Doctor Who S7 Ep9 – Cold War

Cold War SkaldakThe main problem with “Cold War” is that Gatiss is fanboying so hard on reintroducing the Ice Warriors that he doesn’t fully develop the story for it. It plays very one note in its tune and relies mostly on you seeing how cool the armor looks. Ironically this makes for a pretty good bottle episode that requires little to no introduction or previous understanding of the show to watch. If you wanted to prime a friend to watch Doctor Who I would argue to start with this episode, because it uses classic Who themes of straightforward adventuring with a monster while using new Who cinema styles and combining practical effects with cg elements.

In the continuity of the season this episode feels out of left field, as though we skipped an entire episode. Maybe for the DVD there is some prequel that sets up the episode better. It is very Clara mystery-lite and looks to bare little impact on the rest of the series overall. Which is a bit sad, because previously whenever classic monsters were reintroduced in the new seasons, they played a larger part in the overall arc. In season one you had the Daleks come back only to be the big bad later, with season two it was the Cybermen, then in season three we got the Master, and even season four featured a two-parter on the return of the Sontarans. This also marks the first classic monster The Doctor doesn’t want to stop or kill outright, maybe because of their frenemy history.

To me the feeling of skipping an episode is highlighted by Clara. She seems more mature, understanding, and capable. It’s as though she’s been traveling with The Doctor for some time already, rather than just the two adventures thus far. This is also a shame, because she is of little use to the story; during her chance to shine Skaldak bypasses her to talk to The Doctor instead. She also takes seeing two guys totally eviscerated pretty well.

Cold War Doctor

I’d stop to talk about the Soviets in this episode, but they really only felt like placeholders and fodder. Not to say I didn’t enjoy David Warner as Professor Grisenko, it’s just that the characters simply played background tropes to The Doctor and Skaldak’s stalemate dance.

I’d have like to have seen more from the Captain, a submarine with not so wide hallways, better use of the Soviets’ view of the Cold War itself, actual urgency from the combination of the submarine loosing air and pressure, and more from Clara. As always, though, The Doctor was spot on. I did appreciate that for a while he didn’t have the TARDIS, Sonic, or Psychic Paper.

You know what really could have helped it more: if the Ponds ending hadn’t happened halfway through this season. I know for some that sounds like blasphemy, but think about it. The Ponds’ departure, touching as it is, robbed the season of really exploring new things. This episode could have easily have been a fantastically tense two-parter if Gatiss was given more episodes to work with. He could have developed the situation and really explored the themes of mutually assured destruction versus strength in mercy, using the Cold War as an effective backdrop. Maybe even have gone more into the history and views of the Ice Warriors compared to The Doctor’s own history with them. But what we’re left with is a lackluster story, a nice rubber suit, and buckets of water.

It looks like the next couple of episodes will be focusing more on the Clara Mystery, and hopefully episodes that give more than they promise.

But man, those Ice Warriors looked sexy. You think they were still into me?

Onwards!

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Watch “Cold War” on Amazon Instant Video.

 

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