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13 November 2015 @ 05:54 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Cold War  
Continuing with the template set up back in 2005, the third Clara story takes us back in time. Having said that, I think Cold War is more distinct from the Davies template than either The Bells of St. John or The Rings of Akhaten. In particular, its period setting isn't emphasised in the same way as it would be in a Davies' story. While there is a nod to the pop music of the time and the plot, to an extent, hinges upon the "finger on the trigger" animosity of Russia and America during the 1980s there is relatively little attempt to invoke either nostalgia or storybook history.

The plot hinges around the crew of a Russian submarine under the Artic, that has discovered the body of a martian (or Ice Warrior) entombed in the ice. Inevitably the Ice Warrior breaks free, declares war on the human race and decides to tigger a nuclear war in order to achieve its aim.

There is a lot to like in Cold War. It is tensely atmospheric and makes the most of the confined environment of the submarine. This is also where Clara gets to freak out. In contrast to the moment it all becomes to much for Rose in The End of the World, it isn't the sheer alieness that hits her, but the realisation that these situations really are dangerous and people really do get killed. I think this is a close as we ever get to seeing Clara being out-of-her-depth or at least acknowledging that she is out of her depth. In the future she is always masking any panic with either a belief in her own ability to talk her way out of a situation, or a belief that the Doctor will find a way. Here we see her rationalising her own part in the drama, asserting that she did well even if events spiralled out of control, but the horror is right at the surface.

On the other hand I think the Ice Warrior is the least successful of NuWho's re-imaginings of classic monsters. This is a massive shame since the Ice Warriors are among the most interesting of the classic Who recurring foes. While Cold War attempts to nod towards their nobility and culture, the whole plot seems to hinge around the idea that an Ice Warrior's reaction to being ineffectually attacked by panicked and frightened people is to wipe out their entire race. This comes across not so much as an alien concept of honour as deeply stupid. I have no doubt you could build a race around such a concept (though I think it would be hard work explaining why they hadn't rapidly wiped themselves out) but that work isn't done here. It looks, feels and smells like a transparent plot device. Similarly while the armourless Ice Warrior as some kind of Alien-esque creature in the ducting is atmospheric, it has comparatively little to do with the conception of the Ice Warriors. It doesn't quite reach the level of "why haven't you made up your own monster?" but it gets quite close.

Like Rings of Akhaten this is a competent story but it feels solid rather than exciting and, as an old Who fan, I was disappointed in its vision of the Ice Warriors.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/178089.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on November 14th, 2015 06:09 pm (UTC)
I used to think the Ice Warriors were one of Doctor Who's more three dimensional monsters, but I'm not sure that it's true, at least on screen. A lot of depth was added in the novels, I think, although even then it came close to just being like the Klingons in Star Trek: The Next Generation (a noble race of warriors, epic poetry blah blah blah). A pity, as I really like their design and most of their stories.

Speaking of design, I felt there was a real mismatch here between the armour and the inner creature, whose long spindly fingers looked like they wouldn't fit in the gloves!
louisedennislouisedennis on November 16th, 2015 10:42 am (UTC)
While the Ice Warriors are a lot Klingon, I think they are notable for being a "monster" that is allowed to be both ally and foe depending upon context. The Draconians probably fit into the same mould, though the story spends less time building them up as enemies and so their more complex role is perhaps less obvious. But, you are correct, in the grand scheme of complex "villains" the Ice Warriors are pretty straightforward.