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Ice Warriors, nipple computers and a fruit museum appear in this serial that moves at a glacial pace

We find ourselves on Earth, sometime in the future – During the 2nd ice age no less! – atop a mountain where scientists use their ioniser to prevent rapid glacial movements from destroying all of Europe. Just as Troughton’s Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria materialise (sideways) outside the snow base, the scientists find a frozen Ice Warrior in the… well… ice.

Surprise, surprise, the Ice Warrior springs to life and – Kablammo! – Doc & Co must save not only the day, but the whole world. Hilarity, knee-high boots and a fruit museum ensue.

Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor with Wendy Gifford as Miss Garrett and Peter Barkworth as Clent in The Ice Warriors

Here's what we think of C039 The Ice Warriors

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what we think of C039 The Ice Warriors

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what you think 9 Responses to “C039 The Ice Warriors”
  1. Trenton Bless (Wrestlemania489)

    NOTE: After a rewatch of this serial, I’ve changed my rating to a 2.53/5. My points remain the same, but my rating has changed. Still good, but only get’s a little over the half point from me. Loved this review (the best bit was when you were discussing Jamie fantasizing Victoria in the tight outfit), can’t wait for the next one!

  2. Chris

    I didn’t have a lot of time to write my mini, so it is very mini.

    Before I go into my review I want to point out my annoyance at the Trope of an alien race going by the name another species gave it. Like the Silurians, who are still to come, a human call them Ice Warriors, but the Doctor continues to call them that name by it until David Tennant made an off handed comment about them being Martians in “Waters of Mars.” Tardis Wikia said that they were called “Saurian Evolutionaries; an audiobook featuring the second doctor is sited, which will allow me to forgive the doctor for continuing to use the term “Ice Warriors” in this story, but to have it continually used until Tennant.

    Now with that out of the way. The Ice Warriors is a fun story with an irritating song playing occasionally in the back ground. Like with The Tomb of the Cybermen everything is the fault of the archeologist who couldn’t leave without his discovery. Once the danger was discovered the indecisive nature of people who where a little too reliant on technology was in my opinion a fairly accurate assessment of where the future is headed. The scientists vs. loyalist storyline was interesting, but underutilized. All and all I felt like it was a middle of the road story, but I mark it up for the laugh I got watching Jaime fantasizing about Victoria in a skin tight outfit. I give it a middle of the road 3.1.


  3. Stephen | @sgamer82

    This is the one that reminded me that bizarre sounds and noises are a trademark of Troughton’s era, the one with the most cantankerous of commanders to date, and the one that teaches why giving a computer self-preservation is a bad idea.

    On the first point, could anyone understand what the computer was saying whenever it spoke? Then there was the constant throbbing sounds which I think were alarms, and the Ice Warriors’ hissing to deal with throughout.

    For the second, it came up in Abominable Snowmen that the belligerent leader is a frequent trope in Doctor Who, and even with that frequency Clint is a piece of work. He says he chooses not to make use of the experts around him as it’s something to be proud of, he slavishly obeys the computer no matter what, and berates Victoria about the Ice Warriors’ ship even when it’s clear she doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    On that note, blindly obeying computers also seems to be a common trope in this era of Doctor Who, and this group does it even when they know their computer is going to screw them over to save itself due to being programmed to survive. They’re absolutely lost when they realize they can’t rely on it.

    This is a story where I felt the companions did not get a lot to do. Victoria was damsel in distress through the majority of the serial. Poor Jamie got run through the ringer, getting beaten up, shot, paralyzed and knocked out throughout the course of the six episodes. In this case, it was the Doctor and the locals who were the stars of the show.

    As for the Ice Warriors themselves, like the Great Intelligence last serial this story marks the first appearance of a foe that saw a return in modern Doctor Who in the Matt Smith episode “Cold War.” I did enjoy them as far as dangerous and threatening enemies go, but I was less fond of their hiss-speak. It wasn’t so bad on its own, but when combined with the garbled computer and throbbing alarm frequent throughout the middle episodes it got a bit frustrating to listen to.

    All in all, not one of my favorite serials. It had its high points but between the companions’ lack of agency, the uber-belligerent Clint, the various noises, and a sense I sometimes get with these longer, six-episode stories of events being dragged out (seriously, did the bear attack in episode five serve any purpose?) I’m rating The Ice Warriors as a 2.9.

  4. Trenton Bless (Wrestlemania489)

    Hello Podcast Land! I’ve returned once more for another Mini/Maxi Review of the 6 part serial “The Ice Warriors”! Huzzah!

    As always, let’s visit the Knowledge Whale for some facts and trivia about this serial.

    • The opening title captions referred to the individual instalments as “one”, “two” etc. rather than the usual “episodes”.

    • Only “one”, “four”, “five” and “six” of this six-part story exist in the BBC Archives as 16mm black & white film telerecordings. However, on the DVD release (and iTunes) “two” and “three” exist in an animated format, similar to “The Moonbase” and “The Invasion”.

    • A real bear was used in specially shot film inserts (as opposed to stock footage).

    • Miss Garrett’s entire costume unexpectedly changes between episodes five and six. Her outfit in episode six is the same one she was wearing in episode one.

    • Regarding the dating of this story, a Radio Times article published at the time of initial broadcast placed it in the year 3000. This was the date used in DWM 76, The Doctor Who Programme Guide, The Universal Databank, The Doctor Who File and A History of the Universe, and it was referred to in the novels Legacy and The Dark Path. However, The Making of Doctor Who says that it was set three thousand years after the previous story (so circa 4935), The Talons of Weng-Chiang says that the Ice Age was in the year 5000, and no stories set in the 30th century seem to depict Earth being in an Ice Age. The problem with both dates is that each is contradicted by the fact that in this story humanity appears to be completely unfamiliar with the Ice Warriors, despite having contact with them in The Seeds of Death (set in the 21st century) and The Curse of Peladon (set in the year 3885).

    • Incidental music from this story exists.

    • This is the only serial I have reviewed so far that I don’t have in my collection of classic Who DVDs (besides the ones that don’t have DVD releases). I actually checked the DVD out from my local library. So, this review is brought to you by my local library!

    Now that the Knowledge Whale has given you it’s nectar of knowledge, on to the review!

    “Proper ‘ice warrior’, isn’t he?” says scientist Walters when Varga’s spooky visor first appears through the ice face. It’s a striking description and one that would stick but I’ve always wanted to know, what do they call themselves? Not Martians. What race are they? (By their fourth and final classic series appearance in 1974 they were actually calling themselves Ice Warriors.) These “cruel Martian invaders” made an instant hit and became a popular recurring monster.

    They were so popular they returned in 2013 for an episode. But that’s a story for another time.

    Hayles devised the Ice Warriors as creatures that could exhibit greater personality than, say, Daleks and Cybermen, and Bernard Bresslaw – oddly still discernible under layers of rubber and fibreglass – is brilliant as Varga. He menaces (“What are your qualifications for existence?”), scoffs, teases, “laughs” and does an awful lot of hissing. But, truth be told, his subordinates remain standard lumbering hissers.

    Hayles envisaged them simply as warriors in futuristic armour; it was costume designer Martin Baugh who gave them a reptilian twist so that, rather like crocodiles or turtles, their armour plating became integral carapaces. There were also different designs: indeed, Varga’s “suit” changes between episodes one and two!

    Thanks to a fortuitous find in a BBC store cupboard in 1988, film prints of four of the original episodes are still available for our viewing pleasure. Quite a tally for the extirpated fifth season. Thus most of the storyline can be followed, although the lost parts two and three included crucial moments. Varga kidnaps Victoria and reveals his origins “from the red planet” and his intentions: “Whether to go back to our own world or to conquer this.” We’re also deprived of the defining cliffhanger when Varga thaws his comrades from blocks of ice. Thankfully, these episodes are animated, so we can get a taste of what the actual episodes look like.

    So let’s take a temperature reading. There are many positives – besides the towering titular reptiles. Special episode titles play across a glacial montage, backed by a haunting soprano. Director Derek Martinus filmed convincing icy “exteriors” at Ealing Studios, and even hired a small brown bear! The scientific detail spouted by Clent’s team and the Doctor rings true – even if the advance of the glaciers “100 metres today” is implausible. The “global cooling” angle is laudable for the time. This new Ice Age has been precipitated by the worldwide devastation of vegetation. “No plants: no carbon dioxide,” says the Doctor, to which Clent adds, “Suddenly, one year … there was no spring.”

    The regular trio works well. The Doctor, back in his massive fur coat, proves himself to Clent with his mental acuity but pointedly disdains computers. He braves a visit to the Ice Warrior ship armed with nothing more than a stink bomb, then, seeing them in the flesh, does a comical double-take (“Oh my word!”) and turns to flee (love this bit). Jamie shows a lust for the ladies in their skimpy outfits and teases prim Victoria. “You see how those lassies were dressed… You don’t see yourself dressed like that then?” She does a lot of whimpering but stands up to Varga and looks the perfect angelic heroine during the chase through the glacier.

    Less effective is the repetitive blather about the base’s dependence on “the computer”. A reasonable anxiety in 1967 perhaps, today the message feels hammer-driven. Peter Barkworth shows fleeting sensitivity as pressure-cooker Clent, but does an awful lot of shouting and his borderline hysteria becomes wearing. Sporting peculiar stubble, Peter Sallis plays scientist/deserter Penley, holed up in a plant museum with science-phobic scavenger Storr (Angus Lennie, later aka Crossroads’ outrageous chef, Shughie McFee). They make a very odd couple.

    The finale is disappointingly shambolic (tension evaporates, scenes misfire and Victoria vanishes), but on balance The Ice Warriors is an imaginative serial and a well-mounted showcase for cool new monsters.

    Again like the previous serial, it’s a definite classic, but when I watched this serial first time around, “one” through “three” I found to be a bit boring. I don’t know what it was, really. Maybe the lack of action, the animated episodes or some other factor played a role. Still, this serial is able to squeak a 3.5 from me. So for our iTunes listeners out there, when you’re done listening to this review, go get “The Ice Warriors” on iTunes. I highly recommend it and think it’s a very fantastic serial.

    Next time, the Doc and co. are out of the icebox and into the toaster as they finally go someplace warmer. But their seaside stop goes wrong within moments as they are suddenly under attack! Turns out, the Doctor looks like some crazy Spanish dude who is hellbent on world domination! But this man also holds a dark secret. Next time on WhoBackWhen, Ponken and co. reviews “The Enemy of the World”, and I’ll be there too with a mini/maxi review for your listening pleasure! See you then!

    (I just noticed how long this is! Good grief, I just don’t know when to stop, do I?)

  5. Peter Zunitch

    In an interesting twist, we finally get a base commander who makes rational decisions when it comes to the doctor, and it turns out he can’t make any decisions on his own and it seems is on the verge of a breakdown at times. The characters are what carry this story, as does the exotic setting. The ice age has reached Europe. The base is what seems to be a converted estate. If there’s an ice age, I could see a fruit museum (botanical garden?). The woods, the ice caves, the glacier, the mixture of the historical and the science fiction technological (something that always appeals to me) all culminate in one of the most imagination inspiring environments in quite a while. The characters are diverse as they are strong with only a few exceptions. At one point it seems Klent has made up his mind to use the ionizer at full power and his 2nd seems to be talking him out of it. This seems completely backwards to their characters throughout. Then he asks the computer, who (let’s clarify this) doesn’t make no decision, it makes a decision to wait and see (not the same as no decision). Then in a second reversal, Klent decides to listen to it once again and the 2nd praises the computer for its goodness (contrary to her previous hesitation to rely on it completely). Oh and who in this wonderful universe would construct a command-level machine with a voice synthesizer that no one can understand?
    The ice warriors make totally illogical decisions when it comes to prisoners and this is the first thing that should be rewritten in the imaginary remake. As stated in the podcast, more character interaction should be added as well. Victoria however is totally over her head here, and plays that fact brilliantly. Unfortunately it consequently doesn’t give her too much to do but be captured. Jaime shines here in his scenes with Victoria. Unfortunately there are so few of these moments and again, he’s simply a means of story progression the rest of the time.
    Finally, while not “holes” per se, the plot “inconsistencies” are distracting enough to be irksome. The ending is indeed confusing. Just to clarify once again, the warriors ship never takes off. They think they are getting power to the ship, but what is really happening is the ionizer is remotely supplying power (they call it “heat” in a throwaway line as they are dying) to their controls before destroying it. The only thing that stops the big boom is that the ships engines are truly dead, so there’s nothing to interact with the ionizer. This “blink and you missed it” exposition is another issue I have with this story.
    The additional found footage between now and the last time I looked for recons really brings things up a notch. However I find myself truly missing footage of the initial discovery of the warrior the most.
    Problems aside. I’m always excited to watch this one and enjoy it each time I watch. I find myself wishing there were more. This is one time (probably only the second time) where the six part series may not have been enough to cover the concepts presented, and a very enjoyable story is otherwise let down for that. 3.3

  6. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrived to discover a 17th century house beneath a plastic dome serving as a base for the Ionizer, which held moving glaciers in place while minimizing catastrophic flooding around the world. Garrett lamented the loss of Scientist Penley to their team while Organizer Clent forbade an evacuation for which the center protecting Europe was feverishly preparing. Both tried to contact Arden, who was placing probes along the ice face and survived an avalanche. He decided to bring a tall armored biped he’d found frozen in the ice back to base despite the computerized schedule and what Clent would say. The Doctor recognized the pitch of their machinery was off and burst into the control room two and a half minutes from a disaster he averted without help from the computer. Clent accused the Doctor of bluffing his way into the control room until Garrett checked with the computer and found they had genuinely saved them. Clent then gave the Doctor less than a minute to devise the solution to the problem of reversing the climatic situation allowing glaciers to threaten every major continent on the planet. The Doctor eliminated causes until he announced ionization would reverse the loss of atmospheric carbon dioxide causing the problem. The Doctor agreed to help Clent and was dismayed to learn the worldwide glacier defense was computerized to the point machines approved the team’s every decision. Arden returned with his discovery and arranged to defrost it. Jamie and Victoria were left with the Ice Warrior as it began coming to life.

    The Doctor realized the Ice Warrior’s helmet had electronic connections. This fact, together with the fact the body was intact, told the anti-glacier team the Ice Warriro was extraterrestrial and, if the ship used atomic power, the ionization plan would create a nuclear disaster, if it used full power. Meanwhile, the revived Ice Warrior, Varga, swatted Jamie aside and questioned Victoria. She suggested asking the scientists for help, but Varga began considering conquering the Earth and took Victoria hostage. At a nearby plant museum, Penley told Storr he was going to the base for drugs to treat the injury the hunter had sustained in an avalanche. Penley encountered the Doctor, who urged him to return to the team. The scientist said he’d seen seen the alien and the terrified girl. Varga took Victoria and the power packs he needed to the glacier, where he revived more Ice Warriors.

    At the plant museum, Penley told a dubious Storr about the Ice Warriors and Garrett tried to convince Penley to return. He refused to work with Clent, but told her to look up his notes on the Omega Factor. The Ice Warriors excavated their ship and dug a cave to use as a trap for the humans, using Victoria as bait. The Doctor did calculations with pencil and paper and felt his work was wrong until he incorporated the Omega Factor, at Garrett’s suggestion. The Doctor’s calculations solved the world problem with glaciers except for the problem of the Ice Warrior’s ship perhaps causing a nuclear disaster. Arden and Jamie had received computer permission to learn about the Ice Warriors’ engine or find Victoria, depending upon to whom you talked. They fell into the Ice Warriors’ trap and got shot. Jamie contacted the base and reported Arden was dead. Penley found Jamie and took him back to the plant museum. Victoria found the communicator and reported the situation as the Ice Warriors watched, preparing to kill her.

    The Ice Warriors decided Victoria was still useful as bait for humans as the Doctor tried to help her return to the base. She fled, pursued by an Ice Warrior until both were trapped by falling ice, that killed the Ice Warrior. A chemical dispensary provided the Doctor a glass of water and a vial of ammonium sulphide. Despite Clent’s objections, he planned to investigate the Ice Warriors’ engines. When Ice Warriors tried questioning Victoria about whether the humans had fuel for their ship, she had no idea. Storr freed Victoria on his way to forming an alliance with the Ice Warriors against the scientists, ignoring Penley’s objections. They killed him because he was useless, despite having returned Victoria. Penley found the Doctor and took him to Jamie, whose legs were paralyzed. The Doctor told Penley to take Jemie to the base for treatment while he want to the Ice Warriors’ ship. In an airlock, Varga interrogated the Doctor, who refused to respond, but was told unless he did, the atmospheric pressure would lower until his body exploded.

    The Doctor explained he was a scientist who came to help the Ice Warriors and was allowed to enter the ship, where they asked him about the ionizer. The Doctor insisted it was not a weapon, but the Ice Warriors saw its destructive potential. Varga took an escort to make demands of the humans. Once the Doctor’s communicator was discovered and taken, he explained the ionizer would be used no matter what. Clent decided to put the question to the computer, got no answer, and decided to wait. Meanwhile, as wolves howled, Jamie and Penley were menaced by a bear with only a tranquilize for defense. The Doctor realized the Ice Warriors needed fuel. Penley and Jamie argued with Clent about the need to help the Doctor before both were tranquilized and taken to sick bay. As the Ice Warriors’ gun was prepared and aimed at the base, the Doctor silently instructed Victoria to cry as a distraction and let her know he’d use ammonium sulphide, a stink bomb. The Ice Warrior, saw the vial and demanded the Doctor surrender it before they struggled over a gun.

    Varga blasted the base and demand the humans surrender. Clent agreed to meet and talk. A technician cracked, complaining of the computer control and Clent’s reliance on it. Garrett shot him as he prepared to smash the computer. The Doctor incapacitated the remaining Ice Warrior with his vial and modified the sonic gun to be more effective against Ice Warriors. Varga demanded the base shut down its reactor, and thus the ionizer as well as the heat. Clent told him complying with those demands would not help anyone, but Varga didn’t believe him. They began to shut down the ionizer while Penley recovered and turned up the heat. The Doctor fired the altered gun and incapacitated everyone. He threatened to do so again if Varga did not retreat and sabotaged the gun before returning to to the base with Victoria. Clent’s team prepared the ionizer again and asked the computer what to do. Facing a problem with no solution, the computer had no solution. Penley took charge and used the ionizer at full power, which enabled it to melt rock. A small explosion indicated the Ice Warriors were destroyed as the glacier retreated. They prepared to tie back into the worldwide program as the Doctor and his companions departed.

    Conflict makes any story interesting and this serial featured multiple conflicts. Humanity had stopped growing enough plants to allow the planet to retain heat and glaciers consequently advanced. Humanity fought back with a worldwide, computerized plan. The story contrasted computers, which Clent considered the ultimate authority, with the Doctor and Penley’s free thinking approach to the problem. Once discovered, Ice Warriors chose between seeking help to leave the planet or taking it over and Varga’s decision put him and his small crew in conflict with humanity. Obviously, this story introduced the Martian Ice Warriors. They were called Ice Warriors because the first one humans encountered was frozen in a glacier. The Doctor, his companions, and the people at the base called the aliens “Ice Warriors.” In future stories, the Doctor might do so, but he would be more likely to be accurate. (By the same token, Silurians were misidentified in their first story. The Doctor corrected the error in “The Sea Devils,” but the wrong name persisted.) Another curious conflict is Jamie and Penley’s conflict with a bear, which was inexplicably foreshadowed by howling wolves.

    Like many stories, “The Ice Warriors” separated the Doctor from his companions and reunited them at various times. Victoria was a helpless hostage for most of the story, and Jamie did his best to play her valiant protector. He both defended and hunted for her until his lower body was paralyzed, sidelining him. The Doctor’s intelligence was on full display throughout the story, beginning when he solved the initial crisis and then worked out the solution to the world’s problem with glaciers. He realized he would need to investigate the Ice Warriors’ engines and prepared to face the aliens as he did. Finally, he modified their weapon to be effective against them. In addition to the principle cast, this story featured strong performances by the guest cast, including well known British actors Peter Barkworth who appeared in “Where Eagles Dare” with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton as Clent and Peter Sallis, known as Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, who portrayed Penley. Both also appeared in Sydney Newman’s THE AVENGERS at different times. “The Ice Warriors” was released on DVD with missing episodes two and three animated. Its soundtrack is also out on CD from BBC Audio with Frazier Hines, who played Jamie, narrating the action around the dialogue. He also read the audio version of Brian Hayles novelization of his serial for his Target book of the story. Each episode began with a musical theme as icicles hung before a snowscape behind each episode’s title, numbers, and opening credits.

  7. By this time Star Trek was around and that singing reminded me of TOS theme song. My first thought when I heard it was they were trying to be more flashy like Star Trek and with their budget the easiest way was to add that sort of singing.

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