One Dalek was enough to wipe out Utah, according to the 2005 episode; it may not be quite at that level, but one Ice Warrior is able to create absolute havoc in a confined environment. Mark Gatiss’ script is full of surprises, with nods not just to the four stories by the Warriors’ creator Brian Hayles, but also the wealth of tales that have been told featuring the Martians in the extended media.
You can see why Moffat jumped at the story possibilities in Gatiss’ idea, particularly when the various twists that he adds to the Warriors’ abilities and outlook are factored in. The Doctor’s reaction when he realises exactly who it is that he is facing might well have been overplayed by some of Matt Smith’s predecessors, but it’s judged just right here.
Liam Cunningham and David Warner headline a strong guest cast; Warner’s character isn’t what you’d expect, but makes a good partner for Jenna-Louise Coleman, whose reactions seem more normal than some of the recent companions to the amount of death that surrounds the Doctor.
There are many shout-outs to past submarine movies – I laughed at the Ice Station Zebra homage – and the direction never lets you forget that you are within a very claustrophobic environment. I’m sure there are some purists who will claim that this betrays something or other from the past stories, but it doesn’t matter – the Ice Warriors are re-established back in the Who universe (and nicely, there’s no contradiction of Dan Abnett’s recent story including them).
Verdict: Another strong story. 8/10