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After the three-part story of the last three weeks, featuring the Monks, we get back to a ‘Monster of the Week’ episode of Doctor Who. And it’s none other than our old ‘friends’ the Ice Warriors.

It’s more a story about agendas, as most of the characters seem to have one, but it’s enjoyable. We also get a little bit of mystery in an event that means Missy gets out of the vault.

Anyway. NASA is waiting for a Mars probe to send back pictures, using a camera that will see below the ice caps of the Martian poles, and the Doctor, Nardole and Bill are there to enjoy the spectacle. When the images come in, however, they see a message written in rocks saying, ‘God Save the Queen’.

Intriguing, and just the kind of thing that spurs an adventure.

The Tardis arrives on Mars in 1881 and they find signs of life, before being split up. Bill falls down a hole, Nardole gets trapped in the Tardis which appears to have developed a mind of its own (Well, yes we know it has one), dematerialises back to earth and won’t let him leave the University and the Doctor tries to reach Bill and finds an Ice Warrior. Just as he tries to communicate with it, he finds it being protected by a Colonel, called Godsacre, from the British Army circa Victorian times.

Bill also finds a soldier, the Colonel’s second in command, Captain Catchlove, sporting an elaborate space suit straight out of a Jules Vern novel. Meanwhile, back on earth in 2017, Nardole is unable to return to Mars in 1881 and without any other choice, decides to ask Missy for help! Uh oh! How do we know Missy wasn’t responsible in some way for that malfunction? It’s not answered, although at the end the Doctor may have a theory. After all she seemed to have an idea what was going on when Nardole spoke to her through the door.

Anyway, on Mars the story is a simple one. The Colonel found the Ice Warriors who was stranded on earth, revived him and accompanied him back to Mars with his company, a small group of soldiers. In return the Ice Warrior, who they called Friday, after Man Friday from Robinson Crusoe, offered to help them mine the planet for riches, even helping them to build a mining laser from parts of his ship. There’s been a lot of quid pro quo going on here.

Naturally, they eventually find a tomb, where a gold sarcophagus of the Empress lies. The Colonel stops everyone from immediately piling in, and puts a guard on the chamber. Later, however, the Sargent Major is drugged by one of his men, Jackdaw, and the younger guard is told to stand look out while the man goes into the chamber and starts to try pulling out jewels from the sarcophagus. It seems he knows that Catchlove is further along with the repairs to Friday’s ship than he’s letting on. Jackdaw pulls out the wrong jewel, however, and wakes up the Empress, who isn’t dead, just hibernating (Apparently for 5,000 years – a tad longer than they wanted – they must have been tired) and she kills him.
So, we already have two agendas at work here. Friday’s, who as the Doctor deduces, needed the soldiers to bring him back and start a ‘mining’ operation, not to satisfy their greed, but to help find his Empress and wake her up. We also have the agenda of that second in command who wants to loot Mars and make the planet part of the Great British Empire for Queen Victoria. Something tells me she wouldn’t mind this, as the portrait shows she is played by Pauline Collins, the same Victoria who founded the Torchwood Institute at the end of the tenth Doctor’s storyline ‘Tooth and Claw’! Just one of those brilliant little Easter Eggs, the crew pop into the show!

Discovering Jackdaw missing and seeing another soldier killed, the young guard runs off as Friday meets with the Empress. The other soldiers rush in to face off, leaving the Colonel, the Doctor and Bill to try and diffuse the situation. One of the soldiers accidentally lets off a round at the Empress, and she turns him, like the other soldier who shot at her, into a lumpy rubber ball for his trouble. This leads to the soldiers blocking the entrance with a blast from the mining laser, trapping Friday and the Empress in the chamber. The Empress, however, has been sleeping on top of a handy button that, when pushed, revives all her Warriors in the chamber. This race thought of everything!

Back outside, the odious Catchlove, assumes command after exposing the Colonel as a deserter who cheated death after a botched hanging for cowardice and has him, the Doctor and Bill, thrown into the Brig! It seems Catchlove has been blackmailing his superior officer. It turns out Godsacre’s agenda was simply that he wanted a new start for himself and everyone else.

The Ice Warriors burrow through the ground to attack the soldiers and a battle ensues but Friday, who wants to stop the bloodshed as much as everyone else, burrows into the brig and helps the prisoners escape so they can work together to bring about a peaceful resolution. On escaping, however, the Colonel’s nerve fails him again and he runs, leaving just the Doctor, Bill and Friday to try to reason with the Empress. When the battle starts to go against them, as it would, given the Ice Warriors’ advanced weaponry, Catchlove himself turns to desertion and leaves his men to face slaughter.

Bill distracts the Empress by offering to talk, while the Doctor aims the mining laser at the ceiling which is under the polar ice cap, threatening to kill everyone. Just then Catchlove appears and ends up holding the Empress at knifepoint, with the intention of getting her to get Friday’s ship working so he can flee to earth. The odious guy even has the audacity to ensure his men he’s leaving them all to die.

As he tries to escape with her, though, Colonel Godsacre reappears and shoots Catchlove. Godsacre then offers himself to the Empress to execute to pay for the bloodshed, telling her he should have died before but they failed and he is ready for her to complete the job. He has one request, however, that his remaining men be allowed to live and that planet earth be safe, as mankind should not be judged by his cowardice or Catchlove’s cruelty. The Empress, however, doesn’t see a coward in him, but someone who is willing to die to protect his people. She tells him he does deserve to die …. as a warrior in battle, fighting for her. He pledges his life to her cause and she accepts him into the Ice warrior clan. What isn’t explained, though, is if the remaining soldiers actually go back to earth or whether they accompany Godsacre to fight for the Ice Warriors. If you notice it, it does seem like a big loose thread. After all, these could have been some of the first recruits to the Torchwood Institute.

As Mars is dead, the Doctor sends out a message asking for help and Alpha Centauri responds and tells the Empress they are on their way to pick them up. This, the Doctor explains to Bill, could be the start of the Martian Golden age. Alpha Centauri asks for a physical marker so their fleet can locate them. And yep, you guessed it, the Doctor, Bill and Godsacre provide exactly what you were thinking it would be. That big old message from the start of the episode ‘God Save the Queen’!

The Tardis arrives back and that’s when they discover Missy at the controls. She asks him if he is all right.

As mentioned, everyone had an agenda. Godsacre to start a new life, Friday to get back home and release his Empress, Catchlove and some of the other soldiers to strike it rich and return with the goods while making Mars part of the empire. Even young Vincey, who just wanted to get a little of the treasure so he could be comfortable and return home to marry his fiancé Alice (All the poor chap actually got was to be turned into one of those lumpy rubber balls). The Doctor and Bill wanted to keep everyone alive, Nardole wanted the Tardis to get back to Mars and well, one has to wonder, whether Missy engineered the problem with the Tardis somehow, so she could get out of that box! In the end, some got what they wanted, some didn’t, and some ended up with a slightly modified version of what they wanted.

We also got some interesting concepts in this episode. The Empress noticed Bill and asked for her opinion, seeing a fellow female of any species as an equal, whereas Godsacre found the idea of a woman being in the Police a novel, but amusing, concept. It was interesting to see an old Victorian notion of Earth go head to head with the more modern notions of Mars in the same year.

It was also interesting seeing Godsacre’s journey. Here was someone who couldn’t handle the brutality of war and the burden of leadership, who just wanted a fresh start after surviving execution, finally take that step to use violence to save the Empress and, by extension the Earth. In the end, he offered his own life to pay for the mistakes of Catchlove and his remaining men, in exchange for clemency for those men and his planet. This struck a chord with the Empress who didn’t see a coward, but a warrior who deserved to die in battle. And thus, he got to survive and got his fresh start as part of the Ice Warrior clan. At the end of the day, there are different types of bravery.

The humour this week, was provided by the Doctor’s choice of film entertainment. Bill took pleasure in telling him the comparisons between their situations and films such as Terminator, The Thing and The Vikings, telling him he’d love them, while the only film he could compare, the threat to entomb everyone in everlasting winter to, was Disney’s Frozen!

That exchange at the end of the episode was a bit cryptic. Why was Missy asking if he was all right? Has she noticed something about him that could be leading up to his regeneration when Peter Capaldi leaves at the end of this season? We don’t have long to go at all. About three more episodes. Does this have something to do with the fact that the Tardis rebelled and that she was the only one who could get it back to them? It’s a bit intriguing. All kinds of theories are bouncing around my head right now! One of them is are we getting a female Doctor this time around? News surrounding the new actor does seem rather 'absent' in relation to other years.

And finally, some brilliant trivia. According to the IMDB entry for this episode, Alpha Centauri was played by Ysanne Churchman, who played the same character in Doctor Who the first-time round and who is now 92 years old! I love it when Doctor Who does this. It really makes the show seem like a family effort!
Comments (10)
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Jun 16, 2017
Bill: "This Neil Armstrong? He was the first man on the moon, right?"
Doctor: "That is a very human centric question."

Jun 18, 2017
Those little exchanges are brilliant. :)
Jun 13, 2017
I got so excited when I heard the radio transmission, Ysanne Churchman's performance was so iconic in the seventies, that I recognised it was Alpha Centuri before the image appeared and it was great to see it again, the hexapod hermaphrodite is back :-)

It was a nice story touch here as the first couple of times we see the Ice Warriors they are typical monster of the week, but their final two 20th Century stories set on Peladon (with Alpha Centuri), they become more of a Galactic Diplomatic race, so this week's story indeed shows the start of a golden era being the transition from monster to majestic.
Jun 18, 2017
Absolutely - I love that so much care has been taken, with this rebooted series, to not completely reinvent everything but try to link back to the parent show. I think that's the formula that has meant both old and new viewers can enjoy it.
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