Tag: Third Doctor

Doctor Who: The Late 1970s, The Fourth Doctor and Stitches in Time

Doctor Who and the late 1970s

Doctor Who and the late 1970s

 

40 years on from his first full appearance, there may not be a better time to look at the Fourth Doctor, still the very real and lasting giant of the series.  As Last Christmas showed, there’s a lot to be said for a snappy, irritable, aloof and alien Doctor in this universe. It’s not just the Glam side of the 1970s that will play a key role in the future of Doctor Who?

THE START OF THIS WEEK MARKED ONE OF THE GREAT ANNIVERSARIES IN ALL WHODOM: 40 YEARS SINCE THE FOURTH DOCTOR’S FIRST FULL EPISODE. He’d already appeared at the tail-end of Planet of the Spiders in June 1974. But lying prone on the floor, there was precious little indication of what was to come, even in that first rather simplistic serial Robot. In hindsight, after a staggering seven seasons, encompassing 41 stories and 172 episodes Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor remains the most prolific of the Time Lords. The Tenth and Eleventh incarnations would come close with 36 and 39 stories respectively, thanks to 2005’s format change. But still, despite the strong and sterling headway the last two made in America, it’s often the famous grinning, long-scarved figure of the Fourth that pops up in popular culture.

Repetition

Losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape…

Jokerside’s Whovember series took a long look at the Fourth Doctor’s debut season, reasoning that it’s the single finest series of Doctor Who. And when it came to his debut appearance, it was clear that “Tom Baker… did something different”:

“Immediately, Baker’s Doctor isn’t as attached to UNIT as Pertwee’s had been, even during his last season. He can’t wait to escape but as he says, “I hate goodbyes”. Watching it, I can’t help but think what any other Doctor would have done. Had it been the Sixth, he may well have buckled down a lot sooner. Still, the Fourth had his own slightly too silly costume selection to make. Overlong and reaching, fortunately once chosen, it’s the speed and comfort that’s the punch line. Years of familiarity have enhanced the joke. And then the more telling phrase for this Doctor: “There’s no such word as can’t”.

“Hanging between that and “No point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes” the Fourth Doctor comes straight out of a peculiar Gallifreyan can. One that’s bigger on the inside obviously. They are words to live by, and live he does. Lounging around Bessie in a way Pertwee would have tutted at, losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape – but still carrying off the role of the scientist when he needs to.”

Doctor Who: A Fresh Scarf – “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile” (Whovember #4)

Though resolutely still in the UNIT set-up, albeit one softened by the Third Doctor’s recent mobility, and written by Third Doctor stalwart Terrance Dicks, the Fourth Doctor’s initial appearance is an instant tide-turner. Almost immediately – far more than his predecessor, a noted comic actor – Baker is happy to lets loose with laugh out loud moments. True, he’s nominally not ‘acting’ a new persona as much Pertwee had, but he’s instantly engaging.

To summarise the Whovember breakdown, Tom Baker’s arrival got everything right. Though cast by outgoing producer Barry Letts the new Doctor couldn’t have hoped for a better incoming producer and script editor. While he may be losing an increasingly sparse UNIT family, Baker was incredibly lucky in the companion stakes. Sarah Jane Smith really came into her own when paired with this incarnation of the Time Lord, possibly his perfect foil. But she wasn’t alone, with a season of (lovable) public school idiot Harry Sullivan rounding off one of the all-time classic TARDIS crews. That’s fortunate, as the first full season story arc in the history of Who saw them propelled across five adventures over 20 weeks with very little TARDIS in sight. Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Late 1970s, The Fourth Doctor and Stitches in Time”

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Doctor Who: The Early 1970s, The Third Doctor and Velvet Aspirations

Doctor Who and the 1970s

Third Doctor Twelfth Doctor

40 years on from the demise of his third incarnation, the Twelfth Doctor’s arrival looks like it will not so much reverse the polarity as boost the popularity of the dandy Time Lord of action. But as the new Doctor may ask, could the real question be how important the 1970s are in the future of Doctor Who?

IN THE 2013 CELEBRATIONS OF ALL THINGS WHO, IT WAS THE SECOND DOCTOR’S STOCK THAT ROSE THE MOST. As the major casualty of the BBC’s catastrophic episode pulping, we’ve been robbed of the majority of his stories. True, some of them have earned a heightened classic status through their disappearance and the hope of their discovery, but for the most part appreciation for the Second Doctor hung on memory and some key rediscoveries like The Tomb of the Cybermen.

For his recorder toots to rise higher in the mix, especially in 2013, something major would have to happen. And fortunately it did. The rediscovery of two of his lost adventures, one long-craved, and the demise of the Eleventh Doctor – the one successor who owes Patrick Troughton’s cosmic hobo the most, unexpectedly pushed him to prominence.

So, with wrangles on the ‘rediscovery’ of further lost adventures ‘possibly’ ongoing and the Eleventh Doctor left on the Fields of Trenzalore, perhaps it’s only natural that 2014 is turning into the year of the Third Doctor. Series Eight brings us one of the largest shake-ups of the new era just as 1970 brought a brave new world of colour and a format sea change when Jon Pertwee’s Time Lord fell through the TARDIS doors… Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Early 1970s, The Third Doctor and Velvet Aspirations”

Doctor Who: End of the Daleks – “Ghosts from the future” (Whovember #3)

Third Doctor Whovember Jokertoon

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Daleks, as they are prone to do, show up more often than not.  Before the great sea change of season 12, Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor faced the last of a timeline across three seasons.  On Skaro, that’s called the end of an era.

#3: Day of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks.

THEY’D BEEN AWAY A WHILE THOSE PEPPER POTS.  Last seen in 1967 when they’d opened and closed the fourth season, the Daleks return at the start of season 9 was a big event.  That first duel is an ambitious tale, one that proved a bit of a stretch in its production actually pushed the crazed mutants onto the back-burner in favour of that real old enemy: time itself.  Day of the Daleks at least attempted something new, but within a year it was outshone by the return of their creator.  No, not that chap.  It was Terry Nation who returned for the subsequent two seasons to provide a homely, intriguing throwback serial in each.  The Third Doctor may never have faced the Cybermen on screen, but he certainly got his fill of Daleks.  What’s more he finished them off.  As much as the latter two of the Pertwee Dalek stories pay tribute to the past, Day of the Daleks hints at a future that would be full of paradox and change…

Day of the Daleks (Season Nine, 1972)

What a great name, and apt – this is all about time.  And of course, as with modern Who – amid the era-typical UNIT posturing, uppity Knights of the Realm and Doctor’s wine theft – it can get a little confusing.  This is the serial where the Daleks have properly taken on the paradoxes of space-time, although they seem to wilfully ignore them.  Forget the time corridors and the like, this is the story that fits before the First Doctor story The Chase.  Set rather statically on Earth, it’s unlikely that it was their successful capture of Earth that prompted their temporal breakthrough.  But it is likely that their loss of that planet prompted their later pursuit of the First Doctor.  Having lost Earth twice was a step too far.  Later Who-lore introduced a Dalek Time Controller who can see beyond its current Timeline (similar to Time Lords, this must be more from technology than physiognomy) and would no doubt miserably impart that second defeat to fuel some hate.  It must be a patchy but clinical case of trial and error, Dalek temporal experimentation.  The fact that the Daleks don’t recognise the Third Doctor adds to this timeline, although could also fit in with the time-bothering Evil of the Daleks as well.

However, the real cameo in Louis Marks’ tale of time is the Blinovitch Limitation Effect.  A brilliant and inspired temporal block that… will forever remain vague and unexplained.  While earlier serials like The Space Museum had tackled the concept of time, this was the first one to properly take it on and all the inherent paradoxes therein.

The concept is sci-fi huge – terrorists travelling back in time to avert a conference that led to their timeline.  Unfortunately, as might be expected, the inherent paradoxical problems are also huge.  Of interest is the Earth of the future, with the silver blushed humans operating under a collaborating Controller who very possibly believes that he’s working for the survival of humanity.  It’s a fine twist on the classic Who trope ‘we can’t possibly fight the Daleks’.  Early on in the story, the concept of the ghosts of time are well explored (that is the real implication of the story after all) and there’s always room for a haunted house in Doctor Who.  The biggest bonus of the story though, has to be UNIT versus Daleks…  And of course, versus the Ogrons.  The Doctor infamously and mercilessly disintegrates one of them during the course of this tale – but then they are silly goits.  And that’s not to say that the Doctor is a darker, uncaring sort in this story – he shows massive concern for his cape at all junctures.  In fact, his first tussle with the Ogrons comes just because he’d left it in the study…

The oddest thing in a tightly coiled story that could never really overcome its central paradox?  The duplicate Jo and Doctor we see at the start.  How and why they appear is never revealed.  And odd side effect of episodic Who perhaps, but one that quite undermines a story based on cause and effect.  That meeting must have happened in temporal proximity as they are in the same clothes.  That we don’t see it is bizarre.  Ghosts of the future.

As the adventure unravels, the servant and Dalek factor shenanigans of the Second Doctor’s tenure is continued as the Daleks craftiness returns to time-space opera (away from the narrow confines of Troughton’s colonial/Victorian battles).  Or perhaps it’s simply the inevitable laziness that comes from Dalek hubris and one of their plans going right? Still, Marks sole stab at Dalek tales is a great success in terms of concept.  A proto-Terminator, it sits oddly in the Pertwee era.  Oh, there are crazier things in store, but the Dalek assault on a country house ticks boxes.

There’s an essential irony here, with the Dalekanium final, pivotal bomb an interesting if convenient creation.  That is not to say that the Daleks do much else.  It’s rather important that the Daleks main role is exploitation.  Their actions are mainly in defence of a timeline in which they have already won.  No doubt they hold that dear, which begs the question why they trust so much to humans until the last – at which point they send a rather insignificant extermination force back in time.  Still, having already exploited a hundred year war, they are minded to protect it against their own technology purloined by guerrilla humans, even if that timeline was created by their own technology.  They could have run a number of logical scenario projections, but for them and us it isn’t just timey-wimey…

Day of the Daleks has a powerful legacy, thanks to its ripping concept and timely VHS release.  The controller, his look and design would cast a long shadow over The Long Game and Bad Wolf of the revived series one.  But talking of exploitation…

Planet of the Daleks (Season Ten, 1973)

Planet of the Daleks may come at the end of an epic arc now known as Dalek War alongside previous adventure Frontier in Space, but it’s a simple sci-fi heavy take of Dalek exploitation once again.  You can always rely on Terry Nation to supply a rollickingly traditional tale.  Planet will always be a favourite of mine, this particular viewing coming on the 20th anniversary of the BBC repeat in 1993.  Of course, that anniversary means we are practically the same distance away from that repeat as it was from the original broadcast.

That’s not worth thinking about, and in any event, but tale isn’t about time.  It’s another chrono-easingly jam-packed space adventure full of solid sci-fi concepts and helpful aliens.  It’s rather loosely connected to Frontier, but several points add significant weight.  The return of the Thals for the first time since The Daleks is a joy.  Now an intergalactic combat force that regard the Doctor and Earth as equal legends, they are not simply a neat throwback but make for one of the better realised allies in Whodom.  It’s enough to take your mind away from questioning how Thals and Daleks timeshare Skaro, but presumably the Daleks are in one of their more galaxy focussed phases, leaving the planet to the Thals until they conquer it again.  These affable, reluctant but war-ready Thals are a nice development.  They’re different from human portrayals in the series, and there’s a nice continuity in their feeling of responsibility and how their millennia long war has spread to the stars.  The planet Spiridon is presumably near to Skaro in galactic terms.  It’s named as a planet in the ninth system by the Thals, adding nice speculation as to how this fits in with the seven galaxies we find out that Ancient Skaro residents (Kaleds anyway) were aware of (as we find out in two Dalek stories time).

So, here the Daleks are at their terra-exploitationary best.  The ice core is important, but the distinctive abilities of the planet’s inhabitants are a real bonus.  Dalek invisibility is a silly ploy, although it makes for a classic cliff-hanger at the end of the first part.  Terry Nation sure knows how to craft some cliff-hangers.  The real killer in Planet comes with the revelation that the planet Spiridon houses the largest Dalek attack force in history…  Cue some rather adorable miniature work that no man-child Dalek toy collector could ignore.  With the cryogenic suspension courtesy of the of the planet’s frozen core there’s a solid and brilliant centre to the plot.  Of course there has to be a refrigeration unit, and also a giant bloody ventilation shaft.  That cliff-hangers a favourite – all the better since part three was colour remastered…  Planet is a romp, and solid return by Terry Nation.  Yes, it depletes the Daleks a little, especially when Jo grant grapples one.  But being pushed into a (frozen) lake, having their vision by coats impaired and sluggishly waking from cryogenic suspension – that’s all part of the slightly silly appeal they’ve always had.  Same as it ever was – sometimes they are simply Dalek.  And a special word for the Daleks left at the whim of the Kamikaze tray spilling Spiridon:  Trapped for eternity, we hear panic and fear.  And that’s rather affecting.

Death to the Daleks (Season Eleven, 1974)

Death to the Daleks occupies a similarly warm place to Planet in my cold, mutated, green heart (of the future).  It’s just about the first Doctor Who VHS I owned, and probably one of my most watched – although not as much in recent years.  I remember having to repair the plastic sleeve cover, using a rather crude sticky back plastic solution when I first found it in a rather disreputable shop.  And that’s a pretty good analogy for what the Daleks have to do in a classic science fiction tale of an ‘EMP’ planet that necessitates that traditional Dalek guns are replaced by machine guns. Death gets a lot of stick, perceived as a further slide in Dalek dominance.  It’s a fair argument, although it’s unfortunate considering that some of the latter set pieces are well realised homages to the earlier monster led Dalek adventures, ideas that Terry Nation had those in spades.

Yes, I’m going to say it again, Nation brings some heavy sci-fi tropes to the planet Exillon.  There’s the stone age civilisation in awe of an ancient, technologically advanced, long abandoned city.  There’s the compelling concept of that city as sentient being– so good that the Doctor’s journey through its immune system would be picked up by the far better regarded Pyramids on Mars.  Nation pulls out that idea of an immune system, with its literal antibodies in the effective hermetically sealed control room at the end, replete with distracted Doctor and evaporating corpses (a neat play on the watching alien idea).  Most of all though, Death is Doctor Who’s version of Alien 3.  It’s a similar attempt to depower and even the odds a little between two opposing forces.  Unfortunately, that idea seldom works.

There’s a ruggedness about latter Pertwee that I can only put down to the Doctor’s flatter sense of velvet, the lack of Master and of course, the wonderful Sarah Jane Smith.  The opening scenes are brilliant, with the prolonged, physical escape from the depowered TARDIS and the long earth furrows of the alien world with its rising steam…

Once again, of course, the Doctor encounters a band of space explorers.  But here, the usual dissent in the ranks is a little more developed.  This time the resentful humans are forced to work with Daleks and we and they are well aware of their own flawed characters.  Despite that intrigue, they struggle to compete with the wonderfully realised Thals of Planet.  The most interesting arc is that of the unlikable Galloway (yes, bearded Scottish, alliance forming Galloway), especially the saddening and sickening way he takes control against the orders of the dying commander that only he heard.  Of course, there is redemption by the end…

“Living, bubbling lumps of hate” is how the Doctor describes the Dalek mutations here – charming.  It may be true, but sits a little uneasily with Daleks who are taken out one by one as if they are in an old Skaro slasher film, all while they confer about their own duplicity.  Maybe that’s Dalek morality for you.

You could put this down to their arrogance on a lesser world if it wasn’t for that darn catchy Dalek incidental music…  Still it’s not long before their exploitation grows from a chemical warfare to a  marriage of convenience with the humans and on to their comfortable enslavement of the stone age Exillons (later oil analogies add a nuance).  Unfortunately, those indigenous inhabitants are a little similar to the Spiridons with their big coats.  They may have a little more reason to have them on their inhospitable quarry planet, but it ruins their quite effective design.  Like large rock possums, it’s strange that everyone seems immune to the Exillons large eyes.  Not that most of them aren’t as homicidal as they are superstitious.

Still, it’s wise to consider Death as one of the middle tale in Dalek history, easy in a  long stretched campaign of empire building between their protracted origins and new time line.  If you do, Death offers a few odd moments of brilliance.  One is the Third Doctor’s commentary of the Dalek versus City root in the caverns.  Another is the quite striking, but epically long pagan sacrifice of Sarah 9made for 5.1) – that the Doctor rather recklessly, albeit rightly, physically attacks (not out of character for him in a Dalek tale).  The sight of the Daleks equipped with machine guns is striking and effective, in fact it’s one that stayed with me for years.  Machine guns suit them, even if their quick change is a bit of a stretch.

As defaulting to that the ‘EMP’ plot suggests, the Daleks were in need of some fresh blood by this point.  While Marks had created an interesting plot in Day of the Daleks, it didn’t need Daleks as much as it needed a time conceit.  Nation brought a very specific tone back to the two third Doctor Dalek tales that followed, and they are very much Dalek tales.  In both, world conquering Daleks use their general sneakiness to extend their universal war aims.  They’re exploitative in all three tales, and in all three bring does one of their unique characteristics come to the fore.  The Daleks may be logical, but they are by no means unemotional.  In turn, whether the Doctor teams up with Thals or humans to defeat them, the language and plans he hatches are the same.  By this point, they are locked in a fixed battle that would foreshadow the later ideology clash of the Time Lords and the Daleks.

Across three years and 14 episodes (not including Frontier), Pertwee’s dandy action Doctor provided a satisfactory end to the Daleks’ early 1970s stage.  However, the necessary change was imminent.  While the Doctor’s call for Time Lord help in Planet may show an skirmish in the later Time War, it would be with his next Dalek tale that Nation would sow their new future.  With first refusal on Dalek stories and a mythos that needed stemming, it’s not so surprising that Nation would mix things up, but that he would do it so soon and so effectively.  Not only would Season 12 reset the Dalek timeline, but arguably reduce the pepper pots to second string players until the 2005 revival.  After an interesting and reverential final trilogy, it would soon be time to meet their other father, a ghost from the past…

TIMEY-WIMEY:  Read on for the Fourth Doctor’s whole new scarf in Whovember #4!

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors and the End of an Ice Age

Return of the Ice Warriors and end of an era

Hmm, which ssssssuit...

On the day the Cybermen might just get the upgrade they deserve, a celebration of recovered Martians and look at the difficulties of reintroducing monsters.

IT’S BEEN A FEW WEEKS SINCE THE ICE WARRIORS ENDED THEIR LONG ABSENCE AND RETURNED TO THE DOCTOR WHO UNIVERSE IN ITS 50TH YEAR. I was stoked to see their return as a long-term fan, although oddly, never having seen them on screen.

Scales of history

The Ice Warriors hit a little bit above their weight in the Whoniverse, perhaps it’s their clamp like exo-gloves that just chip the chin.  Reptilian, cold blooded, hailing from Mars; theirs is a militaristic society based on honour and hierarchy – even though it’s long since been scattered throughout the stars by their home planet’s death.

My fascination with the Ice Warriors unfolded through classic Doctor Who TARGET novelisations, where their sibilance was even more pronounced and their appearance un-dulled by some hard-to-walk-in costumes.  So, having finally no choice but to see them on screen in Cold War I embarked on not so much a retrospective as an introduction. The complete Ice Warrior TV stories, after what felt like an Ice Age.

Thussss did I ready the sonic device (speakers attached to a TV) and dived a good few furlongs in.  First was the Ice Warrior’s second appearance in the Seeds of Death, the siege and invasion story that pitted them for the second time against the Second Doctor.  Then there was the Peladon saga, The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon, political and satirical tales of intrigue with the Third Doctor.  Their ‘triumphant ‘return in Cold War was a given and then – in anticipation of the freshly part-animated DVD release of their first story The Ice Warriors this Summer  – I just re-thumb through of the TARGET novelisation of their tale for good meassssure.

I’ll stop hissing now.

I was hooked on the green scaly ones since I first read The Monster of Peladon – that may even have been my first Doctor Who book – well, perhaps just beaten by The Carnival of Monsters.  It informed in me, although I didn’t appreciate it then, a fondness for the Third Doctor (aided by strategic broadcasts of The Daemons and Planet of the Daleks in the early 1990s of course) – but also a fascination with the ice Warriors that was only confirmed later by reading The Ice Warriors, and pawing over Adrian Rigelsford and Andrew Skilleter’s 1990 tome, Doctor Who: The Monsters. I was clawed in.

The Martians’ rather inexplicable hiatus helped stem any need to see them on ‘video’ so it took me until now to see them in cold blood.  While they’d popped up in the Doctor’s printed adventures, they hadn’t appeared on television in any meaningful way since 1974. 27th April 1974 in fact – 39 years last month.

I was in no rush: they were held vivid, green and suspended in my imagination.  But why such a fascination with the armoured aggressors?

Red-coloured spectacles

I was of course, a combination of things. It was the fact that they were reptiles, it was the hissing sibilance that worked well on the page. And then there was always the Target novelisation front covers – so definitive, fixed, static and importantly, drawn. The Ice Warrior stuck there on cover of their eponymous first tale, with its rather inhuman shape and that Lego hand sticking out of the page. I had been a massive Lego fiend since before I knew what opposable thumbs were, so that surely didn’t hurt.  Of course there’s also the rather jaw dropping front cover to Gary Russell’s Peladon sequel New Adventure, Legacy (1994) – perhaps one of the best.  There was also the idea of the exo-skeleton armour – their ear devices were the first thing the Doctor noticed about them – as well as the Ice giant mythological element and some heavy cultural reference points I’ll come on to later.

Importantly, there was also the fascinating class factor, though that surely crept in subconsciously. It’s ridiculous to consider any planet doesn’t have the diversity of Earth – although conceding that a multicultural alien race is almost impossible to convey on screen.  It’s an interesting part of Who that while the Doctor often finds himself in hierarchical struggles with authority that hinder him as much as his foes, many of the his most notorious nemeses have deliberately and zealously removed diversity from their species through genetics, augmentation or cloning.  The Ice Warriors however, have contended with mass environmental change while hanging on to their civilisation fairly intact.  While they pose yet another not entirely organic foe for the Doctor, hierarchy is constantly an effective way to show their civilisation and of course, create dramatic threat.

But the Ice Warriors seemed far more subtle than simply having a Cyber-leader or a Supreme Dalek. There were ranks among the Ice Warriors, with differing armour denoting status and then soon enough there were the less armoured Ice Lords.  Ice Warriors were generally awfully obedient and polite to their Lords. I found them quite the fascinating creation before I was sucked in by the horrific origins of the Cybermen.

The Big Thaw

There are two crucial parts of Ice Warriors being great.  Unique among the main Who monsters, they were singularly written by one writer: Bryan Hayles.  He took them on their own journey through four adventures.  As part of this journey, the Martians are also distinct in the Who pantheon – until Moffat’s rather odd handling of the Sontarans – as being portrayed as both aggressors and allies of the Doctor – a concession to time, tolerance and in-discriminatory aliens that predated Star Trek:The Next Generation by a good 15 years.

About that punching above their weight: In the scheme of things, the Ice Warriors are generally considered one of the Big Four of Who Foes – a little kindly considering they’ve only appeared a handful of times.  While they recurred twice with two Doctors, the Ice Warriors comeback in the new series took longer than expected and brought its fair share of challenges. They are not alone in that, many of these were the same challenges that the new Who crew faced when bringing other monsters back to the successful revival.

Carnival of Reunions

For the return of the Daleks, New Who wisely turned to the marvellous resource of Big Finish Audios. Show-runner Russell T Davies even drafted in Robert Shearman, well regarded writer of audio adventure Jubilee, which he reworked for the show.  It was a wise step to introduce just one Dalek – focussing as much on the Doctor in the wake of the Time War as the pepper pot’s array of powers.  The reintroduction of the Daleks was effective, especially in the context of their appearance at the Series’ end.

The Cybermen was a different kind of reboot.  Considering we had never seen the actual origin of the Cybermen on their home planet of Mondas, it was an extra step to watch the birth of the Cyber race on a  modern, if  parallel, Earth.  This gave us unfettered Earth Cybermen as opposed to the Mondas Cybermen of the original Who universe who were indicated to still be pottering around. Unfortunately, this had a rather unfortunate result. It’s presumably The Next Doctor when we see the real universe’s Mondas Cybermen – but these had somehow evolved from the Revenge Cybers seen in Dalek to match their parallel universe cousins.  For a race that generally evolved in each appearance, their static development has stuck out like handlebar ears.  Tonight may change that with a redesign and writer Neil Gaiman tasked with making the steel army scary again.  As anyone who’s read Gaiman’s prologue to the reissued TARGET novelisation Doctor Who and the Cybermen will know, this bodes well.

In Series four, the Sontarans resurfaced in a rather random two-parter that stole healthily from the classic Ice Warrior adventure The Seeds of Death. It set up the war mongers nicely though, putting their ethos and fighting at the frontline and making up for some of the shortfalls that technology and budget had let slip in the classic series; while it didn’t exactly establish height parity, it set a look appropriate for a clone race. As show runner, Steven Moffat would later diversify the Sontarran culture somewhat – but perhaps that monster’s reduction to comic relief can wait for another time.

So, it’s tricky and needs thought this reintroducing malarkey – perhaps a little more than when these monsters were created.  While the Cybermen emerged with an origin story in 1966, it took the Daleks over a decade.  So, perhaps it’s not surprising that our planet’s own Silurian’s rose above the Ice Warriors in the pecking order of returnees.  And the re-establishing of Homo Reptilia posed its own challenges which would have a marked effect on the Ice Warriors.

Both species are of course solar system originating reptilians and in some kind of Who mirror, they are neighbouring planet cousins similar to Humans and the Mondasians who would go on to become the Cybermen.  The Martian timeline is a little unclear though.  While they are not shown as existing in the present day until Cold War, they have been shown to be active in Earth’s vicinity thousands of years ago and in the far future.  They’ve then spread out in the cosmos and generally discovered a new way of life in the even further future.  The Silurians by comparison were building space arcs and badly positioned cryogenic cities millions of years ago.  With a generally lengthy evolutionary cycle it’s possible that the two know each other, and if so, I doubt they’re on the best of terms.  The prospect of their (inevitable) run-in is perhaps more tantalising than Daleks versus Cybermen.

Clearly the two species had different approaches to dealing with environmental changes: building snug armour versus millions of years of cryogenic suspension (hang on, they really are the reptile equivalent of Mondasians versus Humans in the Who universe!)

Back to Ice Picks

The Ice Warriors originally emerged into Doctor Who in a totally obvious reptilian way – or so it seemed. They were cold blooded creatures literally frozen in time – and long sleeps are ideas constantly reinforced by science-fiction and culture. Perhaps this meets every gene carrier’s fascination with immortality in a similar vein(sic) to vampirism – see the Amber encased mosquitoes that provided a time machine for dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  In addition, the frozen, slumbering giants of Mars had many cultural connotations.  There are the Ice Giants of Norse legend, the warmongering son of the Roman God Mars – and also bring the snow-bound parenthesis of Frankenstein creeping into play.

Rigelsford and Skilleter’s The Monsters added enormously to the myth of the Ice Warriors, enhancing the Ice Warrior tales with various flourishes.  The front section, before eye-witness accounts of the Ice Warrior tales are reproduced, is set out neatly by a letter detailing explorer Frederick William Wells and his teams’ encounter with an Ice Warrior in 1896 inspired his cousin HG’s writing on Mars…

The Ice Warriors were instantly both monster and Alien, with a genealogy and history that made them ready made to be released from an icy tomb. The fact they are Martian is almost arbitrary; that the name ‘Ice Warrior’ has stuck from one glib scientist’s observation is an idiosyncrasy, but a powerful one. There’s an inherent and inescapable danger from the moment an Ice Warrior is discovered. While California Man may be an exception, millennia of Genies in bottles and Pandora’s box has shown that many things that are locked up should never be released. But where would science-fiction be without human arrogance?  Where would Doctor Who be?   The Silurians were similarly entombed,  albeit in a tomb of their own making.

Perhaps it’s the similarities that led to the fairly similar approach the Who Team took to the two species reintroductions in The Hungry Earth and Cold War respectively.   Personally, the Silurian’s re-entry into the cannon posed the most problems as it‘s the first time the new series has produced a remake of a classic series adventure.

Of course, originality can be a very subjective thing, especially in science fiction and especially in Doctor Who.  With some monsters there may be a fresh story, but constant re-use of familiar elements, for instance in most Dalek episodes. Then there’s occasional bonkers stark raving brilliant originality that knocks the wings off Weeping Angels .  Sadly there’s also the recycling of new found originality, often in quick succession – particularly under the current creative team.   The lowest point occurred in the latter half of a re-ordered Series 6 when the mid-run of stories was disappointingly repetitive.

In Series 5 however, the return of the Silurian’s was a straight up remake, retreading the same themes as the original show Doctor Who and the Silurians. All that was missing was the Brigadier blowing the whole bally lot up. Technically, there’s still many Silurian cities in slumber underground (and arcs in space) – and whole series of Doctor Who could be spent with the Time Lord visiting these thousands of sleeping cities under the crust.  The tale was fairly perfunctory other than the plot points it rehashed, and rather flat in the less than mind-blowing production values of series 5.  I wasn’t a fan of the complete remodelling of the Silurians.  While cousins of the originals they may be, this was a step too far – and the removed telekinetic  third eye would have livened things up no end.

That was one thing that was addressed a little more successfully with the returning Ice Warriors, although their return was still mixed. The method of the Warrior’s appearance is more a homage to the original story than a remake, but necessarily uses a lot of the same ideas again as the Warrior is released from its ice sleep near a tremendous power source.  This time however, we stepped back from Aliens to Alien as we observe just one Warrior in the confines of a submarine – similar to the original Dalek in the bunker.  Again, as does the Dalek, Skaldak drops his armour, but this time with more catastrophic results.

The armour redesign was brilliant and well promoted in pre-publicity.  Swift and deadly compared to their lumbering cousins (De Niro from Karloff), it looked the part while respecting the past, unlike the Silurians.  Skaldak was a Warrior as opposed to a Lord, though his reputation may have suggested otherwise, and some neat redesign incorporated Lords into the stylings of the armour, particularly above the chin from certain angles.    In this reboot, the Lords may not even exist of course – I’ve a feeling that we may find out soon.  It was the moving jaw of the Ice Warriors that had always been their most effective part.  Particularly in the black and white Troughton tales, they were tremendously effective.  But then Cold War’s attempts to expand the race came a bit unstuck.

As discussed in my review of the Pond’s swansong here, it’s only right that species and monsters should be explored in Doctor Who.  Perhaps with the Ice Warriors, this is more true than most.  They share common elements with the militaristic Sontarans and cybernetically enhanced Mondasians after all.  Interestingly, the Ice Warriors last appearance came in the same season that the potato heads first appeared.  While the Warriors had generally mellowed by that point, this time around it is the Sontarans who have been forcibly toned down while the Martians are introduced.  When Hayles originally hit upon the idea of the Martians wearing cybernetic armour, it was the design need to make the different from the Cybermen that resulted in the distinctive Reptilians we have today.

Therefore a simple and quick way to advance the species on their reappearance was to lose their armour.  All the surprise the Doctor registered couldn’t make up for the fact that this was implausible.  The Ice Warriors deserved a bit more than rubber hands during the Alien segments of the show.  But most crucially of all, they should have left the jaw alone.  Again, that jaw was the one hard and fast brilliant part of the original design.  So, when you see their face for the first time it’s completely different and, shudder, CGI… Something’s lost. A shame, a missed opportunity and frankly unnecessary.

That said, I’m not sure this is the last time we will see the Ice Warriors this year.  They are Who’s version of the Klingons, a martial but honour bound race.  While a force of absolute destruction, the ending rightly suggested that the Martians aren’t one-dimensionally evil – completely in line with their Who history.  When they pop up again, they may well not be villains, but in the efforts of diversity among the monsters, it might just be time for that scrap with the Silurians.

To another glorious return of the Martians.  Before the next Ice Age anyway.

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