Who Review: Cold War


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

I have to admit right at the start that the whole time I was watching the latest episode of Doctor Who, “Cold War,” I kept expecting Sean Connery and Sam Niall to show up with Alec Baldwin in tow. I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Hunt for Red October. I’m not sure if that was the vibe they were going for, but that afflicted me the entire time. I’m still thinking about it, but I’ll try to get past it for the sake of the review.

The Doctor and Clara were attempting a jaunt to Las Vegas and ended up in the middle of a sinking-an involuntarily submerging-Soviet submarine in the 1980s somewhere around the North Pole. The Soviet sub, which was not named Red October, was in the middle of doing drills, and pretending to blow up America with the fully armed nuclear missiles it was carrying.

Well, in the midst of their maneuvers and explorations and whatnot, they happened upon something frozen in ice. This something happens to be a Martian Ice Warrior, and not a mammoth as originally thought by the professor (played masterfully by David Warner). Well, in traditional Doctor Who fashion, there’s a misunderstanding while the Doctor is talking to it, and the silly humans attack the thing. Quite understandable, really. There’s a huge, hulking beast in armor waltzing around your nuclear submarine. I mean, come on. Attacking seems like the logical thing to do, especially in the ’80s.

After knocking it out, they bind it with chains, and attempt peace talks again. But the submarine captain can’t talk to it because he’s a soldier. The Doctor can’t talk because it’ll smell the war on him, so what do we do? We send in Clara. After all, she saved the seven worlds from the psychic vampire sun thing last week. But as Clara goes in and we begin to think there’s a connection there, and she’s making progress, we find out the thing has slipped out of its armor because its distress call has not been answered. Of course, he’s been stuck in ice for about 5,000 years so it’s understandable that it wouldn’t be answered right away.

The Ice Warrior becomes quite the sneak outside of his armor and sets about killing off the crew one at a time. But the killing isn’t necessarily without a method. He takes a couple guys apart to learn about humanity’s weaknesses in order to kill lots more of them. As the Doctor, Clara, the captain, and the professor happen upon the dismembered bodies, something happens: Clara is suddenly hit with the realness of the situation, the understanding that this running away is truly dangerous. People die. It was interesting to see her bravado slip when confronted with the death of the crewmen.

So, they finally track down the Ice Warrior who’s gotten back in his armor, and figured out that he can take his revenge upon the whole of Earth for the actions of one guy with a cattle prod (did I mention that? Great Ice Warrior badass in badass armor gets foiled by a cattle prod) by launching the nukes and assuring mutual destruction because obviously the Americans will think the Soviets launched them, so they’ll launch theirs and everybody dies. The Doctor pleads with him to show mercy, but he is incomplete in his appeal. It takes Clara to close the deal, again. The submarine is suddenly lifted up from the sunken depths by the Martians who finally answered the distress call of the Ice Warrior.

The Ice Warrior shows mercy in the end and doesn’t blow up Earth. The interesting thing here, again, is that the Doctor, by himself, could not close the deal so-to-speak. It’s almost as if the Doctor is losing his mojo. Sure, there’ve been times when the companion has become the most important person in the universe. Rose looks into the heart of the TARDIS and disintegrates some Daleks, Donna saves the universe and so on. But there seems to be something going on here that is quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. Maybe it’s the secret to who/what Clara/Oswin is. Maybe Moffat is taking the Doctor in a new direction. Who knows? But it seems like the Doctor is acting less like himself.

I remember back to the first episode with the 11th Doctor and his saving the world from destruction armed only with a cell phone, and a guy on a laptop, or the awesomeness of the battle of Demons Run, or his plan to “die” at the hands of River Song who he also winds up marrying, and on and on. The Doctor of the Clara/Oswin episodes isn’t the same Doctor, or at least he isn’t acting the same. I didn’t mean to say he’s not the “same.” I wasn’t making an ontological statement about his personhood or anything. Perhaps he’s still grieving for the Ponds. Perhaps Clara/Oswin has him confused, and dare I say, intimidated? Whatever it is, there is a noticeable, and persistent, change in the Doctor, and it’ll be interesting to see where they take this change.

Not one of my favorite episodes. Truthfully, not very memorable at all, but even a mediocre Doctor Who episode is better than just about anything else.

Rating 3.75 out of 5 Stars

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