“Viva Las Vegas!” cry the intruders, seemingly emerging from a blue box that later vanished. But not only were they not in the USA, the Doctor and Clara had arrived in the middle of a disaster that was already underway…
We’re at the North Pole. It is 1983.
“For the motherland!” a drill is taking place on board a nuclear submarine of the Soviet Union navy, situated under Arctic ice. Lieutenant Stepashin has the look of a fevered Communist, chomping at the bit to eliminate Western Decadence; his Captain, Zukhov, has the look of a man who has seen off many such lieutenants.
“This means nothing to me…” the pacifistic overtones of Ultravox’s Vienna drift to the bridge as Professor Grisenko emerges, wearing what we assume to be the latest model Walkman from Japan. How a Soviet sailor would get hold of such contraband in 1983 is open to debate… Grisenko can’t sing, by the way.
The drill is abandoned, despite Stepashin’s protestations over the threat of NATO. He isn’t happy when Zukhov insists that the drill will be attempted the following day, dismissing the NATO exercises as “sabre rattling”.
But what Stepashin doesn’t know is that deep in the bowels of the vessel, a single threat that could slay his entire crew is about to be woken up. Erroneously thought to be “probably” a mammoth or other ancient creature frozen in thousands of years of ice, one foolish act by misguided seaman Piotr leads to the Professor Grisenko’s prize being woken up early – an act that sends the submarine into chaos as the creature is released from its icy prison and wreaks havoc on the creatures around it. As a result the boat is out of control and heading towards the seabed.
Which seems like an appropriate moment for some time travellers to arrive.
In the midsts of sonci weapons rattling the inside of the submarine and hull breaches leaking water, the Doctor and Clara arrive on “a sinking Soviet submarine!”. The Doctor advises the captain to manouevre the sub laterally in order to avoid crashing into the seabed. Zukhov places his faith in the Doctor’s suggestion, but Stepashin dismisses the new arrival as a “mad man”.
The submarine comes to a halt at minus 700 meters. As the Doctor and Clara are searched and restrained (the Doctor advising his erstwhile captors that he “wants a receipt” for his sonic screwdriver), a creaking wall bursts open and waters pours onto the bridge causing the Clara to be knocked under water, the sonic screwdriver to fall from the Doctor’s hand and worst of all, the TARDIS HADS to activate and move the timeship… somewhere else.
Surely all is lost?
When she wakes up, Clara is wearing a seaman’s jacket. She can hear the Doctor and Zukhov arguing in the background, the captain struggling to comprehend what has happened.
“Just this once, no dissembling, no psychic paper, no pretending to be an Earth ambassador – Doctor, Clara, time travellers.”
Professor Grisenko seems unhappy that he missed their arrival, but there are more pressing concerns. One moment, Captain Zukhov is considering conserving oxygen by having the new arrivals shot, but the next, a hissing sound distracts everyone on the bridge – except the Doctor, who hasn’t quite noticed that there is a creature behind him, an ancient creature that has been suspended in ice for 5000 years.
Eventually, the Doctor turns to see an Ice Warrior – the reason for the death and the submarine’s loss of control.
“It never rains, but it pours.” Observes the Doctor as the submarine continues to leak seawater into the hold.
“We were drilling for ice,” confirms Grisenko. “I thought we’d found a woolly mammoth.”
“It’s not a mammoth… it’s an Ice Warrior, a native of the planet Mars. And we go way back.”
One of the seamen foolishly cocks his pistol – in a flash the Ice Warrior is raising his sonic weapon, ready to begin the killing again. The Doctor negotiates with the alien, who reveals that its name is Grand Marshall Skaldak – a name that the Time Lord recognises. But as he comes to terms with the gravity of the situation, the Martian is attacked with a cattle prod, and falls unconscious.
“The greatest hero the proud Martian race has ever produced. Lock. Him. Up.”
Chained to a girder, Skaldak asks his guard if he has really been sleeping for 5000 years. The Ice Warrior activates a homing beacon in his suit. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds himself explaining something to Zukhov about the Ice Warrior’s heritage, their cyborg suits and their weakness. Naturally, Stepashin is unconvinced, refusing to accept the obvious and declaring the Doctor and Clara to be “…enemy agents. Spies”. Clara is surprised to learn that she is speaking Russian, having thought that her inability to speak Russian was a pretty good reason for not being a spy. Still, everyone has to learn about the TARDIS Translation Matrix sooner or later, right?
As Stepashin attempts to convince Zukhov that the Ice Warrior is in fact a Western survival suit, Griskenko backs the Doctor and Clara – his Walkman has picked up Skaldak’s distress call. Diffusing the situation, Captain Zukhov dismisses Stepashin, placing the lieutenant in charge of the repairs. The Doctor explains to the captain that by attacking Skaldak, they have declared war on the entire Martian race.
It is agreed that someone will have to negotiate. The Doctor observes that the Ice Warrior will not speak to Zukhov. The captain wants to keep the Doctor safe – so Clara volunteers to approach the alien, relaying words via a headset.
Clara approaches the Ice Warrior, barely able to see it in the dark. Steam fills the room from a faulty duct beside the alien. The Doctor dictates dialogue to Clara who greets him “Sovereign of the Tharseesian Caste, by the moons I honour thee.” A power failure interrupts the apology, but Clara continues.
Grisenko observes that the Ice Warrior wants to speak to the “organ grinder, not the monkey.” The Ice Warrior recalls his past achievements, memories of his warrior daughter who 5000 years later must surely be dust. He seems angry, and the Doctor desperately attempts to placate him, revealing that the Martians have spread out across the universe, and that Mars will one day rise again. He asks Skaldak to let him help.
“I require no help”.
Clara notices that there is something wrong – she touches the Ice Warrior helmet, and discovers that he creature has escaped, the suit left behind as Skaldak heads into the submarine’s infrastructure. The Doctor runs down to the torpedo bay to find Clara and hopefully get a look at the naked creature, which pushes past as the Time Lord, Zukhov and Grisenko arrive. The professor notices that the signal has stopped – the Doctor surmises that the Martian has given up hope of being rescued. “He’s got nothing left to lose.”
To make matters worse, the submarine slips on the rocky outcrop it sits upon. More water floods into the torpedo bay.
Elsewhere on the sub, Stepashin notices that he is not alone. A pair of green hands grab his head and left shoulder, as Skaldak begins a slow attack.
“What do you want with me?”
Zukhov tells his remaining crew that they are expendable – they must prevent the alien from gaining control of even one missile. “We are expendable. Our world is not.”
Stepashin attempts to bargain with Skaldak – but inadvertently tells the Martian (referring to mutually assured destruction) that there are dangerous weapons on board. We last see Stepashin as the spindly claws of the Martian appear to grow tighter around his head.
“History is in flux, it can be changed, rewritten,” responds the Doctor as Clara observes that the world didn’t end in 1983. Speaking to Zukhov, the Doctor determines that they should split into teams. “For an Ice Warrior to leave his armour is the greatest dishonour. Skaldak is deadly, and we have got to find him.”
“Will this help?” Professor Grisenko reveals the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which he has just found on the floor along with a Sindy doll. “Professor, I could kiss you!”
“I you insist.”
They move out, with Clara, the Doctor and Grisenko heading one way and the trigger happy seaman and a subordinate another, the latter discussing the likelihood of a Martian warrior being on board.
It turns out that the cattle prod used to disable Skaldak is kept on board to deal with polar bears as the submarine crew drill for oil – exactly how they came to find the ancient warrior. Grisenko attempts to encourage Clara to be brave by singing. He suggests “Hungry Like the Wolf2 by Duran Duran – “one of my favourites,” but Clara is unwilling, and confuses Grisenko with anachronistic talk of “karaoke and hen nights.”
Trigger happy and his subordinate are soon picked off by the Ice Warrior, with their cries attracting the Doctor, Clara and Grisenko.
“He’s dismantled them. Skaldak’s learning, learning all about you, your weakness, your strengths.”
Grisenko stops to catch his breath. “It’s a young man’s game, all this dashing about,” but he notices that Clara is a bit unhappy.
“Seeing those bodies back there. It’s all got very… real.”
Zukhov is elsewhere on the sub, and spots the Ice Warrior in the walls of the boat. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds the remains of Stepashin, and hears the echoes of the alien crawling above.
Clara panics at the sound of the submarine moving, despite Grisenko’s reassurance that it is “just the boat settling.” He tries to take her mind off the situation, asking her about herself, what she likes doing.
“Stuff, you know? Stuff.”
He wants to know more. “You’re from another time? Tell me what happens!”
“But I need to know! Ultravox – do they split up?!”
He’s done it – Clara’s mood is changed in an instance and she’s “back”, laughing at Grisenko. But at that moment, the Ice Warrior’s naked, spindly arms reach down and grab her head.
“LET HER GO!” bellows Grisenko, firing off three bullets at the creature. It releases Clara.
And then it strikes again, reaching down from the ceiling for Grisenko. The Doctor arrives, looking up at the Ice Warrior to see its blood red eyes as it reveals that it plans to release a single missile “to end this ‘cold war’.”
The Doctor attempts again to reason with the creature, but the Ice Warrior will not talk. “My people are dust… there is nothing left for me but my revenge!”
A noise fills the hold, and while the Ice Warrior continues its grip around Grisenko’s head, we see that elsewhere its armour begins to move. The Doctor suggests that the Ice Warrior show mercy, but at that moment Zukhov enters, wielding a rifle and intent on shooting the creature, observing that it must wear the armour for a reason. The captain agrees to negotiate “but from a position of strength.” The Ice Warrior congratulates him on his “excellent tactical thinking,” but has as surprise in store.
“Unfortunately your position isn’t as strong as you might hope.” Releasing Grisenko, the Ice Warrior slips down from the pipes, through the bulkhead and into the suit. A seaman attacks the armoured alien with his rifle, but the bullets have no effect!
Stomping towards the bridge, Skaldak reveals that his “planet is dead. But now there will be a second red planet’, red with the blood of humanity!”
The Ice Warrior storms the bridge, single-handed, and is soon using his suit’s technology to access the control mechanisms and prime the nuclear warheads. Silos open, just as the Doctor reaches the bridge, again trying to negotiate, reminding the Ice Warrior of Mars’ great empire, comparing the humans to primitives, “frightened children”, and challenging Skaldak’s right to judge them.
His claw edging closer to the red button, Skaldak is appearing to falter. The Doctor reveals that he is a Time Lord, and points the sonic screwdriver at the Martian. “You threaten me, Doctor?”
“No, not you. All of us. I will blow this sub up before you can even reach that button, Grand Marshall, blow us all to oblivion!”
The Ice Warrior doesn’t believe him, and turns back to the button. “Look into my eyes, Skaldak!” Challenging the Ice Warrior for what might be the last time, the Doctor convinces the monster to turn.
Skaldak’s helmet opens, revealing the Martian. “Well Doctor, which of us will blink first?”
Clara breaks the silence. “Why did you hesitate, back there in the dark? You were going to kill this man… why show compassion then, Skaldak?”
She goes on, reminding the Grand Marshall that fathers, brothers and daughters will die, reminding him of his own daughter, of the Martian songs “of the red snows…”
Just then, a crash echoes around the submarine as it begins to move. The boat is being held in the water by a magnetic field from above – from an Ice Warrior spaceship.
“My people live – they have come for me!”
Zukhov observes that the submarine is rising. Grisenko reports on the progress “600 metres, 550…” until the craft crashes through the ice cap and surfaces.
“Your people have saved us!” remarks the Doctor, but Skaldak denies it. “Just go, please, go in peace.”
At that moment, the Ice Warrior is transmatted away from the submarine – but it’s not over yet. The missile is still armed, and a sonic pulse from the Martian saucer could trigger it.
“Show mercy Skaldak, come on, show mercy,” says the Doctor, to no one in particular. Meanwhile, Clara begins to sing: ‘Hungry Like the Wolf”, again, for no particular reason.
The missiles are disarmed. Skaldak has shown mercy!
Clara hugs the Doctor – he looks uncomfortable.
“Saved the world then?”
“That’s what we do,” smiles Clara.
The Doctor, Clara, Grisenko and Zukhov gather atop the submarine to see the Martian craft. Clara asks where the TARDIS is, and the Doctor is forced to reveal that he had reset the Hostile Active Displacement System, which caused the TARDIS to dematerialise to safety.
“I haven’t used it in donkey’s years. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” The sonic screwdriver buzzes, informing the Doctor of the TARDIS’ new location.
“The TARDIS is at the pole!”
“Not far then,” smiles Clara, getting ready to go and find it.
“The South Pole.”
The Doctor asks Zukhov for a lift. The captain laughs as he descends back into the boat with Clara and Grisenko. Looking up, the Doctor salutes to the Ice Warriors as they spin away into space…
NEXT: “HELP ME”