Sunday, 5 June 2011

Beware. The Ice Warriors

Throughout the history of Doctor Who there have been some unforgettable villains, from seemingly indestructible pepperpots to dark and evil forces that possess people to pursue their evil ends. There is one villain, however, that I feel has been sadly overlooked of late.

Ever since the publication in 1898 of HG Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ society has had a pre-occupation with the ‘Red Planet’, right through to a song by David Bowie and an acclaimed television drama with that as its title.  It’s understandable, then that Doctor Who has been touched by this.

In November 1967 the six-part story The Ice Warriors was shown. It featured an Earth in the grip of a second Ice-Age, with a breakdown in society and, lurking inside a glacier was the large, dominating shape of Varga, a very large and imposing member of a warrior race from the ‘Red Planet’. Varga was played by Bernard Bresslaw, better known to most as a comedy actor who starred in many of the Carry On films.  He was also a man of imposing stature, well suited to wearing a very bulky and heavy costume. Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, along with his companions Jamie and Victoria, managed to defeat the Warriors’ plans for conquest.

A little over a year later the Warrior race from Mars re-appeared in another attempt to conquer the Earth by sabotaging the transportation of supplies and manipulating the planet’s climate to make it more akin to that of Mars, all from the security of the T-Mat transportation system’s base on the Moon. The story was The Seeds of Death, and the only change in TARDIS crew was that Zoe Heriot was now a companion, and not Victoria Waterfield. This was a story that featured more thought, for want of a better word, on the part of the Warrior race, and also portrayed them as being in a caste system, as the strike force on the part of the Ice Lords, who were given the title Commander.  It’s safe to say though, that the Doctor manages to defeat the invasion party and send the main invasion force into orbit around the sun.

The 1970s saw Doctor Who in colour and as we all know, a change in personnel inside the TARDIS.  Every so often Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was sent away on missions  on behalf of the Time Lords, and in January 1972 we saw a very clever parody on Britain’s entry to the EEC, namely The Curse of Peladon. This was a departure for the Ice Warriors, as they were still sinister, but were not behind the diabolical machinations on the planet of Peladon, and purely as Galactic Federation delegates from Mars sent to determine whether Peladon should be allowed to join. This was however, not going to last…

In March 1974 there was a direct sequel to the first Peladon story, namely The Monster of Peladon, which saw a struggle between the aristocracy of the planet, under Queen Thalira (herself suppressed as a woman in what was considered to be a man’s position), and the proletariat, the miners, who looked remarkably like badgers!  An Ice Warrior delegate was still on the planet, overseeing mining operations to obtain trisillicate for the Federation to fight a war.  It soon transpired though, that the Ice Warriors were in collusion with the Earth mining supervisor Ettis, and with the Federations enemy and there was an army of Ice Warriors in hiding deep in the mine. Fortunately the Doctor and Sarah Jane were able to confound their plans once more, restore peace between the miners and aristocracy and give Queen Thalira a few lessons in ‘Women’s Lib’.  And thus ends dear reader, the tale of the Ice Warriors on Doctor Who, gone but not forgotten, and clearly due for reintroduction into the modern canon.

So what was it that, in my view, warrants such a resume for the Ice Warriors? Well, they were large, reptilian bipeds, but their calling card was not just being thickset with hissing voices, their means of dispatching their enemies was unique, no firearms or laser guns for them, instead killing their foes with a sonic gun that could do everything from cut open a door to scrambling the brains of a poor unsuspecting defender of the Earth – what a weapon, eh? A bit like using Ethel Merman’s singing to destroy radar installations.

Article By Neil Jeffery

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