Review: ‘Cold War’

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A memo to the Doctor Who production team

1. If you’re going to do The Hunt For Red October, can we have at least one Russian officer – just one – who actually sounds a little bit Russian? Or, if that would have been incongruous, can we have a Russian crew that don’t all sound quite so English? I know questionable accents were a staple of Classic Who – I wince at ‘The Invisible Enemy‘ as much as anyone – but having them address each other as ‘comrade’ when they all sound like they’ve wandered off the set of 633 Squadron is just silly. And don’t even think about blaming it on the ‘TARDIS translation circuits’ bollocks. They didn’t even act Russian. Not even the Captain, whom I confess I rather liked.

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2. Just between you and me, I’m well aware that the whole point of having the Doctor and Clara ostensibly en route to Las Vegas was so that you could film Clara in something skimpy, get her instantly soaked when the submarine floods and thus fulfil every fanboy’s / lesbian fangirl’s wet dream. But next time, could you make it a bit less obvious?

You're not fooling anyone with your feisty, empowered woman shit, you know.

You’re not fooling anyone with your feisty, empowered woman shit, you know.

3. Speaking of obvious, when were you going to admit that Mark Gatiss basically wanted to write Alien in a submarine and then chucked in the Ice Warriors as an afterthought? Or was it that he wanted to bring them back, against Moffat’s better judgement, and that they compromised by having an Ice Warrior that would behave like its normal lumbering self for half the episode, and then turn into something out of a Giger design? It’s a shame, because you had an interesting, claustrophobic story going with that.

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But then it’s all dangerous Ice Warriors that lurk in the shadows and crawl through the ventilation ducts. I was half expecting the Doctor to open a cupboard and find a cat. And I do hope you paid the copyright fees on those Alien sound effects you licensed.

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Oh, and those eyes in the dark? Total rip-off.

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4. I get the Nordic / Russian implications in naming your chief villain Skaldak. And yes, it’s very Ice Warrior. But next time, would it be too much to ask to have a villain with a normal, English-sounding name? Something a bit less prickly; something that doesn’t sound like you shoved six random letters into the anagram generator? Something like, I don’t know, Nigel the Ice Warrior? Rodney the Zygon? Kevin the Sontaran?

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5. I meant to mention that you did a lot of good by deliberately showing us as little of the unsheathed alien as possible. The hands from the ceiling were a nice touch.

But then you went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like I love you actually having Skaldak remove his helmet. It was bad enough when Stallone did it in Judge Dredd. Personally, I thought it would have made for a far more effective scene if the Doctor had had seen what was underneath with the rest of us following suit. But when you did go for the reveal, I couldn’t work out if I was in the Whoniverse or the DC / Marvel one.

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6. I love David Warner. I really do. I have done since he lost his head in The Omen. He’s the only reason I managed to make it through Wing Commander. But treat him with some dignity next time you have a bonding scene. Look at this dialogue. I mean, look at it.

Grisenko: Clara? What is it?

Clara: I was doing OK. I mean, I went in there, and then I did the scary stuff, didn’t I? I went in there with the Ice Warrior and it went OK. Actually, it went about as bad as it could have been, but that wasn’t my fault.

Grisenko: Not at all.

Clara: So I’m happy about that.

Grisenko: Yes.

Clara: Sure.

Grisenko: And so you should be. So what’s the matter?

Clara: Seeing those bodies back there. It’s all got very…real. Are we gonna make it?

Grisenko: Yes, of course.

Warner’s as dignified as they come, but even he can’t polish a turd.

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7. For future reference, Ice Warriors sound like this.

They do not – repeat, do not – sound like this.

I know Nick Briggs has a monopoly on the new voices (and the best Big Finish stories), but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you must revamp, at least try and do something silly.

(Yes, I’m plugging one of my videos. Bite me.)

8. If you’re somehow going to conjure a half-decent (the first half) script from Mark “second-worst Dalek story of New Who” Gatiss, please don’t let him finish it by having Jenna-Louise Coleman save the world through the healing power of Duran Duran. It sucked. It sucked donkeys.

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I mean, honestly. You have this as your moment of truth and then you put this episode right next to the one where singing saves the universe? And I thought the scheduling in series six was off.

9. Finally: make sure you give your secondary characters at least some motivation, because “Life’s too short” is never – under any circumstances – a decent reason to thaw out a frozen Ice Warrior.

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Look, Steven, if I’m a little grumpy about this it’s because I was up until half past two in the morning playing Bioshock Infinite, got four hours’ sleep, then did a three-hour round car journey to pick up Thomas, and then came back and finished cleaning the house for Daniel’s birthday party tomorrow. The floors are mopped and vacuumed but I think it’s fair to say I’m a little antsy. Thing is, you missed the boat with this one. It was all going so well, and you could have had a great story on your hands if you’d stuck to your guns in those early scenes. We know you think the Ice Warriors represent everything you dislike about Old Who. But some of us like them. Bringing them back in an admittedly faithful physical depiction doesn’t cut it if you’re going to use them in an episode where they simply don’t fit. It’s like dressing the Doctor like an English academic and then have him behave like a horny teenager. But then that’s what you do. Isn’t it?

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Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Review: ‘Cold War’

  1. Oh, that last sentence. That.

    I was rather disappointed with the second half of the episode (and not JUST because I’m singing Duran Duran to myself), but my kids kind of loved it. I was worried parts were going to be too scary for the 7y/o, but he thought it was great.

    I was thrilled with Skaldak…until he took the armour off. [sigh]

    • reverend61

      I know, it was all going so well. It did a good job at showing the claustrophobic confines of a submarine without being silly about it, and then they changed direction in the second half and it all went downhill.

  2. I rather enjoyed it, but I’m nervous about why they might have inserted “Hungry Like The Wolf”. Just as you seem to have done, I picked up on “Bad Wolf” right away.

    If Clara has *anything* to do with Rose I’m going to strangle a turkey. David Tennant will do 😛

    • reverend61

      There is a theory doing the rounds that Clara is the remnant of Rose’s Bad Wolf scattering (and may, in fact, be destined to become the Dalek Emperor). Moffat’s clean slate approach would suggest that they probably won’t do this, but we’ll see.

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