The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in the midst of the New Ice Age, where the human race are attempting to keep advancing glaciers at bay using an ioniser. A team from the Brittanicus Base find a frozen warrior in the glacier, which revives once it has thawed out. Unfortunately, it is an Ice Warrior from Mars and his comrades and spaceship are still frozen in the ice, and he sets about planning to conquer the Earth.
The Ice Warriors is a fun, if flawed story, introducing a villain who is probably in the ‘B’ List – I don’t think you’d have many casual viewers or people on the street able to identify the hissing Martian menace easily. I enjoyed this story, but it does definitely have some flaws associated with stories with a longer running time and the conclusion is a bit of a let down.
There are some interesting ideas here, some as fundamental as the setting of the Brittanicus Base inside a Victorian stately home, as per the war effort in the Second World War is a really nice touch and the juxtaposition between the house outside the control room and the advanced computer inside is a really good idea. More centrally, there is the conflict between base commander Clent and scientist Penley, which leads to Penley leaving the base as the TARDIS materalises. This essentially boils down to trust in technology, and with characters like Storr, an acquaintance of Penley, we have a character who does not trust in science at all. Clent, a self-professed coward, dares not go against the advise provided by his computer, which leads him to the point of paralysis towards the climax of the story when the computer predicts that the result of using the ioniser to attack the Ice Warriors’ ship will result in an explosion that will wipe out the base. Penley, whilst a scientist, seems to maintain his trust in humanity making decisions for himself, and taking on the risk that this involves, as seen by his willingness when helped by the Doctor to destroy the Ice Warrior spaceship.
Ultimately though, the conclusion lets this story down. It is problem that is generally shared with the six-part stories that they do feel overly long and this story is no different. Some are able to justify it and pull something out of the bag in the final part, however, The Ice Warriors closes with the reveal that the destruction of the spaceship is ultimately small and inconsequential. This makes it feel like most of the story, in which various characters have been trying to calculate and investigate what the damage would be feel like treading water for the majority of this story’s run time. I also struggled quite a lot with the sense of geography in this story – I couldn’t visualise where locations like Penley’s hideout and the Brittanicus Base is, which was more of a problem when it came to the Ice Warriors beginning their attack.
The Ice Warriors themselves look fantastic, and the set designs here are really good. From watching the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD, I know that the caves were made from polystyrene, but I honestly could not tell. It really stands up from this point of view. Derek Martinus’ casting of bigger actors to be in the Ice Warrior suits also really helps the audience buy them as a threat. The effect is only enhanced when we get to see Ice Warriors alongside Patrick Troughton and Deborah Watling onboard their ship later on in the story, where they tower over the Doctor and companion. In the course of my research for this review, I found out that Troughton is the joint-third shortest actor to play the Doctor with William Hartnell – only Sylvester McCoy and current incumbent Jodie Whittaker are shorter. The Ice Warriors do feel like a threat and their hissing voices are really sinister. Although they are never going to reach the heights of Dalekmania, it is easy to see why the production teams for the Troughton and Pertwee eras brought them back and why they were brought back for the revived show in 2013.
In terms of the central cast, Troughton is on fine form again here, and he seems to really have hit his stride when it comes to playing to the Doctor. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling don’t really have a lot to do here, with Victoria playing the part of damsel in distress for long stretches of the middle episodes. Amongst the guest cast, Peter Barkworth stands out as Clent, the seemingly robotic base commander, who does show that he is still capable of compassion when Arden and Jamie go off to investigate what has happened to Victoria. It is a good decision to have Clent have a pronounced limp and more intriguing that the reason is never elaborated on – perhaps this was a decisive moment behind him putting his trust in computers rather than humanity. Peter Sallis is good as Penley, even it took me a while to realise that it was him! Having grown up on Wallace and Gromit and occasionally seeing Last of the Summer Wine, it took me a while to realise that it was him. He does provide a good counterpoint to Clent and their relationship is very believable.
Verdict: The Ice Warriors has some good ideas, but unfortunately fails when it comes to its conclusion. The Ice Warriors are great and the sets look amazing though. 6/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Wendy Gifford (Miss Garrett), Peter Barkworth (Clent), George Waring (Arden), Malcolm Taylor (Walters), Peter Diamond (Davis), Angus Lennie (Storr), Peter Sallis (Penley), Bernard Bresslaw (Varga), Roy Skelton (Voice of Computer), Roger Jones (Zondal), Sonny Caldinez (Turoc), Tony Harwood (Rintan) & Michael Attwell (Isbur).
Writer: Brian Hayles
Director: Derek Martinus
Behind the Scenes
- The first appearance of the Ice Warriors. Writer Brian Hayles originally envisaged to resemble human soldiers in medieval-style space armour. It was costume designed Martin Baugh who suggested that they be reptilian.
- A real bear was used for the film inserts, which were specially filmed for this story. It was hired for a day’s filming at BBC Ealing for a fee of £70.
- Episodes 2 and 3 remain missing from the BBC Archives and were recreated using animation for the 2013 DVD release.
- Michael Attwell would later appear in Attack of the Cybermen opposite Colin Baker.
- Angus Lennie appeared in The Terror of the Zygons.
- Peter Sallis was originally going to play Striker in Enlightenment, however, due to industrial action delaying the schedule, he had to withdraw from the cast.
I quite like the moment where the Doctor walks into the control room of the Brittanicus Base completely unnoticed and starts basically being the Doctor.
In 2 minutes 38 seconds, you’re going to have an almighty explosion! The readings say so!
Well, how can you possibly know that? I haven’t even — I haven’t even processed them through the computer yet!
I don’t need a computer.The Second Doctor and Clent
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