The Ice Warriors

The Ice Warriors
The Ice Warriors.jpg
Season: 5
Episode: 3
Vital statistics
Air date 11 November - 16 December 1967
Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Derek Martinus
Episode guide
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The Abominable Snowmen The Enemy of the World

The Ice Warriors is the partly-missing third serial of the fifth season of the British children’s programme Doctor How, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts in 1967. This serial marked the debut of the Ice Warriors… yaaaay... It’s also the first episode in the entire history of the programme to use a REAL LIVE BEAR, which I found particularly thrilling!  My viewing experience began with some outright fear though, every time I see this set of opening credits it’s like a bad acid trip and I'm all like, “oh my god, Pat’s face is MELTING!  Oh wait, he’s OK, phew!” once I see his kind of sheepish "yep, here's another embarrassing episode of Doctor Who" expression - right up until his face tears into dissolving shreds. But "bear" with me, ha ha!


The very first scene opens with photographs of icicles, crooked titles and wordless reverbed singing that’s all a bit eerie and actually effective, so of course they don’t use it again.  Some future scientists (one of whom I suspect to be a Romulan) inside a small base wearing some ca-RAZY Peter Max outfits have a computer that’s really hard to understand when it speaks.  They use it to keep the glaciers (don’t say “glay-shers,” it’s “glassy-ears”) of the new ice age from crushing them and a lot of the Earth (thanks expository dialogue!).  Before five minutes have gone by, they find a pot bellied, hairy-shelled turtley-looking Ice Warrior frozen in a glassy-ear and dig him out to wacky effect!  

Wait, is that computer speaking? What the hell did it just say? Was it important, do I need to back up and re-listen? Shit!

The TARDIS materializes on some ice, laying on it’s side - go home Tardis you’re drunk.  There’s ice and snow everywhere and the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are wearing coats but Jamie’s still in his kilt so I figure he must have been no more than about an inch long underneath it, if you know what I mean.  The Doctor agrees to help the scientists turn off the ice but says he doesn’t like computers (remember that this programme was made back when computers all spoke like Daleks, wanted to take over the world tand rule those who were not a number but free men, rather than gave us porn and episodes of Doctor Who whenever we asked).

On the site where I watched this story, the second and third episodes were still missing and replaced by narrated reconstructions lasting but fifteen minutes combined, which sucked because I was afraid I might have missed a scene or two with a bear in it in the stuff they cut.  The Ice Warrior wakes up and attacks the Scotsman (who doesn’t?) and is all whispery and ssspeaksss like a cartoon sssnaaake, yet also sounds like the Martian flying wings from the 1953 movie version of “War of the Worlds,” in which Martians invade Earth - completely a coincidence I’m sure.  The Ice Warrior needs a car battery to give his spaceship a jump and to revive other Martians.  Everyone of them have mouths like Muppets, I swear I kept thinking Guy Smiley.  Soon we have three more whispery Martians to try and understand when they whiiisssspeeeer.  The lame base commander is a bit shouty, perhaps to make up for the whispering.  At one point the Ice Warriors capture Victoria and then appear to have killed Jamie so Victoria sobs “you’re monsters!”  Ha!  And yes, this totally is when Jamie died and left the show it turns out, which comes as a real shock, sorry for spoiling it for you. Later on, getting captured is part of the Doctor’s plan.  To keep things interesting, the ice caves are always in danger of collapsing and are likely to drop Styrofoam on an actor or actress at any moment the script needs it. An Irish Michael Palin in a beard (“it’s!”) gets soniced to distorted-death after trying to talk to the Martians to ally with him against the scientists he hates.  

Jamie spends some time paralyzed from the waist down due to the Ice Warriors’ sonic weapons and also uses the phrase “lead on, MacDuff,” which is a common misquote of Shakespeare's “Lay on, Macduff // And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'” (STAGE: Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 8).  This misquote didn’t come about until the late 19th century, while Jamie is from the 17th century; this seemingly sloppy anachronism can be explained however by the fact that Jamie’s based character appeared in more episodes of Doctor Who than any other companion.  The live bear shows up in episode five and sounds like a pig at first, I didn’t like that at all, but it was still pretty cool to see a REAL LIVE BEAR.  I mean, he was obviously shot elsewhere, not on set, and he didn’t interact with any of the actors, just came walking along towards the camera making his pig noises and then the actors were intercut reacting to the footage of a bear walking towards them but still - a real bear!  The Doctor and Victoria defeat one of the Ice Warriors with a stink bomb.  

The Ice Warriors invade the scientist’s base to use their glassy-ear control technology to free their ship from the ice, so the scientists fight back by turning up the building’s heat so high that everything gets wavy and looks like a dream sequence is about to start.  The scientists later turn their technology on the Ice Warrior spaceship, making couple of control panels burn and things get smokey inside the ship before another dream sequence appears to start. The camera man loses control of the camera and the Ice Warriors stop all that damn hissing about a “beat” too long after we cut away from them.  The Tardis looks transparent in front of a photograph of icicles before vanishing, then the end credits blow their cue by appearing too early and crouching at the bottom of the screen before scrolling upwards.

Notable Bits

  • One communication console in the future scientist’s base looks like an ice cream cone or maybe a trashcan, and all the computers have the usual meaningless flashing lights and oscilloscope screens.  Damn it, why doesn’t my computer have those?  It’s like jetpacks or flying cars, but instead we just get the KFC Double Down.
  • The ice cave sets are actually pretty good, better than you would expect.
  • The scientist who abandoned the base looks like he’s one red foam nose away from being a clown, his fake “five o’clock shadow” make-up is awful.
  • We hear a (repeated) recording of a howling wolf a few times and even what were probably dog tracks in the snow once, but we never see a dog or a wolf.  We do see the live bear though, for maybe twenty seconds of screen time.  I think Doctor Who should feature more bears, don’t you?  The Doctor could travel back in time and try to save the Atlas bears who were a subspecies of the brown bear native to Africa but which went extinct around the 1870s. ;_;
  • The future scientists call their base “Brittanicus Base” as it’s run by the country Brittainicus - the very country where Doctor Who is made in fact.
  • Part of the “historical building” (meaning "pre-existing BBC set") the scientists are in collapses to unintended humorous effect near the beginning of part six.
  • In a variation of the usual “base under siege” format, both the humans and the Ice Warriors mostly just hang out in their own bases without being under siege from each other at all, just the glassy-ears.  The bear only appears to threaten Jamie and the hobo-clown scientist for a few seconds.
  • The Ice Warriors have a sonic gun - yikes!
  • Shouty Base Commander "Clent states that thousands of years of history is under the glacier" as if that means anything.  I stole some of this information off “Torrid Drama Base” and christ that wiki needs a strong editorial hand at its helm if they think listing this sort of lame information is worthwhile.  And you haven’t even seen the shit I cut.
  • The opening title captions referred to the individual installments as "one," "two," etc. rather than the “part one” or something, like usual, which is really quite fucking riveting information - we know!
  • Yes, that’s a real bear in episode five in specially-shot film inserts, so that was kinda cool, right?  I mean, a REAL LIVE BEAR!  This was the first time a real live bear was ever seen on Doctor Who and perhaps the only time.  I mean, I recall that Lynda Moss once told the Ninth Doctor about a popular television series called Bear With Me about three people living with a bear, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t like actually show us any scenes from it it; I’m sure I’d remember that if they had, but I really should double check that make sure.  
  • There's a scene where Victoria uses the power of screams to drop an avalanche on an Ice Warrior, so that's pretty cool. Go Victoria!  
Just look at this happy fellow!
  • Regarding the futuristic date given for this story, a Radio Times article at the time of initial broadcast placed it in the year “Deltron 3030,” which was repeated in a forgotten magazine’s reference to this story, four pointless Doctor Who trivia books and two completely fictional Doctor Who fanfics.  Another trivia book says it takes place “three thousand years after the previous story” (so circa 4935), while a different actual non-canon television episode says that the new Ice Age was in the year “5000 Fingers,” but we fucking checked (because this is so goddamn important) and found that no stories set in the fictional television programme’s depiction of the 30th century seem to depict Earth being in an ice age whatsoever.  Worse yet, both dates are even contradicted by the fact that people in this story appear to be completely unfamiliar with the Ice Warriors whatsoever, despite having contact with them in a later Ice Warriors episode that was set in the 21st century and another set in the year 3885 (we all like to pretend the Gatiss Matt Smith Ice Warriors story didn’t happen, so we won't count that one).  Note that this is already referencing, auditing, reconciling, certifying, documenting and cross-checking, like, every classic Who story with Ice Warriors in it for this comprehensive wankery, which only goes to prove that canon never mattered in the first place.  I bet this is all Ian Levine’s fault somehow.  
  • Bears have been pretty important to Doctor Who you know.  Right there in the very first episode "An Unearthly Child," The First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan encountered evidence of bears in about 100,000 BC and learned that the Tribe of Gum hunted bears for their warm skins.  They didn’t actually have a real live bear in the episode though, probably due to their notoriously tight budget which has often kept any real live bears from appearing at all.  This has continued to be a problem over the years as the story about Bear With Me up there demonstrates, plus that time in "Silver Nemesis" when Richard Maynarde thought he heard a bear and Lady Peinforte reassured him that it would not follow them because such things happened only in the theater - if the budget had been there, they’d have featured a real live bear I’m sure.  The show has been able to afford “teddy bears” from time to time, but that’s hardly the same thing is it?  Not at all as exciting as a real live bear.  
  • Maybe next season Petrini Capaldo can meet a real live bear.  I’m currently working on a story where the Doctor goes back to the new ice age and meets this bear again and invites her to travel with him on Tardis just like a real live companion, because the Doctor’s cool like that and could use some help from a physically imposing animal with a large body and stocky legs, a long snout full of sharp teeth with a crushing bite, dense shaggy fur, plantigrade paws with five non-retractile and very dangerous claws, and a short tail - you know, when things get rough.  I mean, that couldn’t be any worse a companion for the Doctor than a talking cabbage, right?  I think the Doctor’s cool with bears, you know.  He’d be all chill and shit.
This fuzzy fellow looks to be quite thoughtful and curious about the universe - a perfect fit for traveling aboard the Tardis, wouldn't you say?
  • I could swear I heard that one of the Ice Warriors was named “Sherlock,” but the credits disagree with me on that (I think they’re wrong, myself).  
  • “Incidental music from this story exists.”  - Turdis Data Corn.  Way to go Sherlock-The-Ice-Warrior, thanks for letting us know that.
  • This story is partially missing, however not missing enough for the BBC to not milk it for a DVD release, so they slapped Animated Second Doctor into the missing parts.


A real live bear was used in this episode and the Ice Warriors debut. It was decent fun.