So I was wrong. And I was gutted. I wanted the Sea Devils so much that it cast a shadow over an otherwise very decent episode. Ice Warriors? Pfffffffft. I-sorry-iors more like.
Spewed forth from the genius pen of Mark Gatiss (incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen League of Gentlemen and incidentally has a very strong stomach for very dark comedy, I’d recommend it heartily), this episode was set against the wonderfully claustrophobic of a nuclear submarine-think Das Boot meets The Thing but in British teatime television format. It was, with no doubt, the weakest episode of the series so far-a complete damn cop-out of a third act saw to that-but that’s not to say Cold War didn’t have it’s warmer moments.
Game of Thrones alumni Liam Cunningham really got his ‘tache around the role of a u-boat captain with a deadly cargo. Another one of those real thesps who just seem to fall into roles in Doctor Who, the part isn’t particularly subtle or nuanced, but doesn’t need to be- he’s got the appropriate gravitas and urgency for the role, and that’s fine. Matt Smith continues the performance in a slightly darker vein- I couldn’t help but notice the lighting this week, often casting him half in shadow, half in light- I am a media student bastard so I desperately want this to mean something, but it probably doesn’t. Whatever, Smith did himself proud against the adversity of the questionable script, and Clara-facing her first real alien- also continued her streak of being both rather good and especially pretty.
Gatiss is a passionate horror fan, and this is palpable throughout his forty minutes-the whole John Carpenter fellatio aside, this episode had a lot of genuinely tense moments. The choice not to show the Ice Warrior (Skaldak, by the way) till the third act was a good one, especially considering it looked like a scaly turd with teeth and it was a whole lot less scary once you’d clapped eyes on it. Seriously. They must have blown all their special effects and prosthetic budget last week, and it bloody well showed.
But then-BAM!-the third act turned the whole thing on it’s head, just when it was reaching a wonderful emotional crescendo. This isn’t League of Gentlemen, Gatiss; you can’t just have outsiders turn up and make everything better. That said, I can’t wait-and I mean, can’t wait- for next week. No sea devils, but definitely ghosts. Hurrah! On a side note, the way the Tardis in the opening credits opened up onto the first scene was fucking awful. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.