Doctor Who Story Number 046 – The Invasion

Written by Derrick Sherwin and Kit Pedler
Directed by Douglas Camfield

After dodging a missile, The TARDIS materializes in a compound owned by International Electromatics, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. The Doctor decides it is time to visit Professor Travers, but soon becoming involved in a military investigation into the operations of Industrial Electromatics and its mysterious owner Tobias Vaughn.

“Packer!”

Normally I try to take a few notes on each episode and compile my final thoughts from there.  This time around, however, my notes are quite sparse and end partway through episode two.  I really enjoy this story.  It has my favorite Who director, my favorite Doctor, my favorite recurring villain, some great music, and Kevin Stoney as the human face to the alien invasion.  Honestly, I’m not sure Doctor Who ever produced an actor who played the antagonist as well as Kevin Stoney.  He sets the standard for villains.  He was great in The Daleks’ Master Plan and he is great as Tobias Vaughn.  Pairing him with the bumbling sadist Packer helps to lighten the tone.  The two make a great double-act.  Packer’s anxiety as plans start to crumble at The Doctor’s interference is wonderfully contrasted by Vaughn’s cold calm.  The implication that his body has been partially cyber-converted is downright creepy.  And his characterization holds throughout.  Vaughn is a brilliant mastermind.  He anticipates the eventual betrayal by The Cybermen.  He has prepared for it.  When it finally comes and he loses control, Vaughn sides with The Doctor, not for the good of humanity, but for revenge against his former allies.  For me, Tobias Vaughn is the real villain of the story.

This isn’t to discount The Cybermen.  I feel like The Cybermen have never been better than they have been in the 60s.  They weren’t played for humor as they often have in Cymru Who.  They were meant to scare.  Scenes of an insane Cyberman in the sewers, the invasion in the streets of London, The Cyberman who appears when Vaughn calls for Packer, these are all chilling moments.  Sadly, after the death of Vaughn, it all falls apart a bit.  The Cybermen are dealt with quite systematically and with little challenge.  It is a shame that after seven great episodes, the ending unfolds by-the-numbers.  I think this is probably the only weakness in the story.

Episodes one and four are missing from The Invasion.  For the DVD release, Cosgrove Hall’s animation team was commissioned to provide animated visuals for the soundtrack.  For the most part, I love the animation, but I feel that the work in the first episode is perhaps the best.  The arrival on Earth, combined with Don Harper’s music, is eerie.  The tone that is set is quite ominous and paranoid.  In all, I think the animation works well for this story and I think the idea of animating incomplete episodes is wonderful.  I’m excited to see further animation (from Big Finish) for the Reign of Terror DVD release.  It is worth pointing out that now that Galaxy 4 is incomplete (rather than completely lost as it once was) it would now qualify for animation status.  Just a thought.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that this is the first story where UNIT appears.  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart informs The Doctor and Jamie that the para-military organization was created following the Yeti invasion.  We see here the format for season seven and beyond.  The Invasion is basically a preview of the Pertwee era.

Final Verdict: There is very little about this story that fails to work for me.  Eight episodes of Doctor Who will rarely fly by as fast as these.  If I were going to pick one story from the Troughton era to show to a new fan, it would be this one.

 

Coming Up Next: The next story is, of course, The Krotons.  The only problem is that I don’t have it.  The Region One DVD release is scheduled for some time in 2012, but no exact date is set at the time of writing.  At one time the serial was available for viewing on the BBC Worldwide Channel of YouTube, but for some reason it is no longer available for viewing in the United States.  I’m pretty sure I could get the story on iTunes, but I don’t know if I want to pay money for the digital copy, then more again for the DVD.  I could change my mind in the next few weeks if I start getting desperate for more Doctor Who content for the site.  Otherwise, expect a bit of a break from the classic series reviews for the time being.

And if I don’t see you here before then, a very Merry Christmas to all you at home (yes, I went there).

Doctor Who Story Number 045 – The Mind Robber

Written by Peter Ling
Directed by David Maloney

Forced to make an emergency dematerialization from Dulkis, The TARDIS slips out of reality and The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe find themselves in a land of fiction.

“It’s only the unknown that worries me, Zoe.”

I’m a literature nerd.  A fun date with my wife is going to dinner then visiting a bookstore.  I have more books than I do shelf space, and this problem is exacerbated by my employment at a bookstore.  And while I don’t get to read as much as I would like, nothing excites me more than searching for a good book.  As such, I am predisposed to love The Mind Robber.  It is similar to an episode of Spaced or Community in which the savvy viewer tries to identify the tropes and characters, only in this story it would be popular reading from 1968.  Sure modern viewers will still get the reference to Rapunzel and Lancelot, but how many modern viewers would know about Gulliver (beyond the Liliputians) or Cyrano or D’Artanian?  How many would identify the very brief reference to Jo and Meg or twig that the children that offer riddles to The Doctor are inspired by Edith Nesbit?  Thankfully, one does not need to identify all (or, indeed, any) of the literary references.  In truth, they are rather broadly drawn and only serve to add flavor and mystery.  Overall, The Mind Robber is just a really good story.

The story involves some sort of realm just outside the bounds of reality as we know it.  This Land of Fiction needs a strong mind to run it and sustain it.  The current Master (not to be confused with The Time Lord of the same name) can no longer sustain the world and a new mind must be acquired.  This mind is, of course, The Doctor.  Toward the end of the story, the Master Computer, which controls the world, decides to pull all humans from Earth to the Land of Fiction.  In truth, this escalation of threat was a bit pointless.  The story worked just fine without it.  I was also a bit surprised that the story was fairly straightforward and didn’t really push some metaphoric meaning, but older episodes of Doctor Who rarely did.  Naturally, it is easy to read meaning into the story.  We could view it as a statement about the value of keeping imagination alive.  We could see it as a meta-textual analysis of a fictional character (The Doctor) confronting his own fictional nature (which never happens).  Or we can just view it as clever escapism, which is probably for the best.

While I think Douglas Camfield is my favorite classic era director, David Maloney would have to be a close second.  The story moves along at a brisk pace and rarely lingers anywhere too long.  Maloney does a good job of revealing the Toy Soldiers by degrees and handles the surreal aspects of episode one in a compelling way.  At the hands of a lesser director, this story could have been plodding and dull. We could have ended up with another Edge of Destruction or Celestial Toymaker, both stories that had interesting premises but failed in execution.  Thankfully, Maloney knows how to direct science fiction.  He understands the genre and he will return to the show a few more times before this particular project is finished.

Jamie Mk 2

This story is also known for the disappearance of Frazier Hines for an episode and a half as he recovered from chicken pox.  He was replaced with Hamish Wilson who played Jamie with a new face.  Hamish did a great job and his Jamie feels like the same character, just with new energy.  Most-likely Hamish saw this as an opportunity to gain exposure and put a lot of energy into it.  I’m not saying that they should have replaced Hines, I just think it would have been good to consider Hamish for future companion status.  Not that it really matters at this point.

Final Verdict: With The Mind Robber it feels that we can once more go anywhere in time and space rather than merely going to bases under siege.  The story is imaginative and the performances are great.  The truly is one of the better surviving episodes from Troughton’s era.

Doctor Who Story Number 44 – The Dominators

Written by Norman Ashby
Directed by Morris Barry

The TARDIS crew isn’t the only new arrival to the pacifist planet Dulkis.  Also arriving are The Dominators and their robotic minions The Quarks.

“This girl has an inquiring mind.  This proves she can’t be from Dulkis.”

Time has not been kind to The Dominators.  The costumes of the Dulcians are rather ridiculous.  The costumes of The Dominators seem a bit impractical for a warrior race, even if they rely upon The Quarks to do the majority of the fighting.  The Quarks themselves seem a bit impractical and unstable, even though I do like the look of the headpieces.  And while the beginning of the story had me a bit concerned and apprehensive, in the end I found myself enjoying the The Dominators more with each passing episode.

To me, the strength of the story is the interaction of the two Dominators, Navigator Rago and Probationer Toba.  Rago is the leader of the fuel-finding mission.  The Dominator warfleet is running low on energy and it needs large amounts of radiation.  By detonating an atomic device in the core of Dulkis, they hope to create a radioactive volcanic explosion.  The radiation would then been gathered by Dominator ships.  Unfortunately, they seem to only have just enough energy for this operation and Toba insists on going around and blowing up Dulcian buildings and killing the natives.  This leads to a bit of friction between the two Dominators.  I was never quite sure how their relationship would play out.  At times I feared Toba would completely turn on Rago and decide to follow his sadistic impulses, foregoing the mission entirely.  The Dominators were interesting and I would love to see their society fleshed out a bit more rather than the caricatures we got here.

Ultimately, the plot boils down to a simple premise: what happens when a pacifistic society finds itself targeted by unrelenting bullies.  The concept was inspired by the growing hippy movement of the 1960s.  Honestly, this is the continuing problem with pacifism.  There are some who would genuinely not be moved by peaceful resistance.  Sure, such resistance my inspire others, but in the face of an unstoppable military machine, do you hold to your pacifism or do you fight?  The answer given here is the latter, much like it was way back in season one when Ian had to inspire the Thals.  But keeping in mind that the writers of both The Daleks and The Dominators lived through World War Two, the call to resistance seems understandable.  It is unlikely that Hitler would have been dissuaded by peaceful resistance.  Since the writers had a definite agenda here (“writers” since “Norman Ashby was a pseudonym for Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln), there isn’t much debate given to the issue.

"Hug me!"

This was a very slow story.  As mentioned earlier, the production values seemed on the cheaper side (although there were some excellent explosions).  It probably should have been shorter (as with many Troughton stories).  It certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it has some good moments (The Doctor and Jamie playing dumb during their interrogation) and it is quite a bit of fun to watch The Quarks explode.

Um . . . Where Am I?

Source: Screen capture from Dominators DVD
Skirts from Ikea's home furnishings catalogue.

Okay, so I took a break after The Wheel in Space as I attempted to decide if I had money in the budget for The Dominators.  Thankfully, my local library had a copy of the DVD, so I get to save the money that I didn’t really have.  Then we had Thanksgiving, which was a lot of fun.  My wife and I hosted at our house this year and were able to squeeze fourteen people into a three bedroom house.  It was cramped but a lot of fun.  But you probably don’t care as much about that, so . . . Doctor Who.

I started watching The Dominators tonight.  After series five, which was a lot of reconstructions, I thought I would be looking forward to this mostly-complete season.  Sadly, I’m not.  I feel like I’m dragging my feet to keep interest.  I’m not sure if I’m just burned out going in to the holiday season or if I haven’t been enjoying Doctor Who as much as I did a year ago.  In truth, I miss William Hartnell.  Oddly enough, I find that I am also missing Russell T. Davies Doctor Who and that really surprises me.

Regardless, I’m pressing on.  I haven’t heard good things about The Dominators and after the first episode I haven’t quite been sucked back in to the project with enthusiasm.  But we will see.  If nothing else, I’m only nine episodes away from The Invasion.

Has anyone reading this seen The Dominators?  Should I dread it or is it surprisingly good in the end?

Doctor Who Story Number 43 – The Wheel in Space

Written by David Whitaker from a story by Kit Pedler
Directed by Tristan de Vere Cole

Having left Victoria on Earth, The Doctor and Jamie arrive on an abandoned space ship.  The only crew, a solitary robot.  What happened to the humans on board?

“That’s marvelous isn’t it. ‘The Doctor told me to protect it’.  But don’t give them a reason and leave me to get you out of trouble.”

If fan consensus is anything to go by, I’m not supposed to like this story.  And yet, there is something undeniably appealing to me about 1960s Cybermen stories.  The Cybermen of this era are the best because they are cold and emotionless.  Sure, sometimes their plans were convoluted and didn’t make sense, but the same could be said of Series Six and people seemed to enjoy that.  Okay, possibly an unfair shot there, but still, I would take a 1960s Cybermen story over just about any televised appearance they have made in the intervening years.

By no means do I think this story is perfect.  It is slow, which at times conveys an ominous atmosphere and at times boredom.  I wasn’t too big on the space corridor that The Cybermen pranced along, but I’m sure none of the actors involved knew how to convey walking along a space corridor.  It still looked silly.  Indeed, the faults of this story probably do work better in audio than visually, but I was grateful for both the episodes that still existed.

There were some great images in this story, which is not to say that they were conveyed well on screen.  I’m using the word “images” the way my college poetry teacher did, which basically means a striking picture in your mind.  The images that stick with me from this story: An abandoned ship with a solitary robot keeping it running, metal spheres (which are Cybermats) ejected into space that eventually burrow into The Wheel space station, Cybermen stored in giant, metal eggs for deep space travel.  No, we never saw The Cybermen like this before nor do we see them like this again, but at least it was something new and different.  I loved the episode where Duggan finds a Cybermat, whom he nicknames Billybug, and thinks it is a cute life form of some sort.  He puts the Cybermat in the closet, only to discover later that it has been consuming metal.  I loved the interactions between Zoe and Jamie as she constantly puts him down, which The Doctor likewise does to her.  There is a definite hierarchy of intelligence between the three, and The Doctor sees it his duty to break Zoe’s dependence on pure logic.  In the end it works since she does something decidedly illogical: she stows away on The TARDIS.

I realize many male viewers enjoy the cat suit Zoe from The Mind Robber, but for some reason I think she looks better in space gear. Not sure what this says about me.

I had been dreading this story because I had heard so many bad things about it (largely that it was bad), but in the end I enjoyed it.  It was a fitting end to a season that went from one base under siege to another.  It also provided a nice bookend, starting and ending the season with Cybermen stories much like Troughton’s first season started and ended with Dalek stories.  But on the whole, I have to say I wasn’t really taken with this season.  It felt incredibly repetitive as all stories save one repeated the same scenario with slightly different details.  Almost all the stories felt too long.  It felt as if I was reading old issues of Ultimate Spider-Man where you would get to the end of the year and find that despite having twelve issues, you only had two stories.  This season had, what, 40 episodes and only seven stories?  This was honestly the first season where I thought about just letting the project drop and never returning to the blog.  Sure, I love Troughton, but this season felt a bit stagnant to me.  No wonder the ratings were beginning to drop and producers started thinking about changing the format.  As for me, I have The Dominators to look forward to.  However, I think I need some time to purge a bit after this season . . . and to wait until I have money in the DVD budget.  Hopefully the wait won’t be too long.

Doctor Who Story Number 42 – Fury From the Deep

Written by Victor Pemberton
Directed by Hugh David

A natural gas mining project in the North Sea gets terrorized by a creature out of sailors’ legends.

“Everything in the sea is living, Jamie.”

Fury from the Deep is a story that I want to like.  Indeed, there are elements that I enjoy quite a bit, so I’ll start there.  Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill are extremely creepy in audio.  I have no idea how they were on screen, but they are silent, deadly, and seem malicious.  They remind me of the assassins from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.  They seem to be moving from one drilling rig to another, sabotaging them so that the weeds can gain access.  In the end, their identities are implied to be the first two workers converted by the weeds. And this is the other thing that I like, the idea of an ancient, yet all too terrestrial, evil buried away on our planet.  While digging for natural gas, one of the drilling rigs began to suck up an old variety of seaweed.  This weed was sentient and telepathic.  It thrived in the natural gas environment, but when it was brought into the pipes, it attacked, taking control of the minds of Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill.  The ultimate goal of the weed was to take over the British Isles and possibly the world.  In the end, sonic waves from Victoria’s screams defeated the creature.  The mind control, Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill, weed creatures rising out of sea foam, and Harris’s wife walking out into the ocean were all creepy elements of this story and they are the images that stick with me and really make me enjoy parts of it.

Unfortunately, the primary reason I feel this story fails is the pace.  It just seems to drag on to me.  I think there are some good characters and great imagery, but the story really takes its time.  In the beginning we have some great set-up and characterization, some good atmosphere, but in the middle I just want things to move along at a better pace.  The story even ends with one of the longer denouements of this era.  We see celebrations (so The Doctor does eat family meals on occasion), Robson returning to work, and an extended goodbye to Victoria.  The Doctor and Jamie even stick around one more night before leaving.  Sure, this is for Victoria’s benefit, but it is in stark contrast to the previous stories this season where they bolted back to The TARDIS before the monsters breathed their last or the dust from explosions settled.

Victoria, quite suddenly, decides to leave.  On the one hand, I understand her desire to have a bit of normalcy for a bit.  She had started to feel overwhelmed.  Okay, I get that and it is understandable, but why now?  What was it about the seaweed adventure that suddenly felt like too much?  Why not the Yeti in the sewers?  Why not being held captive by The Ice Warriors?  I understand that this was dictated more by Deborah Watling’s desire to leave than by story or character demands, but I wish the character had more of a developing arc, something that gave indication that she had changed in some way.  That wasn’t how television worked back then, and Pemberton did the best he could, but I guess I’ve just been spoiled by shows with good character development and had the luxury of plotting in advance.  I believed Rose’s departure as well as Martha’s.  Ian and Barbara’s departure worked.  Honestly, they probably had the best departure of companions thus far.  Regardless, Victoria is gone.  Probably not a bad thing as she wasn’t being written as much more than a female companion for the last few stories.  She was a good kid, though.  We shall see you again in Companion Chronicles.

Doctor who Story Number 41 – The Web of Fear

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Lured back to Earth by an unknown force, The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria find themselves in the London Underground with a squad of soldiers who are fighting against The Yeti.

“Yeti?  Did he say ‘Yeti’?”

If the first episode is anything to go by, this story looked great.  The underground sets look amazing, so much so that lore has it that London Underground accused the BBC of filming there without permission.  Douglas Camfield proves once more that he is one of the best directors of the classic era as he creates a fast-paced introductory episode, while building massive amounts of atmosphere and tension.  The TARDIS hanging in space and being consumed by webs is quite creepy.  The scene where the three explorers find a dead man in the underground is chilling.  A wonderfully eerie opening that brings images of Day of the Triffids, scenes of post-apocalyptic society.  Sadly, the opening episode is the only one that exists.

“It’s turning into a proper holiday camp, this place.”

While I enjoyed The Abominable Snowmen, I felt that it went on a bit too long.  With The Web of Fear, I felt the pace was better handled.  The first episode sets up the mystery of Yeti in the subway tunnels, a strange, web-like fungus being spread by the robots, and access to the surface is cut off.  Soldiers are placing explosives at various points in the tunnels.  The second episode brings our heroes back into the life of Professor Travers, only 40 years from when they last met him.  We get a bit of exposition and find out that London has been abandoned due to a strange mist.  Yes, it seems The Great Intelligence is trying to manifest in our realm once more.  If possible, the invisible creature seems more menacing than before as his plan has already conquered a city and he is able to take control of some people for a brief period, including Professor Travers at one point.  To make matters worse, one of the people at the army post is in league with The Intelligence.  This mystery is played quite well with plenty of red herrings.  Is it the cowardly Welsh soldier Evans?  Is it Anna Travers, who seems to suspect The Doctor?  Is it The Doctor himself?  Or is it the newly-arrived Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart who assumes command after the death of the previous commanding officer is killed?

Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart!  I’m quite excited to finally see (well, hear) his introduction to the show.  Yes, he meets The Doctor off-screen, but the crew didn’t know at the time that he would become a recurring, then regular, character.  However, after his performance in this story, you can really see why he would be brought back.  Nicholas Courtney brought an amazing performance to this role.  If you didn’t have hindsight in place, it would be easy to suspect this new character, yet he remains believable when it is revealed that he is not under The Great Intelligence’s control.  Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is a great character who even takes The TARDIS in stride.  He is yet another foreshadowing of things to come, as is Anne Travers working as a scientific advisor, and competent assistant, to The Doctor.  It is almost a direct foreshadowing of Liz Shaw.

“Revenge is a petty human emotion.  My purpose for you is far more interesting.”

This was a great story.  I really wish it wasn’t incomplete.  It encapsulates just about everything The Second Doctor era did well, as well as being a strong entry in the base-under-siege format that is starting to wear thin at this point.  It is atmospheric.  It is well-paced.  It improves on the strengths of The Abominable Snowmen.  I think it was wonderful.

Doctor Who – Story Number 40 – The Enemy of the World

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Barry Letts

The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive on Earth in the not-to-distant future and are quickly involved in a plot to impersonate a world leader named Salamander, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to The Doctor.

“They’re human beings indulging in their favorite past time of trying to destroy each other.”

If ever Doctor Who felt like James Bond, it is felt strongly in this story.  In the first episode we have a helicopter chase, a hovercraft, explosions, shootouts.  Actually, that’s probably the most action in the story, and it is all lost, meaning we have to imagine what happened, which means it was amazing and spectacular!  But I must admit that it felt odd to be thrust into such an action-packed story.  Again, it felt very James Bond as we soon discover the eponymous Enemy of the World is a man named Salamander who has access to some spectacular technology that not only helps provide areas with enhance crop growth, but can also be used to cause seismic disruptions and volcanic activity.  And we have it on word from Giles Kent, a man who once worked with Salamander before being discredited, that Salamander is thoroughly villainous, replacing sector leaders with men who are loyal only to him.  As The Doctor resembles Salamander, Kent wants the time traveler to impersonate the man.  Unfortunately for Kent’s plans, The Doctor requires hard evidence before attempting to disrupt the regime of a seemingly benevolent man.

“A disused Yeti?”
The first half of this story is given to proving to both the audience and The Doctor that Salamander is evil.  To this end, Kent and his assistant Astrid formulate a plan by which Jamie and Victoria can infiltrate Salamander’s group.  It is a simple enough ruse as Astrid fakes an assassination attempt which Jamie easily thwarts.  Grateful for the ingenuity of the young man, Salamander offers Jamie a job, and even hires Victoria who is posing as Jamie’s girlfriend.  Or is she really posing?

The timing of their infiltration coincides quite well with Salamander’s plot to remove Sector Leader Denes from power.  So, rather than gather any real evidence, Jamie and Victoria help to smuggle the now imprisoned Denes out of Salamander’s clutches.  Ultimately, they fail, which leads to Denes’ death and Jamie and Victoria being compromised and imprisoned.  While I understand that Denes would have been a great ally to Kent’s cause, it seems a bit foolish to focus more on rescuing him rather than sticking to the original plan.  As it stands, Jamie and Victoria become convinced Salamander is evil based on how his staff feel about him and based on how they feel when in his presence.  Hardly conclusive.

“People spend all their time trying to make nice things and others come along and destroy them.”
The Doctor eventually becomes convinced that Salamander is not a benevolent leader after seeing evidence that implies the removal of Denes as Sector leader.  Unfortunately, this is not hard evidence and it can’t be used to prove anything.  And ultimately, The Doctor doesn’t entirely trust Kent.  The discredited leader doesn’t want The Doctor to merely impersonate Salamander.  He wants The Doctor to kill him.  The Doctor doesn’t feel this is justified under any circumstances.  Unfortunately, faced with the imprisonment of his companions, The Doctor doesn’t have much choice.  He doesn’t wish to kill Salamander, but he must go along with the impersonation.  In a last minute twist, World Security Leader Bruce starts to doubt Salamander and is willing to work with The Doctor.  Quite a lot of amazing things happening, eh?  But wait, there’s more.

It seems that Kent isn’t that benevolent either.  He wants Salamander out of the way so he can take over.  It seems he and Salamander had orchestrated the plan to hold the world hostage with the technology they had developed, then imprisoned a group of people in a nuclear shelter to operate the equipment.  The people trapped underground have been led to believe the world has been devastated in a nuclear war and only Salamander is able to bring them food and find a new home for them.  Talk about a last-minute convolution of the plot.

“Salamander speaks to many people.  Some, only once.”
After the glacial pace of The Ice Warriors (see what I did there?), The Enemy of The World is action-packed and full of espionage and intrigue.  This is great, but it feels a bit out of place in Doctor Who, much like Seeds of Doom from The Fourth Doctor Era feels more Avengers than Doctor Who.  However, it is a bit of fun, more escapist than anything.  Plus, it allows Patrick Troughton to have a dual-role as both The Doctor and Salamander, much like the dual-role Hartnell had in The Massacre.  While The Massacre was a better story, The Enemy of the World can be fun in an over-the-top, Bondesque way.  And sure, Troughton’s Mexican accent for Salamander is a bit overdone, but he still makes a great villain.  The final moments of part six, where Salamander confronts The Doctor in The TARDIS are quite chilling.  And we get a cliffhanger to lead us in to the next story.  All-in-all a lot of fun, if not a lot of substance.

 

Doctor who Story Number 39 – The Ice Warriors

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Derek Martinus

During a glacier melting project, something living is found in the ice.

“He didn’t come by shetland pony, Jamie.”
Conceptually, I think this story is amazing.  The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive in Earth’s future and discover a planet being destroyed by glaciers.  We learn that as humanity progressed, they began to significantly decrease the plant life of the planet, which caused a catastrophic shift in climate.  It seems that the Earth’s scientists underestimated the effect of plants on the climate.  Now, humanity is evacuating to Africa and other warm continents as science outposts work to drive back the glaciers with specialized equipment that should be able to melt the ice.  Science destroyed the world, and now science plans to save it.

At the European base, a scientist named Arden makes a trip to the glacier on a general scouting run.  He discovers something unexpected in the ice.  It appears to be a humanoid wearing a helmet, and Arden quickly hypothesizes that it is a Viking.  He returns to the base, the creature in ice in tow, electrodes hooked to the ice and slowly thawing it.  Much to everyone’s dismay, the creature is not a Viking.

I love the starting point of this story.  England is under siege by nature and few people remain.  Like all great post-apocalyptic stories, images of desolate wastes and abandoned civilization haunt this story.  The European base is in an old mansion, mixing historic with futuristic technology and clothing.  A scavenger and ex-scientist Penley take their refuge in an abandoned botanical building.  And the typical base-under-siege format is turned slightly on its head as Ice Warriors are held under siege by the European base’s ioniser, the European base is held under siege by the Ice Warriors’ sonic weapons, and both parties are under constant threat from the glacier.  No one has it safe in this story.

Penley and Clent exchange words.

“You’re not a man.  You’re just a machine slave.”
Possibly the concept that I have the most difficulty with is that of the computer.  In this futuristic society, computers are deferred to for just about every decision.  The scientists feed data to the computer and consult it before taking any action.  Penley left his post due in part to this blind allegiance.

Now I don’t have a problem with the concept, per se.  I’m sure we have all seen people who do not seem to function without their smart phones.  How many people these days can read a simple map without having to rely on their GPS?  These are smaller examples of the point this story is trying to make, but I take issue with how heavy-handed the story portrays the society.  Miss Garrett in particular seems to view the machine with the reverence some people pay to celebrities or deities.  In the end, the scientists face the decision to either be destroyed by the glacier (or ceaseless confrontations with The Ice Warriors) or destroy The Ice Warrior ship and risk an atomic explosion that would kill everyone.  Essentially, this is an impossible decision where either option could result in the death of everyone in this story.  The computer is unable to make a decision that would result in its own destruction, and it malfunctions, rendering Miss Garrett and Clent unable to decide.  Penley must make the final call to act, to use the ioniser against The Ice Warriors.  It is hard for me to envision people becoming so blind in their dependence, but perhaps I’m just too hopeful for the power of human competence.

“I refuse to let you go!”
“Splendid!  You go instead.”
There are some great bits to this story.  Again, I love the dire view of the future.  I enjoyed Clent, the leader of the project.  I found him at once irritating and sympathetic.  I’m glad that most of the scientists at the base survived and that Clent recognized his own weaknesses in the end. But working against the story, for me, were the aforementioned computer worship and the six-episode format.  I think this story could have been told quite well in two.  That said, I think Hayles did a good job of creating enough characters to fill the space, but sub-plots such as Jamie’s temporary paralysis and Storr’s attempt to ally himself with The Ice Warriors were unnecessary.  But, as is usually the case, the episode count probably preceded the scripts, so it wasn’t necessarily Brian Hayles’ fault.

As for The Ice Warriors themselves, they are compelling, but I don’t necessarily see much depth here.  They are your standard alien monsters.  Granted, Varga is more interested in survival and freeing his warriors than imparting great swaths of Martian history and culture.  As such, he is less likely to trust, but seeing him quickly go so quickly to distrust and superiority toward the humans with little real reason was a bit disappointing.  Sure, the Ioniser could be seen as a threat, but Victoria and The Doctor both attempted to reason with him, and he hardly listened.  That said, knowing The Ice Warriors will be back, possibly with more depth, is something to look forward to.

Click here for Doctor Who – The Ice Warriors [VHS]

The Ice Warriors – Opening Shots

With The Ice Warriors I am now in the second Doctor Who story in a row that I haven’t previously seen. Not only that, but this is the first story with The Ice Warriors that I have seen.  I keep reading about them here and there, I even read Lance Parkin’s Dying Days a long time ago (in which The Ice Warriors invade Earth), but I have never watched them, I have never seen what made them so compelling as to bring them back a handful of times.  And like many other people, I thought Waters of Mars would see the return of the Mars natives.

This story sees the return of Brian Hayles having previously written The Smugglers for William Hartnell’s Doctor.  This story was yet another attempt to create a monster who could return time and again.  It seems to have worked because The Ice Warriors continue to capture the imagination.  The Ice Warriors appeared in a total of four televised stories as well as a handful of novels and Big Finish adventures.  I’m looking forward to this introduction to them.

So, as Doctor Who monsters, how do the Ice Warriors rank?  What are your favorite stories?