Sunday, August 18, 2013

DVD REVIEW: The Ice Warriors


THE ICE WARRIORS
Starring Patrick Troughton

2 Disc DVD - Details HERE

UK: Aug 26
 
Australia: Aug 28
North America: Sept 17

Review by Emrys Matthews



STORY
The Ice Warriors is Patrick Troughton’s tenth story as the Doctor and unlike so many of its fellows has only two episodes missing, which have been lovingly animated for this DVD release. It was last released back in 1998 on VHS and this marks the story’s first time on DVD, leaving only one complete story and three incomplete stories still to come [at the time of writing - Ed.].

The story is set in Earth’s future, during a new ice age. The TARDIS crew land beside Brittanicus base where a group of humans are attempting to halt the advance of a glacier. A huge armored reptilian being is discovered beneath the ice. Once thawed, the creature is revealed to be Varga, captain of a Martian spacecraft that landed on Earth centuries ago and is still buried in the ice. Varga frees his companions, who were also frozen and go about attempting to free their ship and leave Earth.

Rather unusually these Martian creatures aren’t bent on world domination, but simply want to return to their home of Mars. Writer Brian Hayles breaks the mould of so many other base-under-siege stories, by giving his “monsters” a legitimate and unselfish task. But in order for the warriors to return home they must disable and cannibalise the Earth base's reactor which would leave the humans without heat or power and allow the massive ice glaciers held at bay to break across the Earth.

The only real fault with this story lies in its length, there are lots of good ideas in the mix, however they are stretched so thinly over the six episode structure it is hard for the tension to really build. As a four-parter this would be a tight, and exciting story, but as a six-parter it’s a little lackluster.

There's a strong moral argument weaved throughout the story, voicing the misgivings of our constant and ever-growing reliance on technology which is perhaps even more relevant now than it was back in 1967.

I have to admit, though, The Ice Warriors is overlong and at times wanders the wrong side of dull, but there are some truly wonderful moments and, of course, the introduction to the massive Martian Ice Warriors.

ANIMATION
One of the biggest boasts of this DVD are the two newly animated previously missing episodes 2 and 3. The animation is good but a little too reminiscent of Captain Pugwash in the jittery movement of the characters. However the faces and specifically the eyes of the assembled characters have very good attention to detail. It is wonderful to be able to see these lost episodes in moving action and effectively return another complete story to the collection.

EXTRAS
The DVD also boasts some excellent special features. The Audio Commentary includes cast and crew for the existing episodes One, Four Five and Six with Frazer Hines (James), Deborah Watling (Victoria), Sonny Caldinez (Turoc), Jeremy Davies (Designer) and Pat Heigham (Grams Operator). The assembled group seem to remember the story fondly and Frazer keeps the face-wincing puns coming thick and fast.

For the missing episodes Two and Three the commentary takes the unusual form of archive recordings, readings and interviews with Brian Hayles (writer), Derek Martinus (Director), Martin Baugh (Costume Designer), Bernard Bresslaw (Varga), Peter Barkworth (Clent), Wendy Gifford (Miss Garrett) and Sylvia James (make-up supervisor). This is a wonderful addition that adds a real insight into the people who worked on this story who were unavailable for the commentary or who are sadly no longer with us. There is also an alternate commentary track for episode Three with Patrick Troughton’s son and biographer, Michael. The whole thing is moderated by Toby Hadoke. 

Cold Fusion is another wonderful making of documentary compiled by Who doco numero Uno Chris Chapman. It’s a particularly informative documentary and fills in lots of gaps in the background of this story and in the creation of the Ice Warriors themselves. The foremost question of the discrepancy in the size of the Ice Warrior helmets was due to a last minute redesign due to a lack of mobility and also of comfort for the actors in the suits. The doco also reveals that Bernard Bresslaw who played Varga was the one who originated the Martian’s hissing voices, for which they are famed. 

From Beneath The Ice is a short documentary of the making of the two animated episodes. It details the lengths to which the animators and other team members went to to produce the animation as accurately as possible. The animators intentionally limited themselves in terms of how each shot would appear to the boundaries of the possibilities of the late 1960s. The documentary casts some light on the tireless efforts that went in to bringing the Ice Warriors back using telesnaps, the original shooting script and some guess work too. In the end Chapman states that he feels like “you forget you’re watching animation. You’re not distracted and genuinely feel like you’ve watched the story.” His remarks are certainly accurate and the hard work of everyone at Qurios will be greatly appreciated by Who fans everywhere.

Also included is the original VHS "links" from the video released in 1998, covering the missing episodes and featuring Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling. This is a good way to view the less exciting Episode Three, but the animated version of episode two is not to be missed.

The Blue Peter: Design-A-Monster segment and competition acts as a fascinating doorway into 60s children television and we get to see some of the odd choices of winners that fortunately never made it into a fully-fledged episode. Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines concludes the interview with the actor which contains an hilarious section where Hines remembers the almost forgotten Who-themed acid rock song Who is Doctor Who? released by Frazer and written by Barry Mason and Les Reed.

The wonderful people at Qurios have also created a short animated reconstruction of the Original Trailer for The Ice Warriors which included some extra footage shot of Clent and Penley. It makes a really nice prologue to the story - I heartily recommend watching this first. The DVD also boasts the usual, and always excellent, Production Notes, the Photo Gallery, Radio Times Listings and a Coming Soon trailer for the web animated adventure Scream of the Shalka.

All in all this is a very strong and well rounded release. It includes everything that you would expect or could hope for and is produced to a high standard.

BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to BBC Worldwide

Review by Emrys Matthews

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