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The Ice Warriors ★★★

Global "cooling" brings about a new Ice Age and the debut of a classic foe – in an imaginative tale with lots of hissing and shouting

Published: Sunday, 28th June 2009 at 11:00 pm

Season 5 – Story 39


"And then the glaciers will move again. Five thousand years of history crushed beneath a moving mountain of ice" - Clent

In the year 3000, Earth is in the grip of a new Ice Age. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive at Britannicus Base - a Georgian mansion within a protective dome - where Leader Clent and his team are using an ioniser in the struggle to keep the glaciers at bay. At the ice face, Clent's men discover an alien warrior, frozen and perfectly preserved since the last Ice Age. Brought back to life, Varga sets about freeing his comrades from the glacier and reactivating their spaceship - no matter what cost to the ionisation project…

First transmissions
One - Saturday 11 November 1967
Two - Saturday 18 November 1967
Three - Saturday 25 November 1967
Four - Saturday 2 December 1967
Five - Saturday 9 December 1967
Six - Saturday 16 December 1967

Filming: September/October 1967 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: October/November 1967 in Lime Grove D

Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Victoria Waterfield - Deborah Watling
Leader Clent - Peter Barkworth
Elric Penley - Peter Sallis
Jane Garrett - Wendy Gifford
Arden - George Waring
Storr - Angus Lennie
Walters - Malcolm Taylor
Davis - Peter Diamond
Voice of the Computer - Roy Skelton
The Ice Warriors:
Varga - Bernard Bresslaw
Zondal - Roger Jones
Turoc - Sonny Caldinez
Isbur - Michael Attwell
Rintan - Tony Harwood

Writer - Brian Hayles
Incidental music - Dudley Simpson
Designer - Jeremy Davies
Story editor - Peter Bryant
Producer - Innes Lloyd
Director - Derek Martinus

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
Brrrrr! Time to defrost another old relic from 1967. And all the staple elements of that period are on show: isolated base, small band of humans, leader on the brink of mania and ice-cool female eye-candy - plus, of course, a terrifying alien threat. Monsters were the nouvelle vague: Innes Lloyd, and Peter Bryant especially, loved them. Their intention now was that Doctor Who should frighten, and writer Brian Hayles was commissioned to develop a formidable new foe.

"Proper 'ice warrior', isn't he?" says scientist Walters when Varga's spooky visor first appears through the ice face. It's a striking description and one that would stick but I've always wanted to know, what do they call themselves? Not Martians. What race are they? (By their fourth appearance in 1974 they were actually calling themselves Ice Warriors.) These "cruel Martian invaders" made an instant hit and became a popular recurring monster - they had to wait until 2013 to be thawed and revived in 21st-century Who.

Hayles devised the Ice Warriors as creatures that could exhibit greater personality than, say, Daleks and Cybermen, and Bernard Bresslaw - oddly still discernible under layers of rubber and fibreglass - is brilliant as Varga. He menaces ("What are your qualifications for existence?"), scoffs, teases, "laughs" and does an awful lot of hissing. But, truth be told, his subordinates remain standard lumbering hissers.

Hayles envisaged them simply as warriors in futuristic armour; it was costume designer Martin Baugh who gave them a reptilian twist so that, rather like crocodiles or turtles, their armour plating became integral carapaces. There were also different designs: indeed, Varga's "suit" changes between episodes one and two!

Thanks to a fortuitous find in a BBC store cupboard in 1988, film prints of four of the original episodes are still available for our viewing pleasure. Thus most of the storyline can be followed, although the lost parts two and three included crucial moments. Varga kidnaps Victoria and reveals his origins "from the red planet" and his intentions: "Whether to go back to our own world or to conquer this." We're also deprived of the defining cliffhanger when Varga thaws his comrades from blocks of ice.

So let's take a temperature reading. There are many positives - besides the towering titular reptiles. Special episode titles play across a glacial montage, backed by a haunting soprano. Director Derek Martinus filmed convincing icy "exteriors" at Ealing Studios, and even hired a small brown bear! The scientific detail spouted by Clent's team and the Doctor rings true - even if the advance of the glaciers "100 metres today" is implausible. The "global cooling" angle is laudable for the time. This new Ice Age has been precipitated by the worldwide devastation of vegetation. "No plants: no carbon dioxide," says the Doctor, to which Clent adds, "Suddenly, one year … there was no spring."

The regular trio works well. The Doctor, back in his massive fur coat, proves himself to Clent with his mental acuity but pointedly disdains computers. He braves a visit to the Ice Warrior ship armed with nothing more than a stink bomb, then, seeing them in the flesh, does a comical double-take ("Oh my word!") and turns to flee. Jamie shows a lust for the ladies in their skimpy outfits and teases prim Victoria. "You see how those lassies were dressed… You don't see yourself dressed like that then?" She does a lot of whimpering but stands up to Varga and looks the perfect angelic heroine during the chase through the glacier.

Less effective is the repetitive blather about the base's dependence on "the computer". A reasonable anxiety in 1967 perhaps, today the message feels hammer-driven. Peter Barkworth shows fleeting sensitivity as pressure-cooker Clent, but does an awful lot of shouting and his borderline hysteria becomes wearing. Sporting peculiar stubble, Peter Sallis plays scientist/deserter Penley, holed up in a plant museum with science-phobic scavenger Storr (Angus Lennie, later aka Crossroads' outrageous chef, Shughie McFee). They make an odd couple; arguably Doctor Who's first gay couple.

The finale is disappointingly shambolic (tension evaporates, scenes misfire and Victoria vanishes), but on balance The Ice Warriors is an imaginative serial and a well-mounted showcase for cool new monsters.

- - -

Radio Times archive material

In 1967 we published an introductory feature with an error in the photo caption – Victoria is being pursued by Turoc (Sonny Caldinez) not Bernard Bresslaw as Varga. There were small profiles of composer Dudley Simpson (RT 18 November 1967) and guest star Peter Barkworth (RT 25 November 1967). Also (below) the six episode billings and two letters: one celebrating four years of Doctor Who (RT 18 November 1967); another, challenging the facts of the story, was answered by writer Brian Hayles (RT 16 December 1967).

Also during the course of this story, BBC1's children's magazine show Blue Peter launched its first Design a Monster competition.


[Episodes 1, 4, 5 & 6 available on BBC DVD, as well as animated versions of episode 2 & 3. Complete soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]


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