?

Log in

No account? Create an account
parrot_knight [userpic]

Doctor Who XXXIII(7)B.3: Cold War

April 13th, 2013 (07:43 pm)

No long-form review for another site from me this week, but instead a few words of praise for Mark Gatiss's best script for the programme since The Unquiet Dead, Douglas Mackinnon's best episode as director full stop, and a claustrophobic set which nevertheless allowed cast and camera to move around. The lighting was a character in itself, cold and blue, green and red and Martian by turns. There was of course a huge amount of programme-literacy and fan literacy, from the reference to the HADS (we all knew what had caused the TARDIS to disappear straightaway, I'm sure) to the expansion of Martian lore building on the little stated on screen in their four previous appearances. Mark Gatiss surely knew, too, of the expectations of fans back in 1983 that the impending Warriors of the Deep would feature the Ice Warriors, and now that the Cold War can't be projected into the distant future of the twenty-first century, here it is as a historical backdrop which efficiently gives form to the deftly-stroked but broad-brushed characters and gives fans of a certain vintage the reunion which they had longed for. Taking the armoured turtle shape of the Ice Warrior and deconstructing it to reveal (though not entirely) the fast, spindly Martian inside made minor acknowledgement to the Quatermass and the Pit Martians, but a greater debt to Alien. There was a clear debt to The Ice Warriors too; at war with the elements and the West, the submarine was besieged by ice and by its opposing power bloc and by the present temptation to bring destruction on the world.

The forty-five minute slot remains a minor problem; a few more minutes of reflection, development and tension would not have come amiss, though they were not missed as much as they were last week. Materialising the Doctor and Clara more in media res than is usual was an effective storytelling device; the Doctor explains and vindicates himself not by words or the rehearsal of actions but by his deeds even more urgently than before. As for the future, do Earth and humanity remain forfeit to the (former) inhabitants of Mars? Like its kin-story Dalek eight years ago, the demonstration of the capabilities of a single Ice Warrior argues the case for reacquaintance with the species as a whole in Doctor Who.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/594048.html.

Comments

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 12:13 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

Best episode in a while.

we all knew what had caused the TARDIS to disappear straightaway, I'm sure

HADS was my first choice, but then I second-guessed myself by wondering if it was arc-worthy time interference. Too clever for my own good...

There was a clear debt to The Ice Warriors too

Not to mention the Doctor proving his credentials to a sceptical commander by arriving and stopping a disaster in seconds!

(Full review to follow on my blog later today, work permitting.)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC)

I look forward to it!

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 12:51 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

Thank you for that analysis and pointing out all the detail I had missed. I enjoyed it a lot. I wonder if Hunt for Red October was referenced at all - I must get round to watching that tape...

One thing I missed was a sense of the horror of "mutually assured destruction". Mark Gatiss is old enough to remember this hanging over the world, and it would have been good if he had managed to get it across to the many viewers who are lucky enough not to - after all, it was the main threat, so if used to its full potential (from a safe-ish distance), it would have produced an (even) better effect.

On the other hand, I am not sure how this could have been achieved with in the submarine setting, and lack of time will no doubt have played its usual unfortunate part. X-Men: First Class seems the obvious comparison, and that had an open view of the surface of as much of the planet as was needed, and much more time to set up a sense of the scale of threat.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:05 pm (UTC)

Matt Hills has managed his usual excellent analysis at the Doctor Who News Page, stressing some of the weaknesses in the episode's realisation (though defences are possible). I mentioned The Hunt for Red October at Dreamwidth, as sally_maria had mentioned it in her comment to my post there.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

Having looked at your DW comment - I have not seen Hunt of Red October, but I have seen Das Boot, both TV and cinema versions, and I certainly felt strongly reminded of it, especially its stuck-on-the-seabed storyline. However, I do not really know the submarine movie genre, so I am not sure how much of this was a specific reference to that film, and how much was generic genre impression.
(I am sure, like this one, Red October was bigger than U-96...)

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:15 pm (UTC)

My first thought was of Hunt, as I mentioned on Facebook.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:17 pm (UTC)

I really must see that film - I recently acquired a copy, so have no excuse now!

Posted by: wellinghall (wellinghall)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 01:20 pm (UTC)

I enjoyed both the film and the book.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 03:44 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

One thing I missed was a sense of the horror of "mutually assured destruction"

Hmm, I'm not sure they really had the time or that it could really be done in the time-slot. Doctor Who stories made in the Cold War also tend to minimize that aspect e.g. Robot or, more pertinently, Warriors of the Deep, broadcast in a more adult time-slot than Cold War. Battlefield has the Doctor's speech about the horrors of nuclear war, but it's fairly low down in the mix compared with everything else going on in that story.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

I agree about the time issue (an ongoing source of frustration, especially this season); the isolated setting does not make it easier to convey, and the relative calm of a trained military crew probably did not help either. (By contrast, The Empty Child &c. had 90 minutes, multiple "London" locations, and terrified civilians to get across a sense of the Blitz).

The main difference between this week's episode and the Classic Who stories you mention is precisely that the latter were all made and broadcast while the Cold War was still going on. The associations were present for the viewers and could be evoked with mere hints (such as recurring stock images of carrier missiles in one episode - I can't recall which at the moment - blunt, but effective).

Edited at 2013-04-14 10:45 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)

The Invasion has carrier missiles, I think, and a missile is at the centre of the B-plot in The Mind of Evil.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: April 14th, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
Liz & Pertwee

Thanks, I think The Invasion may be the one I'm thinking of. Both of course from a different phase in the Cold War, but that image I think was universal for its duration...