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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: Cold War (Spoilers)

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Rating:

On Saturday, April 13th,  the newest episode of Series 7.5 of Doctor Who was aired (Sunday the 14th, for those hailing from the United States). The story takes place on a sinking Soviet submarine (alliteration FTW) during the Cold War. The quarters are cramped and tensions are running high as the vessel slowly fills with water and an Ice Warrior named Skaldak – who believes himself to be the last of his kind – runs rampant. Or perhaps slithers, as he does in fact vacate his armor and travels through tSkaldakhe sub making very Basilisk-y rasping sounds. This is the first time we have seen an Ice Warrior without a helmet, and the face is quite cool (though depressingly humanoid, as most TV aliens are). The clawed hands reaching down from the rafters (do submarines have rafters?) were exceedingly cheeseball and would have been right at home in an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Series 1 of Doctor Who.

MUSINGS

I enjoyed the comparison of (and contrast between) the “real” Cold War – the period of political and military tension between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc taking place in the outside world of this episode – and the “cold war” occurring within the sub, which was in essence a game of chicken between several trigger-happy (cattle prod-happy?) naval officers, a really cranky Martian, an ages-old Gallifreyan and his 21st-century companion who were both anticipating Vegas and were instead confronted with a wet, cramped submarine and a lily-livered TARDIS…and twelve nuclear missiles.

ice-spaceship-1-1The ending was a charming example of deus ex machina – an Ice Warrior spaceship appears, looking very much like the classic interpretation of a flying saucer (except with some bitchin’ purple lights lining the edges). It then draws the submarine up to the surface of the ocean with a tractor beam and Skaldak beams out, refraining from remotely blowing up the submarine and showing everyone that yes, friendship is magic.

The Doctor-Clara dynamic is fantastic – Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman play off each other extraordinarily well. Most characters have a chance to throw out several grintacular one-liners, and the script is intelligent and smooth. (Thank you, Mark Gatiss.) The professor, played by David Warner, is an endearing refresher as a kid stuck in an adult’s body. (His one question to Clara upon discovering that she is a time traveler is “Ultravox – do they spilt up?” Love that guy.) Also, was it an accident that Clara hums “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran when she gets nervous? Bad Wolf allusions, anyone? There are rumors flying everywhere about the 50th AnniversarDoctorLaughFunnyy special/series finale, so this could be relevant or just a red herring. Also, the Doctor seems to be carrying around a doll that looks very much like Rose Tyler. In the final scene, the Doctor finally explains why the TARDIS mysteriously disappeared – he implemented a protocol called HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System, which teleports the TARDIS out of danger – and it was brilliant. Plus the Doctor gets to do annoyed-little-kid facial expressions. Smith’s acting is fantastic as always, and he and Clara defeat an enemy without violence, which was nice. (This was also the case with “Rings of Akhaten,” and I appreciated it.) However, the fact that Clara let the Doctor tell her to stay put was just infuriating. No self-respecting companion ever heeds the Doctor’s words. Ever.

So, all in all, a very well-scripted episode that could have had more dramatic tension, but in the end was satisfying and gave us several red herrings.

Read my dissection of two trailers for “Cold Warhere, my review of Episode 2 “The Rings of Akhatenhere, and my review of Episode 1 “The Bells of Saint John” here.

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Two Trailers for Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: The Cold War

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Doctor_Who__Cold_War___Ice_Warrior_preview_pictures_and_trailer

A classic villain is brought back in the upcoming episode of Doctor Who: the Ice Warriors! (Hence the title “Cold War.”) More specifically, Grand Marshall Skaldak. (This particular Warrior is not from Classic Who, but the concept of “Grand Marshall” is.) Anyway, let’s jump right into the trailers!

This first one is the “next time” trailer shown after “The Rings of Akhaten.”

There’s a great deal of information encapsulated in these 36 seconds:
the Doctor and Clara are aboard a sinking submarine armed with no less than 12 nuclear warheads and an angry Ice Warrior who evidently is intent on detonating them all. The last cut is of a scaly hand reaching towards a very smug-looking red button, whose purpose is presumably to trigger the missiles. We also see a rather bleak shot of Clara’s head lolling, eyes closed, looking very cold and wet and not very alive. Random aside: the premise reminds me very much of the Angel episode “Why We Fight.”

The next trailer on the list is the TV spot.

New information in this one: the Doctor was aiming for Las Vegas when he lands in the sinking submarine. Also, he seems to know who Skaldak is, proclaiming “this one is [dangerous]. He’s got nothing left to lose.” This could reflect a level of personal involvement with Skaldak’s plight. Or maybe Skaldak has just gone insane, and thus has no qualms with nuking Earth.

The description of this video reads: “On a Russian submarine in 1983, a frozen alien warrior is waking up, just as the TARDIS materialises.” So, Skaldak was dormant for who-knows-how-long before waking up, possibly as a result of the TARDIS’ rather hasty landing.

All in all, this episode looks like it has the potential to be pretty great. Neither of the trailers include much dialogue, but hopefully the writers have bounced back from the unimaginative script of “The Rings of Akhaten.” If you’re interested in more Doctor Who-related posts, check out my review of Series 7.5 Episode 1 (“The Bells of Saint John”) here, my review of Episode 2 (“The Rings of Akhaten”) here, and an early dissection of the trailers for Series 7.5 here.

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