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5x03. The Ice Warriors
Writer: Brian Hayles
Director: Derek Martinus
Script Editor: Peter Bryant
Producer: Innes Lloyd

Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives in Earth's future, when glaciers threaten to overtake the world and small groups of scientists and technicians are trying to keep them at bay. Just as the European control center is preparing to use its ionizer against the glaciers, another threat turns up. Several aliens from Mars, having arrived long ago and now trapped in the ice, are revived, and not only do they come into conflict with the humans, but their ship's reactor could cause a cataclysmic explosion if the ionizer is used.

Review: As with "The Tenth Planet" and "The Tomb of the Cybermen," this restoration of "The Ice Warriors" is plenty valuable to fans for novelty value alone: not only is it a Troughton serial, but it introduces another recurring alien enemy and it follows the "base under siege" formula exemplified by so many other lost Troughton adventures. Fortunately, writer Brian Hayles proves adept at handling the formula, and it's to his credit that "The Ice Warriors" never feels too slow or boring despite the fact that the entire plot is really very simple: the glaciers are advancing, and the humans aren't sure whether or not they should use the ionizer.

Hayles' script is most interesting for the way it explores how this future society has evolved following the disaster of a new ice age, brought about when scientists destroyed the world's plant life in an attempt to clear more areas for the growing human population. (It is unfortunate that "The Ice Warriors," with its otherwise worthwhile commentary on science and human nature, gets the science exactly bass-ackwards here: plants consume carbon dioxide, so getting rid of them would *increase* global temperatures via the greenhouse effect.) One character, Storr, has become so reflexively hostile to science that he ill-advisedly attempts to ally with the Ice Warriors on the grounds that they are "against the scientists." Others are not so extreme, but the bureaucratic Clent's reliance upon a computer certainly reflects a distrust of human decision-making. Having seen a well-intentioned attempt at innovation go so horribly wrong, some humans now understandably seek a more "objective" judgment on the proper course of action than they themselves can provide.

Such a constrained intellectual environment does not sit well with someone like Penley, who was formerly Clent's chief scientist but quit after finding all the rules and restrictions intolerable. The Doctor, of course, is similarly independent-minded and skeptical of Clent and his computer: Troughton shines as always, but his best scene might be when he slyly asks Clent for a pencil rather than using the computer to do his calculations. At the same time, the script acknowledges -- both through the character of Miss Garrett and, by implication, through the Doctor's continuing to help despite Clent's overbearing behavior -- that Penley is being somewhat irresponsible by walking off the job right when a glacier is about to overrun the base. Hayles is sympathetic to Penley and his science, but not to the point of idolization, and one need only look at the bleak, harsh environment in which humanity now exists to understand why Clent or Storr might feel less than 100% confident in the scientists. In the end, the situation is resolved when the characters do something that the computer cannot: take a risk. Clent takes the risk of trusting Penley's judgment, and Penley takes the risk of using the ionizer even though they still aren't sure how it will affect the Ice Warriors' reactor.

The human characters are nicely written and portrayed, benefiting from a script that treats their differing points of view fairly rather than setting up obvious white and black hats. The serial's main weakness is that the threats they face never feel completely convincing. Though Clent shows some signs of stress when the computer is unable to make a decision, the sense of urgency that one would expect if the glacier was to overrun the station within hours never really materializes. (For an example of how to do this right, consider "The Tenth Planet," where everyone looks and acts as if they really are confronting the possibility of a worldwide cataclysm brought on by the Cybermen and Mondas.) It probably doesn't help that the Ice Warriors themselves, despite their creepy hissing voices, are just standard hostile aliens who don't have much of a backstory or a purpose other than to threaten the humans and disrupt their plans. Maybe they get better in their subsequent appearances (none of which I remember very well), but on the basis of this debut, I don't really see why they became popular recurring villains.

Still, the good outweighs the bad here, and the BBC have put together a nice restoration, which offers both the audio soundtrack to the missing episodes 2 and 3 as well as a 15-minute overview of the missing episodes with stills and audio excerpts.  Doctor Who completists will want to get their hands on any restored missing serial, particularly from the Troughton era, but this one is worth seeing whether you fall under that category or not.

Rating: *** (out of four)

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