Doctor Who
The Ice Warriors

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.99
ISBN 0 563 50423 4
Available 01 August 2005

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive on Earth in the future, to find the planet in the grip of a new Ice Age. Scientists are struggling to hold back the progress of huge glaciers using an Ioniser machine, but it's only a matter of time before they are overcome. To make matters worse, a giant humanoid creature found in the ice comes back to life...

As with the recent Crusade CD, there's little here that Who fans haven't heard before. The four existing instalments, together with the soundtracks for the missing second and third episodes, were previously released in The Ice Warriors Collection video box set. However, unlike The Crusade, which is currently available as part of the Lost in Time DVD collection, this CD has more validity owing to the fact that the Ice Warriors video has long since been deleted.

What is new, of course, is the linking narration provided by Frazer Hines (alias Jamie), in what is his final such assignment. As usual, the narration is unobtrusive - in fact, there are a few occasions when we could have done with having a bit more explanation. Listeners who have never seen this story on video might wonder why Miss Garrett (Wendy Gifford) suddenly mentions "The vibro-chair" (oo-er missus). The reason, in fact, is that Leader Clent (Peter Barkworth) feels a bit faint.

The plot is the standard "base under siege" format, complete with overwrought commander. Surely even back in 1967 viewers must have started to feel tired of the repetition by now, following the very similarly structured The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase and The Abominable Snowmen. Here the twist is that human society has become over-dependent on computers. Clent won't commit to a decision without first running it past the base's computer. Little Britain fans will love the fact that in episode six Clent actually utters the words "Computer says no"! However, even this twist would ultimately be repeated in the form of the overtly logical ZoŽ in The Wheel in Space.

What guarantees this story its place in Who history is the debut of the Ice Warriors themselves, led by Bernard Bresslaw as Varga. Bresslaw establishes the Martians' memorable hissing voices, and his performance is a million miles away from his better-known comedic roles in the Carry On... films. At no point during this adventure do Varga's trousers fall down!

Other notable guest stars include a pre-Last of the Summer Wine and Wallace and Gromit Peter Sallis as Penley, and a pre-Crossroads Angus Lennie as his fellow rebel Storr. Penley, an anti-establishment scientist, possesses some distinctly Doctor-ish characteristics - and he also has a Dr McCoy-ish moment, when he delivers the line: "I'm a scientist, not a gladiator," (though Star Trek had not yet been aired in the UK when this serial was broadcast).

Although scriptwriter Brian Hayles' plotting is painfully slow at times, the advantages of experiencing this story on audio are that you don't get to see how much the Ice Warriors' heads change shape between episodes, nor that their appearance contradicts several indications in the dialogue that they resemble Vikings.

This release also features an interview with Frazer Hines, which is split - rather abruptly - across the two CDs, with five minutes of discussion appearing at the end of each disc. Best of all is the presence of a vintage trailer for the next serial to be transmitted, The Enemy of the World.

Despite its sluggish storytelling and the over-familiarity of its plot, The Ice Warriors is still pretty cool.

Richard McGinlay

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