Doctor Who – The Ice Warriors Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Ice Warriors
  • Story #: 39
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/11/1967 – 12/16/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, I’ll try and help you. But I do think you might try trusting human beings instead of computers.” – The Doctor
“I trust no one, Doctor, not any more. Human emotions are unreliable.” – Leader Clent

Parts 1, 4, 5, and 6 of “The Ice Warriors” are film/video, in other words, the original episodes (cleaned-up and restored for DVD release). Parts 3 and 4 are animation, with the original audio. The animation for this story is truly outstanding. Disc 1 has the entire story, all six parts including the animated episodes, with commentary and info text. Disc 2 has the special (extra) features.

This episode opens with a bang as the TARDIS lands horizontally right at the door of a scientific base and the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria have to crawl out. They head inside and discover a group of scientists, computer techs, and the leader, who are working in “glacier containment” by using an Ioniser ray to selectively melt the advancing ice caps. They also work with computer control. The Earth is experiencing climate change – after drastically lowering atmospheric CO² levels, the Earth experienced a year without a Spring, and after a few years of confusion figured out the Earth had entered a second ice age.

The head technician is a woman, who is taken over from Penley, a scientist who left the base and joined the scavengers outside. The leader is Clent, who wavers from being strong-minded and fair, though with a bit of a grudge against Penley for leaving – to someone who nearly suffers a breakdown when asked to make a terribly important decision. Arden is another scientist who gets stuck with “Doctor and companion” minding. That is, he’s someone Clent can spare for a bit to run errands. The base is already understaffed because they are evacuating due to the advancing glaciers.

Two scientist-engineers checking the ice find an ice-entombed Ice Warrior. They bring it to the base med bay and accidentally wake it up. Also, the Ice Warriors ship and the rest of its crew are buried in the ice. The revitalized Warrior uses the same device to wake up his crew.

The conflict involves Clent and Ms. Garrett trying to figure out what to do about the glaciers (and the story goes along, the threat from the glaciers becomes even more dire) and what to do about the Ice Warriors. Clent basically wants to ignore the Ice Warriors, but unfortunately, they have a military bent and see Clent and his scientists as a threat. Once the Ice Warriors learn of the Ioniser, they can only see it as a weapon – either a weapon to be used against themselves or a weapon they can use against Clent and company. Clent really is more concerned about his Ioniser, computer control, and the glaciers than the Ice Warriors. The only time he becomes concerned is after the Doctor comes up with an equation to safely fix the worst of the glacier problem, and the computer confirms the equation, but Ms. Garrett realizes that if they use the ray and the spaceship is atomic-powered, it’s nuclear reactor could blow-up from the heat – and irradiate the area (killing everyone on the base as well). Clent, understandably, doesn’t want to accidentally set-off an atomic bomb but is stuck between trying to stop the glaciers on one hand and the Ice Warriors on the other.

Victoria is quickly kidnapped by the Ice Warriors. She frees herself but is unable to provide the information the base needs about the spaceship engines. She is from Victorian England – one wouldn’t expect her to be able to tell the difference between different types of spaceships!

Arden and Jamie head off to rescue Victoria, but Arden is shot dead by the Ice Warriors, and Jamie is at first knocked out – and then, once he finally gets some medical help, is paralyzed. This is temporary, of course. The Doctor does try to rescue Victoria and Jamie – he meets Penley and Jamie. For a short time Penley is working with a scavenger, Storr, but when Storr tries to volunteer to work with the Ice Warriors to stop the scientists – he’s killed by the Ice Warriors.

In the end, the Doctor is able to find out what type of power the Ice Warriors’ space ship uses, rescue Victoria, and momentarily disable the Ice Warriors with ammonia sulfate, which Victoria realises is a “stink bomb” but the Doctor knows will be a bit more irritating to the Mars-born Ice Warriors. The Doctor, Victoria, and Penley return to the base. The Doctor explains what type of power the ship has. Clent nearly breaks down trying to make a decision without the computer. Ms. Garrett also cannot go against the computer (who’s last command was “wait”; when fed the info about the spaceship’s power source it breaks down from a clash of logic), in the end, it’s Penley who feeds in the equation to increase the Ioniser power. This melts the glacier and the Ice Warriors ship. The Warriors themselves die from the heat. The ship does not explode. The Doctor, Victoria, and a recovered Jamie leave in the TARDIS.

The Ice Warriors at six parts is a bit slow. However, the central moral quandary of going with the gut for a big win or relying on what proves to be an unreliable computer is interesting. It works. The Ice Warriors are a great design – very tall, and looking like upright-standing lizards with helmets. They have great voices that hiss everything they ssssay (sorry, couldn’t resist). The cast is excellent. Victoria spends a lot of time asking the Warrior to “let her go”, but the minute she does get free, she’s trying to get back to the base and to raise the base on a video communicator (which she manages to figure out). Poor Jamie, again, spends a lot of time in medical units. The set-up, with the glacier-containment base, and the Ioniser, which focuses the sun’s rays specifically, is different. Overall, I do like this story. As I said, it’s a bit slow in spots – but it’s a good tale.

Besides Ms. Garrett, who is the lead computer operator – there are other, unnamed, background women in the computer tech center. Clent is an at times frustrating leader – but he isn’t as obstinate as some that the Doctor has come across in his travels. Penley is a good man, who apparently got really frustrated with Clent and walked out – what happened between the two is never fully explained, but we can guess. Storr the scavenger is the only truly stupid character. His hatred of “science” and “scientists” seems to have no basis – and when he offers his service to the Ice Warriors he’s killed instead. Arden is the only other character killed and a bit of a sacrificial lamb. At the end of the story, everyone else is alive, and the Ioniser operation is a rousing success – so this is not an “everyone dies” Doctor Who story. Highly recommended.

Note: I broke this in half and watched over two nights. Well, episodes 1-3 yesterday afternoon, and episodes 4-6 this morning. I do recommend doing that with some of the longer Doctor Who stories. I also really liked the animation in this one!

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