Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // $34.98 // September 17, 2013
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 15, 2013
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Show:

One of The Doctor's reoccurring enemies is introduced in The Ice Warriors, a fun, if a little overly long, adventure with Patrick Troughton playing the ageless Time Lord. Unfortunately the entire serial no longer exists, two chapters are missing. The audio tracks for those lost shows are still around, luckily, and so the animation (using the original script as a guide) was created and matched to the soundtrack to recreate the missing sections. It largely works, and while it's obvious that there wasn't a large budget for the animation, it's nice to see a whole adventure.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive back in England once again, but it's not what they were expecting. In the far future the world is going through another ice age, but this one was brought on by mankind after nearly all of the plants were killed and the levels of carbon dioxide started to rise. (Yes, they get the science woefully wrong in several places but what can you do?) Glaciers have started advancing all across the globe and a worldwide project has been implemented to push them back by using a device called the Ionizer to melt them at several key places.



One such place where an Ionizer is trying to save humanity is Brittanicus Base. The place is run by Leader Clent, and officious and unyielding administrator who will not issue an order without having it approved by the base's computer.

Things aren't going too well at Brittanicus Base however. The lead scientist, Penley, has left; he's had had enough of Clent and just walked out on the project and is living in the ice and snow, and the Ionizer isn't nearly as effective without his knowing touch. The ice has been advancing more rapidly since he departed and there doesn't seem to be anything that anyone can do.

To make matters worse, a scientist out in the field has discovered a creature entombed in the ice. He chips out a block containing the large humanoid creature that vaguely looks like a Viking and brings it back to the base.

That's about the time that The Doctor and his companions arrive at Brittanicus. Initially thought to be refugees, after The Doctor adjusts the Ionizer to prevent an impending overload that would have destroyed the base, he's named as the new lead scientist. It looks like The Doctor will be able to get the project back on track until the Ice Warrior thaws, kidnaps Victoria, and frees both his crew and downed spaceship from the ice. With his four soldiers, the leader is sure that they'll be able to take over the world, starting with Brittanicus Base.

There is a lot that works with this story, and a good deal that doesn't. On the down side, the story is slow and plodding, quite like the Ice Warriors themselves. That's a common occurrence with the longer adventures, and this is no exception. There's a good deal of exposition in each episode, someone will explain the problem and bring viewers who missed the earlier installments up to date, but there is also a lot of talking that feels like padding. (The discussions about the problems of blindly following a computer's orders are so frequent someone could make a drinking game out of it.) It's too bad that this came at the cost of action scenes, of which there are too few.



There are some plot holes too. I can't understand why the five almost invincible Ice Warriors don't just march to the base and kill everyone inside. And why did Penley think that leaving was a viable alternative? Yes Clent is an ass, but was he so bad that he'd doom humanity? It's a minor complaint, to be sure, but a little tweaking of the script could have solved it.

On the positive side, Troughton is great, as always. His mixture of bumbling incompetence and genius is fun to watch and makes his character quite appealing. His expressive face gets a good workout in some of the cliffhangers too.

The sets are very impressive also. The ice caves that Victoria wanders through are quite expansive and much larger than the usual Doctor Who set and that adds a lot to the feel of the show. The antique-filled house where the base is located was a very nice touch too. It makes the situation feel more dire, knowing that they just commandeered someone's home since there wasn't time to build a proper base.

It was great fun to see the Ice Warriors too. Yes, their costumes are large and clunky and it's hard to understand what they're saying from time to time due to the hissing whisper that's used for their voices, but they were rather menacing and ruthless. I especially liked when The Doctor was being difficult so the leader started to suck the air out of the room he was in. These aren't creatures you can negotiate with.

As mentioned earlier, the two missing episodes, numbers two and three out of six, were animated. There wasn't a huge budget allocated for the project, and it shows unfortunately. The animated characters don't move smoothly, they have a tendency to bob around when walking and are pretty stiff in general. They reminded me of puppets, and move rather like the characters in Thunderbirds. Their faces are rather expressive, but they only animated the mouth and eyes and superimposed those motions over a rigid face. That created an effect similar (though not nearly as cheesy) to Clutch Cargo which didn't help the presentation. While it's not actually as bad as it sounds, I wish they could have spent some more time on it. Alternatively, using telesnaps to reconstruct the missing episodes may have been more cost effective and the results would have been similar.

The DVD:


Audio:

This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss, distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.

Video:

The Restoration Team has worked their magic once more and the full frame B&W image looks very good. I was really impressed with the sharp and clear picture. The level of detail is excellent, the blacks are deep, and the image is stable.

Extras:

This double disc release has some nice extras. First off is a commentary track featuring actors Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines for the first episode, and Patrick Troughton's son, Michael, on episode three. The second chapter has an interesting audio track pieced together from interviews with cast and crew members who are no longer with us.

The video extras start off with Cold Fusion, a making-of featurette that's very informative. They discuss the trouble the actors had getting in and out of the Ice Warrior costumes, the fantastic sets, and some of the difficulties the production faced. There is also the second part of a look at the actor who played Jamie, Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines (Part Two) where the long time companion talks about his time in the TARDIS and how much he enjoyed it, as well has his musical career (which is quite entertaining). There's a featurette on the creation of the animated episodes (I was disappointed to learn that most of the people who worked on it were not Doctor Who fans), the original abbreviated telesnap recon of the missing episodes that originally appeared on the VHS release of the adventure, and some clips from Blue Peter. These were all very good bonuses.

In addition there is a pop-up informational text option which is very informative as always. It does give some dry statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from the Radio Times in .pdf format.

Final Thoughts:

A decent story marred by being a bit too long, this is still a fun adventure. I haven't seen a Troughton story that I haven't enjoyed, and this will be fun for fans of the original series. Recommended.


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