Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors REVIEW

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors DVD review.

Doctor Who "The Ice Warriors"

The animation of missing episodes is the best yet.


Release Date: 26 August 2013
1967 | PG | 147 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)
Distributor: BBC Worldwide
Director: Derek Martinus
Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Peter Barkworth, Peter Sallis

“The Ice Warriors might be the only Doctor Who adventure which can be summed up in a Little Britain catchphrase – that being, “Computer says no.” Indeed, “The computer says no” is literally a line of dialogue in the final episode.

Climate change sceptics, rejoice! It’s the distant future, and instead of being gathered on top of Ben Nevis with water lapping at their toes, Britons are shivering in dread as glaciers sweep inexorably across the nation. Only one thing can save us from this new ice age: a contraption called the Ioniser. The discovery of a frozen Martian spaceship complicates matters, though; will using the ioniser on the glacier within which it resides cause a devastating nuclear explosion?

Unfortunately, lead scientist Penley (Peter Sallis) has flounced off in a strop, apparently preferring death by hypothermia to working under a rotten manager – and you thought you hated your boss. This leaves Leader Clent (Peter Barkworth), a man so computer-dependent he’s incapable of taking a punt (a point not so much hammered home as nailgunned into your frontal lobe) to make the call. Cue six episodes of dithering as he struggles to make a decision, then – thumbing a nose at our expectations of character development – miserably fails to do so. Thrills.

The sinisterly hissing Ice Warriors (whose leader’s played by Carry On giant Bernard Bresslaw, unrecognisable beneath the armour) add some spice, though their motives and reasoning seem flawed. Can five of them really take over the planet? And why don’t they storm the base and slaughter its personnel straight away? The bloke from Last Of The Summer Wine swans in and out as he pleases, so it’s not exactly a high-security installation.

Boring/bewildering story elements aside, “The Ice Warriors” is a success. The world it builds feels solid. The ice cave sets are surprisingly expansive, and the Ioniser base’s location of gleaming futuristic tech within Victorian architecture makes for an eye-pleasing juxtaposition. There are a few choice one-liners too, the best being the Doctor’s tart remark to Jamie that an Ice Warrior found frozen in the ice, “Obviously didn’t come by Shetland pony.”

With two episodes lost, the gaps are plugged with new animation by Qurios Entertainment, and of all the stories to receive this treatment so far, these are the best results. Although the characters seem a little loose-limbed, faces are remarkably expressive, with darting pupils conveying a sense of life. And unlike First Doctor release “The Reign Of Terror”, the editing isn’t so inappropriately frenetic as to prompt a Maggie Blackamoor-style projectile vomit.

Extras:

The four surviving episodes get yak tracks from cast and crew including companions Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, while the missing episode two is backed by archive interviews of the deceased (including writer Brian Hayles, director Derek Martinus and three of the cast), and three ropes in Patrick Troughton’s son, Michael, for some personal reminiscences.

“Cold Fusion” (24 minutes) is a decent Making Of, whose highlights are endearingly jovial Ice Warrior actor Sonny Caldinez and sweet photos of Bresslaw and his young son on-set together. Animation featurette “Behind The Ice” (10 minutes) makes clear quite how much detective work (and guess work!) was involved in bringing the missing episodes back to life.

You also get ten minutes of clips concerning Blue Peter’s infamous “Design a monster” competition (from both the show where they announced the comp and the one where they revealed the results); an animated recreation of a lost trailer; the bridging links from the 1998 VHS release, Frazer Hines interview footage shot for 2003 documentary The Story Of Doctor Who (14 minutes); and the usual text commentary, gallery and PDFs of the Radio Times listings.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

Read more of our Doctor Who DVD reviews.