Fifteen years after its debut on video (for which I provided a booklet on the History of the Ice Warriors), the Lords of the Red Planet’s first adventure finally makes it to DVD, with the missing two episodes now in animated form. The return of the Martians to the main series earlier this year in Mark Gatiss’ Cold War has revived interest in them, and there’s a Lost Story on its way from Big Finish based on what should have been the sequel to this tale.
It’s one of the “base under siege” tales from the early Troughton period, with attention on the disparate group trapped within (on this occasion) a Georgian house inside a protective bubble. Outside the ice is rapidly advancing, threatening to bring an end to civilisation as they know it. In a 21st century rendition, this would probably be the work of the Warriors, and the Doctor would find a way to reverse the process, creating a green and pleasant land in time for the tag sequence. The 1967 story is a bit bleaker: the Doctor deduces the cause (we’ll gloss over the science hastily), but he doesn’t have solutions for what’s clearly part of recorded history. Instead, he assists the base leader, Clent, a man out of his depth, while showing his dislike for the man’s obeisance to the computer – which, contrary to expectations from reading the Target novelisation so many times over the years, isn’t called ECCO.
There are some great moments within this serial, and you can see why the Warriors were brought back. Bernard Bresslaw is unrecognisable beneath the costume, a million miles from his normal comedy persona, and his sequences with Deborah Watling as Victoria are tense, even in animated form. Peter Barkworth and Peter Sallis make good foils for each other, with Angus Lennie creating a memorable scavenger.
The Restoration Team have done their usual excellent job on the sound and picture so watching the animated episodes in sequence shows up their biggest problem: they’re too brightly lit. This exposes some of their other shortcomings (the arm and head movements aren’t as smooth as they could be), but at least we don’t have repeated close-ups of the eyes of the characters (as happened in The Reign of Terror). Producer Chris Chapman talks about the Cosgrove Hall version of The Invasion, and this is very close to that in style.
The extras include an interesting mix of archive material as commentary for one of the episodes, as well as a short making of piece. The Blue Peter monster making competition and an extended interview with Frazer Hines are the other new pieces, with the links from the VHS version provided. Unfortunately, although the sleeve notes acknowledge Cold War’s existence, there are no references elsewhere.
Verdict: A missing piece of Doctor Who history arrives on DVD at last and while it’s not the strongest story ever, it’s good to see it again. 7/10