“The Ice Warriors” is an adventure of the fifth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1967. It’s a six parts adventure written by Brian Hayles and directed by Derek Martinus.
At Brittanicus Base the staff are trying to use an ionizer to slow down the advance of glaciers that are about to invade Britain. The situation is difficult and the tension is made higher by the fact that recently one of the scientists left the base after a controversy with Leader Clent.
The Tardis materializes on Earth, near Brittanicus base, and the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) enter it in a moment of intense work. The Doctor manages to help avoid another crisis while one of the scientists finds a strange humanoid frozen in the glacier.
This mini-boxset is rich in extras, which are included in a second DVD. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Listings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.
There are various comments in the adventure episodes alternative audio track: for episodes 1,4, 5 and 6 of the protagonists Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, actor Sonny Caldinez, staff members Jeremy Davies and Pat Heigham moderated by Toby Hadoke; episode 2 includes archival interviews or text readings by author Brian Hayles, director Derek Martinus, costume designer Martin Baugh, actors Peter Barkworth and Wendy Gifford and makeup supervisor Sylvia James; episode 3 is commented by Patrick Troughton’s son Michael Troughton
Cold Fusion. A documentary almost 25 minute long about the production of this adventure.
Beneath the Ice. A look behind the scenes at the animation of the two missing episodes of this adventure.
VHS Links. The material that was produced for the VHS edition to replace the missing episodes.
Blue Peter – Design-A-Monster. A clip from the TV show “Blue Peter” about a competition to draw a monster for “Doctor Who” held at the time of this adventure’s broadcast.
Doctor Who Stories – Frazer Hines (Part Two). The second part of an interview with Frazer Hines in 2004.
Brian Hayles already wrote the screenplay for “The Smugglers” and was asked to write another one to introduce a new monster that could become a recurring enemy for the Doctor. Hayles found inspiration by reading the story of the discovery of a mammoth preserved in Siberian ice. At the same time he started imagining a species that lived on Mars and from those ideas he started developing the story that became “The Ice Warriors”.
The production of “Doctor Who” classic series was marked by narrow budget and time available involving problems such as, in the case of this serial, in the preparation of the costumes of the aliens who got named Ice Warriors. The first version was particularly uncomfortable and the helmet made the actors almost blind. The costume was modified to allow the actors to make at least some movements, even if clumsy. A couple of incidents in studio didn’t help the production but eventually they completed it.
“The Ice Warriors” is set in a future where there’s a new ice age with the risk that Britain gets completely covered by glaciers. A team of scientists is trying to avoid it using an ionizer with the help of a very sophisticated computer, but the crisis is always around the corner. There are some scientific references but the impression is that the author Brian Hayles didn’t have scientific precision as a priority.
The first episode of this serial develops some themes that are topical today because there’s not only the climate catastrophe but also the way in which it’s faced by scientists. They rely heavily on their computer and their leader Clent is extremely observant of rules, also in relying on computer’s suggestions. For this reason, his team was abandoned by Penley, a scientist who represents the most human element as opposed to behaviors more similar to machines.
The Doctor shows his scientific knowledge since his arrival and helps the scientists but the leader Clent accepts his presence only for that reason since he shows an attitude similar to Penley’s. Various positions, even extremist, are expressed by different characters during this adventure.
The discovery of a humanoid imprisoned in a glacier near Brittanicus Base begins the main part of this adventure, which becomes for a good part of the “base under siege” type typical of the Second Doctor era. In fact, when the alien recovered from the glacier gets unfrozen, he comes back to life and immediately shows hostility to humans.
Despite the lack of mobility and in some scenes the need to be guided to avoid crashing into the walls, actor Bernard Bresslaw, who plays Ice Warriors’ leader Varga, manages to give his character an adequate strength, also with the hissing while speaking that became a trademark of these aliens. In general, the performances are a strong point of “The Ice Warriors” with various actors who managed to offer an intensity perfect for a story of this type creating the right tension.
Curiously, Jamie and Victoria are among the characters with the worst parts in this adventure and have only a few good moments. Jamie is sidelined for most of this serial while Victoria has much more space because she gets kidnapped by Varga but spends her time mostly screaming.
“The Ice Warriors” also has flaws present in various adventures of that era. In particular, the tendency to make the story longer with padding because the production needed to have six episodes to divide the costs enough. Paradoxically, in some cases the cliffhangers are moments that are supposed to be very dramatic but at the beginning of the new episode the situation is resolved very quickly. Today we’re more sensitive to these problems but at the time the serial was a success and led to new appearances of the new enemies.
Episodes 2 and 3 of “The Ice Warriors” are among the missing ones and for the DVD edition they got animated. Compared to other animations created for other partially lost serials, this time in some scenes some characters’ movements seemed to me particularly limited, unnatural. These animations are produced specifically to sell DVDs so a limited quality is not positive.
Doubts on the animations aside, the two-DVD edition of “The Ice Warriors” seems to me a good product with interesting extras that accompany a serial that I found good overall. It represents the Second Doctor’s era well and also for this reason I recommend buying it.