Doctor Who

Season 7 Episode 8

Cold War

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Apr 13, 2013 on BBC America

Episode Recap

In 1983 in the Arctic Ocean, a Russian sub crew is performing a missile launch drill. As Captain Zhukov prepares to press the fire button, Professor Grisenko comes in, singing along to the tune on his portable player. The captain tells the crews to stand down and Lt. Stepashin suggests that they run the drill again given recent signs activity from NATO forces. Zhukov dismisses the NATO exercise as saber-rattling and refuses. As Stepashin leaves, disappointed and angry, Zhukov asks Grisenko how the specimen is doing. The professor informs Zhukov that his assistant, Piotr, is looking after it and the captain wonders what it is. Grisenko vaguely says that it's some kind of mammoth.

In the cargo hold, Piotr has decided to use a blowtorch to thaw out the huge block of ice, despite Grisenko's orders to wait. As the ice starts to melt, the humanoid figure within breaks through and grabs Piotr by the throat in one massive clamp-like hand. Once Piotr is dead, the creature strides through the ship, firing at the walls with a sonic weapon mounted on its forearm.

The submarine systems are badly damaged by the sonic impacts. Unaware of the source of the damage, Zhukov and his men try to stabilize the sub but it plummets toward the ocean's bottom. In the middle of the chaos, the TARDIS materializes in the control room and the Doctor and Clara pop out, ready for a vacation in Las Vegas. The Doctor quickly realizes what is happening and uses his sonic screwdriver to scan the surrounding ocean. He detects a nearby cliff and tells Zhukov to pilot the sub laterally into it. Despite Stepashin's objections, Zhukov takes the Doctor's advice and they strike the cliff, stopping their descent at 700 meters.

Once things have calmed down, Stepashin has the men search the new arrivals. The Doctor recognizes when and where they are and warns Clara that the Eastern and Western militaries both have nervous trigger fingers. The submarine shakes as the systems continue to fail, and Clara watches in surprise as the TARDIS dematerializes on its own. As she runs to it, she slips in the floodwaters and passes out. When she wakes up, Clara discovers that Zhukov is interrogating the Doctor. The Doctor opts for honesty and explains that they're time travelers, but the Russian captain doesn't believe them.

As Zhukov considers dumping them off of the sub, they hear a hissing noise echoing through the corridors. As the Doctor tries to identify it, the creature from the ice comes up corridor behind him. The others point to it and when the Doctor turns, he realizes that the alien is an Ice Warrior, one of a race of lizardlike beings from the planet Mars. The Doctor stops one of the crew, Belevich, from shooting it, and then asks Grisenko where they found it. The scientist explains that they were drilling for oil and found the alien buried in ice five thousand years old.

The Ice Warrior speaks, identifying itself as Grand Marshal Skaldak. The Doctor recognizes the name and warns the others that they're in trouble. Before he can negotiate with the Martian, a crewman electrocutes Skaldak with a cattle prod, shorting out the battle armor. The Doctor warns them that Skaldak is a sovereign of the First Martian Caste and a great hero. Zhukov wonders what they should do now and the Doctor, irritated at the crew's actions, tells them that they have to chain Skaldak up. They take the Ice Warrior to the torpedo room and chain him to the pipes.

In the captain's cabin, the Doctor explains to Zhukov that the Ice Warriors are bio-mechanoids that have adapted to the extreme cold of Mars. However, their armor is sensitive to electrical discharges and sudden temperature rises. Despite that, the Doctor warns the Russians that they are all in danger.

In the torpedo room, Skaldak uses the built-in radio contained in his armor to try and contact the Martian fleet.

Stepashin accuses the Doctor of being a spy and the Ice Warrior some Western weapon. Grisenko sides with the Doctor, while Stepashin wants to contact their superiors. Zhukov points out that their radio was damaged but Stepashin is sure that their superiors will find them. Irritated with the man's faith in their government, Zhukov orders Stepashin to oversee the repairs and abruptly dismisses him. Once the lieutenant leaves, the Doctor tells Zhukov that his crew has aggravated the situation. Now that they've attacked Skaldak, the Ice Warrior will consider it an act of war... and an attack on one Ice Warrior is considered an attack on them all. Zhukov offers to negotiate with Skaldak but the Doctor says that it will realize that Zhukov is a soldier. The captain has come to the same realization about the Doctor and says that he can't go in. That leaves Clara, who eagerly volunteers.

Clara soon enters the torpedo room despite the Doctor's objections, while he watches on the camera and gives her advice via a headphone. She apologizes following Martian protocol and then offers their assistance. The Grand Marshal realizes that the Doctor is coaching her and speaks to him directly, asking why it is in chains. The Doctor says that until they can trust each other, they'll keep Skaldak imprisoned and notes that the Ice Warrior would do the same if their situations were reversed. Skaldak talks about his daughter, a soldier who served under him in combat, and how she is now five thousand years' dead along with his entire race. The Doctor assures him that the Ice Warriors lived on and will once again become a great galactic power, but Skaldak doesn't believe it and refuses their offer of assistance.

As they talk, Clara realizes that something is wrong. She approaches the bulky figure and opens the helmet, revealing that there's nothing inside. Skaldak continues speaking via the suit's broadcast system, and says that now he will learn the measure of his enemies. Zhukov suspects a trap but the Doctor tells him that he's never seen an Ice Warrior outside of its armor. The captain and Grisenko go with the Doctor to the torpedo room.

Clara manages to get the hatch to the torpedo room open, and Skaldak shoves past her and runs off into the ship. The Doctor assures her that she did fine, while Grisenko confirms that Skaldak has stopped signaling to his people. The Doctor warns them that since the Ice Warriors didn't respond to Skaldak's distress signal, he has given up any hope of being rescued and has nothing left to lose. Zhukov figures that the alien is harmless outside of his battle armor, but the Doctor points out that they have a load of nuclear missiles aboard.

The submarine lurches precariously on its perch and Stepashin struggles with the repairs. Skaldak grabs him from behind and tells the lieutenant that there is much that he wants from him.

Zhukov summons the remaining crew to the control room and splits them up into teams. One team will guard the control room while the others will search the ship. He warns them that they are on battery power only and running out of air, but they are the only thing that stands between Skaldak and the destruction of Earth.

Stepashin tries to negotiate with Skaldak, explaining that they are both warriors who deplore peace. When he talks about mutually assured destruction, Skaldak says that it will soon occur and digs his claws into the lieutenant's skull.

In the control room, Clara wonders how Skaldak can destroy the world with one nuclear missile when it didn't happen in her world. The Doctor explains that the Ice Warrior could set off a flurry of strikes and counter-strikes, and that history can be altered. Zhukov tells the Doctor that they've lost contact with Stepashin. As they split up to search the sub, the Doctor warns Clara that Skaldak was so desperate that he dishonored himself by leaving his battle armor. Grisenko finds the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, lost in the confusion of the crash, and the Time Lord thanks him. As he goes with the Doctor and Clara, Grisenko tells Clara that he likes to sing Duran Duran to keep his spirits up.

Belevich and another crewman, Onegin, search their section of their ship and discuss the possibility that Skaldak is an alien as the captain claims. Skaldak grabs Onegin and drags him up into the piping, and Belevich screams for help. By the time the Doctor, Clara, and Grisenko get there, they discover that Skaldak has torn apart the two crewmen. The Doctor realizes that Skaldak is performing forensic dissections to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the human body. He tells Grisenko and Clara to save there while he tries to find Skaldak, and is surprised when Clara immediately agrees. Once he leaves, Grisenko asks Clara what the matter is and she admits that seeing the corpses has made everything real to him. When she wonders if they'll make it, Grisenko assures her that they will.

Zhukov and another man continue their search and spot Skaldak moving through the walls.

The Doctor finds Stepashin's mutilated corpse and identifies it by the bloody ID. He spots Skaldak moving through the ceiling piping and runs after the Ice Warrior.

Grisenko prods Clara with questions about time travel and finally asks the one burning question in his mind: does Ultravox break up in the future? As Clara laughs in relief, Skaldak grabs her from above. Grisenko fires his revolver, driving off the Ice Warrior, but it doubles back and grabs him. The Doctor arrives and Skaldak tells them that it now knows everything it needs to know about human beings and the submarine systems... including the nuclear missiles.

In the torpedo room, Skaldak's battle armor activates when it receives an outside signal.

Zhukov arrives as the Doctor tries to negotiate with Skaldak. The captain says that he will negotiate from a position of strength and the Ice Warrior congratulates him on his strategic sense. However, he warns Zhukov that the captain may not have as secure a position as he believes. The battle armor walks in on automatic and Skaldak enters it as Zhukov opens fire. The Ice Warrior then strides off to the control center, killing the crew on guard. The alien goes to the missile control panel, interfaces with the systems, and arms the nuclear missiles.

The Doctor and the others arrive and the Time Lord asks Skaldak where the honor is in killing billions of humans. Skaldak insists that Earth has declared war on the Martian race and its existence is forfeit under Martian law. The Doctor talks of the glories of the Martian civilization and asks Skaldak to show the humans some of glory. When Skaldak prepares to fire the missiles, the Doctor announces that he is a Time Lord and will blow up the ship rather than let the Ice Warrior launch the missiles. The Grand Marshal doesn't believe that the Doctor will sacrifice himself and everyone aboard, and turns back to the panel. The Doctor dares Skaldak to look him eye-to-eye and say that he can do it. After a moment, the Ice Warrior turns and removes his helmet, and asks the Doctor which of them will blink first.

Clara intervenes, asking Skaldak why he chose not to kill Grisenko earlier. She reminds him of how he has lost his daughter and Skaldak says that he remembers. Before he can act, a tractor beam strikes the sub, lifting it up toward the surface. A Martian spaceship is overhead and Skaldak realizes that his people are alive after all and have come to rescue him. As the sub breaks through the Arctic ice, the Doctor tells Skaldak to go in peace. His people teleport Skaldak to their ship but the Doctor realizes that the Grand Marshal left the missiles armed and ready to fire. The Doctor hopes that Skaldak will show them mercy and Clara sings lightly under her breath. After a moment, the missile systems shut down.

The Doctor and the others go up on the conning tower. As they watch the Martian ship prepare for departure, Clara asks about the Doctor and he sheepishly admits that he was tinkering with the Hostile Action Defense System. When the TARDIS sensed danger, it automatically dematerialized, and is now at the South Pole. As the Doctor asks Zhukov for a lift, the Martian ship departs and the Doctor salutes it.