HomeAll postsDoctor Who s07e08: Cold War

Doctor Who s07e08: Cold War

Doctor Who and the Cold WarEpisode 4, season 7, part 2

A review by Nalini Haynes

‘Cold War’ is set in 1983, apparently a crucial time in the real cold war. A Russian submarine frees a creature from the Arctic ice, storing it on board. The Captain (Liam Cunningham) runs his crew through the drill to end the world by launching nuclear missiles. The drill was not satisfactory so the political officer, Lieutenant Stepashin (Tobias Menzies), argues with the Captain about rerunning the drill; the Captain is more concerned about the safety of the ship as they’ve run into trouble.

One of the sailors starts melting the ice to free the most un-mammoth-like creature trapped within, against the Professor’s instructions.

The sub goes out of control and starts to dive. Shades of The Abyss, anyone?

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) emerge from the TARDIS expecting to be in Vegas (WTF? All of time and space and they want to go to VEGAS?!) only to have Russians point guns at them.

The Doctor tells them they have forward drives still working so they should use those forward drives to park themselves on a ridge jutting out from a cliff-face. Having parked there, they discover the ice warrior – the creature in the ice – has emerged and is active. An enterprising sailor knocks him out using a cattle prod they have on board to deal with polar bears, thus unwittingly declaring war on Grand Marshal Skaldak (Spencer Wilding for the body, Nicholas Briggs for the voice).

Skaldak escapes his chains by getting out of his armour, the first time this has happened on Doctor Who. The Doctor explains this first by saying that it is a great dishonour to leave their armour, Skaldak has no hope of rescue and is therefore desperate. Skaldak then becomes the stereotypical monster who picks off the crew one by one, starting with the crewmember the audience has come to loathe the most: Lieutenant Stepashin.

On changing the ice warriors

The first time I saw this episode I raged because I felt that New Who was pissing all over my childhood, where the ‘Monster of Peladon’ featured large, and my love of the Neo Aretians in the New Adventures.


I saw the original ‘Ice Warriors’ episode (review to be published on 28 August 2013 to coincide with the launch date for the DVD). I have much to say about the ice warriors in my review of that episode. As that review won’t be online for nearly 4 weeks, I’ll put some of it here:

Recently Doctor Who revisited the ice warriors, with a kind of Alien being emerging from the armour. I was furious; the ice warriors from the ‘Monster of Peladon’ struck me as humanoid Martians rather than an elite killing machine wearing humanoid armour. Not that I’ve watched the ‘Monster of Peladon’ recently; this was one of the stories endlessly repeated through my childhood so I felt New Who was trashing my childhood memories.

After watching this episode I want to rewatch both the ‘Monster of Peladon’ and the New Who story to cross-check my impressions. These ice warriors are wearing apparently ill-fitting armour: their heads hunch down inside their suits so on occasion the lower half of their faces are inside the suit while the upper portion – from about the nose upwards – is poking out.

The ice warrior’s mouths sometimes look like puppetry rather than people wearing makeup, increasing the alienness of these creatures. Watching, I was like: ‘OMG. New Who may well have been justified in their new take on these monsters of my childhood.’

In conclusion

Having watched this episode twice now, the second time after watching the original ‘Ice Warriors’ story and The Abyss, I appreciate this zode SO MUCH MORE. ‘Cold War’ isn’t aimed at children like some recent episodes but if kids can cope with the weeping angels they can cope with this story. I think I love this story.


[looks at Roadshow]

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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