“It’s the ’80s, everything’s bigger!”
This week the Doctor and Clara found themselves in 1983 on a nuclear submarine with Russian soldiers, a walkman-wearing professor, and a 5,000-year-old Martian soldier. But honestly, could we expect any less? Featuring Liam Cunningham and Tobias Menzies (Davos Seaworth and Edmure Tully in Game of Thrones respectively), this week’s Doctor Who was filled with tension, claustrophobia, and paranoia, while still managing to retain that necessary bit of quirkiness that only Matt Smith can provide.
The episode opens on a Russian submarine, the crew of which is in the midst of a drill to launch nuclear missiles. They are interrupted, however, by Professor Grisenko (David Warner), who we later find has discovered a life form in a block of ice that is being transported to Moscow (presumably for militaristic purposes). As is usually the case, some grunt awakens Grand Marshal Skaldak of the Ice Warriors from Mars, causing the submarine to plummet 700 feet to the bottom of the ocean, where the majority of the episode takes place. The Doctor and Clara arrive rather abruptly in the TARDIS, and experience a rude awakening when they step into what they had assumed was Las Vegas. When the TARDIS disappears and leaves the Doctor, his companion, and the sub’s crew stranded in a metal capsule armed with prepped nuclear weapons, the dire situation becomes that much worse.
The Doctor hasn’t encountered Ice Warriors since 1974 (in real-world time), but immediately recognized the alien’s name and quickly realized the seriousness of the situation. Presuming to have been abandoned by his people, Skaldak goes on a rampage throughout the tight quarters of the submarine choosing victims, and while there are no particularly terrifying scenes, there are certainly some nail-biting and gruesome moments. The Doctor tries to negotiate with the recently thawed Ice Warrior while attempting to fend off gun-wielding Soviets, but it is Clara who ultimately makes Skaldak see reason, by extension saving the earth from a nuclear apocalypse. All in a day’s work.
I do feel that this was one of the better episodes that we’ve seen from the second half of series 7, but the ending, again, was somewhat lacking. First, the professor with his rather endearing love for ‘80s pop music remained a bit of a mystery. And I also didn’t feel like the story of Skaldak was completely resolved, although he was the most interesting baddie to be introduced in a while (and also one with a decent backstory).
The 40-minute-movie formula seems to be proving a bit constraining for Doctor Who creators, and at least personally I have been left feeling slightly more confused than excited at the end of recent episodes. We’re also starting to see a pattern of episode resolutions involving Clara saying something obscure (Duran Duran, guys? Really?) and things suddenly working themselves out. I hope this doesn’t become a thing, because if it does, the mystery of Clara is going to get stale very fast. However, next week’s episode looks like it’s going to delve deeper into the past of the impossible girl.
“Hide” premieres next Saturday, April 20. Watch the preview below!