The latest Doctor Who release is a brand-new edition for the DVD franchise. The Ice Warriors is the third serial of the fifth season; it originally aired November and December 1967. But episodes two and three of the six-part serial had been lost, but with the help of animation, complete adventure finally can be presented on DVD.
The Ice Warriors takes place on Earth sometime in the future, though the time period is not clear. Glaciers threaten mankind, possibly throwing the planet into another ice age. A brave team of scientists are diligently racing the clock to complete a machine that can halt the ice, but they are near the point where they will have to give up. Unfortunately, it’s at just this inconvenient time that their work is threatened.
The danger comes from two places. First, there’s Penley (Peter Sallis, Last of the Summer Wine) and Clent (Peter Barkworth, Patton), one of whom used to be a member of the team. This pair are technophobic, and don’t approve of using technology to alter the natural order of the planet. I guess they’re afraid the base’s work might spark a Skynet attack or something.
Secondly, a Martian is found frozen and inadvertently awakened. Once thawed, the warrior, who is named Varga (Bernard Bresslaw, the Carry On films), seeks out his crew mates, hoping to dig his ship from the ice and fly away. Not only are the Martians scary and murderous, though, they also need a key component in the base’s life-saving machine to fuel their ship.
Luckily for the humans, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) arrives with companions Victoria (Debra Watling) and Jamie (Frazer Hines). They are plenty willing to lend a hand, as they wont to do, to help save the Earth from all of its enemies, whether they be alien, human, or natural in nature.
I have to admit, The Ice Warriors is not my favorite Doctor Who serial; not even close. The plot is meandering, the characters are ill-defined, and the events just don’t make sense. With time being held so precious, there should be no chance to dither or run around, and yet, that’s what happens. And while I did feel the threat posed, it doesn’t seem nearly as serious as in other adventures. Yes, there is death, but most of the people could leave this place and be all right at just about any given time.
I wish more care had been given to study motivation. We don’t really understand why certain characters do certain things or take certain sides. The Ice Warriors unfolds unevenly, and perhaps the story would flow better with a little more explanation along the way. One character just disappears before the end with barely a mention as to where she is, certainly not something that works for the story. It’s not a bad serial, but there are plenty better in the series.
I don’t think the blame for this can be completely laid upon the jarring transition from digitally remastered live-action to cartoon and back again. While it would be preferable to have the set as aired, it’s understandable that the production team is doing the best they can with what they have left, and fans of Doctor Who would rather have this presentation than one missing a third of the running time.
As usual, there are plenty of extras on this latest Doctor Who saga. All six episode have audio commentaries, with one group covering the filmed installments and others handling the animated ones. There are making of featurettes for both, as well VHS links, PDF materials, a photo gallery, an animated version of the original trailer, and more. In short, both old fans and new ones are served, and the extras are split between the original story and what has gone into this edition.
Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors is available now on DVD.