The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) land in the snow and ice in 3000 AD during the Second Ice Age. Meanwhile, in the nearby Britannicus Base, scientists led by Clent (Peter Barkworth) are trying to combat the advance of the glaciers. And in the ice, the frozen body of a large reptilian creature is found...
The Ice Warriors, written by Brian Hayles and broadcast in six episodes (uniquely, not called episodes or parts on screen, just the number) in November and December 1967, was the third story of Season Five. This was very much the “monsters” season, the seven stories, all but the first six-parters, bookended by two returns by the Cybermen (The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space), two set-tos with the Yeti (The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear), some nasty seaweed (Fury from the Deep) and the present serial introducing the eponymous Ice Warriors, reptilian creatures from Mars, played like the Cybermen by particularly tall actors, all of them over 6'4” (Varga, the leader, played by the 6'6” Bernard Bresslaw). The very next story, The Enemy of the World, is the odd one out, set on a future Earth where the monster is a human, the dictator Salamander, the Doctor's double, giving Patrick Troughton the chance to play a dual role. Jamie continued as a companion from the previous season, as he would do in the next one, while newcomer Victoria had been introduced at the end of the previous season in The Evil of the Daleks and would depart at the end of Fury of the Deep, with Wendy Padbury's Zoe taking over on The Wheel in Space.
That fifth season is also one of the most disfigured by missing episodes. Of its forty episodes, in 1978 when an archiving policy was first drawn up, only two were known to exist, none of them from this serial. Other episodes were since found or returned, most dramatically all four parts of Tomb of the Cybermen from Hong Kong, but as I write that remains the only complete serial of the seven (and Victoria's only complete story) and twenty-seven of those forty episodes are numbered amongst the 106 not held by the BBC, including the second and third episodes of the current story. (I will make no comment about current rumours that a large number of missing episodes have been found.) More of this later, but the fact that we cannot see the episodes does affect our appreciation of it, especially that of contributions of the actors and the director. Yes, we have soundtracks recorded off-air for all missing episodes, the scripts, in many cases including this one stills and telesnaps (photographs taken from the TV broadcast), but inevitably it is incomplete. The usual solution for the DVD range is to plug the gaps with animated reconstructions of the episodes, and more of that later too.
The base under siege became something of a formula during this season, but what lifts The Ice Warriors is a strong, literate script by Hayles with some depth of characterisation even for the monsters, Martinus's direction and an unusually starry guest cast. Not only do we have Bresslaw but also Peter Barkworth as a guest second lead giving a somewhat eccentric performance as Clent, walking with the aid of a cane (Barkworth's idea) and seeming to relish the conflict, and a bearded Peter Sallis, six years before he became a household name as Clegg over the whole run of the world's longest-running sitcom The Last of the Summer Wine and later the voice of Wallace. There are noticeable Wallace cadences in his voice, something that the two animated episodes throw into relief. The Ice Warriors, with sibilant voices (devised by Bresslaw to evoke a snake's hiss) and their imposing height, emphasised by casting actors under six foot as the humans, including the three regulars. As I suggest above, it's not easy to judge Victoria's contribution in her one year in the show, the writers not doing much with her than her basic template of prim Victorian miss required to scream when needed. Watling was nineteen when she played Victoria and like many a female companion she was very much a child under the Doctor's guidance.
The Ice Warriors made three comebacks, one the next year in The Seeds of Death and twice more with Jon Pertwee in the two Peladon serials. Actor Sonny Caldinez was the only actor to play an Ice Warrior in all four, mainly he says because the fibreglass carapace made this an unusually durable costume and he was one of the few people large enough to fit inside it. The creatures made a reappearance in 2013, alongside Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.
The Ice Warriors is released by 2 Entertain on two discs, the first dual-layered and containing the six episodes encoded for Regions 2 and 4, the second single-layered including the extras and encoded for Region 2 only. Both discs have optional audio-descriptive menus. The Play All option divides the serial into three titles, running 24:26, 49:29 and 73:00.
The DVD transfers are in the correct ratio of 1.33:1, as you would expect from 60s television. The serial was made in the usual way: the interiors captured on video in the studio, with exteriors previously on film – in this case 35mm at Ealing Studios, with all that snow and ice being jablite (expanded polystyrene). It was broadcast from two-inch quad videotapes, which for this serial were all wiped in 1969. This was in fact the last full serial to be recorded on 405-line video, with the switch to 625-line taking place with the third episode of the following one, The Enemy of the World. They were still made in black and white until the end of the 1960s though. However, 16mm telerecordings were made for sales overseas and such copies of the first, fourth, fifth and sixth episodes were found at the BBC's Villiers House in Ealing in 1988. These have been cleaned up and the video-originated scenes VidFIREd as per the usual procedure for this DVD range. The second and third episodes remain missing as I write this (so check your attic) but have been reconstructed as animation by Qurios, using the off-air soundtracks, with reference to the original shooting scripts and telesnaps. These two episodes contain additional animation and restoration credits, following the reconstructed original episode credits. The animation is a little over-cartoonish to my tastes, but given the budget restrictions (only two episodes per DVD which means that the fifty-percent-surviving four parters The Underwater Menace and The Moonbase will get forthcoming DVD releases and also The Crusade might well too) this is as good a solution as could be done. The restoration of the four live-action episodes is up to scratch as well.
The soundtracks are the original mono, cleaned-up and restored – in the case of the two missing episodes from off-air recordings. It's the usual professional BBC job, with dialogue, sound effects and Dudley Simpson's striking score (with contributions from soprano Joanne Brown) well balanced. Subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are available for all episodes and the extras other than the commentary. Also on the disc, for the four non-animated episodes, are information subtitles, provided this time by Martin Wiggins, which provide you with all you will need to know about the production of this serial and more besides.
The commentary is moderated by Toby Hadoke as usual, but for the two animated episodes they do something a little different. For the second, Hadoke introduces interview snippets from archive and new interviews, both audio and print, in some cases with people no longer with us, the latter in some cases read by actors. These include Brian Hayles, Bernard Bresslaw, Martin Baugh (the designer who came up with the Ice Warriors' distinctive look), actors Peter Barkworth and Wendy Gifford and make-up supervisor Sylvia James. Hadoke also reveals some detective work in tracking down word of Ice Warrior actor Roger Jones, whose acting credits end in 1968. For episode three, Hadoke interviews Patrick Troughton's youngest son Michael, who talks about the effect the role had on his father who was juggling two families at the time, and his memories of having a major television star as a father. This is the first part of this commentary: the rest of it will appear on a future Troughton DVD – there are only two possibles, see above. For the remaining four episodes, Hadoke talks to Hines and Watling throughout, plus Sonny Caldinez, grams operator Pat Heigham and designer Jeremy Davies. As usual, this is a well-coordinated chat, with all participants being given their say and Hines not being allowed to dominate too much as he might have done.
On to Disc Two, and “Cold Fusion” (24:34) is the making-of documentary. It features many of the commentary participants, Watling, Hines, Davies and Caldinez among them and inevitably duplicates much of the information from the commentary. We also hear from the same archive interview with Bernard Bresslaw that we have on the commentary track and his son James is on hand to talk about what his role in the serial, the first time a star name – known for his roles in the comedy The Army Game on TV and the Carry On films in the cinema – had played a Who monster. This is a solid run-through of the serial, mostly dealing with the production and less about its inception, given the inevitable absence of the now-deceased producer and writer and the still alive but elderly director.
“Beneath the Ice” (10:35) takes us behind the scenes at Qurios and the process of animating this story's two missing episodes. Producer Chris Chapman had been a longtime fan of the show and had made documentaries for earlier DVDs in the range. He had been impressed by Cosgrove Hall's work in animating the two missing episodes of The Invasion and approached Qurios to animate the episodes. Co-producer Niel Bushnell and animation director Chris Chatterton detail how the computer-animation process works.
When The Ice Warriors was originally released on VHS, Hines and Watling were on hand to bridge the gap in this serial, and VHS Links (19:22) features their introduction to the release, plus cut-down reconstructions of the two missing episodes using telesnaps and the relevant parts of the off-air soundtracks.
If Doctor Who was becoming a monster show at the time, Blue Peter, a show which had a longstanding association with the show, introduced a competition to design a new monster for the show. The next item (10:07) comes from a time when Blur Peter was in black and white but featured the classic lineup – for those of a certain age – of Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes. This item is in two parts, first with Purves announcing the competition and then an extract from the Christmas show displaying the winners, brought to life from the original drawings by the BBC's special effects department.
Before the broadcast of The Ice Warriors, the BBC showed a specially-shot trailer, featuring Clent and maverick scientist Penley (Peter Sallis) talking to camera. This no longer exists, but rather rough off-air audio does, and this is sybnchronised to an animated reconstruction of the visuals made by Qurios. This runs 1:24.
“Doctor Who Stories” is a series of interview featurettes conducted in 2004. The first part of Frazer Hines's interview featured on the DVD of The Krotons and the second half (13:52) is here. Many of the anecdotes have been heard elsewhere – such as his account of being mobbed by female fans and having to persuade two security guard that the petite brunette really was his girlfriend (Pamela Franklin) instead of the busty blondes they were trying to “rescue” for him. He discusses working on the show and his departure from it and his return in The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors. Hines is a practised raconteur and this is an engaging listen, even though much of it will be familiar.
The remaining on-disc extras are a self-navigating stills gallery (3:56) and a Coming Soon trailer for the next DVD release, Scream of the Shalka (1:20). Also the disc are cuttings from 1967 episodes of Radio Times including listings for each episode, a brief interview with Bernard Bresslaw, and a plug for the Blue Peter competition. There are no Easter Eggs this time round.