Wednesday, 9 November 2011

39: The Ice Warriors - A Morality Tale On The Misgivings Of Reliance On Computer Technology, With Martians.

Written by: Brian Hayles.
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield.
Monsters/Villains: Ice Warriors.
Brief Synopsis: In the year 3000 AD a group of scientists living through a second ice age discover a frozen Martian.
Rating: 7/10.

Hello blog-a-teers! I have to start this one again by apologising for my total lack of blogs lately. I have been incredibly busy with auditions for the last month and have neglected you the worst yet. All things being well, I should have some more time on my hands and be ready to continue my epic pilgrimage through the annals of Doctor Who. I should also say although I am writing up my blog on this story now, I actually watched it about a month ago, so if I miss anything out or get anything wrong, that's why!

It's the Ice Warriors, and it's nearly all here, which makes a pleasant change. Only episodes 2 and 3 are missing. In my opinion this isn't one of the best stories ever, but it does introduce one of my all time favourite aliens, the Martians or as they are dubbed here: Ice Warriors.

They're very impressive looking creations, turtle like and huge, although to this day it is still not exactly clear wether their bodies are armour or their actual torsos. They do not have a name, but take one from their planet Mars. However like a lot of Doctor Who, somewhere along the way someone has picked up that they are actually called Ice Warriors and it kind of stuck. In their first outing they do look impressive however their mouths don't move with their words, which one could say gives them an eerie edge or 'looks a bit crap.' 

The faults with this story tend to lay in it's length, there are lots of good ideas in the mix, however they are stretched so thinly over the 6 episode structure it is hard for the tension to really build. It is a fairly unusual story. There are no evil 'take over the world' villains, merely some aliens who want to return home. But in order for them to do so they must disable and cannibalise the Earth base's reactor which would leave the human's without heat or power and allow the massive ice glaciers held at bay to break across the earth. So there's quite a lot at stake.

The first episode opens with this odd soprano music. It adds atmosphere but it is also quite funny. We see the white "futuristic" Brittanicus base from which some humans are trying to stop the Earth's glaciers from moving. Some of the base's scientists find a man buried in the ice.

The TARDIS materialises on it's side, and the doors open outward. This has only happened twice in the whole history of Doctor Who, here and again in Matt Smith's first episode The Eleventh Hour. Both times the TARDIS had landed on it's side. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria climb out. Jamie thinks they're still in Tibet but the Doctor quickly spies a huge dome made of plastic. The trio enter and meet the commander, Clent. There are odd moments in this story where they pass from room to room and one will look like a futuristic control room and the next a victorian house. The production team probably used bits of set from previous episodes or other programmes. They explain this by saying that they commandeered a house for their base of operations. It's a bit odd but a clever way to get around budget issues.

The Doctor and co are tagged as scavengers who are all being evacuated, but when the Doctor enters the control room and manages to prevent an imminent reactor explosion, Clent decides to test the Doctor further. If he succeeds he'll stay and help, if not he will be evacuated to Africa with the other scavengers. The Doctor passes the test and as Penley, the base's chief scientist is 'missing' the Doctor is asked to join the team. The current problems have been caused by a severe drop in the carbon dioxide level of the atmosphere following the wholesale extermination of plant life. The Doctor expresses his misgivings of total reliance on computers.

Peter Barkworth as Clent.
Jamie and Victoria have an interesting discussion concerning the fashion of the current time. Only in Doctor Who could you get a highlander from the mid-18th century discussing fashion trends from the year 3000 with a girl from the landed gentry in the 1850's. Meanwhile Arden, another scientist from the base returns with his ice man, which he begins to defrost quickly. It is alive. 

'Interesting' fashion.
Both episodes two and three are missing. The green warrior knocks down Jamie and takes Victoria away. The Doctor explains to Clent that the Warrior's helmet has electric connections meaning it must be alien and they realise that there must also be a space craft buried in the glacier.

The warrior tells Victoria that he is from Mars and is called Varga. Victoria explains that Varga has been in the ice for thousands of years, since the first ice age. The warrior only wants to defrost his colleagues and return home. Varga uses his sonic gun to defrost four more warriors. He orders his fellow warrior Zondal to locate the buried space ship. Zondal and the other warriors use their sonic guns to blast a tunnel to the ships airlock.

Peter Sallis as Penley.
Jamie and Arden enter the cave created by the Martians, but the warriors emerge and shoot Arden who takes the full force of the blast saving Jamie who is only knocked out. The missing scientist Penley (who is played by Peter Salis of Last of the Summer Wine and Wallace and Gromit fame) finds Jamie and brings him to his hideout, and his friend, Storr (played by Angus Lennie who returns to Doctor Who in Terror of the Zygons); a savage who is against scientists tampering with nature. Victoria tries to contact the base and Varga trains the space craft's weapon on her in case she gives up too much information. The warriors are about to fire on her but decide to use her as bait. They lose contact as the glacier is moving and Victoria runs.

Miss Garrett says that Mars' atmosphere is chiefly made up of nitrogen, which although at the time was believed to be so we now know to be untrue. The Doctor goes to the ship to rescue Victoria but she has already escaped and a warrior chasing her is famously killed by an avalanche caused by her screaming.

Look out mate, you don't have a name and Victoria Waterfield
is screaming in a cave made of ice! Watch it!
Penley and Storr are looking after Jamie as he wakes, his legs are paralysed due to the warriors' rays. Storr goes to meet the Warriors but finds Victoria, he pretends to help her but instead takes her back to the ship, and tries to throw in with the Warriors thinking them to be against the scientists. They kill him for being useless to them.

Angus Lennie as Storr.
The Doctor meets Penley and they go to Jamie. Penley takes Jamie back to the base and the Doctor goes to see the warriors and enters their ship's airlock. We then get a fantastically silly cliffhanger where Varga gradually reduces the pressure in the airlock unless the Doctor agrees to answer his questions.

Walters goes a bit mad.
Varga threatens Victoria so the Doctor tells him that he will find the fuel he needs for their ship's ion reactor at the base. Varga rallies his warriors for an attack. Penley and Jamie arrive at the base, but Clent orders them stunned and they are taken away. Varga contacts Clent ordering him to surrender. Clent suggests a peace meeting. A technician, Walters becomes crazed and tries to smash the computer but Miss Garrett stops him by using the stun gun. Walters then tries to attack the warriors at the peace meeting but they kill him. Varga wants to take the mercury isotopes from the ioniser reactor without any regard to how this will affect the humans, the dome and the world. Without the ioniser the glaciers begin to move forward.

Wendy Gifford as Miss Garrett.
Back at the Martian ship the Doctor alters the Warriors' sonic cannon to harm the Martians and not the humans. Penley adjusts the temperature controls making it uncomfortable for the warriors. The Doctor fires the cannon forcing the warriors to retreat; he then fuses it and leaves.

Victoria and the Doctor return to the base. The Doctor tells them that the ships reactor is ion based. The computer states that there is a fifty-fifty chance that the ioniser will explode when trained on a space craft with an ion engine. Penley enters and points out to Clent that choice is the strength of man. Acting on his own volition, Penley starts the ioniser. The warriors discover that their ship has power as the ice melts around it. The martian ship begins to take off but is destroyed by the ioniser. The ship explodes with only a minor explosion destroying both the oncoming glacier and the warriors. Clent thanks Penley and the TARDIS crew slip away.

The tale certainly has a good moral which is still valid today. We as a race are becoming more and more reliant on technology. This story, however silly in places, certainly points out the eventual extremes that could happen to a society that depends too fully on computers and technology.The Martians are pretty cool and will certainly be back. On paper this story sounds great, it's a shame it was so clumsily handled when being produced.

Join me next time for The Enemy Of The World.

No comments: