Mark Gatiss(sssssssssss) continues to be one of the most consistently entertaining of the new Who writers and this is probably his most accomplished episode to date. He's clearly a fan of the show and introduced a vintage foe to a new generation of fans in a tense, occasionally terrifying, Alien inspired episode.
The episode was on a much smaller scale than last week, pretty much a bottle episode filmed on a single set, but what a bottle it was! The submarine set was incredible, down to the sound effects and the constant dripping water. I've seen films with less impressive set design. Doctor Who may have had a massive budget cut but it isn't showing on screen.
The new look Ice Warrior costume looked amazing (the CGI less so, but more on that later) - a subtle redesign of the 1970's costume (it used to have LEGO figure style hands!) which captured the essence of the original but took advantage of the larger costume budget the new series has. I'm not sure how Squeamish Kate will feel about the Ice Warriors bowing to cultural expectations and shaving their armpits though!
Grand Marshall Skaldac instantly became one of the most memorable foes the Doctor has encountered in years. A cold-blooded (literally, they are reptilian) killer prepared to destroy an entire planet for a minor sleight and also a tragic figure mourning the loss of all he loved, who ultimately chose forgiveness over anger. I really hope he returns. Although I hope he stays in the suit in future. As terrifying as he was creeping around the submarine the CGI face didn't look great, and seeing what was inside the suit took away a little of the mystery. Also as a Grand Marshall surely he should have been wearing an Ice Lord suit, not a rank and file uniform?
In fact I hope the Ice Warriors return as a mainstay of the show. They may have only featured in 4 stories of the classic era, but they deserve to be up there with the Cybermen or Daleks. In fact it was the Daleks who they were originally designed to replace after Terry Nation tried launching a Dalek TV show in the US.
Iâve seen films with less impressive set design. Who may have had a massive budget cut but it isnât showing...
Matt Smith was again fantastic as the Doctor, although I was a little less taken with Jenna-Louise Coleman this week. It was pretty much another introductionary episode for her and I feel that I've got a pretty good handle on the character now after seeing her in 4 episodes... Also, as Squeamish Louise pointed out as we were watching, the scene where Clara was alone with the Ice Warrior battle suit was very reminiscent of Roseâs encounter with the 'last' Dalek back during her first series. I like the character but just wish they'd give her something more interesting to do.
All in all though it was a fantastic episode, featuring some great guest stars (both the Captain and the Professor were brilliant characters), amazing physical effects, mostly great CGI (the Ice Warrior spaceship was brilliant - Iâd like to see them come back. In force), and a nice tight plot. After less week's misstep my faith in the show has been restored - Doctor Who can come in from the cold.