Moscow 1967. The Doctor and Ace have arrived behind the Iron Curtain, and the Soviet Union is seeking a new weapon that will give it mastery in the Cold War.
What is the secret of the Martian relics? As the legendary War Lord Sezhyr returns to life, the Doctor is faced with some of his oldest and deadliest enemies.
The fate of Earth – and the future of Ace – are now intertwined…
Having read some mixed things about the Sylvester McCoy’s Lost Stories, I approached this story with some trepidation but I’m happy to say that Thin Ice pleasantly surprised me. It is by no means perfectly, but it was certainly much better than I was expecting and intrigued me in places. I quite like Ice Warriors and their inclusion here was quite intriguing in places and added to their power set and history.
One of the things that I liked about this story was the time period and location. There are a lot of stories both in Doctor Who and outside that are set during the Cold War, however, very few in the west that are primarily set in Russia, so this felt a bit different. In fact, as this story was originally to have been set in London rather than Moscow, it is unlikely that Doctor Who would ever have attempted a story to be set in Russia at all. I think that Mark Platt’s script works really well, with a bit of a mystery to be solved combined with a heist storyline. Another change with the original script is that this was meant to be Ace’s final story, and I quite liked the scenes with the Doctor and the Prydonian Adjudicator. Although it would be nice to have a definitive end to Ace’s tenure with the Doctor, the relationship between the two characters does take a bit of a turn here, as Ace is finally fed up of the Doctor’s behaviour. I think that the story largely works well up until the end of the third part, where it lapses into Ice Warriors’s discussions, which feels like it is taking a long time – there is something about listening to multiple Ice Warriors talking which feels quite wearing, in spite of the best efforts of the performers. Speaking of the Ice Warriors, I like the fact that the story tries to do something different with the Ice Warriors and giving an insight into their history in the character of Sezhyr, a legendary Ice Warrior leader, and the fact that his helmet is able to restore him to life and something approaching full power. The sound design and direction are pretty solid, especially in the car chase at the end of the second part.
It almost doesn’t need saying, but Nicholas Briggs puts in a great performance as the Ice Lord Hhessh, giving the character some gravitas, and Nigel Lambert is also pretty good as the Ice Warrior Glarva. As mentioned above, it is when we get long conversations that it starts to become difficult and at times irritating to differentiate between the characters, but that is more to do with the established speech patterns of the Ice Warriors than any one actor’s performance. Beth Chalmers is also good as Raina, especially when it comes to her unexpected conversion into Sezhyr, which was particularly unexpected and I am looking forward to hearing her as Raine in the next Seventh Doctor story. This story does have a solid guest cast, and there is no performance that stands out as particularly terrible, and the Russian accents sounded pretty good to my ear, apparently assisted by John Albasiny, who was a Russian teacher at the time of recording so able to aid the cast with their pronunciations.
This is a strong story for the central duo, with the Doctor finally ultimately have Ace assessed for her suitability to be admitted into the Prydonian Academy, unbeknownst to her. This is the culmination of their adventures, especially in Season 26, following on from stories like Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric. Sylvester McCoy is particularly good in the scenes with the Adjudicator, especially towards the end of the story when he is attempting to remain involved in the proceedings – there is certainly a feeling of unease about what he is doing to Ace. Equally, Sophie Aldred is great, especially when she learns about what the Doctor is trying to do. Considering that Ace has well documented abandonment issues, not wanting to feel unwanted by the Doctor, her reaction of wanting to go back to Perivale rather than returning to the TARDIS is understandable, and ultimately the Doctor offering her a bit more control in their future adventures is a nice touch from a man who has been manipulating her for a bit too long.
Verdict: Thin Ice was a pleasant surprise. It certainly starts to falter towards the end, but some good performances and an interesting premise. 7/10
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Ricky Groves (Markus Creevy), Beth Chalmers (Lt. Raina Kerenskaya/Sezhyr), Nicholas Briggs (Hhessh), John Albasiny (Major Maxim Alexandrovitch Felnikov), Nigel Lambert (Adjudicator/Glarva) and John Banks (Yevgeni/Yasha Lemayev).
Writer: Marc Platt
Director: Ken Bentley
Behind the Scenes
- This story is based on the unproduced serial Ice Time, which was set in 1960s London rather than Moscow.
- Thin Ice was released in April 2011, and marked the first time in nearly nine years since the Seventh Doctor and Ace had appeared in a story without another companion. The previous occasion had been The Rapture, released in September 2002.
- The story is set in November 1967, coincidentally the same month that the Ice Warriors made their debut on television.
- Thin Ice shares a title with a Series 10 episode, but there is no link between the two stories.
- Beth Chalmers has played numerous roles for Big Finish across multiple ranges, and voices Raine Creevy from the next Lost Story. She has played four companions’ mothers: Christine Bush (Mel) in The Wrong Doctors, Audrey Dudman (Ace) in Casualties of War, Raina Kerenskaya in this story (Raine) and Cathy O’Sullivan (Molly) in Tangled Web.
- John Albasiny has played multiple roles for Big Finish including Equilibrium, The Angel of Scutari and Phantoms of the Deep.
- Nigel Lambert previously appeared as Hardin in The Leisure Hive and has appeared in the Big Finish audio plays The Four Doctors, The Cannibalists and The Guardian of Prophecy.
You’ve found some dodgy temporal anomaly that needs tidying up and you’ve parachuted Ace in to do your dirty work?
And in such matters, Doctor, you of course lead a blameless life!The Seventh Doctor and Adjudicator
Previous Seventh Doctor story: Survival