Saturday, April 13, 2013

Doctor Who - Cold War - A Review

It pains me to say it, but there's really not much good to say about Cold War. Quite frankly, it's dull.

A big problem I have with the way that Mark Gatiss writes Doctor Who (with the exception of Victory of the Daleks) is that he writes stories which belong to the Classic Series. Don't get me wrong, I love the Classic Series, but the tone and pacing of it is far too different to that of most modern episodes. As a result, they feel lacking in energy, a bit lifeless, and out of place in general. And that, I think, was Cold War's problem. The ingredients for a good story were all there; it had the return of the Ice Warriors, a fantastic historical setting (an armed Russian submarine in the middle of the Cold War) and a great supporting cast. And yet they all felt a little wasted.

The positive: the new and updated Ice Warriors.
Mark Gatiss clearly intended for this episode to be his Dalek; after all, it reintroduced an old foe, intended to show us how lethal they are by showing how dangerous just one can be, and pushed boundaries a little by showing it outside of its armour. The main issue I had was that the Ice Warrior we met, Skaldak, never felt any more threatening than a human. His threat came from his willingness to release the submarine's nuclear missiles into the West and thus ensure Mutually Assured Destruction - however, let's not forget that this is something that anyone could have done. Indeed, that was the very reason why the Cold War was such a terrifying time for so many - because people knew that it would only take one fed-up worker one press of a button to bring on nuclear warfare. In the context of the Cold War, Skaldak's threat was nothing new, and it was hardly the way to convince new viewers of the terror of the Ice Warriors. The terror of mankind's ability to destroy itself, perhaps, but not of the Ice Warriors. However, credit must go to Nick Briggs and the FX team. Skaldak's voice was positively creepy and, visually, he looked fantastic, having retained the classic look of the Ice Warriors of old whilst having been sleeked up for a modern audience. Minus points for his out-of-armour CGI look, though. He looked far more menacing as a faint set of eyes in the dark.

One of the many negatives: the CGI Skaldak.

A welcome aspect of Cold War was its portrayal of a Russian experience of the war. All too often attention is paid to the Western view of events, so it was extremely refreshing in this respect. The supporting cast, too, was particularly strong; Liam Cunningham and David Warner were the real stars in their respective roles of Captain Zhukov and Professor Grisenko. The comedic highlight of the episode was surely Grisenko pleading with Clara to tell him about the future, desperate to know not whether there would ever be peace between the East and the West, but whether or not Ultravox would indeed stay together.

The Doctor, Clara and Captain Zhukov atop the surfaced and disarmed Russian sub.

Cold War also saw Clara continue her development as companion nicely and Jenna-Louise Coleman's performance was, yet again, strong. Her "Am I speaking Russian?" speech is a speech veteran viewers will have heard before in various forms, but was still a lovely comedic touch. Matt Smith, as usual, gave a very solid performance as the Doctor, though my one gripe is that he didn't quite hit the highs he hit with his performance last week. However, I'm aware that there was a lack of great material for him to bite his teeth into.

And that's about all I've got to say, really. The biggest problem with Cold War is that it didn't engage me. The good thing about most of the episodes I dislike is that I still feel compelled to talk about them in some way, but with this I felt - and continue to feel, an hour after watching it - absolutely nothing. If you really love your classic Troughton base-under-siege stuff, you'll love Cold War, but it really wasn't my cup of tea. It failed to be the one thing that Doctor Who should always be: fun.

Cold War fails to live up to the standards of modern day Doctor Who.

No comments:

Post a Comment