Doctor Who: Series 7
Aired: April 13, 2013
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Douglas MacKinnon
“’Harm one of us and you harm us all.’ It’s the ancient martian code.”
– The Doctor
As we get closer and closer to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, Steven Moffat and his crew continue to give nods to the show’s rich history. In “The Bells of Saint John,” we got the return of the Great Intelligence. In “The Rings of Akhaten,” The Doctor mentioned the original companion, his granddaughter. And this week, we get the return of the long-forgotten Ice Warriors.
“Cold War” is the first pure “Monster of the Week” episode since the show’s hiatus. We don’t get any new hints about Clara’s past or anything else that is likely to impact the rest of the season. It was just a standalone episode with The Doctor and Clara squaring off against a bad ass villain with a strict moral code.
And as far as “Monster of the Week” episodes go, I think it was a fairly solid one. What I really enjoyed was the fact that there was a lot of thought put into bringing back the Ice Warriors and using them effectively.
Apparently, writer Mark Gatiss had been pushing to bring them back for quite a while, but Moffat was hesitant. When Gatiss pitched this particular story though, Moffat was sold.
In his conference call with reporters a few weeks ago, Moffat said: “The impetus really was Mark Gatiss. I wasn’t that keen initially on bringing the Ice Warriors back. They’ve never been any special favorite of mine in the old series. I thought they were good but I never quite got into them, but Mark Gatiss kept nagging me about bringing them back and then he came up with an idea, which I’m going to leave that as a surprise in Cold War, which really made them come to life for me.”
I’m really glad Moffat held out for this particular story. It just felt like the absolute perfect venue to bring out the classic foe.
There were the obvious reasons, of course, like the fact that the story took place in the North Pole and the fact that it happened during the Cold War. But luckily, the episode went deeper than the obvious ice puns. (Otherwise, I would have heard Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in my head every time Skaldak spoke.)
In the real Cold War, the U.S. and Russia were in a deadly standoff waiting for the other side to strike first. So even before Skaldak was thawed out, we saw the crew of the submarine running nuclear drills and preparing for the worst. They were already living in fear of an enemy capable of starting a war (to the point where some crew members were convinced The Doctor and Clara were spies). Skaldak was simply the embodiment of all of their fears.
And there was, of course, the martian code. “Harm one of us and you harm us all.” That was the reality the Russians and Americans were living in. All it would have taken was one little incident to ignite a full-blown war.
The other nice thing about dusting off the Ice Warriors after such a long absence was that we didn’t know whether or not Skaldak was the last of his species. When he sent out the distress call and no one answered, I believed that he was all that was left. That made the ending, when the cavalry showed up, that much more enjoyable.
So overall, it wasn’t the fanciest or the best episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen, but it was a very solid and entertaining “Monster of the Week” episode that made the most out of its villain.
And another thing …
- It was a good week for random HBO cameos. The submarine captain was played by Liam Cunningham, who could also be seen this weekend playing Ser Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones. And Lieutenant Stepashin was played by Tobias Menzies, who was Brutus in Rome. I loved that the both played characters that mirrored their HBO ones – Cunningham was once again a captain and Menzies was once again a traitor.
- Whenever the TARDIS disappears like it did this week, it’s impossible for me not to think of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant episode that personified it, which makes the whole thing more fun.
- Speaking of the TARDIS, this week’s episode really had me noodling through the ship’s translation matrix for the first time. I knew that it made alien races speak in perfect English for the benefit of the companion (and the audience), but I never thought about it translating Russian into English (and vice versa). Also, it made me realize something else I had never really thought about before – The Doctor isn’t speaking in English either, he’s been translated from Gallifreyan this whole time.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.