Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mars Attacks!: An Overanalysis of "Cold War"


"Stalked in the forest too close to hide
I'll be upon you by the moonlight side
High blood drumming on your skin it's so tight
You feel my heat I'm just a moment behind"

- "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran

Apparently nobody in this episode knew the real lyrics or melody to this song.  Unless they had to cover up the fact that they didn't have the rights to it.  Still, it was an interesting song to use, thematically.

The classic series monsters don't really look very scary anymore, at least not without some upgrading. The Daleks have never been redesigned because the fans would mutiny if that ever happened.  Moffat did a good job of making them a little scarier with those Dalek eye stalks that grew out of peoples' foreheads, but the basic design of the Daleks can never be changed.  The Cybermen were redesigned for the new series, but that's mainly because they were redesigned with every single new appearance they made on the classic series.  (Also they were "alternate universe" Cybermen in the new series.)  The Silurians needed to be redesigned so they didn't look utterly ridiculous, but I never got the idea that they were never meant to be scary.  The Ice Warriors, however, got the greatest redesign of any alien in the history of Doctor Who.  That Ice Warrior was 10 time scarier than any of the classic Ice Warriors.  That's how you make a big monster scary.

He didn't hiss as much as the old Ice Warriors, though.  I missed that.

Not to mention, fucking gruesome!  While we weren't able to see the entire bodies that Skaldak dismembered, we saw one arm sticking out.  I wouldn't be surprised if the BBC got some letters about that.  While the violence was off-screen, we knew what it was, and we knew it was fucking brutal!  It's just how Doctor Who should be:  family oriented, but juuuuust disturbing enough to scare the hell out of children.  And maybe to disturb the adults a little bit.

It's true that the Ice Warriors have never appeared outside of their armor on television, but they've appeared without it in expanded universe a few times.  They don't look exactly like Skaldak looked like without his helmet, but they were close enough to call it consistent.

Some people on message boards have been complaining about the removal of Skaldak's helmet, saying that they preferred to simply imagine what the Ice Warriors looked like under their helmets.  I get that (what I'd call the "Greek Tragedy" argument, in that everything should take place off screen because they imagination is scarier than anything that can be shown), but I thought, in this case, Skaldak's face was significantly scarier looking than anything I've ever imagined when I saw the real Ice Warriors.

I do love when war-like races from other planets begin to find something about human military tactics that they respect.  Like "mutually assured destruction."  Sure, it's a pacifist show, I'm not supposed to admire the war like elements of the show, but I love when Sontarans or Daleks or Cybermen begin to understand our war tactics and respect them.  They realize we're not necessarily a force to be taken lightly.  Still, I admire the fact that the show is about trying to find peaceful solutions.

Now, as for clues...I didn't see any.  Unless the Ice Warriors are going to come back in some other capacity.  As my friend Spak pointed out, Moffat tends to bring back enemies he's introduced (or reintroduced) in a completely different capacity.  "Let's take a Silurian and a Sontaran and make them the Doctors' sidekicks."  I would not be surprised to see an Ice Warrior become a good guy in a future episode.  It's happened before, back in the 3rd Doctor era.  As this episode reconfirmed, even though the Martian civilization has long since crumbled to dust, that doesn't mean that the Ice Warriors themselves aren't out there in full force.  They're just wandering the universe without a home.

Mars will rise again, I promise you?  That's what the Doctor said.  Does he really know about a time in the future when the Ice Warriors retake their home planet?  If so, isn't that going to be a little dangerous having a war-like race right next to Earth?  I'd be a little scared.

Clara is still as badass as ever.  She not only volunteered to talk to Skaldak on her own, but she moved  closer to him when the Doctor told her not to because she knew that she was somehow safe, despite all evidence to the contrary.  She didn't scream when Skaldak grabbed her.  And she was good at negotiating with Skaldak and appealing to his kinder heart that she knew was in there.  Clara is fearless and is an excellent contrast to the weak-willed scream queens the Doctor has travelled with in the past like Jo Grant and Peri.

I know that I've been badmouthing Mark Gatiss a lot lately, and I don't take back my assertions that he's a very mediocre writer, but he turned out a pretty good one here.  Granted, I chalk most of that up to the direction.  It wasn't Gatiss's writing that turned Skaldak into a brilliantly terrifying set of glowing red eyes with abnormally long claws.  That was all the direction.  But at least the internal logic of this episode made sense, which is more than I can say for "Victory of the Daleks."  The ending wasn't as satisfying as a good Moffat ending.  Gatiss isn't good at twists or bringing the internal logic of the episode back around to defeat the villain, the way that Moffat can.  Gatiss's episodes are usually resolved by an emotional appeal, which can work very well sometimes, but isn't satisfying if every episode works that way.  Overall, I'd say that this is still one of Gatiss's better episodes, but it's not enough for me to be comfortable with the fact that he might be taking over the show next. #anyonebutgatiss

I wish I could make this more than a review.  My intention in these write-ups is to tie things back to the classic series to give it context, but also to make predictions about what's to come.  I can't do that with this episode, because it didn't give us a lot of clues.  The HADS system is a throwback, but nobody really gives a shit (Can we get a ride to the opposite pole?  Really?).  Overall, this was a pretty self-contained episode.

And where the hell has the Great Intelligence disappeared to?

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