Dr. Who / Geek / Tube

Hopelessness is a Dish Best Served with Mutually Assured Destruction: A Doctor Who “Cold War” Recap

cold war

It’s 1983 and we’re at the North Pole in a Soviet submarine that is set to detonate a nuclear warhead for the Motherland when “the Professor”, David Warner in a knit cap topped with Walkman headphones (what?), interrupts the drill to tell them the figure in the ice below is probably a Mammoth.  Oh, Professor, if the Doctor is showing up on this submarine, you are probably so wrong.  And as we cut to below where some impatient crew member is blow-torching the block instead of waiting, you are also revealed to be a liar as anyone can see that can’t be a mammoth. The disobeying crew member learns the concept of instant karma as something unseen attacks him and we roll titles for episode 8, Cold War, written by Mark Gatiss. Oh dear, this doesn’t bode well for me as I rarely like, let alone love his episodes. Great performer, though; I love me some Mycroft.

Now the sub is taking in water and sinking fast, as a tall lizard-looking figure walks through the sub, taking men down as he goes. The TARDIS materializes with the Doctor and Clara thinking they are stepping out into Las Vegas and instead taking a wall of water in their faces. The Doctor, once again forgetting that just showing up in places and immediately bossing people is bad form, let alone dangerous, begins telling the captain to use the sub’s lateral motion as they have lost the ability to go up and down. The submarine comes to a stop and the Doctor starts explaining the 80’s to Clara as the TARDIS hightails it out of the submarine. Then Clara gets knocked out and comes to wearing a military jacket ( I am assuming of Soviet issue) over her shiny, silver dress and starts the military fad for women’s clothing way before Janet Jackson makes her Rhythm Nation video. Everyone is shouting at each other as a weird clicking and hissing noise arrives behind the Doctor who keeps yammering on, and Clara gets a doe-eyed-in-the-headlights look on her face before the Doctor realizes that there is in fact an Ice Warrior amongst them. He then quips that it “never runs, but that it pours.” Bah dum dum.

Turns out the Doctor is familiar with this more than 5000 year old (how long he’s been in the ice, according to the Professor who is still insisting he thought it was a mammoth) Ice Warrior named Skaldak and his name seems to strike terror in both of the Doctor’s hearts. Then one of the paranoid, Cold War-era Russian crew, tries to electrocute Skaldak from behind, which considering they are probably ankle deep in water, is stupid and probably should have electro-shocked everyone in the vicinity. Oh, that is gonna bug me why that didn’t happen. Damn you Gatiss. The Doctor says what everyone is thinking and calls the cattle prod-bearer an idiot, and then they do what you do when you piss off a big baddie just because you are Xenophobic, they chain him up.

Now it is time for Matt Smith speed-spitting exposition about our baddie. Skaldak is a hero, his crew carved his name into their arms, blah blah blah, the Ice Warriors had to adapt to the cold on Mars even though they are reptiles by creating Cyborg-type armor. Then Skaldak talks to the air for his “brothers” to find him and something on his chest goes all glowy. Remember that bit. Clara commits a bit of a faux pas and says she doesn’t know Russian because she isn’t aware that the TARDIS matrix is translating for everyone in the sub and that she is in fact speaking it. And how is it doing this when it isn’t there right now? I have no idea and won’t find out, either. Gatiss I am looking at you. After some back and forth about who is too valuable and/or capable to go speak to Skaldak, the Captain or the Doctor, Clara volunteers to do it. At this moment I fear this episode will go from being the Hunt for Das Boot to Silence of the Lambs as Clara (a name not unlike Clarice) is dispatched to the room where the badass Skaldak is chained. Clara fitted out with earphones  gets her lines fed to her by the Doctor and now we are doing a Sci Fi production of Cyrano de Bergerac with the Doctor playing Cyrano of the Big Chin. Oddly, Skaldak is talking but doesn’t move, and where is his lower jaw?  As he tells a story about his daughter’s first fight and singing the songs of the Old ones (Old Gods?  We had one of those last week, Skaldak) and laments her passing thousands of years prior, Clara inches closer and closer and discovers that Elvis has left the building, I mean Skaldak has abandoned his Cyber casing (shades of young Melody Pond and her spacesuit, really) and is loose on the sub. Clara tries to run from the disembodied voice as something scuttles by her and then the Doctor and Captain and crew. Now we have a warrior with nothing left to lose, scuttling all over the sub that is armed to the gills with nuclear weapons. Gee, you think Skaldak will find that out? The Doctor does.

Cut to handsome junior officer-turned-“red shirt” Stepashin (ha, red, get it?), doing what red shirts do and checking out a noise. You just know he is going to be eviscerated. Three-fingered lizard talons, looking a bit like giant green chicken feet grab his head. He tries to reason with Skaldak and bond over their both being warriors, but Skaldak, in a deep Ice Warrior depression hears that there are weapons on board that assure “mutually assured destruction”. Clara gets a time in flux VS. fixed point lesson from the Doctor who says that time can be rewritten (another story reference after last week’s episode was riddled with them), while the Professor holds up the sonic screwdriver which he rescued from the sub’s floor where it hit when they all fell earlier. The Doctor is over-joyed as the Professor also hands him a blond Barbie that will have fans claiming is modeled after Rose. Ugh. The Doctor could kiss the Professor, who doesn’t seem too upset about this, but not exactly thrilled either to which the Doctor declines. Cut to expendable crew members, cut to Clara and the Professor strolling behind the Doctor, through the submarine with cattle prod in tow, chatting about preferring polar bears over Ice Warriors and the Professor tells her to have courage. Aw. The Professor reveals himself to be a bit of a Duran Duran fan and asks Clara to help him sing Hungry Like the Wolf, Oh Gatiss and Moffat, must you feed into the Rose hysteria so very, very much like that? A noise that sounds like a howl is heard and the Doctor lies calling it pressure. And for the second time in two weeks we have singing on Doctor Who. Is an entirely musical episode far behind?  I hope so. I hope it is locked in the parallel universe with Rose. As Clara and the Professor continue having a lovely exchange, the just recently viewed expendable crew members are torn apart by Skaldak’s wrath. Has this now become a bit of an Alien film?

While the Doctor discovers the damage that Skaldak has  enacted on the crew, the Professor tries to calm Clara’s nerves and assuage her odd insecurities about her companion performance level, but I wonder if he is really pumping her for information for some nefarious reason because he begins questioning her about the claim that they are from the future. And then he becomes fervent in his need to know the answers and starts purposefully walking toward her. He is freaking me out, now. Oh, he just wants to know if his favorite band, Ultra Vox splits up which is quite funny, but still doesn’t calm my concern. I think he is up to something. At this moment, Clara gest grabbed by the Green Chicken Talons of Doom and the Professor pulls out a gun and shoots at said talons, Clara released, the Professor gets grabbed and Skaldak declares that Martian law allows him to kill everyone on the planet for his little flesh wound. That seems so fair, Skaldak; I am sure the Doctor will go for that. Now the Ice Warrior’s true face is revealed in smoky shadow after over 40 years of speculation from die hard Classic Who fans, with some okay CGI that really looks one step above the animatronic figures that used to be used for special effects.

As the Doctor implores the warrior to discover mercy from his dark pit of hopelessness, and the Soviet Captain shows up wanting to just shoot Skaldak, his armored suit, packs up and comes a calling. At this point, the Doctor tries to give a bit of a grand persuasive speech to Skaldak regarding human development as Skaldak sends out cyber tentacles to the sub’s computers, and plays on his vanity by suggesting he teach the humans mercy,;mercy that is lacking in their own Cold War. And suddenly the Doctor is threatening to blow up the sub to prevent the Earth from being destroyed which confuses me because wouldn’t blowing up the sub then blow up the nuclear weapons and detonate them anyway. I don’t know enough about weapons to understand this part, but I do understand what follows as suddenly the screwdriver goes red and we harken back to Silence in the Library where River mentions that someday the screwdriver will have a red setting and evidently someday has come. The Doctor begs for him to look into his eyes and Skaldak takes off his helmet and we finally get a really good look at the true face of an Ice Warrior and millions of Classic Who fans dance around from the excitement of it. Clara pipes up and she has Skaldak’s number, asking him why he hesitated to kill the Professor when she asked him not to, and she reminds him of the songs about the red snow he sang with his daughter. Suddenly a noise from overhead and the Ice Warrior spaceship actually does show up, pulling the sub out of the water like the deux ex machina it is, as the Rory-and-Amy-falling-to-their-deaths music is heard. Skaldak is transported out as the Doctor worries they will still detonate the bombs. Clara, to calm her nerves, starts singing Hungry like the Wolf again for no reason other than to plant another Rose clue, the IW stand down, all are saved and Clara hugs the Doctor, stunning him in the process (she still worries him). Clara says they saved the world because “that’s what we do. They climb out of the sub, see the spaceship off, but where is the TARDIS? The HADS (the Hostile Action Displacement system) relocated it to the South Pole apparently. The Doctor asks for a lift and roll credits.

Episode rating C+

Next week a ghostwitch story titled Hide.

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