The Ice Warriors
So, the episode itself. As with the best Doctor Who, there's an innovative blend of style and budget saving: having those futuristic control panels (which still, Ipod-style, look reasonably ahead of their time) in an old manor house is a touch of miser-inspired genius.
The vocal overtones do date the serial ever so slightly, and there's a little too much cutesy humour from the regulars for my liking. Every story from this season seems to open with Jamie and the Doctor doing some forced knockabout schtick as Watling pretends to laugh unconvincingly. Then there's Jamie musing over whether Victoria should wear a miniskirt. Just crack one off in the Tardis and shut up about it.
Some of the science is sloppy, and that old git out of Last of the Summer Wine gets some clunky lines, delivered badly. Yet amongst the silly sound effects, dubbed on wolf noises and questionable fashions, this one still stands up remarkably well. It's more instantly accessible than the other season five stories, and its virtual realtime pacing makes it unique in the pantheon of original Who. A good one.
As a fairly Victoria-centric episode then naturally it's something of a comedown, while the olden day telephone dial on the computer goes beyond likeable quaint. Dudley's having a bonkers orgy with his music, while Angus Lennie plays a silly comedy character that only serves to further highlight just how fake Frazer's "Scottish" accent is. Nevertheless, it still retains its level of durability, even if it does come over as more Doctor Who lite than some other eras of the programme. Interestingly, this episode contains the phrase "weapon of destruction" some 36 years before George Bush reworked it slightly for his own ends…
In the shaky studio "exteriors" they actually hired a real bear for this one rather than using stock footage. It's a shame, because when you see it you instantly assume it's stock footage anyway. Also curious is Varga's "sss-sss-sss" laugh-like noise, and their non lip-synching lips. It's supposed to make them look alien, but instead looks like Blessed and co. couldn't mime adequately to the prerecorded lines. If you want one of my semi-serious homo theories about Who, then there does seem to be some deep-seated feeling between Clent and Penley that goes beyond professional rivalry. Maybe that's where he got the limp? Finally, is it just me or does Walters (Malcolm Taylor) look like Ian Levine before he lost the weight?
One major flaw with Hayles's writing is that instead of allowing the viewer to make up their own minds about the themes and issues the story raises, it wraps them up in unnaturalistic platitudes, usually for Peter Sallis to deliver. As for the famous goof where the Tardis is upright at the end… um... maybe they pushed it up first?
A solid, well made story, even if its "reliance on computers is bad" ideology is yet a further example of Who's frequent reactionary political stance. Not the most ambitious Doctor Who story, but one that's strong on all general levels of acting, writing, direction and production.
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