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Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Ice Warriors originally aired in 1967.

It’s strange that the Jon Pertwee era tends to attract so much criticism for adhering so rigidly to formula, with Barry Letts and his team rigidly working within well-defined lines and trying hard to produce television that doesn’t suck. Outside of the political criticism of the Pertwee era, there’s a train of thought that suggests the show became a little too formulaic, a little too predictable, failing to really push its own boundaries, with a few scattered exceptions.

And yet the Patrick Troughton era was arguably just as much a slave to routine and formula. The Troughton era is defined by its “base under siege” stories, so massively influential that they’ve become a Doctor Who subgenre unto themselves. Episodes like Earthshock and The Almost People arguably serve as homages to the genre that peaked during the late sixties. Indeed, allowing for some measure of flexibility, six of the seven adventures in this season could be described as “base under siege” stories.

I can’t help but wonder if the destruction of so many Troughton-era stories has led many Doctor Who fans to become blinded by nostalgia reflecting on the era. The Tomb of the Cybermen is, after all, much more exciting as the sole surviving “base under siege” story of the fifth season than it as the first of six adventures loosely adhering to the same structure and conventions.

Ice to meet you...

Ice to meet you…

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Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Warrior’s Gate originally aired in 1980. It was the third instalment of the E-Space Trilogy.

We found it.

Yes, well, that’s one of the advantages of living in a rapidly shrinking micro-universe.

What are the others?

Other what?

Other advantages?

Ah, well, it’s difficult to say.

– Adric, the Doctor and Romana discuss modern living

I’m actually very, very fond of Warriors’ Gate. It’s a piece of bold science-fiction that actually manages to accomplish what a lot of these stories in Tom Baker’s final season try to do. It offers an effective bit of speculative fiction while playing to the theme of entropy, decay and collapse. Both Stephen Gallagher’s fine script and Paul Joyce’s direction come together to produce a very thoughtful and clever Doctor Who story that manages to avoid a lot of the problems facing this era of the show.

More than that, though, it turns some of those disadvantages into advantages. After all, when else is the show’s tiny production budget going to produce something this beautiful?

Shades of grey...

Shades of grey…

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Non-Review Review: The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors remains something of a curiosity. Its cult stature has only grown in the three decades since its original release, and the sense of young urban disenfranchisement that director Walter Hill tapped into remains as potent as it ever it was. That said, the film remains a bit of puzzle, and it is never quite sure what to make of its protagonists. Does the movie want us to root for the wayward Warriors as they navigate the urban jungle in a quest to get back to Coney Island, or does it instead remain passively amoral amid all the violence and nihilism? It’s hard to really say, but it remains a potent piece of cinema.

“Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals…”

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