7 July 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 188: The Ice Warriors, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Oh, I agonised over how best to experience this episode. Earlier in the year, I picked up all the narrated soundtracks in bulk – most of them are available from the AudioGo website as (extremely reasonably priced!) downloads. The couple that I couldn’t get as downloads were collected together as part of ‘The Lost TV Episodes’ collection Volume 5. At the time, The Ice Warriors was scheduled for release on DVD in around April time, so I didn’t bother picking up the soundtrack for that one.

And then… I completely forgot about it! The DVD release date was shifted back to later in the year, and I didn’t even think to pick up the soundtrack. Today, then, when it came to scrolling through my iTunes looking for the episode, I was thoroughly confused before I realised what I’d done. A search online told me that The Ice Warriors is one of the few soundtracks that you can’t pick up via a legal download, and it’s only available on CD. Panic!

For a while, I seriously considered using the recon from the VHS. I’d ripped it to a disc when copying my video anyway, so it was already sat in the DVD drive of the Mac. The problem? It condensed both Episode Two and Episode Three into the space of about 20 minutes. I know I cheated by skipping Episode Four of The Highlanders in favour of the Target reading, but it felt like a step too far to actually put the two episodes together here – after all, the whole idea of The 50 Year Diary was to do one episode a day, every day.

Thankfully, a panicked request on Facebook revealed that a friend had a copy of the Loose Cannon reconstruction for these two episodes, and since he lived close, I was welcome to pop round and borrow it. My thoughts on recons have been pretty clear throughout the course of this marathon – loved the one for Marco Polo, but by the time I’d reach3ed the Crusade, I couldn’t bear the thought of them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I much prefer the soundtracks. Still, needs must and all that!

Now, let’s get this out of the way first, and then I can talk about the episode itself: I’ve not changed my mind on the recons. There’s plenty in this one that looks pretty good (the moving snow on scenes outside was a lovely touch, for example), but I find that my mind wanders just that little bit too much when I’m watching them. I’ll be using a recon for tomorrow’s episode again, but I think I’ll be sticking to the soundtracks for the rest of this season’s missing parts.

As for the episode itself, I think it was a bit of a comedown from yesterday’s instalment. I don’t know how much of my more muted reaction came from being put off by the recon, or how much was a result of my expectations being raised by my enjoyment of the first episode, but it just didn’t strike a chord with me in the same way.

It does have to be said, though, that the design of the Ice Warrior is gorgeous. It’s no wonder that they didn’t alter them radically when bringing them back to the series this year, because they’ve pretty much got it spot on right from the word ‘go’. There’s some shots of the creature in here which I’m fairly certain were taken from The Seeds of Death, but there’s also still images that show how great they’ve always looked. The voices, too, are fantastic from the very start, wit that great hissing sound to them. The images of the Warrior towering over Victoria in the storeroom are ones that really embedded themselves in my mind as a teenager when I first saw them, so I'm glad to see that their height really is effective in the story, too. It’s also nice to see a creature that’s remained so similar across all these years.

The Seeds of Death is the only ‘classic’ Ice Warrior story that I’ve ever seen, and that was a good few years ago. It was surprising to me, then, when Cold War made such a reference to the creatures being a kind of Cyborg, with a fully mechanical ‘suit’ of armour. I’m thrilled to see that, actually, it’s always been a part of the creatures, right back to this story. Yesterday, the Doctor mused that there was some kind of electrical apparatus frozen in the ice with the Warrior, and today he tells the scientists ‘'This headpiece is no warrior's tin hat! It's a highly developed space helmet!’

I’m also really enjoying that, for at least a little while, the Ice Warrior isn’t the main danger to the Doctor, or the crew of this story’s base-under-siege. The threat comes from the idea that there could be a kind of alien spaceship buried somewhere in the glacier, and that the Ioniser could accidentally ignite its fuel supplies, causing one almighty explosion. I’m hoping that this strand of the story won’t be forgotten as the story progresses (especially now that more Warriors have been located), though I’m fairly willing to bet that using the Ioniser against either the Warriors or the ship will end up forming a vital part of the tale’s resolution…

I’m really looking forward to the release of this one on DVD – I think there’s a very good story in here, and I look forward to a chance of watching it without the distraction of the recon…

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