Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ice Warriors — Blogging Doctor Who

The First Doctor would
have told them to
speak up!
There’s a temptation to call “The Ice Warriors,” which is padded out at six episodes, “glacial” (there, I’ve done it). Trimmed down to five episodes it might have been better. Maybe even four. The main problem is that the “ice warriors” don’t make particularly good villains. I’m not even certain what their objective was in the story (and wouldn’t that objective change, given that an unspecified number of years had passed?).

But first, some background. The Tardis materializes on its side, leaving the Doctor and his companions to scramble awkwardly out the door. You would think the thing would have some sort of automatic adjustment for upright (in relation to local conditions) and stable (though the plot device of the Tardis landing somewhere that couldn’t support it had been used before and would be used again). They’ve arrived somewhere in Britain, but mistake it for Tibet (the location of the previous—and lost—adventure) as the Earth has entered a new ice age.

The ice age idea is a good one, and when we finally get an explanation of why its happened, it’s a pretty good one: a loss of carbon dioxide has caused the Earth to snap into a cooling cycle. The only problem is, the show attributes this decline in CO2 levels to the loss of plant life on the planet. (It’s the other way around; plants take in CO2 and emit oxygen.[1]) Instead of increasing CO2 levels by engaging in such activities like burning fossil fuels, they decide to melt the encroaching glaciers by blasting them with energy from a device called the ioniser (which is presumably fueled by a clean energy source[2]), while most of the population is sent to live in the equatorial zone, many of whom aren’t too happy about this. Honestly, the ioniser doesn’t seem to be that terribly effective (despite that it can generate enough heat to melt rock); perhaps they should try burning high-sulfur coal.

There’s a sort of vagueness to the time and place of this one. It’s set sometime in the future, and the base seems to be a preserved and protected portion of a city (with the headquarters in a repurposed grand building), other than that, who can tell? The section leader, Clent, has a largely female staff (who mostly follow him without question and all of whom wear miniskirts) with few men working for him (almost all of whom get into disagreements with him), thus reducing they eye candy level of this story (if you’re a gay man or a straight woman). Clint’s group of miniskirted female subordinates made me think that there had to be a sexual harassment suit brewing somewhere. On the other hand, Star Trek did show female crew members in miniskirts the same year “The Ice Warriors” aired. Doctor Who continued to be shot in black-and-white during the entire run of Star Trek. Decades later a male background character in Star Trek: The Next Generation was seen in a miniskirt, but never a man who spoke on camera. But I digress.

We’re told, on the basis of I don’t know what, that the Ice Warriors were buried in the glacier for millennia. Ok. So, does that mean that they landed in the middle ages (or earlier, maybe as far back as the Bronze Age, or yet earlier) at the North Pole and were slowly pushed down to England? I mean, Ötzi the Iceman lived approximately 5,000 years ago, but he really hadn’t been moved all that far from the point where he died (for that matter, from where he lived). Unlike Ötzi, when you thaw out the Martians, they come back to life (perhaps studies of Ötzi haven’t warmed him up sufficiently). Actually, while I’m on this riff, it’s funny to think that decades after the “The Ice Warriors” aired, someone did find a body that had been buried in for millennia. Again, I digress.

The problem is that the Ice Warriors aren’t terribly interesting. Their weapons also have suspiciously different effects, depending on whether they’re fired on a recurring or non-recurring character. Just how is it that Jamie escapes with only temporary paralysis of his legs while the man with him dies? They really needed a better explanation for that. Although this story brings to end the (accidental) block of Cybermen stories, it doesn’t stand up to them.

There is one fine bit where the Doctor gets all haughty with the leader of the Ice Warriors, Varga. Varga, in return, points out that he can remove all the air from the chamber where the Doctor is standing, which mollifies him a bit. The Doctor is quite willing to help the Ice Warriors to a peaceful solution, but in the end that does not work.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
If you like them with scruffy beards, you’re in luck. If you like them in scruffy beards and bulky thermal clothing, you’re in real luck. Not really.

So, Is this a Must-See?
It’s a rather ignominious entry for a new Doctor Who villain, and that’s probably why they really haven’t shown up much over the years. It’s not terrible, but it’s nothing special either.

  1. The Futurama episode "The Futurama Holiday Spectacular” gets this right, as reforestation of the planet leads to dangerously high oxygen levels.  ↩

  2. Damn you environmentalists for bringing about an ice age!  ↩

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