I review the Mark Gatiss penned take on Episode 8 of the seventh season of Doctor Who, entitled Cold War.
This review contains spoilers and presumes the reader is already familiar with this episode.
Doctor Who S7x08 “Cold War”
Mark Gatiss is responsible for some Doctor Who stories that have received very mixed reactions from fans and critics alike – whilst The Unquiet Dead in Season 1 was good, The Idiot’s Lantern from Season 2 was poor. And the less said about Victory of the Daleks from Season 5, the better. Night Terrors, his Series 6 story, was also a strong addition – but how do they all fare when compared with Cold War, the latest Doctor Who episode?
It was certainly better than last week’s The Rings of Akhaten, but whilst I gave it a 3/5, it was still a low 3/5 and I didn’t enjoy that episode like most people. However, that’s about all it has going for it. It’s certainly not a classic, and it’s nowhere near as good as The Bells of Saint John, which was also – whilst an entertaining piece of Doctor Who, still not quite a classic. In fact, have we seen any episodes that can be labelled as classics from Series 7 so far? Some will say Asylum of the Daleks and Angels Take Manhattan. I will certainly not say Angels Take Manhattan, but Asylum of the Daleks is a strong contender. Overall, I think – Series 7, the second half in particular is really suffering from not just the mid-season split, but also the blockbuster format of the episodes. It’s like the show is trying to be something that isn’t Doctor Who, which is what we don’t want.
This episode however, certainly has its strong points. Gatiss writes the Ice Warriors a lot better than he did the Daleks, and gets the whole idea of what is essentially a base under-siege story spot on. Whilst the low-budget CGI and the weak ending were not too good, the story itself is fairly solid, and has several parallels with Dalek, if not being quite as good as that episode from Season 1. Gatiss does his best to reintroduce the classic monster aliens in a new fashion, and whilst I haven’t seen any of the classic monster episodes, I was still nonetheless hugely excited for Cold War – and although not quite as excited for it as I am for Neil Gaiman’s upcoming The Last Cyberman, and the series finale (and of course, the 10/11 team up for the 50th Anniversary), it was probably one of my most anticipated episodes of Series 7 Part 2.
And did it disappoint? Yes. As mentioned before, the ending was weak and the CGI was rather poor as well. Despite focusing on the Ice Warriors, The story wasn’t very original as well – this was essentially a remake of Dalek, but a) not as good, and b) featuring the Ice Warriors on a Russian submarine. Several similarities can be shared with that episode such as – a lone alien trapped and held prisoner by humans, before being freed by a companion of the Doctor and the surprising reveal of what’s inside the alien’s armour are just two examples. There’s more that I could run through, but whovians will have most likely spotted them already.
However, whilst Cold War does have a few weak moments – it does have a few strong points. The secondary cast were very strong additions to New Who, with Liam Cunnigham and Tobias Menzies playing strong roles in this episode in particular. This is a story that fans of pre-Moffat Doctor Who will likely enjoy as well – as it’s a pretty simple and straightforward story particularly when you compare it to the plot-packed episode that was Series 6’s finale, The Wedding of River Song. The Ice Warrior re-introduction was also fairly solid as well, as whilst it was in its armour, the scenes featuring it were awesome. The scenes without weren’t as strong as I’d have hoped, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.
The setting itself was also a key, strong element of this episode – and as we haven’t had that many episodes that have been set in the past in both Series 6 and Series 7, it was a welcome change to see the Doctor return to the era of the Cold War, even if the setting itself was limited to a single submarine – which was enhanced due to the dark lighting and the sense of claustrophobia.
I personally, however – can’t wait for next week’s episode, as the trailers have it as a ghost story. And ghost stories are cool.
DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7 EPISODE GUIDE – Part 1: S7x01: Asylum of the Daleks, S7x02: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, S7x03: A Town Called Mercy, S7x04: The Power of Three, S7x05: The Angels Take Manhattan CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: The Snowmen PART 2: S7x06: The Bells of Saint John, S7x07: The Rings of Akhaten, S7x08: Cold War, S7x09: Hide, S7x10: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, S7x11: The Crimson Horror, S7x12: Nightmare In Silver, S7x13: TBA