Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 187: The Ice Warriors, Episode One
In what’s probably a historic moment, this is the last time that I’ll need to dust off an old VHS tape to enjoy a story, since The Ice Warriors won’t be released for another couple of months on DVD (Technically, I did the ‘dusting off’ weeks ago. I copied the VHS over to a disc, since I don’t have a TV in Cardiff – let alone a VHS player!). The biggest shame about this is that I won’t be able to see episodes two and three recreated with animation, but the DVD range has been good to me with timings this year, so I can’t really complain.
The Ice Warriors is another of those stories that I don’t really know all that much about. I can probably deduce the villains of the piece from the title alone, but that’s about all I’ve got. Oh, and that they find one of those titular creatures frozen in the ice. There you go, that’s the extent of my knowledge. That’s a good thing, though! I came to The Abominable Snowmen knowing how highly some fans rated it, knowing about the monastery, and the Yeti, and the Intelligence. I think knowing so much how I was meant to enjoy it ruined the story a little for me. I loved this episode, though! I mean, really loved it. I don’t know what I was expecting (and that’s the point, really) but this wasn’t it.
The first thing that really struck me… it’s an age before the TARDIS turns up, isn’t it? Before that, we’ve got plenty of establishing shots of the ice (with appropriately un-nerving music accompanying. It’s almost like they’re making up for the lack of it in the last story), a good look at the set up of the control room, complete with exposition to bring us up to speed, and the discovery of the ‘warrior’ in the ice. It’s not often that we spend quite so long in a story’s setting before the Doctor arrives.
When he does turn up, though, they don’t waste time. We’ve got the TARDIS turning up on its side (it’s almost strange that we’ve managed to make it to mid-Season Five before this happens), and a chance for Troughton and Hines to really engage with some great physical comedy. The Doctor stands on Jamie’s head, and then Jamie kneels on the Doctors hand. It’s an opportunity for some more close-ups of Troughton pulling faces, but here it’s being used light-heartedly as opposed to for the effect of terror yesterday. It’s almost like the programme is reassuring us that the Doctor is all right.
And isn’t he just?! Within seconds of entering the control room of the base, he’s following its leader around, repeating the numbers as they’re read from the machines. The Doctor’s worked it out in no time ('In two minutes thirty-eight seconds, you're going to have an almighty explosion!’), and then taking control of the situation, giving orders to the workers in an attempt to save them all. Clent – the base’s leader – is of course left to stand around shouting after the Doctor, telling him he cant do this, or mustn’t do that. It’s a role we’ve had present in this type of story since The Tenth Planet, but it feels so right when this attitude directed at the Second Doctor.
Over the course of this season, we really are seeing Troughton’s Doctor evolving even further into the man that we know from the later stories. He’s almost entirely dispensed with his bumbling routine once inside the base, as the stakes are too high – it’s right down to action. His charm still shines through, though, when the commander still won’t believe his calculations, and the Doctor suggests they run it through the computer to check. ‘2 minutes, 37 seconds’, the machine calculates, to which the Doctor replies, ‘Ah. I was a second out. We can’t all be perfect…’
While I’m on the subject of the Doctor, he looks just right in that big furry coat, doesn’t he? I didn’t really get a chance to look at it properly in the surviving episode of The Abominable Snowmen, but I really like it here. No wonder it’s so synonymous with this incarnation. How come we’ve not had the action figure with coat, yet?
I’m really pleased by my reaction to this one, and I’m hoping the story can hold my attention throughout – it could be one of those wonderful treats, where a story I don’t really know much about turns out to be fantastic!