since the 2005 comeback. If you can’t afford to do the effect well, just leave it. We’ve had forty years without seeing the Ice Warriors beneath the armour, give us another forty!

The resolution to the story has failed to impress as well, with it being something of a ‘cop out’. A big showdown between the Doctor and Skaldak results in a last minute save from the Ice Warriors. Bit cheeky. Despite some unadventurous storytelling and some dodgy directing and CGI, this episode has sported a strong cast. Matt and Clara are, as ever, on form but they are joined by the brilliant Liam Cunningham and the wonderful David Warner. I think Warner’s character wasn’t great, he was written just to be odd and make some comedy I feel, whilst Cunningham plays a character I, quite rightly, disliked. He acted just as he should, for his mother country, which makes him a bit unlikable at times. And to top it all off the episode ends with some embarrassing cast laughter like a children’s cartoon from the 1960s. I feel this episode should have been so much more and it’s impossible to have your weekly Doctor Who appetite filled by this episode.

Definitely one step too far!

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