“Courage, my dear…”
This is what every Doctor Who fan has wanted from this series, a slightly more contained but still spectacular episode driven by a pacey and exciting narrative that almost echoes the last real Dalek success-story, Dalek, from series one in the way it breathes new life into a classic monster and brings fresh ideas and elements to a timeless character by using CGI in a way as to create mystery and suspense rather than create exploding stars or wall-clinging bikes, which, may well look fairly impressive, add no real substance to the story and are more of a ‘well, would you look at the that’ element. Cold War is literally what you would get if The Doctor landed on Nostromo (Alien). Where I couldn’t find anything that may add to a ‘bigger story’ this felt like the first proper stand alone story that really worked.
Where the inspirations were clear and Mark Gatiss clearly felt a revamp was in order of the Ice Warriors seeing as their casing made them far too slow and therefore didn’t make them very threatening the idea of something worse (in this case, trapped on a submarine with no means of escape) lurked inside their armour. Bringing them out of this shell and making them fast and mysterious (albeit just one of them) created a very different atmosphere The Doctor had to cope with.
There was one moment I found slightly weird however, I don’t know if anyone else noticed it but when Clara was sent in to talk to the Ice Warrior the first time with a headset on so The Doctor could tell her what to say she stepped back and seemed to see something (similar to Amy in the Tardis in The Lodger. When The Doctor asked her what was wrong she didn’t seem to remember but still looked frightened without knowing why… Could The Silence have made a cameo appearance without us knowing? Could this have something to do with the mystery of Clara? Surely we didn’t see the last of The Silence in Day of the Moon? Maybe I’m seeing something that just wasn’t there but Clara wouldn’t be that shocked by hat she saw with the Ice Warrior after returning from a planet full of aliens would she.
For the first time Clara felt like a proper companion (if a little bit of a rip-off of Amy). She fell more into line but also bounced off The Doctor well, my only issue now is that she needs to develop her own identity in the show. After seeing images from the shoot for the 50th in London it would seem as if she is still by The Doctor’s side which puts my theory into jeopardy but something is still telling me I’m on the right lines at least.
Next week’s episode looks like it may have potential to be another cracker, being fronted as a horror tale and set in what looks like the house Clara worked in the christmas special looking after the children. This could make for an interesting story as well as create a good tension between Clara and The Doctor as he still struggles to find who she is. Moffat does seem to like to remind his audiences of story arcs however, maybe not as much as RTD but the signposting can become a little too much. I mean last series with Amy’s pregnancy, where the idea and story was f***ing great and so well done it became a little silly having time in episodes ‘filled’ by The Doctor standing in front of a screen saying ‘pregnant, not pregnant’ over and over just to remind us. Once or twice, yes, almost every episode and I expected Matt Smith to lunge at the camera and start shaking it in his face and yell ‘is she pregnant!!? Keep watching to find out!!!’. We know, as an audience the mystery is there of Clara having other versions of herself out there, and we don’t know why, so give us clues (which he probably has very subtly) and don’t keep winding us up with nothing!
All in all, Cold War was the strongest episode since Clara joined The Doctor by a mile and really felt like the strip-backed narrative driven episode a program with such an immense following as well as a healthy budget deserved. Everything was used in the right places and we weren’t having to stretch our belief so far that we could take the idea of a leaf killing a star-God. As strong as anything in series 5 or 6. Definitely going to watch again.