When I first saw Sylvester McCoy's take on The Doctor I have
to admit that I wasn't impressed. But
that was years ago, soon after they aired and I only managed to view a
of stories. I had heard that the later
seasons were darker and generally better, but I never took the time to
them out. I seemed to recall that in
McCoy's first year on the show, Dragonfire
was the stand-out offering, so when it was released I did some checking
discovered that The Doctor Who Appreciation Society voted it the best
the season and in a poll taken by the TV station UK Gold it was voted
adventure during McCoy's tenure. That's
pretty impressive. I enjoyed Remembrance
of the Daleks quite a bit
and if this topped that, well I had to see it.
So it was with eager curiosity that I popped the disc into my
player and discovered that... this is a really awful installment. There are some good aspects, the irritating
Mel leaves and Ace, who is a great companion, arrives, but the story is
with many bizarre plot holes and some really wretched dialog. To make it worse, the movie Aliens is ripped
off pretty blatantly. I could live with
all of that, heck, I'm a Doctor Who fan and we have to just accept a
amount of flaws, but the story doesn't make any sense.
This is a hard story to love.
Warning: There will
be spoilers in the rest of the review of the show itself.
If you don't want anything spoiled, skip down
to the technical section.
The Doctor and Mel arrive on Iceworld, a poorly named
trading colony that deals in produce and ice cream (I'm not joking)
the dark side of the planet Svartos, which does not rotate. (The other side is blisteringly hot, so
Icehemisphere would have been more accurate.)
A good amount of trade goes on in the colony and it's ruled by
sinister Kane, a man (creature?) whose body temperature is so low that
touch is enough to kill a normal human.
It's eventually revealed that Kane is a criminal, imprisoned
3000 years ago on Iceworld by his home planet Proamnon for a series of
crimes. Vowing revenge, in the millennia
since his imprisonment Kane has created the trading post and used the
he's made to buy slaves. He's
cryogenically frozen these people, a process that wipes their memory,
he can use them as an army to invade Proamnon some day.
In any case, this is where The Doctor and Mel find
themselves, so they leave the TARDIS to grab a milk shake at a nearby
shop. There they run into a teen from
Earth named Ace who just popped across the galaxy while trying to make
explosive. One minute she was working in
a lab, the next a "time storm" whisked her away to Iceworld. I hate when that happens.
They also encounter lovable rouge/con-man Harry Mudd.
He was in Star Trek. This
lovable rouge/con-man is named Sabalom
Glitz (who previously appeared in The
Mysterious Planet). Glitz owns the
Nostromo Nosferatu and is in trouble after selling
load of bad produce. Kane wants his money
back, and Glitz doesn't have it, having lost the funds in a card game
as the money he got by selling his crew into slavery... something that
learns about but doesn't seem too interested in). The
Doctor desperately wants to see the dragon
(maybe it's a new species!) and Mel and Ace are up for an adventure, so
set off with Glitz, little realizing that the map is actually bugged. Kane planted a listening device on it so that
he'd know just when the treasure was found.
He plans on taking it and killing whoever managed to find it.
Okay, it doesn't sound too bad, but the devil is in the
details. Like Ace's nonsensical story
about getting to Iceworld, there's a lot that is really dumb about this
serial. At the top of the list has to be
the cliffhanger to the first episode, my vote for the absolute worst
any episode of classic Doctor Who:
Wandering around in the ice caves by himself,
for no reason at all The Doctor climbs over a railing separating him
from a 500
foot drop. He hooks his umbrella on the
last rung, lowers himself as far as he can by grasping the end of the
and then... looks scared because he's about to fall to his death! Oh no!
The resolution is nearly as idiotic too:
Glitz climbs down over The Doctor, the scene cuts to Glitz
the ground at the bottom, and then he helps the Time Lord down. What?!
Was it 500 feet or six, and if it was the latter, why didn't The
Then there's the dragon.
It looks like a low-rent version of the creature from Alien and its sequels. I'm
sure that's no coincidence either. There's
a scene in the serial that's
shamelessly lifted straight from Aliens.
But I digress. The creature itself
seems to act randomly
depending on what the writer needs done at any given time.
At the end of the first episode, it attacks
Mel and Ace for no reason. Later, it
The Doctor and Glitz and then cuts through a metal door to get to them. Once it is through it just turns around and
leaves. Why? Because
there was no escape, but we couldn't
have them die.
My favorite nonsensical plot device is what happens to the Nosferatu
once Kane gets the treasure. You see,
Iceworld is actually a giant space ship, and the dragon was guarding
that would start the engines. Once Kane
has all that he's ready to invade his home world so he has his guards
everyone on Iceworld (with the exception of a little girl who sees
slaughtered and deals with the trauma by having a milk shake) puts them
on the Nosferatu
and launches it into space. Kane then
blows it up. Why? Because
he's evil! That's what evil people do I
guess, even if
it makes no sense. (Why not freeze them
and add them to your army/)
Of course the story's resolution is just as absurd as
anything else in the serial. After Kane
takes off in the giant ship, The Doctor informs him that Proamnon is a
planet. It destroyed itself 1000 years
ago. So Kane just kills himself. Now let me get this straight:
Though Iceworld was a bustling trading port
no one thought to mention that Proamnon was dead, and Kane never asked
about it? He never said "Hey, what's
happening on Proamnon? Do they have a
good soccer team this year?" The fact
that he never heard of his home world for the past 1000 years didn't
warnings?? He didn't think to do any
reconnaissance before launching his attack?
He didn't even send a scout?!
Then there's Mel's departure. Though she
doesn't like Glitz at all, she
decides to stay with him on the flying Iceworld with the con man who
last crew into slavery. Yeah, that's
what I'd want to do. She tells The
Doctor "It's time" and tries to give a heartfelt farewell but he won't
her. He keeps cutting her off with inane
nothings. Then, out of nowhere, he gives
this soliloquy about time and how there's a version of him that's just
and how he hopes that, just maybe, she'll remember him.
It didn't fit in with how he was acting
earlier at all, or how he acts when Ace comes in. I
wasn't surprised to discover that this
speech was something that the script editor had penned to audition the
applying to be the new Doctor, and McCoy liked it so much he wanted it
This script is just a mess.
The more you think about it, the less it makes sense. No one seems to talk like a real person (Ace
is constantly calling people "bird-bath" and "bilge pump") and
McCoy's goofiness just feels misplaced.
(He is constantly slipping and sliding on the 'ice' covering the
but no one else does.) Though there are
a couple of good lines sprinkled throughout, and Ace does develop into
companion, this isn't a great story.
This three-part series arrives on a single DVD.
The mono soundtrack is very good. It's
clean and clear with no hiss or
background noise to take away from the story.
The dialog is easy to discern and the background music and
never overpowering. Being a mono track,
there's really not much more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and looks fine. Some scenes are a
bit soft, but generally the image is clean and the colors are fine. If you've seen the other restored McCoy era
stories, then you'll know what to expect.
The extras start off with a commentary track with actors
Sophie Aldred and Edward Peel, writer Ian Briggs, script editor Andrew
composer Dominic Glynn and director Chris Clough. That's
followed by a nice making-of featuette, Fire and Ice,
that covers the production and points out many of the
glaring errors that I had a problem with while watching the story,
one seems to have minded them as much as I did.
There's also an assortment of deleted and extended scenes,
minutes in all. These weren't that
interesting, surprisingly. A lot of them
were just an extra second or two at the end of a take that didn't make
the final cut, which doesn't really count in my book.
That's followed by The Doctor's Strange Love, a
15-minute talk between three fans who
discuss the episode. The Big
Bang Theory takes a look at the
explosions that have taken place in the show, both classic and modern.
The story also comes with an optional pop up trivia tracks
that's filled with information. Some of
it is minutia, the date the episodes were filmed and ever the time that
shoots wrapped, but also background info on the supporting and
characters and it points out on screen gaffs.
These are wonderful. There's also
a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings (in .pdf format) and an
This was pretty bad, I have to say. Filled
with plot holes and nonsense, I didn't
understand why any of the characters did any of the things that they
did. It is notable as introducing Ace and
the worst cliffhanger (literally) in Doctor
Who's history. If you're a fan who
hasn't seen this story, you definitely should check it out just for
those. When you're talking to other fans
want to be the only one who hasn't seen that episode one finale. Just make sure you make it a rental.