Oh dear. Time ran away from me this week. As I type up this review I am already ruminating on implications of this week’s Hide (But shhh- spoilers sweetie!) I am not a big fan of Gatiss writing for Doctor Who. I don’t think there’s been a single episode that he’s written for the show that I’ve actually rated above a meh. His stories don’t grab me and I often find his plotting lazy. And yet he amazes me on Sherlock so go figure. Either way, I wasn’t holding my breath for Cold War despite the return of the ice warriors.
So what was the spin this week? Gatiss riffed off Hunt for Red October and Alien, setting his story on a USSR submarine in 1983 smack bang during a Cold War operation missile launch. The Doctor and Clara join the Russians near the North Pole as the sub is sinking thanks to a monster on the loose. The TARDIS leaves for a reason unspecified meaning that The Doctor and Clara have to cast their lot in with the Russians led by Captain Zhukov (Game of Thrones Liam Cunningham) to survive the ocean floor.
The monster, of course, is an Ice Warrier, frozen in time and on earth for 5000 years, and going by the name of General Skaldak. People start getting bumped off one by one in true Doctor Who form. A Russian professor spouts Ultravox and sings New Romantic songs. Clara does as she is told, which is decidedly untrue to recent Doctor Who form. A sonic gets waved around. The warrior angsts a lot and has a bit of an existential crisis to mirror The Doctor’s own. Somehow, the ice warriors find and pick up their general and bugger off, leaving everyone alive and happy and somewhat less war like than before. Clara and The Doctor need a lift to the South Pole and the runaway TARDIS. End credits.
This is the first episode of Series Seven that I haven’t rewatched. This review is probably far too short for that reason, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Cold War is better than The Idiot’s Lantern, Night Terrors and Victory of the Daleks but not as interesting as The Unquiet Dead. It is an episode of resounding blah for me. I have read elsewhere that maybe the episode was simply aired too soon- before we know enough of Clara and maybe this is true. Certainly, I don’t have the same emotional investment in Clara that I had in the Ponds and that could affect an episode like this which rests to some extent on the companion’s mettle and fear factor. I don’t know…
Look- I wish I had more to say about this episode. I mean, it wasn’t terrible. But nothing grabbed me about it either. It was a lot like other Who episodes. Midnight and Forty Two come to mind where people are bumped off one by one in a contained, inescapable environment. Otherwise, Cold War didn’t further the series story arc. It didn’t reveal much else about Clara. It didn’t have some nice character moments like The Rings of Akhaten did. It was just average. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but I have come to expect more from Moffat’s Who.
Cold War: 5/10 inky stars
Maureen is addicted to all things speculative fiction, including Doctor Who. She guest blogs for MrsTribble but you can find her at her speculative fiction blog InkAshlings or on Twitter. She also reviews sci fi and fantasy books on Goodreads if you like that kind of thing.