Friday, 30 August 2013

The Rings of Akhaten - Season 24 Remix

Original rap: Murray Gold.  Original photo: @PondsAreCool

Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something mean and farcical.
- Henrik Ibsen

Him:  We’re not doing a blog post on this.

Me:  Okay, right.  Now, in Doctor Who Magazine – in DWM 464 – this month’s1 – it says that Neil Cross’ original intention for the confrontation scene at the end of The Rings of Akhaten with the giant…  Ummm…  What was that thing?

The Him stares.

Me:  The Pumpkin God…

The Him’s still refusing to join in.  I try again.

Me:  Do you remember the speech at the Pandorica?  The Matt Smith speech.  “I. Am. Talking!”  That bit.  Well, some people got Sylvester McCoy to perform it at a convention.  Remember that?


Me:  This is a similar sort of thing.  At a convention somewhere, some poor chap has – well, Colin Baker – has been handed this piece of paper which has got the Doctor's speech printed out on it and they’ve asked him to read it in the style of the Sixth Doctor.  Now, in the DWM, Neil Cross said - because he’s a big Lovecraft fan - his intention for this scene in the big, steaming pile of television, was that the Doctor would ultimately end up facing down a Lovecraftian Great Old One.  So, essentially, this creature would be…

By now the Him’s gurning has reached the point where he may actually damage himself permanently.

Me:  Ha!  Stop it!  So – this creature was going to be, if not Cthulhu, something that was so frightening - so unimaginably huge and terrifying, that it would tear our minds apart with razors made of algebra if we saw it - yet, the Doctor talks it into submission.  Wow!  Which makes me wonder how many drafts of that speech Neil Cross had written, before it was given to Matt Smith to deliver to a big green wall.  And how the bits that were borrowed from a Rutger Hauer improvisation got left in…  Oh… 

The Him’s stretched his lower lip right over his face and tucked it behind his ears.  It’s funnier than it sounds.  I untangle Him and try and continue.

Me:  Are you going to say anything?  Or just sit there doing impossible things with your face?

Him:  I’m trying to make you sound like you’ve lost it.

Me:  It’s working.  Also, I'm more than capable of doing that by myself, thanks.  So, the Doctor’s up, facing this brain-pulpingly huge Lovecraftian nightmare planet god thing.  One that looks like a pumpkin.  You can see all the ideas behind the story.  And they're fab.  A society based on singing; all the different species - the tricky questions about belief and sacrifice...  Even the leaf probably works on paper.  I get what he was aiming for, and the intentions are laudable.  This whole culture being in terror of an evil – and the singing holding it in place and everything…  Unfortunately…  Unfortunately, they gave it to whichever director they gave it to2 and it went through some kind of editing process that-   I don’t know what happened to it, but the director has an awful lot to answer for…  Anyway, I just want to know what you think of this…

Cue up the vid…

Me:  Basically, this is Colin Baker's version - but with added musical backing from the episode.  And it’s great.  Right up until Murray (“Itsa me”) Gold wakes up and the orchestra come in and then it becomes…  Ah.  I don’t know.  He’s got some sort of key that he writes in that makes me swear at televisions – and he seems to write the majority of his music in it now.  It’s like he’s auditioning for the most saccharine, sub-Lloyd Webber musical imaginable with audience-manipulating lowest-common-denominator tosh.  It pretends to be glorious and triumphant, but there’s nothing there but maths.  There’s no emotion. And, in fairness, he hasn’t always been like this.  Eight years on one project’s going to burn anyone out. 

Play gets pressed.  The girl sings.

Me:  The girl’s singing I can about cope with.

Colin Baker starts speaking. 

Me:  Go on, Col.

Colin Baker:  I’ll tell you a story.

All going well so far.  And then there's an odd silence.

Me:  I don’t know why he goes for a lie-down there, unless it’s to allow Murray Gold to come in with the- URGH!

The brown notes commence.  With choir.

Me:  mrrgGGH!

And on it squelches…

Me:  Oh, God…

Him:  You’ve only yourself to blame.

Me:  It’s awful.

And on…

Me:  Oh, say something, Colin.  I don’t want to listen to this any longer.

And on…

Me:  I'd rather watch The Sensorites.3 

Colin Baker's back in.  He throws himself into it and we get an idea of what could have been.  The fact the choir get dropped down in the mix doesn’t hurt either. 

Him:  “Itsa me, Murraygold.” 

Colin Baker:  Can you hear them singing? 

Me:  NO!  It’s better when you can’t hear them.  And why would they be singing like that anyway?  It’s their entire existence that depends on this encounter – it’s not an advert for cakes! 

And on… 

Colin Baker:  You’re not a god! 

Him:  “You’re just a big, burning orange.” 

Colin Baker continues to knock it out of the park. 

Colin Baker:  Take my memories… 

Him:  “Take my leaf.” 

Colin Baker:  I hope you’ve got a big appetite. 

Him:  “I hope you’ve got a big hat.” 

Colin Baker wrestles with the brown notes – squeezing the music into submission with an impassioned delivery.  We coast smoothly over the Blade Runner quote,4 and just when we think he’s crushed the terrible thing forever… 

Colin Baker:  Take it!  Take it all, baby! 

Me:  Auwgh!  Must we? 

And that’s it.  Game over.  He’s not getting out of that. 

Him:  Murraygold! 

Me:  Arrgh!  Urrgh! 

The musical smugout smugs on, crushing everything. 

Me:  It’s an alright speech, but it’s got an impossible line.  That's never going to be delivered by any actor - hell, any human being – whether or not they’re playing a Time Lord – no-one’s ever going to be able to say that line and make it…  No-one can say it without embarrassment because it’s terrible.  And the new series is littered with poisonous gems like that.  I bet it looks great on paper though.  It’s written to be read but not said.  Harrison Ford was right.  And that music’s abysmal.  It’s so bad.  I thought I might have been mistaken... 


Me:  I – I don’t know…  Aurgh.  You know what?  I reckon Murray Gold’s just using the "Boite Diabolique" now.  Some people like it though.  God knows what’s wrong with them. 

1.  One of the books I’m in gets a review in it.  The second one’s in DWM 465. 

2.  Farren Blackburn, it says here.  Sorry, fella – I bet this looked phenomenal on paper. 

3.  Genuinely.  The music actually produces a physical response from me that’s not dissimilar to the way some people view spiders or snakes.  Or sprouts.

I’ll go into more depth about the music at a later date but I think I should state that I do think Murray Gold’s capable of producing some great pieces of uplifting music.  This is Gallifrey, Our Childhood, Our Home still tugs something fundamental within me, I am the Doctor blew me away when I first heard it (I prefer The Sun’s Gone Wibbly though) and even the Gridlock hymn - not the comedy parp-parp stuff, whilst not my cup of tea, was better than this.  This is excessive, indulgent, un-edited and emotionally hollow .  Someone, somewhere needs to say; “Do it again and do it better.” 

4.  I'm not convinced by the Mortiis reference either...

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Why do writers write?  Because it isn't there.
- Thomas Berger

It's always the journey, isn't it?  

The Ascent, however well-mapped and traversed is different for anyone who takes it on.  It was a bit of a shock to discover that there was another story - a hidden one - silently writing itself in the gaps of our compulsory Ascent log.  It's definitely there, growing like lichen in the badly-lit side crevasses we've nervously passed over; never, don't ever, look down.

And this is where I have to say that I don't know where they're coming from, what they want or what they mean.  I don't even know if I've caught all of them - maybe some have managed to escape into the wet space surrounding the tunnel vision of the Ascent.  At least one chunk had weebled a fair distance before I managed to pin it down with an ice-axe.  I'm not convinced that there won't be more of these strange growths.  I'll try and isolate them from the main body when I spot them.

For now, I've plopped all these accidental off-topic/off-road autobiographical moments into a single bucket.  Y'know, for your convenience.  

Yes, you and no-one else.  That's 'cause you're lovely.  

I think they're in the right order now, even if the dates seem to be wrong.

Thank you and-

Good luck. 

CHUNK 6:  #DoctorWhoLive

From There to Here and Back Again

From There to Here and Back Again

When they are going on a long expedition, they carry no baggage with them.
- Marco Polo, Travels in the Land of Kubilai Khan

I thought we might disagree with what Marco Polo just said there1 and instead talk about The Ark in Space for a while.

As it’s a two-hander, I’m not going to be interrupting the flow of this blog with personal reflections like this very often.2  The following stands as a bit of an addendum to the HOWLaround page that no-one reads.

There’s a big difference between watching what’s now known as “Classic Series” Doctor Who when you’re a child and watching it as an adult with friends.  That’s a particularly dumb sentence, because everything in it’s so obvious.  When you’re an adult you’re bringing a different amount of experience and awareness to your viewing but, when you’re a child, THIS STUFF’S REAL!3

As bizarre as it sounds, my earliest confirmable memory is watching Tom Baker bang a ganglion to annoy a prawn.  

No. Really.  

The first book I actually remember reading was Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster.  This was back in the days when newsagents carried paperbacks.  I saw it, I think, on the Friday after school.  It took me three days to get through, and I probably missed some of the subtler nuances.  

The next book - bought on Sunday with the papers - was Doctor Who and the Daleks (an exciting adventure, I'm sure you'll agree) and after that, I was hooked.

Chronologically, I'm not so sure what happened next. I do remember, however, my Dad buying me Horror of Fang Rock on a burning hot summer day that should have been my birthday.  Tom Baker clutching a thick chunk of rope, his cheek scarred with Rutan blood.  Or something.

I devoured the Target books when I was in school - largely because I knew I'd have seriously limited access to a television in a caravan.  Apart from that, I had a high metabolism and enjoyed eating paper.  There was a lot of it about.

I was also very, very much into the Doctor Who Weekly comic strips, especially ones drawn by Dave Gibbons or Steve Dillon.  This developing love of Doctor Who was mixed with a voracious, and largely indiscriminate, reading habit - the local library once phoned up my parents to find out exactly what I was doing with the books I was taking out in the morning and returning in the evening.4  As a result, my initial relationship with the world of Doctor Who was more from a written basis than a viewed one.

I managed to watch some of the actual stories I’d been reading about with the Five Faces of Doctor Who series of repeats.  I remember them as being a very strange experience now - black and white windows on the past that seemed to show different pictures to the ones I'd built in my head.  I became a bit defensive of both the show and my memories of it.

When the transmission schedule of Doctor Who was moved from a Saturday to during the week, I was able to watch Peter Davison fairly consistently.  I followed the series avidly until the Sixth Doctor arrived and the show felt harder to defend – especially with The Twin Dilemma.  With the Seventh Doctor, the series began feeling more like Grange Hill and defending it to myself, as well as others, seemed impossible. 

I switched off, potentially for good, when Hale and Pace turned up.

Time moved on, like it does, and apart from rescuing copies of Shada and the superb Tom Baker Years from a WH Smiths dump-bin in the early 90’s, Doctor Who and myself drifted apart.  Growing up had got in the way a bit.

The excitement of Doctor Who coming back in 1996 - and it was about time, even if just for one day - was soured by how it came back.  I bought the video on the day of release - from a Woolworths, if I remember correctly - and watched it with friends.  It started promisingly, but almost as soon as the ‘Skaro’ caption had faded, I was left squirming with embarrassment until it was over.  

And so, with a few UK Gold exceptions, that was me and the Doctor for the twentieth century.

When the BBC started issuing DVDs, I raised an eyebrow, but at the time couldn’t afford anything that would play them, so had to work on the basis that by the time I could, there’d be too many out to ever catch up.  Then, I uncovered a copy of The Ark in Space on dusty VHS in a charity shop and, without needing to think, bought it.  

I watched it with the Him, and something a bit weird took place.  The whole first episode was unsettling - twenty-plus minutes of just the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry exploring a deserted space station with the tension building as nothing happens.  If you haven't watched it before now, then don't worry, that isn't a spoiler: it's a lie.  Anyway, after twenty-plus minutes of nothing happening comes the TWIST and then the DOUBLE-PUNCH CLIMAX of - a Wirrn emerging from a mop cupboard.  The Him was shocked rigid.  And somehow, it became terrifying again.

Later on, boring a friend, I described The Impossible Planet as "The Exorcist for kids."  The Ark in Space, however, was made of much more robust jabolite; The Ark in Space was something that Alien would rip off to terrify parents.5

After that I realised that if I was going to buy anything that wasn't food, it would have to be Tom Baker Doctor Who DVDs.

And then I picked up Earthshock.  

And then The Caves of Androzani.  

And you see where this is going.

The Him insists he watched an early Sunday morning UK Gold rerun of The Mutants by himself, but I don’t think that the dates line-up.  I’m pretty sure we both watched The Brain of Morbius, as that would make sense.  My evidence for this is that not only was I going through a bit of a Tom-Baker’s-the-greatest-thing-ever stage at that point – otherwise known as my twenties - but both stories contain an appearance by a Mutt, so the confusion makes sense.

Then there was the announcement that the series would return.  Having squirmed through something similar before, I wasn’t optimistic.  Although Christopher Eccleston’s a pretty good actor what’s this about the fools casting – who?  Billie Piper?  Oh no.  Oh no. 

But it worked fine, didn’t it?  Yes, there were bumps and flaws that we’ll look at when get there, but overall it was back and it didn’t suck.  And after being out in the wilderness for all those years, it turned out we were right all along.

Since those heady days I’ve tried catching up properly with the history of the series, including all the bits I used to think were dull.  Sometimes I wondered if it was just politeness, but the Him’s quite a fan too - especially with the new series.  Along the way we’ve met Polly, Nyder and Sarah Jane, traipsed around the Kelvingrove Doctor Who exhibition (twice), watched a real-life flying Dalek and the Him’s even had an observation published in a proper printed book about Doctor Who.  As to what that observation was, you’ll have to wait until we get to the story in question.  It’s a blinder.

We rewatched The Aztecs recently and I was enthralled by the way John Lucarotti – with some David Whitaker alchemy no doubt – created an unravelling delight of a story.  I’ve opted to give the audio Marco Polo a proper re-listen for my own amusement as a result.   

When I find that neither of us have made a comment for a while, because a television programme made nearly fifty years ago has managed to enrapture us into silence, I get a feeling that I can only describe as – and brace yourselves, because it’s about to get soppy - “joy”.  It’s very pure and it doesn’t last long, but it’s amazing.

Watching the series from the start is something the Him’s wanted to do for about two years now.  Yes, you read that right.  It’s something I want to have a shot at too, if just to help put all that information in chronological context.  Otherwise it’s a bit like having read fifty (or so) issues of Sandman, and lots and lots of reference books about it, but never the thing itself from start to end.  

Terrance Dicks might disagree – as would a lot of people – that Doctor Who’s not one long story, but of course it is.  The new series made damn sure of that. 

So, thanks for joining us on this expedition.  Hopefully you’ll hang around as we follow a story that’s been improvising itself into existence, unfolding forever into the endless corridor of the future where adventures and shadows and monsters and laughs and screams await.

"And there’s blood on it!"

Longleat '83 - Ash's Marshchild refuses to evolve.

1.  In a chapter entitled, ‘The Road to Cathay’, travel fans.

2.  Fair warning though, I will be doing it when we reach an entry where it’s pertinent to do so. 

3.  It’s not, of course – children aren’t dumb.  I’ve tried to avoid saying anything that would sound like I’m plagiarising TARDIS Eruditorum, but some of what I’ve said here will echo it for two reasons.  One – Mr Phil’s right on this point.  Two – I’ve read what he wrote so I know I agree with it – it reinforces my bias nicely.    Here’s a link to one of my personal favourite posts.

4.  I was going to write: "Eating them!  Bwah ha ha!"  But I won't, because I wasn't.  Honestly, what did they think I was doing?  

5.  Sadly, directors get given scripts, so, Ridley Scott, whilst he might have influenced Doctor Who, probably wasn't influenced by it.6

6.  Make me wrong, please.

Originally posted in a slightly different form just under a million years ago.

The Trailer of The Enemy of the World

The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more. 
- Jonas Salk

And then…

Me:  Oo – it’s a trailer…

The Doctor, looking crumpled and windswept, appears to be on holiday.

The Doctor:  I don’t think I like the look of this.  Let’s go.

Victoria:  Why?  What’s the matter?

The Doctor:  Come on… Run.  Don’t argue!  Run!

Doctor Who and the Confusion of the Sixties

Voice of God:  Next week, the TARDIS lands on a sunny beach.  But where is it?

Me:  Rhyl.

Voice of God:  And why is the reception so unfriendly?

Me:  It’s Rhyl.

Gunshots:  ptchoo spwiing

Him:  “And then… everyone dies.”

Victoria:  Why does he want to hurt us?

The Doctor:  Why indeed?

Victoria:  Can’t we go back to the TARDIS?

The Doctor:  No we’ll never make it.

The Massive Chopper:  whoosh whooshy whoosh

Jamie:  What is it, Doctor?

Victoria:  I‘m frightened!

Cover of the Unreleased David Whitaker Target Novelisation:  Over here!

Victoria:  I can’t!   I can’t!

The Doctor:  You must!  It’s our only chance!

Cover of the Unreleased David Whitaker Target Novelisation: FLEEEEEEEEE!1

The Doctor: Come on!

The camera zooms in on each of our chum’s faces in turn, followed by a zoom out on a snap of the Massive Chopper.2

Massive Chopper:  whooshy whooshy whoosh

Voice of God:  Why has this strange woman rescued them?

Me:  I’ve no idea.

Voice of God:  Dr3 Who and3 the Enemy of the World” begins…  Umm…  Next Saturday!

Or thereabouts

The fading sounds of the Massive Chopper bring us to a conclusion.  For now…

1.  This is almost certainly not the actual line, but it has been annotated from the soundtrack of a very old bootleg fortuitous archive recording.

2.  “Yes, Jamie.  That is a big one.”  Etc.

3.  It’s always struck me as smug and snarky to just add ‘(sic)’ in order to induce a cheap laugh.  You’ll notice it hasn’t stopped me though.  I’m so ashamed.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Payphone Story


There are only three songs in all the world, one’s about love, one’s about death and the other one’s about Kate Bush.  Also, there are only seven stories – so it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that characters and locations overlap from time to time.

Many of us will age and expand in an occasional grocery shop near to the sea – this doesn’t mean we’ll all end up believing that the Doctor’s probably real.  Dozens of young people gleefully told a crumpled careers advisor they wanted to spend their taxable years writing comics (not at the same time, that’s the plot to the eighth story) but it doesn’t mean that they were all using the opportunity to vent hormonal arrogance rebelling against something loathed as a result of circumstance.  There are more stories in which the young protagonist has read an entire library - Moonshadow is one that leaps to mind - than there are bootleg Hawkwind albums.  But only just.

There were two sets of directionally-designated stairs in the school’s main building, and at the bottom of the ‘escape’ set was a dimly-lit, concrete cave created by the overhanging steps.  The Payphone itself clung to the cave wall next to the reprographics room and the air there always tasted inky.

School itself was tedious and vicious in roughly equal amounts and got in the way of reading.  Back then we weren’t riding dinosaurs to school because of a noble sacrifice I’d made by accident.  On the whole this had been forgotten, but that didn’t mean I’d suddenly become popular.  Music came later, but that was really just a way of wandering off-script and into a paranoid tangle of improvisation and apparent peer-approval, triggered by the realisation that you didn’t actually need any musical ability to be a vocalist.

Every character in this interactive version of School Fun had their different ways of getting through the compulsory quagmire of comprehensive education: some would look for open windows; others imposed a Python-based reading to create a bearable everyday surreality; some pushed the boundaries of social acceptability and others just got on with it, or enjoyed sport.  

Computers were still mostly a madman’s manufactured dream, oozing from the BBC’s Dystopian R&D Department.  Somehow, real world proto-cheat-codes had evolved - later on they would mutate into the symbolic, species-crossing endoparasite we all love, but we don’t need to go into that here.  These were simple times of great potential when everything was either meat, plastic, shellac, paper or metal.  Reality was still up for grabs and someone - it was never clear who, but I always thought that wearing a Judge Death badge was a bit risky – had discovered that by inputting a secret code into any normal payphone you could make it ring forever.  

One of the minor characters in my personal adventure is about to make his first appearance, he’s just changing out of his punk journalist disguise at the moment.  While we’re waiting for him to get ready, I thought we might have a quick chat about rivers and time.

There’s something about the water cycle that always appealed to me.  I like the way that water just keeps going round and around like energy and stories.  It might change size and shape and location but it always comes back to the original combination of hydrogen and oxygen eventually.  I also like the idea that Glasgow’s main export, after superheroes, is the same stuff that splashed all over the dinosaurs’ feathers.  Until it reminds me that I’m responsible for wiping them out in the first place and that makes me sad, so I’ll try and conjure an analogy about streams being tributaries of story leading to a river but that won’t work so I’ll shift angles and try to funnel water into a metaphor for our individual narratives and-

Mate, I’m dying out here.  Can you hurry up and get that jacket on?

Okay, he’s ready now.

There was something wrong with the Payphone in the cave.  All through lunchtime the rumours had crawled from inmate to inmate like lice.  By the time they’d reached me, the nuisance novelty had worn skin-thin for the giggling group clustered in the shelter of the escape stairs.  I arrived just as the end-of-lunch bell rang.  The crowd crumbled, falling back to registration classes in preparation for the afternoon’s grey trudge toward the nineties.  

The sixth-former with the Judge Death badge finished his call, saw me standing there and held the handset toward me.  His head tilted slightly and he grinned.

“Yeah, cheers.” I took hold of the handset and tried not to appear too Alzarian.  “What do I do?”

“Press the ‘next call’ button, wait for the dial tone and then just ring – when you’re finished, press ‘next call’ again – just don’t hang up.”  He was looking very pleased with himself.

“And it’ll do what?”

“It’s knackered.  The longer you stay on the call the more credit you build up.”  
And with that he left me holding a hacked telephone, standing in a cave that was going to be empty for the next fifteen minutes.  

With great power comes great responsibility, as no-one ever said ever.  So, who could I call then?  

As a result of writing letters to people who may never have really existed, I’d managed to start a bit of a correspondence with some of the gods who made British comics happen, and because of this had a selection of secret numbers written in the back of the notebook I carried everywhere.  I looked through the stringy digits, trying to decide which combination to summon.  By now I was burning up, my cheeks stang and flop-sweat was spotting the shaking notebook.

In the end I settled on the code attached to the most obscure name, more of a hemi-demi-semi-god at this point in psychogeology and therefore the one least likely to shout my face off.  Repeating the digit blocks of code out loud I input them firmly, one after the other, into the clay of the future.

The queue’s like a still summer river, all gentle expectant bubbling and trickling susurrations.  I’m bobbing in the tide with my PA, buoyed up by the contents of my bag.  Someone opens the door and the river flows forward smoothly, undulating around the square named after King George III’s favourite ladies and sometimes a Cure single.  The river slowly becomes a lake; we wash up in the shallow end.

For the next sixty minutes I’m taken on a guided tour of everything I got up to when I was meant to be watching Doctor Who.  Black orchids; shocks from the future; the unexpected autograph on the twentieth Redfox; M*****man’s sudden appearance in my hometown, the black screaming horror that can be packed into twenty-four hours; dreaming my way through college and into music via London Below; sharing other mothers and mirrors that aren’t with the Him.  And I remember that sweat tastes like the ocean and tears at the same time, regardless of whether it’s honest or shameful.

The lockgates open again after a hour and the lake gushes back out to form a new river that’s made up with all the same stories as the first one.  It moves muddily at first, allowing Ian Rankin to make an unexpected cameo before he’s swept away to honour a genius.  Gradually, the river begins to pick up speed. Soon we’re being buffeted headlong into the rapids before tipping, white-knuckled, over the precipice and into the broiling maelstrom.

“I wouldn’t have thought you’d remember, but I’ve been waiting twenty-two years to apologise for phoning you at home.”  

It’s the second time we’ve had a crossover, and we both know that it’s quite a coup for me. There’s a pause.

“No, I remember.  It only ever happened once.”

“Well, I’d still like to say ‘sorry’.”

He laughs and extends his hand.  I shake it and then climb out of the pool onto the street where Alexander Graham Bell was born and into the fog that’s rolling in from tomorrow.

There is no such thing as reality.  There is only perception. 
- Gustave Flaubert 

Fig 1. M*****man 18 - page 23.  Escape stairs highlighted.
Fig 2.  M*****man 21 - page 27. Author's other home pictured to left of bandstand.  Magnifying glass and imagination not supplied.
Fig 3.  Edinburgh Book Festival promotional poster. And PA (bottom right).
 The organisers of the Stripped book festival. 

Special thanks 
Neil Gaiman - for letting me apologise.
My long-suffering PA - for making that apology possible.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Ice Warriors

Spit in the teeth of Winter 
For he always dies in the Spring  
- Harry Harrison, West of Eden

Me:  Weirdly enough, I owned this one but I lost it.  And not in the way that the BBC did.

Him:  Really?  On video?  Or do you mean the book?

Me:  No, I picked the Target up from my favourite charity shop fairly recently – just before it got reissued...  Yeah, I had the box-set with the CD and the video.  I’ve no idea what happened to it. 1

Him:  Mystery.

Me:  A bit.  This was during the time I wasn’t supposed to be following Doctor Who, but I think my memory’s cheating.  I had The Crusade as well.  Don’t know where that went either.2

Him:  You lost a lot of stuff.

Me:  I did a lot of moving.

Him:  That’ll be why.

Me:  It didn’t help.

Him:  Maybe it’ll be around somewhere.

Me:  It might be in the Nostalgia Mine.3  Anyway, shall we?

Him:  Yeah, sure.

And we’re off.

The credits fade to lots of lovely stock footage/rostrum shots of someone’s disastrous holiday.  The opening shots of an unforgiving, refrigerated landscape are followed by ice, more ice, ice and some snow and then ice.  These images are overlaid with a scary, haunting wailing that reminds me of Helen Mirren in Excalibur for some reason.   

We’ve discussed this particular conflict of interest before...

Him:  Great start.

The title announces itself with bold capitals and more than a little pride.  Good show.

Me:  That’s different.

The camera suddenly lurch-zooms on a particularly interesting bit of ice in the middle of a photo of some ice frozen in ice aaaaaaaaaaand…


Him:  “ONE!”

Noise and panic around a giant, half-eaten polo.  A voice declares that the first phase of a base evacuation should take place whilst ladies in white flit from place to place.  Then there’s a cameo voice-over.

Me:  Sounds like a Mechonoid.

Him:  It reminded me of that voice in the TARDIS.

Me:  Yeah?

Him:  ‘Silence-Will-Fall” – oh!  That’d be ace!  If it went all the way back to The Chase and turned out there were Silence in the Mechonoids!

Me:  You could pitch that to Big Finish.

Him:  No!

Me:  It’s no less likely than some of the ideas floating around.  And not just mine.

A door opens and Clent - who appears to be disguised as a tiger - storms in, walking stick at the ready.  The stress levels are rising with the siren.  Shouting takes place until the danger subsides.  Miss Garrett, a lady wearing what looks like Google Glass, says:

Miss Garrett:  We need scientist Penley.

Clent reminds her that Scientist Penley isn’t working there any more and she’ll have to make the machine work without him. 

Clent asks the Mechonoid Voice for a damage report.  It runs through a list of glaciers that have been held - the list covers the whole of the Earth, rather than just the bits you’d expect.  And Scotland.

Me:  For some reason I can actually remember reading the Target of this in the back of a car.  It was a library book.

Him:  Sweet memories?

Me:  Ummm…  Yeah…  Why not?5

Clent and Miss Garrett – rather stylishly – exchange exposition as the camera pans up to an old BBC ident hanging on the wall.

A voice that’s not a Mechonoid declares the onset of the second phase.  Clent panics and hobbles over to a communicator to bellow at Scientist Arden - a gentleman working at the glacier face elsewhere and therefore probably about to become a statistic.

In the middle of a snowstorm at the glacier face, Arden – who’s dressed like he lost a bet – directs a young man called Davis to drill into the ice.  The Excalibur music’s back.

Davis says he’s found something, and Arden grumbles about the surplus of mastodons they’ve been uncovering recently – thus allowing author Brian Hayles to gently acknowledge the article that first prompted the idea that eventually hardened into the basis for this fantastic story.

Arden clears some of the snow away, but the shape is still indistinct.  It almost appears to be a man…

Telecommunoprompter:  Ping!  Ping!

The wind rises and the signal’s lost.  Arden decides they should press on anyway, Clent’s computer schedule be damned.  He rubs more of the ice away as Sutekh’s Organ Sonata of Evil in G makes an anachronistic appearance.

Him:  “Let’s use our bare hands – that’ll be quicker!”

Back at the base, Clent’s less than happy that his Skype’s crashed at such an important moment.  Say what you like about this story’s warnings about technology in general - and computers in specific – some of it’s still on the money.

Miss Garrett announces that we’re not far from total disintegration, which doesn’t sound good.

Outside the base the snow’s drifted up the walls.  A wolf joins in on the Excalibur chorus…

Me:  It feels very different.  The music and the sound effects help.

The TARDIS materialises at what might optimistically be described as "a jaunty angle".

Him:  That’s a terrible landing.

Me:  It’s not the best.

Him:  No.

Victoria emits her first sonic blast of the story as the TARDIS sledges to an abrupt landing.  The doors are opened.

Him:  And the doors on the inside still look nothing like the doors on the outside.

The Doctor, still wrapped up in Yeti fur, clambers out after some business.

Me:  Reminds me of The Eleventh Hour a bit.

Victoria points out all the snow.

Jamie:  Oh no, not again.

Me:  “It’s actually Cornwall.”

The Doctor and Victoria climb out of the TARDIS.  Victoria points at the giant wall just out of shot.  Suddenly, the Doctor emits a pained cry…

Me:  Ha!

Having managed to get Jamie off his hand, the Doctor explains to Victoria that the wall is in fact part of a massive plastic dome.

Victoria:  I wonder what’s inside…

Behind them a door opens -

Two unshaven gentlemen, one very much so, rush out through the door.  They are both carrying what look like packets of cheese.

Me:  “Wensleydale?”

The two rush off into the blizzard.

The Doctor manages to get the door open and our heroes venture inside.

Elsewhere, Miss Garrett’s got the Skype back online.  Clent’s delighted.  Arden relates his discovery of what he’s hoping to name ‘Arden Man’, or, failing that, ‘Metaltron’. 

Our heroes poke their heads round the wall.

Me:  Ha!

The interior of the dome seems to be done out mostly in Worthy Sunday Period Drama.  An urgent voice announces the third stage of evacuation as Jamie finds an opportunity to flirt.  Further down the corridor, the Doctor is distracted by the distant sound of a dot matrix printer.

Victoria suggests that they leave as it might be dangerous, but in a wonderful moment of true glory, the Doctor says:

The Doctor:  No.  Let’s go in.

Beyond the door, Clent is shuffling around the Control Polo offering advice and corrections, none of which appear to be helping.  The Doctor shadows Clent, growing increasingly concerned.  Clent finally notices our chums and tries to have them ejected as scavengers.  Or "Scavengers", as it’s pronounced onscreen.

The Doctor:  In two minutes and thirty-eight seconds you’re going to have an almighty explosion!   

The Doctor bounds from technician to technician, offering corrective bafflegab, whilst Clent blusters.  Peter Barkworth’s a class act, and we already know how good Patrick Troughton is, so this scene’s a treat.

With the Doctor vindicated and the excitement ebbing, Clent is struck with a sudden stress headache.  Miss Garrett offers an interesting suggestion. 

Me:  ‘The Vibrochair’?

Evidently, paracetamol has been outlawed in this fearful frigid future.

Elsewhere, the origins of ‘Arden Man’ are being speculated upon.  Viking maybe?  Hard to tell really – probably prehistoric, and lawks!   He’s a whopper!

Walters:  Proper ‘ice warrior’, isn’t he, Sir?

Me:  And we have a name. 

As the wind rises, the two bearded gentlemen we saw earlier are watching this glacial excavation with interest.

Him:  Cool!  His beard wiggled!

Me:  It’s very windy.

There’s a sudden avalanche and Davis is swept away to the strains of Excalibur.  The two scavengers are also buffeted, with the exceptionally-bearded one (who’ll turn out to be the descendent of a Tullock landlord and probably named after a Sontaran) thinking his arm’s broken.

Me:  The tension’s building.

Back in the dome, Clent asks the Doctor to explain how he knows so much about computers and nothing about the state of the planet.

The Doctor:  Well – er – as a matter of fact we’ve – been in retreat – in - in Tibet.

Clent suggests the Doctor undergoes a science test.  The Doctor agrees and Clent springs an unexpected general knowledge question that goes some way to filling in the back-story (it’s another ice age – I’m not going to say which one in case there are any Radio Times readers lurking nearby).

Me:  Pole shift, eh?

The Doctor gets it right.  Clent explains that the problems stemmed from the environmental disaster caused after world famine was conquered.  Humanity has developed an Ioniser that melts the ice but it’s not as reliable as you’d hope.

Me:  Reminds me a bit of The Moonbase.  And The Enemy of the World.

The glacier's in check for the moment, but one small error and everywhere’ll look like the freezer compartment of my fridge.  Clent had been relying on the scientist Penley who was mentioned earlier, but for whatever reason he’s not around right now.  Clent offers the Doctor the position of Scientific Advisor, and in a brave and unexpected move the rest of the series is set in the dome, with Jamie flirting relentlessly with everything in a skirt. 

The Doctor is introduced to his new mentor, Miss Garrett.  She’s a computer specialist.

Miss Garrett:  Here, we are completely computerised.

The Doctor:  Well, never mind.

Me:  Ha!

The block of ice containing ‘Arden Man’ is wheeled in.  The Doctor has an excited look at it, but doesn’t mention Minnesota or John W. Campbell.  Arden expresses a certain amount of understandable professional jealousy when the Doctor points out that the helmet’s all wrong.

Arden:  Well, I say it’s an undiscovered civilisation. Think of the implications!

Me:  It’s like a cross between The Thing from another World and the Fortean Times letters page.

Clent blusters away with Arden to have a meeting.  As the ice starts melting, the Doctor spots something that really shouldn’t be found in anything as old as this and looks rather flustered.  Leaving Jamie to flirt with Victoria, the Doctor dashes off after Clent. 

Jamie hops into the vibrochair and reveals he’s quite taken with the dome’s dress-code.

Jamie:  You – ah – don’t see yourself dressed like that then?

Me:  Jamie!

Victoria:  Jamie!

Him:  Why is Jamie imagining Victoria dressed as an Ice Warrior?

Me:  Well, it’s cold.

As the puddle beneath the gurney deepens, ‘Arden Man’ suddenly flexes his twitchy pincers and starts to gasp for air.

The credits slide.


As the DVD isn’t out at the time of typing, it’s johnnyfanboy to the rescue once again.


There’s a deft flourish of Carl Heinz Clayderman and we’re back into the ice-holiday slideshow.  

Me:  Oo – nice.  That looks good.

We recap. 

‘Arden Man’ is still defrosting.  The warm air of the dome’s interior has brought about a change of costume and a haircut.

Rather grumpy after oversleeping and probably missing the train, ‘Arden Man’…  Umm…  Well, not sure really.  Victoria fails to release a sonic blast and other than that it sounds like someone drops a fork they’ve just used to puncture an inflatable mattress.  Yes, I‘m sure that’s what happens.

Anyway, back at the Control Polo, things’re hotting up.  Pardon the pun.

Me:  It’s a bit of a cautionary tale against technology.  And the perils of defrosting seven-foot tall, reptilian Martian invaders.

The Doctor bursts in on his appraisal with some alarming news for Clent and Arden.

The Doctor:  It’s the helmet.  It’s – it’s not what we thought it was.

Him:  “It’s an axe-head!”6

The Doctor:  It’s a highly sophisticated space helmet!

Me:  Copyright Terry Nation 1965.

Although Clent feels the Doctor is yomping to conclusions, our hero panics on.  He’s convinced that there must be a spaceship buried deep in the giant mint currently advancing over the Earth.  And Scotland.

Clent, with some help from Miss Garrett, deduces that whatever powered this ancient futuristic craft is probably based on atomic energy. Consequently, using the Ioniser to defrost it might cause all sorts of apocalyptic problems.  Clent’s all for asking the computer what to do, but Arden points out they might be low on yer actual facts.

Clent:  Well, furnish me with facts then!7

Jamie comes barging in.  ‘Arden Man’ has taken Victoria on a mystery date somewhere (so that’s what was going on), and our dashing young Scot is somewhat concerned.

Back in the room Victoria isn’t in, the Doctor points out that the table itself has been burned.  It’s hard to tell from the telesnaps but with the amount of ice that isn’t there anymore, I hope everyone’s wearing waders.

Me:  Science!

Clent issues an alarm and decides he’ll ask the computer what to do next.

Me:  “++HELLO++MY NAME’S MAX++”8

Victoria and ‘Arden Man’ have found a romantic cupboard elsewhere in the dome.   The romance theme from The Legend of Zelda plays gently from the giant’s internal speakers.  The two are getting to know each other.

Victoria:  Wh-where are you from?

‘Arden Man’:  ssssss frrrom the rrrrred planet ssssss

Victoria:  M-Mars?

‘Arden Man’ doesn’t answer, perhaps he’s ashamed of his roots?  Anyway, ‘Arden Man’ totally blows his chances with the shivering Victoria at this point by threatening her with a teeny torch, little realising she’s just toying with him – one sonic blast from her could totally destroy the stunted Alien rip-off along with the massive tank it’s walking around in.

I should at this stage say that whilst I personally didn’t mind Cold War as such, it would have been immeasurably improved by having a) a different/new monster and b) a different/new writer.  Save the fanboy reimagining for Big Finish, if you don’t mind.4

Me:  Victoria’s not having much success with reasoning.

‘Arden Man’ decides to dig out the rest of his chilly chums and we leave the cupboard for a moment and return to the Control Polo.

Max, the computer, has come up with a bit of a plan along with a casualty forecast.  Neither are great.  Jamie picks up on a key term.

Jamie:  A spacecraft!  Hey, d’you reckon that’s where the warrior’s gone back to?

The Doctor:  Well, he didn’t come by Shetland pony, Jamie.

Me:  Ha!

Max decides that Arden, having tried to name this new companion-abducting discovery for no reason other than profit and recognition, should be the one to go and start negotiations, with Jamie acting as back-up muscle.

Me:  Bit of the ‘I am the Victorian’ motif there.

Elsewhere, the two bearded gentlemen are - Oh, alright – the one with the knackered arm is called Storr and the other one’s the much-mentioned Penley and played by National Treasure™ Peter Sallis – who everyone knows as either Don Enrique, from perennial pensioner sit-com The Curse of the Werewolf, or his heart-warming turn as Man in Coat in the BAFTA-bait classic, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - so let’s just get that obligatory observation out of the way.

Right, in a greenhouse elsewhere, Penley’s attending to Storr’s rapidly-spreading infection whilst the two discuss how lovely the garden’s looking. 

Me:  There should be a bear in this.  Filmed specially.

There’s a bit of a problem, however.  Easily fixed.

Penley:  I’m going for drugs.  And if I don’t get them, you’re as good as dead.

Victoria and ‘Arden Man’ are still in the cupboard.  It’s quite hard to work out what’s going on as the mattress is still deflating.  ‘Arden Man’ wants to visit the ‘power unit’, whatever/wherever that may be, and has decided he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way.

Victoria asks what the penlight’s for.

‘Arden Man’:  sssonic gun ssss it’ll burrrssssst your brrrain with noissssse sss ss s

Little does this tiny wannabe-Xenomorph-in-a-tanksuit realise that young Victoria is herself equipped with devastating sonic capabilities.  I guess she’s biding her time and all the whimpering’s an act.

Jamie and Arden (who’s popped on a very fetching red top in the interim) seem to be trying to play golf with a novelty club.  Clent Skypes them furiously.

Clent:  That was not the purpose of your mission.  Please report correctly.

Arden reports that they can’t get a reading from the ice.  As you’ll no doubt have noticed, both of Us are absorbed in the story.  That’s because it’s excellent.  Unfortunately, this means that I have do the irreverent stuff largely on my own.  Oh well. 

Clent aborts the mission, ordering the two to return.

Penley has made his way into the dome.  Hearing a steady deflating, he hides in a locker, narrowly avoiding ‘Arden Man’ and Victoria, but watching as they wander past on their way to this power unit thing.

The Doctor and Clent are talking, and some lovely character beats go by.  Clent’s totally reliant on the impartiality of machines, but acknowledges that Penley would be useful to have around.

Me:  It’s been confusing me for a bit, but I’ve worked it out.  Peter Barkworth sounds a lot like Patrick McGoohan.  Well, in this anyway.  He’s a class actor.

Victoria and ‘Arden-'  Oh, alright.  He’s called ‘Varga’.  Happy?

Victoria and Varga are…  Um…  Well…  They’re- they’re…  I’ve no idea.

Me:  Is Varga inflating something?

Him:  Sounds like it.

Varga announces he’s taking Victoria on a holiday to the Ice Mountains.  Just then, Clent bursts in.  There’s a sudden noise and Varga zaps Clent with Mirrorlon – I imagine, it’s hard to tell. 

Clent falls to the floor and Victoria emits a brief sonic blast – unfortunately her aim’s off and Varga stands unaffected.

Varga:  s s s s ss ss ss sss

Me:  I think Clent’ll need more than pumping.

Penley watches from inside his locker – clambering out when the alliterative couple have vanished.  The Doctor arrives and catches Penley standing over the prone Clent.

Penley:  I… I was going to give him this.

The Doctor sniffs the small glass bottle that Penley hands him and starts coughing before using it to wake Clent – who’s just been stunned.  Penley explains the situation to the Doctor, including the whole business with Varga and Storr, and then heads off with the drugs he’s acquired.  The Doctor stops Penley and tells him how much he’s needed.  Penley pauses and considers - but still leaves to help Storr.

Me:  Lovely scene.

Him:  Do you reckon they’ve found the rest of The Ice Warriors and it’s just playing in the BBC Canteen?

Me:  Nope.  But I’d be surprised if the DVD isn’t released at a coincidentally optimum time.  Say, next year…4

The Him looks baffled.

Him:  Oooo-kay.

Miss Garrett and Jamie arrive just as Clent recovers.  Varga’s managed to get out of the base, armed with the power pack thing.  The Doctor gets rather worried by this as it’ll allow Varga to wake others of his kind.  Arden’s sensible enough not to claim credit for the way things have turned out.

Me:  The script’s ace.  The acting’s ace.  The music helps.  I’m impressed.  We’re really on a run of classics here and this story’s excellent.

Penley treats the unconscious Storr, name-drops a Christopher Eccleston story and announces to his reflection that he’s going to do some hunting of his own.  His first name’s Elric by the way.  No, not that one.
The lesser-known Elric of Penley (and Scotland) confronts his evil twin.
In the Ice Mountains, Varga’s bored of his romantic break and prepares to awaken the rest of his gang for some proper laddish larks.  Puddles of terror begin to form…

Credits Ho!

Me:  That went by quick.

Him:  It did.


We recap.  Postcards of the Ice Mountains…

Me:  I don’t know what to draw for this one.

Him:  One of the guns?  Keep with the circle theme.

Me:  Could do.

Varga’s lads are still defrosting.  According to the telesnaps, Penley’s watching all this take place.

Back in the dome, Jamie and the Doctor share some brief words while Arden tries to get his shiny red pullover on.  The Doctor tells Jamie to keep his wits about him.

Me:  Nice banter.

Clent and Arden exchange a final back and forth, allowing Arden the chance to set up the reasons for a potential noble sacrifice later on, which would be a shame, as I don’t think the Foundation gives the Nobel posthumously.  If they still give it out at all in this nightmare future.

Jamie and Arden head off and Clent assigns Miss Garrett to the Doctor.  If this was remade today Clent would probably be following Health and Safety regulations.

Storr’s made a marvellous recovery.  Penley tells him about the various adventures he’s been having.  They’re very at ease with one another.   

Me:  I wonder if these two are a couple.

Him:  I think it was illegal back then.

Me:  Doesn’t mean that they aren’t a couple.

Storr hears someone moving outside.  Penley hides him just as Miss Garrett makes an appearance.  It’s all swirly.  Miss Garrett tries to persuade Penley to come and help with the Ioniser, but he stands his ground.  In fairness, the message is a bit hard to miss, even without comedy parp-parp music underlining each dramatic beat and drowning any subtlety in a bucket.

Him:  These episodes are going by really quickly.

Me:  Good, aren’t they?

Having exhausted negotiation and diplomacy, Miss Garrett pulls a tranquillising torch on Penley.

Penley:  You must be desperate.

Storr appears from nowhere, grabs the torch and everyone starts being polite to each other again.  Penley still refuses to help, but offers a suggestion in case things go south(er).

Penley:  Look up my notes on the Omega Factor…

Miss Garrett leaves.  During the intervening episode gap everyone seems to have decided that ‘Ice Warrior’ is the correct name for the tall green lumbering machines, but then there’s a fine divide between nominative determinism, synchronicity, morphic resonance, steam-engine time and the path of least resistance.4

Me:  Storr’s hamming it up a bit.  It’s hovering close to Python but it still just about works.  It’d be fine usually but this is so well-cast otherwise that he stands out-

Him:  “Beardy Weirdy!”

Back with Victoria and Varga and the air’s thick with testosterone.

Him:  “sssssss  sssssssss  sssssssssss  ss ss ss ss”

Varga directs the first of the unthawed to head off and set some traps.  Victoria’s having a terrible time – she’s gone from love interest to peril monkey in barely an episode.  Penley, true to form, appears to be watching.

Back in the dome and the Doctor’s probably going through some sort of montage involving calculations, crumpled paper and chewed pencils.

Me:  Dudley’s gone a bit Tubular Bells II dance mix there.

Miss Garrett comes rushing in with the cheat sheet Penley hinted at earlier.

The Doctor:  ‘Omega’.  Well, what does he mean?

Me:  With a bit of retconning I guess you could argue-

Him:  “A HERE OH?”

Me:  Yes.  That.

Obviously you couldn’t – unless you were preparing a pitch to Big Finish or - wait, pretend I didn’t say that.  Hmmmm…4

Dudley does something I’d never let Murray (“Itsa me!”) Gold get away with as the Doctor gets very excited about the ‘Omega Factor’.

Clent:  That’s fantastic!

The Doctor:  Well, when you’ve been at it as long as I have…

Me:  Nice.

When the topic of peer review is raised, the Doctor leaves in a huff.

Elsewhere, Arden Skypes the dome to inform them that the Ice Warriors have carved a new cave using just their tusks.  And possibly futuristic carving tools.

Me:  Speleogenesis, that’s what that is.

Arden’s discovered a series of large circles that seem to make up a door.

Me:  It’d be nice if the new series would try some more experimental music from time to time.

Him:  It does.

Me:  Yeah, but not for a whole bar. 

Him:  “This is BBC 1.”

Me:  That’s no excuse.  In fairness, it has been a bit less constant-Tom-and-Jerry since Matt Smith arrived.4 

Him:  ‘The Sun’s Gone Wibbly.’

Me:  Damn straight.

The Ice Warriors spring their sneaky Mirrorlon trap and Jamie and Arden fall to the snow.  Victoria’s truly unhappy at the way this adventure is turning out.

The Ice Warriors head back into their hiding place to wait for the next batch of inquisitive scientists – in the interim, there’s fiddling with a propulsion unit to be done.

Back in the dome, the Doctor’s getting worried that Jamie hasn’t been in contact.  They check, but the Skype’s just showing snow.  Miss Garrett announces that the Ioniser’ll work after all – but they need Arden’s report to know if it’s safe to go ahead.
Me:  In the future everyone’ll dress like a Howlaround
Him:  Ha!

Penley has taken Jamie back to Storr’s greenhouse.  Arden’s dead but Victoria’s alive...

Him:  “Victorian Watercress…”
Victoria tries calling the Doctor on the dropped Skype, unaware that she is being observed.

Varga:  sssshe hass courrrage sss but sshe isss alsso verrry ssstupid sss

Me:  They’re pretty creepy.

Him:  Uh huh.

Victoria’s found a signal and manages to connect to the dome.  She’s truly terrified.  In fact, the whole scene’s fairly full on.

Victoria:  Arden’s dead and Jamie’s disappeared!  Don’t you understand?  They’re ruthless killers and they’ll stop at nothing! 

Varga prepares to emit a sonic burn/Like a healing hand…

An inverted avalanche of credits cascade upwards.

Me:  That was excellent.

The Him sings along with The Greatest Theme in the History of Forever.


We’re off again.

A piano trills over fifty shots of snow

Me:  Was that a…?

Him:  Syringe?

In a sudden and surprising change of tactics, Varga decides not to boil Victoria’s brain but instead use her distress bleat to draw their enemies in.

Still on her teary Skype, Victoria is attempting to describe the engines when the connection becomes more sporadic.  The glacier is moving…

Varga decides enough’s enough and sends a couple of the lads out to bring Victoria back in to answer some questions.  Namely, why is Clent so interested in their engines?  During Varga’s speech the camera zooms right up close…

Me:  Wow.

Victoria’s in trouble.  Having familiarised herself with the Companion’s Manual, she gathers up everything she needs to, and legs it toward the base with an Ice Flunky lumbering after her.
Him: “i can ssssee you with my giant head sss”
Victoria ducks into an ice passage, there’s a sudden snowfall that lands on her head-

Him:  Ouch.

- and the pursuit’s back underway.

In the dome, the Doctor’s dialling up some chemicals.

Me:  Oh.  It’s a phone. 

Having dialled up a quick drink, the Doctor runs through the problems facing them and orders something a little stronger for later.

Me:  Here comes the science.

The Doctor plans to leave for the spaceship, armed only with ammonium sulphide.  Clent eventually agrees to the Doctor’s plan, but under protest.

Victoria has been cornered by the Ice Flunky and is forced to emit a sonic blast – it brings the roof down.
Him:  “Is there/Ice on Mars?”

In the greenhouse, Jamie’s got a headache.  Penley treats him with a damp cloth and some exposition.

Jamie’s delighted to meet a fellow Scot, but unfortunately he’s legless.

Him:  Just like Ian.

Me:  Yup.

Varga fills in some time with his number two.  Basically they’re stuck until someone turns up with some fuel or something.  It’s approaching a bit of a zugzwang.  Varga’s so disheartened that he retreats into his shell for a bit.

Victoria’s trapped under the icefall.  The Ice Flunky’s still holding her wrist, so she’s not going anywhere for now.

Storr’s experienced a sudden sharp drop in his IQ and wanders off to ask the Ice Warriors for help.  It’s a very strange thing to do.  Luckily, he hears Victoria’s gentle distress honks echoing up the chilly arteries, and clumps off in the general direction of the noise to see if he can help.

The Doctor and Penley stumble across each other and strike up a brief alliance.  Penley takes the Doctor to see Jamie at the same time as Storr finds and frees Victoria.

Me:  Really quick cuts there.  Quite disorientating.

There’s another icefall – Storr pulls Victoria off into the tunnels.

The Ice Warriors are passing the time before besieging the base with bafflegab. 

Storr’s misguided notions lead him straight to the ship.  Within moments, Victoria’s recaptured and Storr’s undergone a fatal dose of rudeness and Mirrorlon.

Him:  “nasssty sss”

Me:  He was a bit misguided.

The Doctor and Jamie fill each other in.  Jamie’s going to walk again (although, from the Doctor’s expression when he turns away, it isn’t convincing that he believes this).  Suddenly, the glacier makes its presence known by breaking bits off the greenhouse.  

Greenhouse:  CRSHSSHMSHtinkle tink

Me:  I’m fairly sure that’s the same sound effect of breaking glass that makes a cameo when the Martian capsule flattens Parson Nathanial’s house in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

Him:  These are going by really fast.

Me:  Good, isn’t it?

Him:  Yeah.

The Doctor reaches the Ice Warriors’ main door, mostly unscathed.  He knocks and the door opens.  The Doctor strides into the reception airlock and stares confidently down the Ice Warriors’ security vidcom, refusing to show them any identification.  It’s a bold move for a man who could easily be mistaken for an encyclopaedia salesman.

Varga mistakes the Doctor for an encyclopaedia salesman and starts counting up to the moment when he’ll remove all the atmospheric pressure and cause a poor cleaner an awful lot of overtime. 

Him:  What an interesting ending.  It didn’t go all black and we’re just waiting for Patrick Troughton to explode.

Varga:  ss ss ss



We recap with the now familiar slideshow and then the countup continues…

Me:  Bit different there.

The Doctor:  I don’t think much of your hospitality.

Varga:  ss ss ss

The Doctor identifies himself as being as scientist.  Varga flicks the buzzer and the Doctor enters the base and sees what he’s up against.

The Doctor:  Oh my word.

Him:  Ha!

The glacier does a little rumble and shuffle and Varga calls for Victoria.  He’ll want to keep an eye on the sniggering; it’s traipsing dangerously close to hubris.  The Doctor and Victoria are reunited.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s being dragged through the snow-filled woods by Penley.  A wolf howls, which isn’t the sort of thing that you really want to hear.  They stop for a quick break to give Jamie a chance to misquote Dean Lennox Kelly.  Unfortunately, there’s an unexpected cameo at this point.

Him:  It’s a bear!

Me:  Filmed specially.

The Doctor has explained the situation to Varga.  It’s all a bit of a mess really, with both sides being in a tricky situation.  The Doctor’s managed to leave his Skype on throughout this – which is trusting to fate even more than Clent, if you ask me – and the whole conversation has been relayed back to the base.  In order to maintain some mystery, I’m not going to tell you what Max recommends.

 Me:  That’s Roy Skelton there.  You almost met him.

The Him says nothing.

Jamie and Penley confront the bear, armed only with a tiny tranquilliser.  It’s an excellent moment.

Me:  That was pretty tense.

Back in the dome, trouble’s brewing and the acting’s hotting up.  It’s superb.

Jamie and Penley are okay, bar a mild clawing.  They hurry on, before the bear wakes up and finishes off mauling them into pink strips.

Back in the Ice Warriors’ ship, the Doctor has been shown the reactor.  It’s made of Ion and guarded by a door that doesn’t seem to obey Varga’s orders.  Interestingly, it turns out that an i(ce)Pod appears to be a standard piece of kit for these proud Martian warriors.  Yeah, yeah – stick with it, they’re definitely from Mars now.  Maybe they had amnesia from the long nap.  The Doctor offers to help, but Varga’s still after fuel.  They threaten Victoria and the Doctor admits that Varga will almost certainly find what he’s after at the base.  But Clent won’t be easy to convince when it comes to handing it over.  Varga disagrees.

Varga:  ss ss ss he will lissten to our ssonic cannon  ss  ss sss

The Warriors prepare to besiege the base.  And it’s about time.

Clent has been reunited with Penley and Jamie.  We’re watching it again.

Me:  It’s Wallace.

Him:  And Gromit.

Me:  Yeah.


Him:  Is it?

Me:  Yeah, it’s Peter Sallis.  Same actor.

Him:  Cool.  What are the odds against that?

Me:  There aren’t any: it’s a certainty.  It does seem strange that no-one’s ever noticed that before.  I’d better update all the usual sites with the info…4

Clent finally starts to snap under the horrendous pressure.  After a heated argument, Penley and Jamie are stunned and dragged away.  The tension’s rising appreciably.
Me:  That reminds me.

The Ice Flunkies have reached the base.

Varga: sss take tarrrget rrreadingsss  ss

Varga begins to line-up the sights to blast chunks out of the base.  In order to cause a (noisy and very effective) distraction, the Doctor makes Victoria emit confusion-inducing sonic blasts.  She’s had a hell of a day, so it’s not as difficult as you’d think.

The Doctor produces their tiny phial of escape attempt.

The Doctor:  Ammonium sulphide.

Victoria: ‘Ammonium sulphide’?  But it’s only a stink bomb!

The Doctor:  Ah yes, the benefits of a classical education…

Me:  Wonderful.

It’s hard to tell what the Doctor actually says there, as he’s drowned out by Victoria's sonic blasts.  I’m looking forward to being able to select a subtitle option for this section, to see what the dialogue really is. 

The Doctor eventually gets the lid off and struggles desperately to hold Zondal’s deadly pincers away from the firing switch.  It’s a tense moment, made even more thrilling by the addition of-


Me:  Wow.

The Him sings along again.


Some more scenes from South to get us in the mood and...

We recap.

Varga’s hissing commands, Zondal’s gagging on stink bombs, the Doctor’s grappling with prosthetic pincers and Dudley’s pulled out his congas of fury.  It’s all very exciting.

Elsewhere, the base in the dome starts falling apart.  It’s almost undoubtedly, probably symbolic of what I’d like to refer to as Whobris, but promise not to. 

In other news, the outstanding Peter Barkworth also appeared in Silver Blaze – which has had a mention on the blog already.  The Daleks’ Master Plan: Devil’s Planet, trivia fans.

Varga puts through a personal call to Clent, telling him to surrender.  Clent – to his massive credit – points out that at the moment their hands are rather full, but he’ll see if he can make an appointment for Varga to come in for a chat.  Gosh, with all this mutually assured destruction hanging over both sides I wonder if it could be argued that this story’s alluding to what Orwell referred to as the ‘Cold War’?  Someone should do a remix.4

Varga fades back into a flurry of static.  The Control Polo resonates with bellowing.  Penley is mentioned, the computer is disrespected (to the max, no less) and Walters ends up on the floor.

The Doctor and Victoria are no further forward, so we’ll leave them there and return to the peace talks – the delegates from Mars have just arrived, y’see.

Clent attempts to get things moving, but his position is made awkward when Walters attempts some aggressive negotiations of his own.  Varga counters with the Mirrorlon defence and everything gets set back a few cliff-hangers.

Varga:  sso much for yourrr worrrdsss

Varga requires mercury.  I’m saying nothing (mostly because I’m watching it) but I doubt the Him’ll let this elemental development go by without a comment.

Clent:  This reactor does not use mercury.

Him:  Ah.  But we all know what does use mercury, eh, kids?

As stand-offs go, this is mighty fine.  Varga doesn’t believe Clent and prepares to let his Ice Flunkies mash the reactor.  After all, even if Clent’s telling the truth then the Martians can just have a kip until the spring.

The Doctor has been eavesdropping and tinkering.  He’s come up with a plan to turn Varga’s gun against the Warriors.

Clent tries to reason with the impassive Cold Warrior.  It’s just not happening.

Clent:  Listen, Varga.  The power source is locked in directly with the Ioniser.  If we cut the power before it is safe, the feedback effect could blast this building into a state of ion flux.

There’s a hissy pause as Varga takes this new information on board.

Me:  “you jusst made that up”

Varga:  rrrun it down to ssafety level ss but no trrricks ss do it now ss

Miss Garrett and Clent exchange the briefest of looks and she begins to adjust something.

Carelessly, Varga lets slip that his ship would explode if the heat was turned upon it. 

Clent:  Would it?

Us:  Ha!

There’s an interesting moment where the debate of value versus worth (or something) gets an airing.  There’s no time to explore that after Varga’s schoolboy error – we’re galloping to the end now.

The Doctor and Victoria meanwhile are discussing vibrations amongst other things.  The Doctor believes that the Ice Warriors are composed of a ‘far greater fluid content than human beings’ and that means- 

Me:  “They’re like water balloons.  And what happens to water balloons when you drop them on a hot spike?”

Not really, that would be hideous.  He’s basically going to microwave them, which is, to be fair, just as horrible.

Elsewhere, Jamie awakes but can’t find anyone to flirt with.

Penley has recovered and made his way to the Control Polo.  Working out what’s going on, he sneakily turns the thermostat to somewhere between Unexpected British Heatwave and Flashback Commencing.

Him:  We’ve been watching this for a long time.  Doesn’t feel like that.

Me:  Yup.

The Doctor turns on the Bafflegab which doesn’t discriminate between species.

Him:  “Ah, it killed everyone.  Oh well, next adventure.”

The Ice Warriors recover quickly and Varga’s not happy, to say the least.  He sets off towards his ship, followed by his woozy Ice Flunkies.  It’s time to administer the Doctor’s, long-overdue, damn good thrashing.

The Doctor sets off some fireworks in the ship’s control panels, before pulling Victoria in the general direction of somewhere that isn’t here.

Luckily, the two groups miss each other during their respective jogs between locations.  Varga finds his massive gun’s not working - he’ll punish Zendal later - and the Doctor discovers that he’s failed to kill all humans.  Which is lucky.

The Doctor uses Chekhov’s Stink Bomb to revive Penley just in time to fix Max’s eleventh hour (not that one) problem with indecision.  It’s a hell of a scene. 

Clent asks Max the following poser:

Clent:  Problem: Alien spacecraft is powered by an ion reactor.  Dare we use the Ioniser?  What are the alternatives?  Answer.

Max crashes.  Penley takes manual control of the Ioniser.

Penley:  At full strength the Ioniser will melt rock.

Him:  “But it will roll.”

I’m guessing the Him misheard Penley’s announcement but I might be wrong.

The Ice Warriors prepare their final doomed escape attempt.

Clent’s very upset about the turn the day’s taken.

The Ice Warriors find themselves lost in a fog.  They fall into a dream sequence.
Me:  That’s a great shot.

Him:  Why not make that your drawing?

Me:  Hmmm…

Silence on the base.  There’s a slow pan around the relieved humans.

Penley extends an olive branch of sorts to Clent and gets this in return:

Clent:  Penley.  You are the most insufferably, irritating and infuriating person I’ve ever been privileged to work with.

Penley:  Thank you.

Clent:  Can’t write a report though, can you?

Me:  That’s brilliant.

It’s only then they notice that our chums have gone.  With a wheezing, groaning sound the (now upright) TARDIS dematerializes, leaving only credits and a gallery of lobby cards from The Thing from another World.

Him:  That ended rather suddenly.  Action – action – action - action - stop.

Me:  Yeah.  We should have a trailer for The Enemy of the World now.

We don’t.9

Me:  Thoughts?

Him:  That’s a tricky one.  I don’t like answering that.

Me:  Well, you don’t have to.

Him:  I like it, yeah.

Me:  Was that because it moved?

Him:  Yes.  Mainly.

Next:  The Enemy of the World.  And Scotland.


1.   I’ve got a horrible suspicion that I might have sold it during my Tom-Baker’s-the-Best-Thing-Ever period, otherwise known as my twenties.  Idiot.  

2.  See 1.

3.  If this is the case – and there are a great many seams yet inviolate, so it might be – then don’t see 1.  Or 2.   These footnotes are becoming a bit complicated…4 

4.  You think? 

5.  One of the weirder things I remember about the Targets is that the ones I didn’t have always looked and felt wrong.  If I borrowed one I didn’t own from someone else it created an odd gap in my tiny consumer urges after I’d read it, almost like it didn’t count anymore.  I was an odd boy.4 

6.  On our recent trip to the Colony we found a friendly Museum which had a small section devoted to local archaeological finds, most of which appeared to be slightly-different-sized rocks all labelled ‘axe-head’.  If this was the case then I posit that the beach we were camped next to is the most important scientific and historical resource in the whole of Western civilisation and should be instantly acknowledged as such. 

7.  I chickened out of quoting The Day Today and howling “Fact me ‘til I fart!” you’ll have noticed.  Obviously, this is because farts have no place in Doctor Who.4 

Scans from the Ghastly Back From the Depths.
9.  We did listen to the one on the CD, but just listened to it and didn’t say anything.  We tried again and I forgot to make notes.  It didn’t seem worth making a third attempt,4 but, for completeness’ sake, here’re the notes that I would’ve made had I tried for the hat-trick.