I have to admit, when there is so much hype for a ‘Doctor Who’ episode, I tend to approach the episode warily as I have been disappointed many times in the past. A really good example of this was the departure of Amy and Rory in ‘Angels Take Manhattan.’ While it was a great episode, it was not the complete heartbreak that it was hyped up to be. ‘Cold War,’ however, lived up to the hype and gave a proper return for a classic villain, the Ice Warrior. Read on for the recap of ‘Cold War’ to see what I mean.
The episode takes place at the North Pole during the height of the Cold War in 1983. Instead of Las Vegas, the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Clara into a sinking Russian submarine brought about by a strange “thing” that was frozen in the polar ice caps and then defrosted by an unlisted sailor. Apparently the enlisted comrade didn’t want to wait until the sub got home to Mother Russia to find out what was in the ice and decided to melt it with a blow torch. Needless to say, if this were an episode of ‘Star Trek,’ the guy would have been wearing a red shirt.
After the yet unidentified monster gets loose, havoc ensues with the crew and the Doctor trying to keep the sub from sinking to its death. Luckily, the sub lands on an underwater cliff, and while still perilous, it does keep the sub from sinking lower. But the situation was too dangerous for the TARDIS so she decides to vworp vworp away to safety and disappears leaving the Doctor and Clara on the sub. (Nice going Sexy!)
Somehow, Clara ends up falling into some water and loses consciousness but when she awakes up, she sees the Doctor and the Russian sub Captain (who really reminds me of Sean Connery in ‘The Hunt for Red October’) arguing about who they are and how they got to the sub. It’s there that Clara gets her first glimpse of the monster – the Ice Warrior!
Considering their history together, the Doctor tries to make nice with the Ice Warrior telling him that he’s been in stasis for 5000 years and they mean him no harm… that is, until one of the Russians decide to cattle prod the alien. Not a good move as the Doctor tells them all that this Ice Warrior is Grand Marshall Skaldak, the greatest hero the Martian race has ever produced. They’re in trouble now!
The Doctor reiterates how dangerous Skaldak can be and while chained up, the General sends out a beacon in hope that other Martians will be able to find him. The Doctor tells the Captain how he messed up everything as they could have just let Skaldak go and he would have forgotten them, but since they cattle prodded him, the Russians have declared war on the Martians. The Captain refuses to allow the Doctor to try to reason with Skaldak and offers to go instead, but the Time Lord tells him that’s not a good idea because Skaldak will tell that he’s an enemy soldier. The Captain counters with what makes you think that Skaldak can’t tell you’re one too? (Good one, Captain, and a nice reminder that the Time Lord was heavily involved in the Time War). In the end, Clara goes in.
With a headset and the Doctor telling her what to say and do, Clara tries to communicate some calmness in the tense situation. Skaldak expresses his distress that 5000 years had passed and that the last thing he remembered was that he and his daughter were going into action. Now his daughter is but dust in the wind (okay just dust) and is bent on vengeance. As he talks, Clara steps closer to the Ice Warrior armor and lifts off the helmet. She sees that Skaldak is not in it. The Doctor yells for Clara to get out of the room and when the door is open, you see a quick wisp of Skaldak as he escapes out the hatch. Not good… not good at all. The Doctor informs everyone that Skaldak has lost all hope of being rescued and with nothing to lose, will be hell bent on destroying the planet.
Skaldak goes on a killing spree while the Doctor, Clara and some of the crew go after him. Here, Clara gets a good dose of reality as she sees 2 crew members torn apart by the alien. There also seems to be a tinge of guilt as she wonders if she were to blame for their deaths had her conversation with Skaldak gone another way. Regardless, the two bodies made Clara realize it’s not a game anymore.
Skaldak is able to sonically call to his suit as he tells the Doctor of his plans before going inside and heading to the control room. The Doctor tries to reason with him not to push the launch button for the nuclear missiles, even to the point of threatening to blow up the sub and everyone in it if Skaldak tries. The two play chicken until Clara chimes in and reminds him of having compassion in sparing the scientist’s life then plays the daughter card to drive the concept home.
Just then, the sub gets caught in a tractor beam and is brought up to the surface. It’s the Martians! They have answered Skaldak’s call and come to save him. He is teleported to the ship, no longer a threat to humanity… at least for now. See, the nuclear missiles are still armed and can still be launched from the alien ship. Everyone waits to see if mercy will be bestowed upon them as they wait for the weapons to deactivate. Scared, it’s then that Clara decides to sing and at that same moment as suggested by Prof. Grisenko as a means to not be scared.
Suddenly, the weapons become disarmed. Was it because of Skaldak’s mercy or did Clara’s singing have something to do with it? Things that make you go hm….
So once again, the world is safe… the TARDIS is found – at the South Pole no less!… and as the Martian spaceship flies away, the Doctor looks on giving it a final Martian salute.
This was a really enjoyable episode and a great way to properly bring back the Ice Warriors to a new generation of Whovians. If there was one complaint I have, it would be that this episode would have worked better as a two parter as the story wrapped up way too quickly. The mounting suspense and behind the couch scares was well played in the episode due to Doug McKinnon’s direction.
Besides ‘The Hunt for Red October’ similarity, the suspense (especially how the Martian’s creepy lengthy three fingered hands grabbed everyone’s head) and look of Skaldak really reminded me of the movie ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Aliens,’ don’t you think? Also the spaceship above the sub had an ‘Independence Day’ feel to it. Mark Gratiss (who wrote this episode) is known to be a big sci-fi/horror buff so I wonder if these were tinges of tributes to the films.
For you classic Whovians out there, there seems to be a consistent trend towards nods to the Second Doctor in the last few episodes. Besides this being Matt Smith’s favorite Doctor in the series, what do you all think the meaning of this is as the series ventures towards the 50th anniversary episode?
As always, I’d love to read your thoughts and comments about ‘Cold War’ so let me know below!