The Doctor and Clara think they’re off to Vegas for some sun and fun, but they land in a Russian submarine just after they’ve run a drill to launch their nuclear weapons. David Warner‘sÂ Professor Boffin has brought a specimen on board, so the captain thinks this expedition won’t be a total waste of time. They believe it’s a mammoth, when in actuality it’s an Ice Warrior. The creature attacks the crew and causes enough damage to the sub that it begins to sink. That’s when The Doctor suggests Liam Cunningham‘s Captain Zhukov maneuver laterally. If they come to rest on an underwater ridge, they’ll stop sinking.
After they’re out of immediate danger of sinking any further, the captain wants to know who The Doctor and Clara are and gets a little forceful about it. Tobias Menzies‘ Lieutenant Stepashin isn’t happy about these intruders either and orders for both of them to be searched. It’s then that the TARDIS abandons them. ZhukovÂ doesn’t think Clara and The Doctor’s arrival is a coincidence so The Doctor tells him the only thing he can, the truth. They’re time travelers.
The captain isn’t sure what to believe, but he does know that The Doctor seems to have a lot of information about their unwelcome guest. The Ice Warrior is a native of Mars. WithÂ professor Boffin’s help, they determine he’s been dormant for 5,000 years. At The Doctor’s urging, the creature tells them he’s Grand Marshall Skaldak and The Doctor knows exactly who he is. Just then one of the crewmen uses a cattle prod on Skaldak, rendering him temporarily immobile. The Doctor tells him Skaldak is the greatest hero the Martians ever produced and that they must lock him up immediately.
Skaldak was so admired by his enemies they carved his name into their flesh before they died. The Doctor tells them Skaldak’s a Martian reptile. When Mars turned cold the Martians had to adapt, but with any sudden increase in temperature their system goes haywire. Skaldak is still very dangerous and he’s sent out a distress call to his brother’s to come for him.
Stepashin doesn’t understand why the captain is listening to anything they say. He thinks they’re enemy agents and that the creature is a Western weapon, a survival suit. Boffin thinks The Doctor and Clara are telling the truth, but what does his opinion matter to Stepashin? ZhukovÂ wants Stepashin back on repairs, as it’s their number one priority. Stepashin hesitates until the captain reminds him he’s been given an order.
Since they’ve attacked Skaldak, they’re all in danger now. The captain thinks he might be able to reason with Skaldak if he’s able to talk to him. But as a member of the opposition, The Doctor tells him Skaldak will not talk to him. And ZhukovÂ thinks The Doctor is too important to send in. So over The Doctor’s strenuous objections, Clara goes to talk to him.
Skaldak doesn’t want The Doctor’s help, despite how he tries to reason with him. As Clara approaches, she realizes he’s not in his armor. The Doctor has never seen an Ice Warrior come out of his suit before and tells them Skaldak is even more dangerous now. They notice that the distress signal has ceased, which means Skaldak has given up hope of being rescued. He thinks he’s been abandoned by his brothers, that he’s got nothing left to lose. For him to leave his armor is a great dishonor; he’s desperate and deadly.
The captain addresses the crew. He tells them the reactor is drowned, they’re totally relying on battery power and their air is running out. Rescue is unlikely, but they still have a job to do. If Skaldak gets control of even one missile it could be the end of the world. He tells them they’re all expendable, their world is not.
When Skaldak finds Stepashin making repairs alone, Stepashin wants to form an alliance. He wants to win the cold war and he’s not above doing whatever is necessary to make that happen. Skaldak gets the information he needs from him, before killing Stepashin. Skaldek also attacks Onegin. It looks like he’s been ripped apart, but The Doctor tells them it’s for forensic purposes.Â He’s learning humans – our strengths, our weaknesses. The Doctor tells Clara to stay put and she’s not arguing, even though he thinks she will. The professor can tell Clara is freaked, so he tries to talk her down. When Skaldak tries to take her, Boffin shoots at him. Just as The Doctor arrives, Skaldak goes for Boffin. He tells them that because they attacked him Martian law decrees that the people of the planet are forfeit. He now has all the information he requires to launch a nuclear weapon and end the cold war. Skaldak’s people are dead and there is nothing left for him but revenge. Skaldak summons his armor and returns to it.
As Skaldak arms the warheads, The Doctor tries one last time to reason with him. He calls humans a young race, frightened children. Skaldak can teach them another way, show them there is honor in mercy. He asks if this is how Skaldak wants history to remember him. When that doesn’t work, The Doctor warns him he knows a thing or two about sonic technology. Skaldak thinks it sounds like The Doctor is threatening him. And he is making a threat, but it’s against all of them. The Doctor will blow the submarine up before Skaldak can launch the nuke. As Skaldak wonders who will blink first, Clara asks him why he showed mercy to the professor and points out that he’s already shown compassion.
The standoff ends when Skaldak’s people arrive and bring the submarine to the surface. The nuke is still armed after Skaldak leaves the ship though. The Doctor is determined to end their lives if he has to, but Skaldak shows mercy again by remotely disarming the nukes. They’re safe.
Where did the TARDIS go? The Doctor has been tinkering with her. At the time, he thought it would be wise to reset the HABS – the hostile action displacement system. So if the TARDIS came under attack, it would relocate. Unfortunately it’s in the South Pole right now.
Random interesting tidbit: History is in flux, it can be rewritten.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 8/7c on BBC America.
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