Sunday, April 14, 2013

Doctor Who is NEW: "Cold War"

Vworp! Vworp! Vworp!

Hello!

Dave-El materalizing here at this sort of...blog...kind of thing called I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You with News of the NEW...a NEW Doctor Who episode that is.

This week's episode was called "Cold War". It's 1983 when the TARDIS materializes on a Russian submarine where the situation is most dire indeed.
Then it gets worse.

And that, for the viewer, is a good thing.

WARNING: As always, this is not intended to be a blow by blow recap of the episode but just some random thoughts and observations but amidst all the randomness, some specifics may kinda-sorta slip out.  So just in case....
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SPOILERS, Sweetie!
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So let's dive in!
(See what I did there? "Dive"? The episode is on a submarine underwater and I.....oh, never mind.)
 

 
On the Russian sub, things are tense. It appears the world is about to be destroyed...again. Well, it's NOT quite what it seems. Neither is that ominous block of ice stored below.  Some ill-considered curiousity + blow torch = trouble!

Big trouble! The sub is going down...well, it's already down but it's going even more down and too fast at that. The hull is buckling, sparks are flying, water's rushing in and...

Wait! This show is called Doctor Who, right? Where's the Doctor and Clara?


Hey! There they are, all ready for a fun trip to Vegas! Clara's dressed for Vegas, not for a sinking Russian submarine.
(Shades of Amy dressed for hot Rio and winding up in freezing Wales. Although it seems like Amy was always dressing for Rio.) 

Before the Doctor and Clara can fully assess where they are, the TARDIS vanishes without them. What the what? That can't be good. Anyway, the Doctor helps fix the problem with the sub...well, the problem is NOT fixed but at least the situation becomes slightly less precarious.

Well, we can't have that, now can we? No, we can't. Bring on the alien threat!

The Ice Warrior appears!
  • And not just any Ice Warrior but one who has been on ice for 5,000 years so he's a bit cranky.
  • And not just any cranky Ice Warrior but the biggest, baddest, most ass kicking Ice Warrior in the history of big, bad, ass kicking Ice Warriors ever.
  • And on top of the cranky, big, bad, ass kicking Ice Warrior stuff is this: he has nothing left to lose.
See what I mean about "getting worse"?

Still, the Doctor has a chance, a slim chance, a very slim chance to convince the Ice Warrior that the people on this sub are not his enemy.

Then one of the Russians shoots him.

That just makes the Ice Warrior mad...er, MORE mad and things (you guessed it) get worse.

And so it goes. Every story beat seems to bring the predicament of the Doctor, Clara and the Russians to a point where things can't get worse and yet they do. The tensions keeps building and building until it reaches a boiling point (freezing point?) where either the Ice Warrior wins and everybody dies or the Doctor "wins" and everybody dies.

And this is great stuff! Think The Hunt for Red October and Alien in the same movie.

Other bits and pieces:
  • The Doctor's Elvis sunglasses when he first appears.
  • The scary and funny bit where the Ice Warrior appears and everybody sees him...except the Doctor.
  • The big reveal about the TRUE nature of an Ice Warrior.
  • A companion actually doing what the Doctor says. (He looks surprised.)

Great guest stars in this episode. Liam Cunningham as the sub's Captain delivers a nuanced performance of a man who is in charge and loyal to his men and his country BUT does not see everything in black and white. And the always marvelous David Warner as the western pop culture loving Russian scientist is a delight and has some really touching and wonderful scenes with Clara.

We see Clara developing as a companion. (She has to be brought up to speed on the whole TARDIS language translation thing at what the Doctor considers to be an inopportune moment.) This Clara is not the quick talking fast thinker like the previous Claras we met in "Asylum of the Daleks" and "The Snowmen" but we can see her experiences with the Doctor are bringing her there. It's a credit to Jenna-Louise Coleman that she has made each of her three turns as different Claras both identifiably Clara but also unique.

Matt Smith + The Doctor = Awesome.

Some might object to the "suddenly X happens" ending but given the impossible state the Ice Warrior and the Doctor find themselves in, there really was no other option and I was perfectly fine with it. It runs parallel to the real Cold War situation where it seemed the choices were the USSR destroys everything or the USA destroys everything until some other third way could be accomplished.

"Cold War" does what "The Rings of Akhaten" did not. We care about what's happening and we care about who it's happening to. And this is where Doctor Who excels. "Cold War" was an exciting, suspense filled episode that I found quite enjoyable.

Coming up next week: "Hide" and another script by Neil Cross. Keeping my fingers crossed that Neil redeems himself with this one.

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