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Review of Doctor Who ‘Cold War’

Neela Debnath

doctor who cold war 300x225 Review of Doctor Who Cold WarSPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen ‘Doctor Who’ episode 9 of series 7/33

If fans have been disappointed so far, then this is the adventure they have been waiting for: the return of the Ice Warriors. The last time we saw the Ice Warriors was in 1974’s The Monster of Peladon and the latest appearance is a welcome return.

Cold War is a slick and intelligent story from Mark Gatiss, who has produced this fabulous instalment of Doctor Who for our viewing pleasure. There were references to Mutually Assured Destruction and Nato, along with Ultravox and Duran Duran to send adults from several different generations off on a reverie of life during the Eighties. For children the Cold War setting and the Russo-American tensions served as a history lesson. When it was originally conceived Doctor Who was supposed to be educational through its use of time travel, so the children watching could learn about different time periods, and this episode carries on that tradition.

For me Doctor Who is intrinsically linked to the Cold War because the show first aired in the midst of international tensions in 1963 and originally ended in 1989 – the year the Berlin Wall fell, signalling the end of this era. Even without the presence of the Ice Warriors, I think this episode serves as a fitting tribute to the show overall because it references the period in which the show was broadcast and no doubt many of the stories were influenced by the socio-political climate of the time. Indeed the very first serial An Unearthly Child was broadcast the day after JFK had been assassinated.

As if there wasn’t enough of an Eighties reverie taking place this week with the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, watching Cold War is likely to evoke a shed load more memories from those days. It’s quite spooky that this episode ended up airing the same week that Thatcher passed away and is set in 1983, the year she was at the height of her power.

In terms of performances, Tobias Menzies and Liam Cunningham were great as the Russians Tardis-translated into English. No doubt Cunningham who plays a smuggler and seafarer in Game of Thrones felt right at home shooting this episode, as did Jenna-Louise Coleman after her recent turn in the Julian Fellowes’ ITV drama Titanic. There were plenty of explosions and under the sea hijinks and it all felt like Alien but set on a submarine instead of in outer space.

As a companion Clara still comes across as annoyingly naïve and I’m just waiting for Oswin to make an appearance or a little hint of some feistiness at the very least. She is so green and it shows. She even rated her own companion skills which was more than a little cringe-inducing. It feels as if she is trying too hard to impress the Doctor when she really doesn’t need to because he is fascinated by her already – she is impossible after all. On a side note, whenever I see Clara I keep mistaking her for Christina Ricci in Casper circa 1995. Perhaps that’s just me.

This is Doctor Who at its best and it couldn’t have come at a better time when hope was dwindling after two so-so episodes. Even though it is the 50th anniversary this year, it feels as if viewers and fans have raised their expectations far too high, imagining every instalment will be a momentous adventure that will become an instant classic in years to come. It’s an unrealistic view to take. Every series has its duds and episodes that will be consigned to the television scrapheap but then there are the episodes that shine incandescently in their sheer brilliance.

I can’t fault this episode and really loved it because of the cinematic aesthetics and tone. As I’ve said, there were elements of Alien in Cold War, particularly where the disrobed Ice Warrior was running amok on the submarine on a killing spree, never really seen and only heard. I suppose my only question is why on earth the Doctor carries around a Barbie with him?

If for some inexplicable reason you are reading this and have not seen the episode, go watch it and be blown away.

Next time on ‘Doctor Who’… Finally, next week is Hide, the ghost story that we have all been waiting for. There are ghost hunters and people trying to speak to spirits in haunted houses. Jessica Raine from Call the Midwife and Dougray Scott are the guest stars.

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  • Nickscribe

    YAWN! The “Meta-Fans” are at it again. Just because you don’t like such-and-such an episode doesn’t mean that everyone else is wrong and you’re right. It’s a fecking TV drama series for flip’s sake!

    If you want it to be your version of “real Who” go and read a New Adventures or something where you can visualise Ace having sex or have the effect of the Fendahl on the Ice Warriors’ civilization, not to mention the Osiran pyramid on Mars explained in minute, nit-picking and very, very, VERY boring detail!

  • Nickscribe

    Would that be a base under seige?

  • reverend61

    This sounds to me like a general rant with only the most tenuous connection to what we were discussing. The weird thing is I don’t really disagree with you (actually I blogged about it just yesterday). But my dislike of Gatiss’ scripts has nothing to do with whether or not he can write “real Who”, as you put it. It’s just that they’re typically dreadful – inconsistent pacing, poor dialogue and some tremendous errors in judgement (Spitfires in space?).

    Similarly, with this episode, my main problem was that the Ice Warriors simply didn’t fit. I don’t care if the mythos is updated a bit, but in this case it was an incongruous transformation. It felt like they’d been shoehorned in for the sake of having a big name, and that’s lazy writing.

  • reverend61

    This sounds to me like a general rant with only the most tenuous connection to what we were discussing. The weird thing is I don’t really disagree with you (actually I blogged about it just yesterday). But my dislike of Gatiss’ scripts has nothing to do with whether or not he can write “real Who”, as you put it. It’s just that they’re typically dreadful – inconsistent pacing, poor dialogue and some tremendous errors in judgement (Spitfires in space?).

    Similarly, with this episode, my main problem was that the Ice Warriors simply didn’t fit. I don’t care if the mythos is updated a bit, but in this case it was an incongruous transformation. It felt like they’d been shoehorned in for the sake of having a big name, and that’s lazy writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.j.bishop Daniel J. Bishop

    You find Fear Her okay? Wow! You are tough!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.j.bishop Daniel J. Bishop

    Was the wet t-shirt scene REALLY unnecessary? lol

  • reverend61

    Yes, all right, good point well made…


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