Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 9 – Cold War

I keep telling myself I will go back and watch these episodes again before I write about them, so that I have one viewing for the sheer enjoyment of it, and another to take in the finer details. So far, I have not managed to do that. Is it just a lack of time, or is there a lack of motivation here too? The recent episodes do seem to suffer a lack of the magic that makes something instantly rewatchable – episodes such as Van Gogh or Idris the TARDIS spring to mind when I think of those I would watch again in a heartbeat. They can’t all be like that, of course, but I can’t think of any recently that have captured me in the same way.

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As mentioned last week, this episode was going to be for the action fans, another change of pace that saw the pressure on in a submarine-based adventure with an unwelcome guest on board. I wasn’t aware of the Ice Warriers and their work before this episode, having not yet indulged in any old DW stuff. I knew that the writer, Mark Gatiss, was a big fan and had been trying to bring them into the new stories for a long time. This was his big opportunity, did he manage to pull it off?

Well, it was another episode that could have been really good but just slightly fell short of the mark. It really felt as though it could have done with being a two-parter, with a bit more time spent on the resolution, rather than just flicking a switch (or not, in this case) and the problem being solved. The build-up of anticipation was excellent, the atmosphere cold, claustrophobic, compelling. The Warrior had his finger moments from the button, from blowing up human civilisation. Then I blinked and he had his helmet off and was being beamed up to his friends above. Way to burst the bubble.

The Ice Warrior looked fabulous, a great homage to the original without looking too dated. The fact it disappeared from its suit and started crawling through walls reminded me far too much of Alien, I assume it was intended as a nod to the successful sci-fi franchise, rather than ripping off the idea completely. Remote control armour, by the way, is very cool.

Where the episode really delivered was in yet more development of Clara’s character. She showed incredible courage in volunteering to go and talk to the Ice Warrier, but opened up her human side in the debrief with the Russian sailer later. Wanting to impress “the boss”, trying to fully comprehend the situation she is in, full of wonder and horror and… well, goodness knows what. Your mind would just be blown every step of your travels with the Doctor, wouldn’t it?

A couple of things I thought were interesting, this was the second episode in a row where the Doctor was more than ready to sacrifice his life for the greater good. This isn’t new information, obviously, but it’s been pushed in our faces quite significantly both on Akhaten and the submarine. Also, the TARDIS has not behaved itself when in need on two occasions now as well. Granted this episode it was set to remove itself in the face of danger, so was following instructions, but on top of not letting Clara inside when she wanted to last week, there’s a reluctant side to the TARDIS we haven’t seen before. I’m curious if this is pointing to anything bigger, or if it’s just a couple of coincidences.

Next week, there’s some ghosthunting with that midwife woman.