By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
First introduced in the third story of the fifth season of the show, it has been years since the Doctor faced the Martian Ice Warriors. Fans have asked for their return for a long time and they almost had it several times. Of all the numerous Doctor Who monsters, they under went the best evolution. Now they are back about to battle the eleventh Doctor and Clara in the show’s 50th year in Cold War. They have been redesigned yet retain their classic look. And we look back at their previous four appearances and give you the rundown on the green giants.
The warlord Martians of the Doctor Who universe first appeared opposite the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton in 1967. Created by Brian Hayles in an era where new monsters were literally spewing out of the show, the Ice Warriors are now classed as part of the golden era.
Their first story was aptly named the Ice Warriors. However as fans will know, this is in fact not the name of their species but rather the name given to them by the scientist, Walters, that found them buried in the ice ala the Thing. Jamie, Victoria and the Doctor battled to save a remote research station in a future Earth that has been consumed by a new ice age. The station is working to deal with the problem of massive glaciers when they find an alien frozen deep in the ice. It revives and kidnaps Victoria, played by Deborah Watling. It is revealed to be Varga, the captain of a spaceship still in the ice along with his squad. Mars is dead and they want Earth as their new home.
They made an immediate impact with viewers and fans alike. Huge lumbering reptiles housed themselves in reptilian body armour, the Ice Warriors spoke in a low hiss. Carry On star Bernard Bresslaw played the lead Ice Warrior. Given his height and build he helped burn the Martians into the minds of millions. The cover alone for the Target Novelisation of the story (left) is a pure work of art to this day and one of my personal favourites.
On the cover, their clamp-like hands are alive with energy but on the show they fired sonic guns. But nonetheless they were destined to return and soon. Visually, they were unlike anything that the Doctor had ever encountered. The Ice Warriors weren’t nimble or lithe but they were relentless. You could run but you could not hide. Fans trembled at the sight of Victoria, the innocent Victorian lady, trapped by falling ice, crying out for help as the monsters loomed down on her. This six-part story remains incomplete in the BBC archives but will be released this year on DVD using animation to replace the missing two episodes exclusive clips of which can be found on YouTube.
They soon returned in Seeds of Death, broadcast in 1969, where they again fixed their clamps on taking over the Earth. Again written by Hayles (he would pen all four of their televised adventures), we visit Earth at the end of the 21st century. All forms of transport are now obsolete and replaced by a global teleport system controlled from the moon- the T Mat. The second Doctor, along with Jamie (Fraser Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury), land in a museum. Before long the global system fails and the Doctor goes to the moon in a rocket to solve the problem. There he meets the Ice Warriors again only this time there is a second caste here. The Ice Lords, in this case, Slaar, are more humanoid, faster and the brains of the operation are revealed here. They have almost military-styled helmets and cloaks to give them their place of power. They are more articulate than their foot soldiers and are deadlier in many ways. Like Judge Dredd, no Ice Warrior of either caste has ever been seen without their helmets. Only the lower jaws and chin is visible suggesting they are reptilian beneath the battle armour which may also act as a body temperature regulator. It is in this story that the classic line ‘You can’t kill me, I’m a genius!’ is said by the Doctor to save his life from two Ice Warriors. Their plan this time is to transport seeds all over the planet using the T mat which they now control. The seeds will burst open, releasing foam which sucks the oxygen from the atmosphere. All human life will die, leaving the world open to Ice Warrior population. Indeed the Doctor almost falls victim to the foam but manages to escape. He discovers that the seeds are only part of the plan as a signal is leading a Martian invasion force to Earth. The Doctor manages to divert the signal tricking them into flying into the sun before stopping Slaar and his minions.
They would return to face the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, in the Curse of Peladon in 1972 and this time they were in colour. But this time the game had changed. The Tardis takes the Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) to the planet Peladon where the Galactic Federation is working to bring Peladon into its ranks.
However, forces are working against them by resurrecting the legend that is Aggedor, the great beast that will destroy all aliens before letting Peladon slide into alien ways. Lost in the catacombs of the palace, the Doctor and Jo meet an Ice Warrior and the Doctor thinks he knoCwho the enemy is. However this time round the Ice Warriors have given up their warrior ways and are peaceful ambassadors with the Federation. The Doctor must overcome his own prejudice to ally himself with them against forces trying to plunge Peladon back into the dark ages. Here we meet Ice Lord Izlyr played by Alan Bennion. Like the Klingons before them, Izlyr is the equivalent of Worf. He is a peacemaker, wary of their violent past and dedicated to bringing peace to the galaxy. It isn’t hard to imagine them as the Judoon of the Federation. The huge green armour almost like a walking alligator is even more imposing here and it is in Izlyr’s conversations with Jo Grant that we see that the species as a whole has really changed. This immediately elevates them to real characters rather than another monster. The scene where Izlyr sits beside Jo and comforts her when the Doctor is in danger lets the viewer know there is so much more to them than has been seen before. An Ice Warrior being concerned for another’s feelings defines them as people now. But in the subsequent sequel, the Monster of Peladon, this time with Sarah Jane Smith as the companion, the third Doctor meets a rogue splinter group of warriors that want to see a return to the old ways and intend on using the political situation on Peladon to do it. Alan Bennion again plays the Ice Lord called Azaxyr and he makes him completely different to Izlyr although they obviously look alike. Azaxyr has a fire within him that will only be quenched by the fires of war and conquest. It’s easy to see from the beautiful dialogue that there is a whole back story that occurred off screen that we are not privy to but can immediately picture. They have allied themselves with other factions within the Peladon hierarchy to bring about a new Ice Warrior empire. They are defeated as always and this was the last time we would see them.
At least on television screens.
There has been two attempts to bring them back. In the aborted Colin Baker season following the imposed hiatus by Michael Grade, the green giants would have returned in Mission to Magnus. This story would also have brought back the slug like Sil (Nabil Shaban), the Doctor’s enemy from Vengeance on Varos and Mindwarp. The story was almost lost but Target released it as a novel written by Philip Martin. In the aborted season following the show’s cancellation, it would have seen the seventh Doctor battle them once more and climaxed in Ace leaving the show for good. They would be mentioned in Castrovalva and again by the tenth Doctor in Waters of Mars. It seems that the enemy called the Flood, an entity that lives in water, was defeated by the Ice Warriors and sealed away to prevent them from ever rising again. He calls them a fine and noble race that built an empire from snow. It’s clear that the Doctor respects them as a race.
In comic strip form they would be the first monsters the seventh Doctor would face in A Cold Day in Hell. Here they are using a holiday planet’s weather control system to create a new home for themselves. Along with the shape-shifting penguin Frobisher and heat vampire Olla, they are once again defeated. Other appearances included an Ice Warrior being a companion to the eighth Doctor in a short-lived Radio Times comic strip written by Gary Russell. Ssard, along with human companion Stacy, would reappear in the BBC book Placebo Effect where they are now married. Long before the Daleks and Cybermen met in Doomsday, the Ice Warriors fought the metal giants in a comic strip in Doctor Who Weekly called Deathworld while a lone warrior, Harma, joined Dalek Killer Abslom Daak’s Star Tigers. The fifth Doctor had double trouble when the Ice Warriors and the Meddling Monk teamed up to create a new super weapon.
In novels they have been mentioned in The Last Resort, Fear Itself and Transit. In the seventh Doctor’s New adventures novel, new companion Benny, an archaeologist and an expert on Mars, joins the Doctor on a return trip to Peladon where the Ice Warriors are stirring up trouble again. Given their size and the diminutive stature of the Doctor, this would have been a great sight on television. Godengine by the late Craig Hinton delved deepest into the Martian history and is one of the most sought after books in the series. The final book in the New Adventures saw the debut of the 8th Doctor as the Ice Warriors invaded Earth. Teamed with companion Benny, it is spectacular with ships over London and a real end of the world adventure. It tied into the 3rd Doctor story Ambassadors of Death when it was revealed that the probe in that story had in fact made first contact with the Ice Warriors but it was all hushed up.
As always Big Finish has featured them in several productions. In the Resurrection of Mars, the eighth Doctor and Lucie witness the mass slaughter of a human colony in preparation for the emergence of the Ice Warriors again who are in suspended animation beneath the surface. The fifth Doctor and Peri in Red Dawn saw the first true first contact between humans and the Martians as they defend an ancient warrior’s tomb. He would then meet them again in the Judgment of Isskar which not only features a search for the Key to time but also acts as their origin story. He he would lose companion Erimem after meeting them again in the Bride of Peladon. They would also feature in the seventh Doctor Frozen Time where, like in their initial television adventure, a group of them are discovered in the ice. Benny would meet them in her own series Dance of the Dead.
It was the eleventh Doctor’s story Cold War where the answer was given as to what lay beneath that armour. The new design has been released and the clamp hands are gone, replaced by four fingers and a thumb. They still retain the classic alligator look though. Showrunner Stephen Moffat was reluctant to bring them back at all but writer Mark Gatiss persuaded him. So on a submarine somewhere in an icy sea, the battle took place. We saw the real Ice Warriors, reptilian beings who could remote control their armour suits.
To keep monsters fresh it’s important to try and bring something new and fresh every time they appear and the Peter capaldi adventure Empress of Mars did exactly that. We got to see out first female Ice Warrior, the Empress of the title. Even the sonic weapons got an upgrade compressing their victims into a ball. But with the new comes the old and Empress of Mars cleverly tied into the Peladon saga by revealing that this is the beginning of the Golden Age of the Ice Warriors when they join the Galactic Federation. Additionally the return of the one eyed Alpha Centauri is a brillaint and welcome surprise.
A true classic monster.