The Tardis lands in the middle of an ice age! So much for warmer pastures, all these snowy episodes are giving me a chill at this time of year – brrrr!!
It’s the future, and Earth is overrun by advancing ice caps, kept at bay by outposts stationed all over the world. One such outpost (bizarrely an old Victorian house renovated into a modern lab) is visited by the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria. An expedition outside discovers a frozen man, it turns out to be a creature from Mars, and he is accidentally awakened, and then revives his fellow warriors from the ice. They plan to free their spaceship (and possibly conquer the Earth, but first things first), and the outpost cannot use its ‘ionizer’ ray to keep the icecaps away, lest it react badly with the alien’s ship’s engine, causing a devastating explosion. Skirmishes and kidnappings ensue, as the martians and the humans size each other up and play each other’s bluff.
With six episodes, there’s a little more to this story than just the alien stuff. The base’s leader is a complex character, proud and accomplished, but more concerned with reporting in positive results than in saving lives and doing what’s right. Another former scientist-turned-scavenger plays off of this and is ultimately recruited back into the group. He’s played by Peter Sallis, which was distracting if only because I kept expecting him to say “cracking cheese, Gromit!”. Still, these scenes are all good, and the lab, props and costumes are all very futuristic-looking for their time.
The aliens are pretty one-dimensional villains and, with their wheezing, hissing voices, sound like a cross between Darth Vader and Lord Voldemort. Their costumes are a mix of mechanical and organic, and look a little rubbery, but I did like their weird prosthetic mouthpieces – very eerie the way they move as they talk. They also have powerful guns on their arms that make cool warped effects when they fire. Not a villain to be trifled with!
So, pretty good overall, but mostly down to the supporting cast this time.
A word on the restoration: the two missing episodes were condensed as a single 15 minutes piece by the BBC, and presented as an “in-universe” communications failure, with the remaining audio and pictures presented on one of the communicator screens used in the episode. I thought it was very well done and a nice touch to present it this way. That aside, I also watched fan-made full-length restorations of both, just because I want to see every single episode regardless.