Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has just thawed out a vintage Doctor Who serial.
"Your regulations do not apply to me. I work in my own way—freely."—The Doctor
World Screen recently reported that about one percent of Britain's GDP is television. The new Doctor Who series is big business. It will be around forever on TV and DVD, and eventually online. In 1967, the series was more perishable. Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors finds only four parts of a six-episode serial remaining, the missing two episodes having been recreated with computer animation for DVD.
Facts of the Case
Glaciers on a move are a problem on a frozen futuristic Earth, but there's another problem that a group of scientists is facing: a body—dubbed an "Ice Warrior"—has been dug up from ice. Since he's not of Earth, it's clear that his spaceship, mostly likely nuclear-powered, is around and could cause a disaster. The Doctor (Patrick Troughton, R.U.R.) and his companions, Jamie (Frazer Hines, Emmerdale) and Victoria (Deborah Watling, Danger UXB), turn up just as the Ice Warrior (Bernard Bresslaw, Carry On Doctor) thaws. The Monster takes Victoria hostage, hoping to release his companions from the ice. Peter Sallis (Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) appears as a rebel scientist who befriends the Doctor.
The original promotional materials seen on this two-disc set show that in 1967, Doctor Who proudly touted some new monsters in its Martian Ice Warriors. The atmosphere of The Ice Warriors is rather spooky, starting off with a soprano singing hauntingly over stills of a barren icy landscape. The monsters, which look something like Land of the Lost's Sleestak, are imposing giants. However, it's not quite as scary as others I've seen: Ice isn't as shadowy and ominous as other Doctor Who settings, and the animation in episodes two and three make it even less so. It doesn't help that the black-and-white picture has a few patches that don't hold up; the snow that flies only looks like more grain.
The message, actually stated in the extras, is that technology is fallible and we should trust our own judgments. It's evident from the scene in which the Doctor does his calculations by hand instead of using a computer. Since Doctor Who was still an educational show in 1967, the Doctor gives a lecture on the possible causes of ice ages and comes up with a weapon based on the Martian atmosphere.
Of course, since it's 1967, and Doctor Who still comes at the end of the sporting day, the female scientists at a research station wear shorts or miniskirts, leaving their legs bare against the cold. Apparently, the costume designers weren't thinking further than capturing a few male viewers late on Saturday afternoon—about three weeks into the future.
Patrick Troughton is an authoritative Doctor here, a stranger who just sort of takes charge in a research station and boldly heads into danger on a Martian spaceship to save Victoria. Deborah Wakefield plays Victoria with propriety, complaining about the women's skirts and being polite to an Ice Warrior. Frazer Hines as Jamie deals with a paralysis, but not when taking action early on: he's the one who reminds the Doctor and the scientists that the issue isn't how an Ice Warrior came to life, but that the Monster took Victoria.
The animation style that worked great in a William Hartnell story about the French Revolution isn't as effective here: a less streamlined and simplified Ice Warrior would have been scarier, and more shadows could have been used. Chase scenes lose a little bit. Still, it's not bad, and it does better than the mix of stills, sound bites, and narration from the VHS version that's included in the extras.
The four surviving episodes include commentary by Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Ice Warrior actor Sonny Caldinez, designer Jeremy Davies, and sound man Pat Heigham. It's interesting to note that sound effects were done in studio, rather than later, in 1967. For the two animated episodes, there are recorded interviews, including one with Michael Troughton, Patrick's son, who recalls being a twelve-year-old in school when his father was the Doctor. Pop-up text topics include a stuntman, Peter Diamond, who later coordinated the action in the original Star Wars movies.
As usual, there's a solid package of extras, although there's less that's unexpected and really unusual: A monster-making competition from the Blue Peter children's show (the one beloved of Paddington Bear) puts the winning creations into reality. "Cold Fusion" is the making-of, in which Deborah Watling tells us she'd have rather worn one of those miniskirts as the appearance (barely, thanks to the makeup and mask) of Bernard Bresslaw is discussed.
"Beneath the Ice" shows how computer animation is done. "Doctor Who Stories: Frazer Hines—Part Two" tells some familiar stories, including the one about Hines' record debut. A photo gallery, PDF episode listings, and a re-creation of a 1967 episode promo with animation are included.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Ice Warriors get a more effective outing in Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death, and there aren't any missing episodes. If you want to see these classic villains at their best, you might want to buy that one first. Doctor Who: Reign of Terror has a story that works a tad better with the animation.
Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors isn't a perfect example of the Patrick Troughton-era, but it introduces an oft-used monster (which, we're told, is because the fiberglass Ice Warrior suits held up well). The animation isn't quite the real thing, but it still does the job.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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