This week’s installment was easily one of my favorite episodes this season, including the first half. Much like last week’s “The Rings of Akhaten,” the story harkened back to the classic tales. Mark Gatiss’ script was a truly tense tale with a real sense of danger. Something that was missing in the previous two episodes, most notable “The Bells of Saint John.”
This reviewcap isn’t as long as most of my others, but I’ve added a TARDISload of quotes this time around. If you find I’ve left one of your favorite exchanges out of the list, just leave a comment and I’ll get right on adding it to the bunch. But I warn you, I’ve got so many quotes down there I feel almost like I rewrote the script.
In short, I was in “Quote All the Things!” mode. I have a problem and you’re the one who suffers for it.
The North Pole: 1983.
The story begins aboard a Russian submarine about to conduct a nuclear missile launch drill. At that particular moment we don’t know it’s a drill until the serious proceedings are interrupted by Professor Grisenko (Veteran actor David Warner), the sub’s gentle, quirky scientist. He ambles onto the bridge singing along to a song by his favorite band, Ultravox.
Captain Zhukov asks him about his “specimen.” An object frozen in the ice for 5000 years and in the hold awaiting a thaw in Moscow. Naturally, an impatient crew member decides he can’t wait so he gets a blowtorch out. A few moments of warming the ice and a hand bursts through the ice, grabbing Mister Impatient by the throat.
Remember kids, never thaw any unknown object from an ancient block of ice without your parents’ permission.
And cue seizure-inducing intro of flashing lights and fluorescent/neon red spectrum graphics. I’m really not liking the new intro graphics, in case you couldn’t tell. It’s like I’m having a reddish-orange stroke to the tune of the Doctor Who theme each week.
As the Ice Warrior is attacking everyone in his way, damaging the sub as he goes, the TARDIS materializes with the Doctor and Clara expecting to arrive in Las Vegas. With water leaking in from seemingly everywhere, the duo are restrained and searched. The damaged and sinking sub settles on an underwater ridge and suddenly the TARDIS dematerializes of its own accord.
We later learn that’s part of its HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System). The Doctor’s been messing about with the settings and now it seems the old blue box is afraid of water. One would assume a device of such power as the TARDIS that can withstand so many forces found in outer space and throughout time wouldn’t be fazed by the submarine situation. Maybe the Doctor’s made it a bit too skittish?
The Ice Warrior makes his way to the bridge and the Doctor manages to calm everyone enough to stop the rampage. Just as things calm down and the Doctor begins speaking with the Ice Warrior, one of the sub’s crew members zaps it from behind with a seriously-powered cattle prod the crew keep handy for polar bears. I’m not sure I’d want to rely on a 3-foot cattle prod for polar bear defense.
They chain up the Ice Warrior, Grand Marshal Skaldak, in the torpedo room. He sends out a distress call once he awakes. Because everyone “smells like a soldier” except Clara, she goes in alone to question him. Clara notices Skaldak isn’t moving and when she gets near him the suit opens up revealing it is empty inside. Skaldak has left the suit and without it he’s fast. Really, really fast.
The newly nimble Martian is creeping around in the walls and overhead. The crew, searching for Skaldak, come across a crew member’s body which has been dissected by the frigid lizard to learn the strengths and weaknesses of humans.
Once he finally gets enough information to launch a missile, Skaldak begins to do just that. The first step is calling his armor to meet him then jumping back into it. He uses the technology in the armor to arm the warheads with which he will basically start World War III.
Skaldak and the Doctor have a showdown of sorts. A war of words. The Doctor tells him he’ll be remembered by history not as a warrior, but as a murderer. Then Clara jumps in, asking Skaldak why he showed mercy on Professor Grisenko earlier, but won’t show mercy on the entire planet now.
As Clara’s getting through to Skaldak, the sub is gripped by an energy beam that lifts it to the surface. It’s the Ice Warriors and they transport him to their ship, but the warheads are still armed. The Doctor is prepared to destroy the sub if Skaldak doesn’t disarm the missiles, but after a bit of sweating, and Clara briefly resorting to Professor Grisenko’s suggestion to sing “Hungry Like the Wolf” when she’s scared, the system shuts down and the world has been saved…again.
Once the threat has been averted, the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver buzzes him with the location of the TARDIS. It’s at the South Pole. To quote Clara, “Oh, Doctor!”
Thoughts, Questions, Stuff:
-The multiple meanings the title “Cold War” had were pretty obvious. First, the time period it took place was during the US/Soviet cold war, then the story was a battle that took place at the North Pole, and then there were the Ice Warriors (ice=cold / warrior=war).
-If the TARDIS was literally on the other side of the Earth, how did the translation matrix continue to work aboard the sub?
-The Doctor keeps a Barbie doll in his pocket and is fond enough of it that he kisses it when it’s returned to him?
And now for a teeny bit of trivia surrounding the major guest stars. I love trivia and these factoids were things I came across while doing research on this episode for the article. I promise quotes will immediately follow.
- •Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Skaldak) has also voiced the Daleks, Cybermen and Judoon. He is the only actor to play both the Doctor (in audio dramas) and the Daleks.
- •During the mid-80s, the time period in which “Cold War” takes place, Liam Cunningham, who played Captain Zhukov (Game of Thrones, Outcasts) was an electrician in real life. He decided to try his hand at acting after seeing an advertisement for an acting school.
- •David Warner (Professor Grisenko), who’s been in everything (Well, I say, “Everything.”) is one of only 32 actors to have starred in the original Star Trek motion pictures and then one of the spin-offs; in his case he played a Cardassian in ST:TNG. Also one of only 26 actors to have been in both the Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises. He’s been in 3 films about time travel: Time After Time, Time Bandits, and Planet of the Apes (2001).
- •Ultravox, Professor Grisenko’s favorite group, is a real band. It was formed in the 1970s, but enjoyed it’s greatest popularity in the 1980s. While they split up a couple of times, the band is currently back together again. This should make Professor Grisenko very happy.
Quotes (aka – 85% of the script transcribed by an OCD madman):Professor Grisenko: Am I interrupting something? Captain Zhukov: We were about to blow up the world, professor. Professor Grisenko: Again? Ultravox, I bloody love ’em! Got a friend who sends me the tapes. The Doctor: Viva Las Vegas! Captain Zhukov: Who the hell are you? Clara: Not Vegas, then? The Doctor: No, but this is much better. Clara: A sinking submarine? The Doctor: A sinking Soviet submarine! Clara: Are we going to be okay? The Doctor: Oh yes. Clara: Is that a lie? The Doctor: Possibly. The Doctor: Shoulder pads, nukes, it’s the eighties. Everything’s bigger. Captain Zhukov: Who are you? The Doctor: Alright, Captain, alright. You know what? Just this once, no dissembling, no psychic paper, no pretending to be an Earth ambassador. The Doctor. Me, Clara, time travelers. Clara, you okay? Clara: Think so. Captain Zhukov: Time travelers?! The Doctor: We arrived out of thin air, you just saw it happen. Professor Grisenko: I didn’t. The Doctor: Your problem, mate, not mine. Clara: It doesn’t matter how we arrived. The important thing is to get… (hissing sound in the background) …out. The Doctor: Exactly! Number one priority, not suffocating. Huh? Oh, oh thank you! Finally, seeing sense. Now, what sort of state is the sub in? Clara: Doctor. The Doctor: What about the radio? Can we send a… Clara: DOCTOR! The Doctor: What?! (hissing again) What is that, gas? Could be gas. (turns slowly to face the Ice Warrior) Ah. It never rains, but it pours. Professor Grisenko: We were drilling for oil in the ice. I thought I found a mammoth. The Doctor: It’s not a mammoth. No. Clara: What is it, then? The Doctor: It’s an Ice Warrior, a native of the planet Mars. And we go way back. Way back. Captain Zhukov: Martian?! You can’t be serious! The Doctor: I’m always serious…with days off. Clara: Doctor! The Doctor: Just keeping it light, Clara. They’re scared. Clara: They’re scared?! I’m scared! The Doctor: By his own standards Skaldak is a hero. It was said his enemies honored him so much they’d carve his name into their own flesh before they died. Clara: Oh yeah, very nice. He sounds lovely. Captain Zhuhov: An Ice Warrior. Explain. The Doctor: There isn’t time. Captain Zhuhov: Try me. The Doctor: Martian reptile known as the Ice Warrior. When Mars turned cold they had to adapt. They’re bio-mechanoids; cyborgs. Built themselves survival armor so they could exist in the freezing cold of their home world, but a sudden increase in temperature and the armor goes haywire. Clara: Like with that cattle prod thing? The Doctor: Like that cattle prod thing. Bit of a design flaw, to be honest. I’ve always wondered why they never sorted it. Oh look, you’ve got me telling you about them when I said there wasn’t time! Stepashin: Why are we listening to this nonsense, Captain? These people are clearly enemy agents. Clara: Huh? Stepashin: Spies, Captain. Clara: Worried about spies, mate? I don’t even speak Russian. Stepashin: What? Clara: I don’t… Am I speaking Russian? How come I’m speaking Russian? The Doctor: Now? We have to do this now? Clara: Are they speaking Russian? The Doctor: Seriously? Now? It’s the TARDIS translation matrix. Clara: Are they? The Doctor: Yes. They’re Russians! Stepashin: What’s the alternative? It’s a little green man from Mars? Professor Grisenko: Correction. It’s a big green man from Mars. The Doctor: All we needed to do was let Skaldak go and he’d have forgotten us, but you attacked him. You declared war. “Harm one of us and you harm us all, ” that’s the ancient Martian code. You hear that? Skaldak has sent out a distress call. He will bring down the fires of hell just for laying a glove on him. Clara (about who’ll speak to a chained-up Skaldak): Well there really is only one choice, isn’t there? I don’t smell of anything, to my knowledge. The Doctor: You?! No. No, no way! You’re not going in there alone, Clara. Absolutely not. No, no, never. (Clara goes in alone!) Clara: Doctor, what do I say? Skaldak: Yes, Doctor, what should she say? Professor Grisenko: I think he wants to speak to the organ grinder, not to the monkey. Clara: I heard that! Skaldak: I was Fleet Commander of the Nix Tharsis. My daughter stood by me, it was her first taste of action. We sang the songs of the old times. The songs of the red snows. Five thousand years, now my daughter will be dust. Only dust. The Doctor: Clara. For an Ice Warrior to leave its armor, it’s the gravest dishonor. Skaldak is desperate, he’s deadly, and we have got to find him. Professor Grisenko (holding up the lost sonic screwdriver): Will this help? The Doctor: Ah! You saved it! Professor Grisenko: No, no, it was on the floor with this. (holds up Barbie doll) The Doctor: Oh, Professor I could kiss you! Professor Grisenko: If you insist. The Doctor: Later. Professor Grisenko (trying to calm Clara): I always sing a song. Clara: What? Professor Grisenko: To keep my spirits up. Clara: Yeah, that would work…if this was “Pinocchio.” Professor Grisenko: Do you know “Hungry Like The Wolf”? Clara: What? Professor Grisenko: Duran Duran, one of my favorites. C’mon! Clara: I’m not singing a song. (A sound of groaning metal is heard) Clara: What was that? The Doctor: Pressure. Just pressure. We’re 700 meters down, remember? Professor Grisenko: Don’t worry about it. Think of something else. Da da, da da da, da da, da da da, I’m hungry like the wolf. Clara: I’m not singing. Professor Grisenko: Don’t you know it? Clara: Of course I know it! We do it…karaoke, on hen night. Professor Grisenko: Karaoke? Hen night? You speak excellent Russian my dear, but sometimes I don’t understand a word you’re talking about. Professor Grisenko: Good God! Torn apart. It’s a monster! A savage. The Doctor: No, professor. Not savage; forensic. Well he’s…dismantled. Skaldak’s learning. Learning all about you. Your strengths, your weaknesses. The Doctor: Stay here. Clara: Okay. The Doctor: Stay here, don’t argue. Clara: I’m not. The Doctor: Right. Good. Professor Grisenko: Tell me about yourself. What do you like doing? Clara? Clara! Clara: Stuff. You know, stuff. Professor Grisenko: Stuff. Very enlightening. And the Doctor. What he said, is it true? You’re…you’re from another time? From our future? Clara? Clara: Yes. Professor Grisenko: Tell me what happens! Clara: I can’t. Professor Grisenko: Well I need to know. Clara: I’m not allowed. Professor Grisenko: Oh please! Clara: No! Professor Grisenko: Ultravox. Do they split up? Skaldak: My world is dead, but now there will be a second red planet. Red with the blood of humanity! The Doctor: No Skaldak, wait, wait, wait! Where is the honor in condemning billions of innocents to death? Five thousand years ago Mars was the center of a vast empire, the jewel of this solar system. The people of Earth had only just begun to leave their caves. Five thousand years isn’t such a long time, they’re still just frightened children; still primitive. Who are you to judge? Skaldak: I am Skaldak! This planet is forfeit under Martian law. The Doctor: Then teach them, teach them, Grand Marshal. Show them another way. Show them there is honor in mercy. Is this how you want history to remember you? Grand Marshal Skaldak, destroyer of Earth, because that’s what you’ll be if you send those missiles. Not a soldier; a murderer. Five billion lives extinguished, no chance for goodbyes. A world…a world snuffed out like a candle flame. Alright, alright Skaldak, you leave me no choice. I’m a Time Lord, Skaldak, I know a thing or two about sonic technology myself. Skaldak: A threat? You threaten me, Doctor? The Doctor: No. No, not you. All of us. I will blow this sub up before you can even reach that button, Grand Marshal. Blow us all to oblivion. Skaldak: You would sacrifice yourself? The Doctor: In a heartbeat. Clara: Why did you hesitate? Back there, in the dark. You were going to kill this man, remember? I begged you not to and you listened. Why show compassion then, Skaldak, and not now? The Doctor’s right, billions will die. Mothers, sons, fathers, daughters. Remember that last battle, Skaldak. Your daughter. You sang the songs… Skaldak: …of the red snows. Clara: The TARDIS! Where’s the TARDIS? You never explained. The Doctor: Oh, well, don’t worry about that. Clara: Stop saying that. Where is it? The Doctor: Well, I wasn’t to know, was I? Clara: Know what? The Doctor: I’ve been tinkering. Breaking her in. I’m allowed! Clara: What did you do? The Doctor: I reset the HADS. Clara: Huh? The Doctor: I reset… Clara: The what? The Doctor: The HADS! The Hostile Action Displacement System. If the TARDIS comes under attack; gunfire, time winds, the…sea, it…relocates. Clara: Oh, Doctor. The Doctor: I haven’t used it in donkey’s years. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Well never mind, it’s bound to turn up somewhere. (sonic buzzes in his pocket) Ooh! Hah, see? Right on cue. Brilliant! Clara: Brilliant? The Doctor: The TARDIS is at the pole. Clara: Not far, then. The Doctor: The South Pole. Clara: Ah. The Doctor (to Captain Zhukov): Can we have a lift?