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New Show Recap: Doctor Who, Episode 7.9, “Cold War”

We are skipping back to one of the most interesting (in retrospect, obviously) times in my living history, the Cold War, at its apex, in 1983.

The Doctor and Clara are brought to a sinking Soviet submarine in the Arctic, instead of their intended destination, Las Vegas, by the ever-helpful TARDIS. The submarine happens to be carrying enough nuclear warheads to kill billions of people, so the stakes are high. The Doctor (and Clara!) assist in preventing everyone from dying. When the immediate danger passes, the captain detains and questions the new guests. A pocket search reveals The Doctor is carrying a Barbie doll, a ball of twine, and what appears to be a lollipop.

Gen Xers, like myself, often lament that the reason we’ve historically been unable to give any fucks is the constant threat of Death-By-Melting we lived under during our most impressionable years. I’m not sure I agree with this, when I was living through 1983, as an eleven-year-old facing down a fifth grade bully, I thought the reason we hadn’t been The Day After-ed was because, like Anne Frank, I believed people were inherently good. When I was eleven, the aforementioned bully, and her army of fifth grader flying monkeys, were a much more realistic threat than the abstract idea of an entire empire that hated us. Sure, I couldn’t convince Bully that being cool was waaaay better than being an asshole, but I assumed Our Friend, President Reagan, could convince the Soviets to not blow up the entire world. Being naive is a good excuse, when you’re eleven.

The Soviet sailors all have British accents, because TARDIS. They’ve managed to pick up a bit of dangerous cargo, in the form of a giant block of ice containing a pissed off, displaced in time, heavily armored, and generally frightening soldier from Mars, who’s 5000 years away from home. A sailor with a blow torch frees the soldier from his icy prison, for reasons which are not immediately clear to me. The sailors restrain the soldier after he knocks the lot of them around a bit, and Clara is sent in to try to reason with him. She gets him to talk about his family, and how he fought side-by-side with his daughter in his last battle. Things go wrong, as they do, and the soldier escapes from his armor. Clara has to use her wits to escape, unharmed, but lets the soldier loose as she does. We only see glimpses of him, a long, clawed appendage here, a glowing red eye there, as he tears through the submarine, dismembering and learning from the corpses of human crew members along the way. The truth of the darker side of traveling with The Doctor becomes clear to Clara, calling back to the moments previous companions have started to recognize exactly what they’ve gotten themselves into.

As the soldier continues to murder his way through the sub, two sailors attempt to make a deal with him, asking him to fight with the Soviets in the Cold War. They explain “mutually assured destruction” to him, but the soldier doesn’t embrace it, instead, he wonders why they haven’t fired the missiles yet. As The Doctor explains, his distress call to his people has gone unanswered. He thinks he’s the only one left of his kind. He, as The Doctor says, “has nothing left to lose.” I see that moral, Moffat and Co.

The soldier prepares to launch the warheads, leading The Doctor to threaten to destroy the submarine before the soldier can complete his task. There’s a somewhat predictable stand-off, and a Martian-ex-machina, when one of the soldier’s brothers comes to rescue him in a sparkly ship, not unlike the one in (1983’s) Close Encounters of the Third Kind.┬áIf that’s intentional, brav-f’ing-o, that’s clever.

All in all, a pretty good offering for a historical episode. It’s not often Doctor Who travels outside of British history for these journeys, let alone to the 20th century. I applaud the choice, and I was solidly entertained by the execution. While it may not make it onto my list of Best Episodes Evah, I enjoyed it as a stand-alone, monster-of-the-week outing.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

3 replies on “New Show Recap: Doctor Who, Episode 7.9, “Cold War””

I loved Clara’s confusion when she realized she was speaking Russian. I guess the TARDIS isn’t mad at her anymore! Though I don’t know how the fuck they’re going to get to the South Pole to get the TARDIS back; it’s a funny throwaway joke until you actually think abou the logistics of it.

And damn, Liam Cunningham really doesn’t have the best luck with the ships he captains, does he?

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