Saturday, April 20, 2013

Doctor Who Review: Cold War

Pardon me for not ****SPOILER ALERT***ing already, but **** SPOILER ALERT****

Not to be too nit-picky but "Cold War" was a short episode. Right about 41 minutes including trailer for "Hide". It felt like it could have done without an extra 2 or 3 minutes at the end. I don't really consider that a complaint though, I mean, what do they say, leave them wanting more? It was a great episode. I really enjoy Mark Gatiss' writing. It really captured the feel of a classic episode. The Doctor trying to reason with the Ice Warrior reminded me of his first encounters with them. There was still a great struggle shown despite a confined space. It was quite thrilling at times, and kind of a treat for fans of the original Ice Warriors. The Ice Warrior armor both retained the original design and somehow completely updated it without altering the original idea too much, such as they did with the Silurians. (Which I did like, but totally unrecognizable) It's good they shake it up sometimes.

Some episodes begin before the credits with an introduction, or background information to set up the story. This was the case with the last two episodes. Some start telling the story, like a prologue. This one does the latter. This is also the first episode with Clara that is open ended. She is already with The Doctor when we see her and we leave her still with him. This opens up the possibility for adventures that we do not see happening between episodes.

The story opens in the icy waters of the north pole in 1983, under which travels a soviet submarine, and they are on alert and arming the nuclear weapons. They are comically interrupted by Professor Grisenko, played adorably by David Warner. He is singing along to his headphones, but has only interrupted a drill. This is the cold war, and we can see by the attitude of one officer that tension is high even during a drill. The captain orders the drill put off until morning, then asks the professor about the beast they found in the ice when drilling for oil, wondering if it is a mammoth. Down below we see a block of ice with a figure inside. One of the crew has, god knows why, decided not to wait until port to thaw the ice and applies a blowtorch. Movement in the ice. The ice cracks and we get a great shot of the Ice Warrior's hand shooting out to grab the crewman's throat.

After the credits, the sub is going down and the crew are being attacked by an Ice Warrior we only get tantalizing glimpses of. The TARDIS materializes and out pop The Doctor and Clara, thinking they were going to Las Vegas. By her dress and his Elvis sunglasses I'd say maybe the early to mid 60's? Everything is getting wet as the sub sinks further. The Doctor suggests a lateral move to land on a ridge which saves them all form imploding at a greater depth. When searched, they find on The Doctor his sonic screwdriver, the sunglasses, a ball of twine, a Barbie doll (blonde), and what looked like  a wrapped candy apple. Suddenly the TARDIS dematerializes. There's a jolt and Clara is knocked unconscious.

Clara comes to as The Doctor is trying to explain that they aren't spies but time travelers, choosing to use the truth for a change. Then the Ice Warrior appears behind The Doctor. Great chilling sound made by him. The Ice warrior, not The Doctor. It looked great but I covered that. The Doctor explains it is a martian warrior. He had been in the ice for about 5,000 years. He tells us he is Grand Marshall Skaldak. Good job on the voice. The Doctor seems to know the name but I can't find any reference in a televised episode. The Doctor tries to keep both sides from starting a battle when an officer shocks Skaldak with a cattle prod, knocking him out. They put Skaldak in chains. When he wakes up he begins sending a signal.

When the Russians think The Doctor and Clara are spies there is a funny moment when Clara learns that not only are they Russians speaking English  but that she is speaking Russian  So now the TARDIS is translating for her. Don't know if that was a mistake in the last episode or not. The captain is frustrated and his officer still in war mode. The captain won't let The Doctor speak to Skaldak and The Doctor says no soldier can. So Clara goes in with a headset to get instructions from The Doctor. She salutes Skaldak and begins to try and reason with him. The lights go out but she has a torch so approaches closer as she says they are not enemies. Skaldak says yet he is in chains. He mentions his daughter joining him in battle, but now she would be but dust. The Doctor says he can help and Clara notices something odd about the armor. It is empty. It opens and Clara is scared.

The Doctor admits he has never seen an Ice Warrior out of its armor before. They open the door for Clara and naked Skaldak shuffles away with nary a glimpse. Cute moment where Clara checks to make sure she did okay, then seems satisfied with her performance. Skaldak's signal stops. No answer from his Martian brothers. He feels abandoned. With nothing left to lose he is even more dangerous and oh, the ridge the sub is resting on is crumbling away.

We get some good Alien 2 (or more accurately, Aliens) feeling with the turning alert lighting and corridors with crawlspace in the walls, something i don't quite get on a submarine. That militant officer from before gets a shock when the bony hands of Skaldak grab him from behind. Very long, bony, and pale, this wasn't their best work. A bit of a glove feel with the way the nails/claws looked. They didn't fix the shot of his finger just flicking off the guys chin from lack of control and the hole in one finger. But I have to say it still felt a bit creepy. Before having his skull presumably crushed, the officer tried to make an alliance and told Skaldak of the cold war raging above.

The captain gives a pep talk. Clara learns time can be rewritten and could still end in 1983 if Skaldak launches missiles that begin mutual nuclear attacks. when the professor finds the sonic screwdriver and Barbie doll The Doctor says, as you do, that he could kiss him. Without missing a beat the professor casually says, "If you insist" and it made me laugh out loud. They all go to search the sub. The professor shares his trick of singing to feel less scared. His favorite band is Ultravox but he asks Clara if she knows Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf. She refuses to sing whenever he brings it up, but claims she knows it from doing karaoke at hen nights (bachelorette parties for my fellow Americans) The professor remarks on Clara's excellent Russian but says she confuses him with what she says.

Kind of a funny Alien-y moment with Skaldak's really bony, long arms reaching down from above and snatching crew members by the head. They let us know the men were torn apart and Skaldak is learning their strengths and weaknesses. Clara is shaken. The Doctor asks her to stay behind when he goes off. She says ok but he says not to argue, then realizes for the first time he has a companion who listens, and goes off on his own. It has started to feel real for Clara. The professor is sweet as he tries to reassure and calm her. he tries to get her to talk about herself but she's to jumpy to even listen properly. He tries to get her to talk about time travel and breaks the tension by urgently insisting she tell him the future, which turned out to be whether or not Ultravox break up. Clara regains her smile and composure. but Skaldak reaches down and grabs her head. The professor shoots Skaldak and he lets go, only to grab the professor, Clara begging Skaldak to spare him. They only give us a shadowy look at Skaldak's face, but you can tell it's going to be cgi.

Skaldak summons his suit with his sonic technology and it's all nice and dramatic as it stomps closer. Skaldak threatens to start a war before letting the professor go and scurrying into the open suit, then stomping off towards the control room? Control deck? What do you call it on a sub? And so we see we aren't going to get a full body shot of an Ice Warrior out of armor. But he does have cool biomechanical looking finger extensions that plugged into the control panel and armed the nuclear warheads. The Doctor tries to reason, admitting the might of the Ice Warriors while downplaying the threat the humans actually pose. It would be the act of a murderer not a soldier.  Finally The Doctor just threatens to blow up the sub first and we see a new red setting on the sonic screwdriver.

The Doctor asks Skaldak to look in his eyes and we get a look at the head when he removes the helmet. Not bad. Pretty good even maybe. Would be better if it wasn't completely dissimilar to the arms and hands we saw. Clara points out he showed the professor compassion, and of all the daughters above that would die. Suddenly a really cool light beam locks hold of the submarine and lifts it. 1983 Ice Warriors heard him and came to get Skaldak. The sub breaks the icy surface, safe again. The Doctor pleads with Skaldak to go in peace. The Ice Warriors teleport him away, but the warheads are still armed. In this nervous moment Clara is finally scared enough to sing.. "...I'm lost and I'm found, and I'm hungry like the wolf..." I don't know if this is stretching things, but of all songs to choose, why would it be one with the word wolf in it? Bad wolf? Lost and found? I don't know. Maybe Steven Moffat is just teasing us. Anyway the warheads disarm, Skaldak showed compassion and mercy. Some really nice music during this part. More of that kind of thing, please.

Hugs all around. Cute moment when Clara checked to make sure they just saved the world and said "that's what we do". Atop the submarine the Ice Warrior spaceship looked just great. When Clara asked about where the TARDIS went I loved it because they brought back the H.A.D.S. Hostile action displacement system. If the TARDIS is attacked or in danger it relocates. Unfortunately when The Doctor tells Clara it relocated to the pole, she then got a shock when he explained it was at the south pole. When The Doctor asks the captain for a lift, everyone laughs. Matt Smith is cute when he laughs back as if to say "I don't see what's funny but haha anyway" or "You all think you're so funny". This is where I think they could've added time. The Doctor salutes the spaceship and it flies away, that's it. It doesn't bother me, I'm just greedy. Give me my 45 minutes. More even.

I was going to type here that the trailer for "Hide" looks good, but I just watched it and LOVED it. But I need to watch it again a time or two so I can make notes. I really wanted to finish this first.

Which means up next: "Hide"

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