Doctor Who – Cold War
Review By Ken Parker
Now this......is Doctor Who!!!
If any of you had read previous reviews of mine you know I have been very critical of the current Doctor Who series. There have been some excellent episodes as well as some horrible ones but overall I have been disappointed, especially recently with Steven Moffat and his inability to recapture the magic of his early stories before taking over as show runner. One of my biggest complaints of late has been the episodes with lots of characters and lots of running around, yelling and cluttered story lines that rely on big reveals, secrets and other gimmicks that trick you into thinking the story is actually good. Instead we have complete stories that ultimately do nothing but tell you that River Song is Amy and Rory's daughter and that the Doctor is cool. For the 5th time this season we have an episode that doesn't do that.
Cold War sees the Doctor and Clara stumbling on board a Russian submarine during a critical year of the cold war -1983. The sub is damaged and there is an Ice Warrior on board. Can't get any worse, can it? Well, of course it can.
This is one of my favorite types of stories. A claustrophobic setting and a single monster on board. Perfect. Writer Mark Gatiss weaves the story with an excellent balance of threat, action and quiet moments. Like the previous two stories of the second half of this season, there seems to be a conscious move in keeping the plots simple and the character numbers to a minimum. This is giving both Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman time to develop their chemistry together, something we have not seen since David Tennant and Billy Piper.
When I first heard that the Ice Warriors were going to be in this one I thought it was a bit odd but it all makes perfect sense. I have to say that I love the execution of the Ice Warrior – one of the best Classic monster returns to the current series. The redesign of the Ice Warrior is excellent as is the character and the reveal of the Warrior inside the armor. The idea that the armor is robotic and capable of the things that it does in the story makes a lot of sense and is a great update of that alien which first debuted in the 60's during Patrick Troughton's era.
The supporting cast was good, It appeared that David Warner was going to be a waste but he ended up being an important interaction for Clara in her understanding of her travels with the Doctor. I had mentioned before little moments making the story. In Cold War the Doctor tells Clara to stay there and don't argue and Clara states that she is not arguing. A great contrast with previous companions who would only argue. Another moment was Clara singing “Hungry Like a Wolf”. Everything these characters doesn't have to make perfect sense nor does it have to be evaluated to death. I am sure fans are going to look at the song and think Hungry like a bad Wolf or something stupid like that. The development of Clara is going really well and only after 5 stories she is more appealing as a companion that Amy ever was.
It is great to see an alien that shows mercy and isn't one dimensional. It is just as great to see a human leader also not go completely gun-ho and kill the enemy. Although you would think that he would have been a bit more upset that the Ice Warrior killed several of his crew.
Over the past season we have seen sad stories, stories with great character work and some good action. Cold War hits everything just right and is by far my favorite of the season and probably my favorite Matt Smith story to date and I am surprised by this. I had hoped that the series would begin to settle down and become more like this and time will tell. I personally doubt it but if I can have a few episodes like this a season, I cannot complain that much.