Autons, Nestenes, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master, Davros, Silurians and very soon Zygons... 21st-century Who has made a pretty good fist of bringing last-century baddies back to life. (I’m still holding out for the Meddling Monk – perhaps reincarnated as Ricky Gervais – and Alpha Centauri, a sort of tentacled, timorous willy in a yellow cloak.)
Yet the chances of seeing the Ice Warriors again – Doctor Who’s very own invaders from Mars, absent for four decades – seemed slim. That is, until Mark Gatiss came to their defence.
He’d longed to revive them and says he had to cajole Steven Moffat, who was concerned they epitomised the lumbering, green monsters people can’t take seriously. Well, in a way they do, although that doesn’t gainsay their enduring appeal.
I was too young to see their debut serial The Ice Warriors (1967) but was freaked by The Seeds of Death (1969), loved them when they became the third Doctor’s allies in The Curse of Peladon (1972), and was thrilled when they showed up in a cliffhanger midway through The Monster of Peladon (1974), an otherwise dismal serial and their last appearance.
Now, in Cold War, Mark Gatiss has done an excellent job of rehabilitating the Ice Warrior. For a start, their name: it’s simultaneously a great and silly name. The human scientist who found the first one frozen inside a glacier coined the term “ice warrior” (in 1967) and it stuck. By The Monster of Peladon, the Martians were even using the name about themselves; yes, they were warriors, but they hadn’t visibly been near any ice in centuries.
Mark gives them back their ice. Cold War begins with one frozen inside a block hewn from an Arctic glacier, where he’s lain dormant for five millennia. He thaws out on a Soviet nuclear submarine and turns out to be Grand Marshal Skaldak, an aggressive but proud warrior, properly creepy, with an imposing voice by Nicholas Briggs.
Mark also picks up on their creator Brian Hayles’s original concept of their armour being partially electronic, which was lost down the years. And of course, he’s promising “something new” – an aspect we haven’t seen before…