Cold War – Season 7 Episode 9


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this season (or at least this half of the season) is being dedicated to Patrick Troughton.  Tonight we had Ice Warriors who the second Doctor fought twice (The Ice Warriors and Seeds of Death), and the return of the HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System)  which was last seen in The Krotons.  Already this season we’ve met The Great Intelligence who the second Doctor fought in The Abominable Snowmen and Web of Fear (the episode that also introduced us to Lethbridge-Stewart), and Clara has really reminded me of Zoe for some reason all season long…

Tonight’s episode was brought to us by Mark Gatiss, who I think did a much better job this time out than he did with Victory of the Daleks, giving us a good “horror” episode.  As a crew member of a Soviet submarine begins to melt a block of ice that he thinks contains a a preserved mammoth the Doctor and Clara materialize and have to explain to the crew not only their sudden appearance, but that they are not spies.  To make their situation worse, the submarine begins to take on water and sink.  The engines are offline, the air supply is running out, Cold War tensions are running extremely high as the crew is carrying nuclear weapons, and oh yeah, that mammoth isn’t a mammoth.  It’s an Ice Warrior.  The first view of a Martian on Doctor Who in 39 years was played to perfection.  The already tense crew’s attack on the Ice Warrior actually constitutes an act of war against Mars and Grand Marshall Skaldak is now bound by his warrior’s code to destroy the Earth.  What follows is a tense stand off as the Ice Warrior hunts the crew as time is running out not only on the submarine, but for the planet.

A very tense episode, with the suspense elevated by the tight surroundings of a submarine.  I think Cold War could be Doctor Who’s Hunt for Red October.  As with the all the best episodes of Doctor Who below the surface lurks a symbolic message.  Here it about the conflict between ideology and personality: the Ice Warrior who believes himself the last of his race and so bound by his warrior’s code; the submarine’s captain who does his job, but is privately tired of war; and his second officer who longs for a war, regardless of the consequences.  It seems this week the writer remembered that the TARDIS translates languages for the travellers, which suddenly dawns on Clara when she realizes that the Soviets are not speaking Russian, or if they are speaking Russian, they’re somehow understanding her and she must be speaking Russian too.  When this point was raised in the episode I did have to chuckle, because I had serious Hunt for Red October flashbacks not only because of the plot similarities, but because of another Soviet sub commander with a non-Soviet accent.  I don’t know if all Soviet submarine captains were required to maintain a certain look in the ’80s, but Captain Zhukov (played excellently by Liam Cunningham) looked quite similar to Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius…

So languages are being translated for Clara now, which seemed to be a big concern for fans last week.  The simple line of “I don’t think the TARDIS likes me” (or whatever the actual wording was) seemed to ignite debate last week.  Here’s my take on that: last week Clara tried to get into the TARDIS to hide the young Queen of Years and couldn’t get in saying “I don’t think this thing likes me”.  The door was just locked, and she didn’t have a key.  Why didn’t things translate properly last week?  Why did we have a language that consisted of barking?  Silly/lazy/poor writing that forgot it’s own continuity, and I think it wasn’t caught by the “showrunner” because it seemed “funny”.

This week my continuity concern again relates to translation.  As I said the Hostile Action Displacement System was used again, which was a great way to “explain away” the TARDIS, because seriously, you’re in a sinking submarine being hunted by a Martian Ice Warrior jump into the space ship and escape!  But the HADS was turned on, and the ship moved itself out of danger.  My question is how was everything still being translated when the ship (and it’s telepathic circuits) were no longer in the vicinity?

A quick personal note on Clara; I’m really really liking her.  She may be my favourite companion.  Jenna-Louise Coleman is a fine young actress and a welcome change from “the Ponds”.  It was nice this episode how we got to also see her vulnerable, when she realizes that everything going on around her is real and has real consequences.  “We saved the world, that’s what we do”.  Innocent, intelligent, curious, kind, brave, funny, of course she’s easy on the eyes,  and I haven’t once wanted to push her out of an airlock.


Posted on 13-04-14, in Doctor Who and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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