Ice Warriors Return On This Week’s "Doctor Who"

The classic Who villain remerges as a surprisingly complex villain. Spoilers for this week’s episode.

1. Introducing Grand Marshal Skaldak of the Ice Warriors.

This week, a sinking Soviet submarine digs up the 5000 year old frozen body of Grand Marshal Skaldak, and he just so happens to revive while the Doctor and Clara are aboard sans TARDIS.

For other New Who generation viewers, here’s what we gleaned.

2. A Cold War era cattle prod can take one down.

The Martian reptilian race were forced to build survival armor to survive the frigid temperature of Mars, but when the amor is subjected to sudden increases in temperature it’s done for.

3. The survival suit comes with a very handy homing beacon.

Skaldak has been asleep for 5000 years, and he’s not sure that his people are still out there. If they are however, they will definitely come for him because as the Doctor puts it, “by his own standards, Skaldak is a hero.”

4. He is the greatest warrior his civilization has ever produced.

He excepts to be treated with the utmost respect, and would have left humanity alone if they hadn’t attacked first and just let him go. But the Martian code goes - harm one of us, harm us all. Now Skaldak has an enemy to focus on and it’s not just the soldiers on the sub, it’s all of humanity.

5. Though an elite warrior and a commander of troops, Skaldak cares about things that are not war.

He fell during his daughter’s first battle, and the idea that she died long ago breaks Skaldak. With no answer to his homing beacon, he decides that if he’s going to die all alone on Earth, he might as well take humankind with him. Revenge and punishment are his only goals now. He leaves his armor - a sign of great dishonor amongst the Ice Warriors - to fire a missile and start WWIII.

6. But the most important thing about Skaldak, and hopefully the Ice Warriors as a whole, is that he can show mercy.

He could have nabbed Clara after she makes the astute discovery that the armor is empty, but instead he blows past her, the Doctor and the Soviets.

And when Clara begs, he spares Boffin’s life (played by the amazing David Warner who stole this episode), despite the fact that Boffin fired a gun at him, forfeiting his life according to Martian Code. I’m assuming this is because something in Clara reminds him of his daughter? Her bravery in the facing the Grand Marshall alone seems to merit some respect from him.

Finally, when his people come to save him, he leaves the ship peacefully and disarms the missiles (which he had armed and was prepared to fire) from his ship.

By showing mercy, Skaldak proves himself to be not beyond reason, hope, or even a possible alliance with the Doctor at a future juncture. Unlike other iconic, but two dimensional villains like the Daleks or the Weeping Angels, the Ice Warriors seem to have an extra few layers beyond destruction and carnivorous expansion. And while overall the episode seemed slow, the reintroduction of a villain the Doctor can have an intellectual back and forth with is very, very promising. The possibilities for future alliances and betrayal as well aa vengeful Doctor are great, I can’t wait to see them play out.

10. Bonus! Favorite callback of the episode.

River’s red setting - the future sonic is slowly starting to reveal itself.

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