Has David Warner ever appeared in Doctor Who before?
No, not in a spin-off, I mean in the actual proper undisputed live-action picture-synchronised-with-sound Doctor Who / Sarah Jane / K9 / Torchwood (eurghh) universe?
It sure seems like he ought to have been. A few years ago, for some reason, this actor started to get work in just about every science fiction series going. Tron, Babylon 5, Star Trek V (no relation), Star Trek VI (not related enough), Star Trek: The Next Generation (a poor relation), Lois & Clark (as Clark's relation)... even Freakazoid!
But the mysterious grandfather of them all Doctor Who? Well, it seems like yet further evidence that the BBC took the series off the air in 1989 at exactly the wrong moment.
Anyway, if he hasn't, then tonight all that was finally put right. With his English accent, Warner initially appears to be playing a western defector to the Soviet Union, although the reminder that everyone is in fact speaking fluent Russian, combined with his character name of Professor Grisenko, clears this up.
He's also responsible for bringing a 5,000 year-old frozen Ice Warrior on board a nuclear submarine in the year 1983. If you're thinking that this is all starting to sound somewhat like Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, then you'd be right, although it doesn't go nearly far enough in that direction, sadly. Boo! Bring us silver-suited "Cyber Men" for this one! :(
The rerealisation of a monster from 40 years ago is done pretty well at first. The Ice Warriors' formidable presence is recaptured here with more threat than ever, thanks partially to its increased bulkiness, but mostly to its much more powerful voice than before. However its appearance on the front cover of Radio Times a fortnight ago does its surprise entrance no favours whatsoever.
The revelation that this 'classic' look has always been merely its body armour provides something of a regeneration scene for the returning race, and also proves to be a double-edged sword. Its ventriloquism to its casing makes almost as little sense as the Doctor's approving its being chained up in such a way as that it can easily escape. Dur.
While I like the creature inside's 'new' look, its fluidity of movement didn't match the live action characters to whom it was speaking. Something to do with the way frames refresh or something. I don't know the technical reasons, I only know it didn't quite flow on for this viewer, in a similar way to how film and videotape never have done.
Still, that fuzziness was nothing compared to the cloudy weather outside my window. Yes, the 21st century digital downgrade had the signal cutting out and freezing all the way through the second half of this episode, rendering the programme literally unwatchable. All right digital people, you've had every chance now, and you've failed. Can we all just go back to analogue now - the system when this sort of thing never happened?
Author Mark Gatiss, once the genius behind The Unquiet Dead, now has a track-record with me of turning in scripts that are dependably average, and thin on story. After the lack of much actually happening in Victory Of The Daleks and Night Terrors, this one actually finishes with the baddies simply letting our heroes off! So the Doctor and Amy think they saved the world today then do they? Well, okay, how lovely for them.
Speaking of the new Amy - Olwyn/Oswin/Olwin/Oswyn (I'm still not even sure of her name) - she's shallow and generic here, and as such I liked her a lot more. These days girl companions tend to spend far too much time trying to compensate for their apparent insecurity at not being a guy. Here, after her failed attempt to negotiate with the Ice Warrior, it really looked like this one was about to collapse and actually have a breakdown at the question about Ultravox, and as such I think it's a shame that she didn't. No-one's really done that before, and after the Doctor's keeness to whisk her away without considering the consequences, that would have been a stunning development.
Glad too that Grisenko suddenly found the sonic screwdriver on the floor in the end, I really didn't like where it looked like this production team were going to go with that…
Noisy, chaotic, a bit disorientating… well I guess if your submarine's been breached by a 5,000 year old alien planning to end all life on Earth, then that's probably how it would be.