Doctor Who Review: Cold War

The Doctor and Clara arrive on a sinking Soviet submarine in the 1980s, just in time for the return of one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies.

Cast and Crew

Matt Smith as the Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Liam Cunningham as Captain Zhukov
David Warner as Professor Grisenko
Tobias Menzies as Lieutenant Stepashin
Josh O’Connor as Piotr
James Norton as Onegin
Charlie Anson as Belevich
Spencer Wilding as Skaldak
Nicholas Briggs as Voice of Skaldak

Written by Mark Gatiss

Directed by Douglas MacKinnon

Produced by Marcus Wilson


A Soviet submarine looking for oil digs up instead a dormant Ice Warrior general. Ice Warriors are not particularly known for their compassion, forgiveness or human-style rationality, so by the time the Doctor and Clara arrive the submarine’s sinking…

High Points

  • “Am I speaking Russian? How can I be speaking Russian?”
  • Clara’s conversations with the Professor

Low Points

  • It took the Doctor far, far too long to turn around and see the Ice Warrior. That seemed out of character enough that I was muttering to myself about contrived dramatic moments.


Originality: The general idea isn’t particularly new. Cold War submarine thrillers are of course commonplace – although it’s not entirely normal for the person they’re trying to stop getting hold of a missile is from Mars. Digging up an ancient alien best left alone though, that’s been done a fair few times as well. Fortunately the writing’s good enough that it doesn’t feel like a tired retreading of old ideas. Three out of six.

Effects: A lot of practical effects work in this episode, largely involving pouring water on people. Needless to say, this is fairly convincing, although nobody quite seems cold enough to me. The exterior underwater shots are good as well, and a pleasing amount of practical work for the Ice Warrior as well. The CGI also works very well when it appears, which I wasn’t expecting. Five out of six.

Acting: Coleman continues to impress me. Some very good guest stars this week as well. David Warner of course is David Warner, but the senior officers were all very good even if just playing to stereotypes most of the time. Five out of six.

Story: I thought Clara should’ve made more of what happened to the TARDIS. If I was on a sinking Soviet submarine I’d be very concerned about the whereabouts of my time machine. Perhaps this just shows her developing trust of the Doctor. Other than that, the story works very well. It’s not enormously surprising but it flows well and kept my attention. I’m slightly concerned that there may be a trend with Clara talking her way out of things though. Four out of six.

Production: Does this submarine seem a little spacious to anybody else? I was really taken with the idea that all the crew of the Russian submarine have English accents. In-story this is of course due to the TARDIS translation matrix, but for the viewers it both spares us from terrible Russian accents and gets us over the idea that they’re Russians and therefore the enemy. To the Doctor, of course, they’re just people, and I think this was an excellent decision. Five out of six.

Emotional response: I wasn’t moved by great tides of passion, but it was a lot of fun. The historical context of the story lent a lot of weight to the character of the Professor for me. Four out of six.

Overall: Five out of six.

In total, Cold War receives 31 out of 42.

11 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Cold War”

  1. From listening to former Royal Navy submariners commenting on Hunt For Red October the boat seemed the right size, it was just missing about 120 crew members.

    I suspect trying to launch missiles from under the ice pack would not have gone well, and bare hands on the sail when it surfaced is not the best idea either…

  2. My reaction exactly– generally good episode with convincing effects and a good take on the Ice Warriors– and, yeah, shouldn’t people be colder?

    • They should have been a lot colder, and they should NOT have been putting wet hands on the metal exterior of the ship at the end. I will assume that the unknown alien technology that brought them to the surface somehow protected them from getting the bends.

      • Y’all are not allowed to complain about people not being cold enough. When I said that in the snowmen episode everyone said I was wrong!

        • I agreed with some of your comments in “The Snowmen” (like making snowmen and holding snow with bare hands, if not the attire worn), but “London cold” is not as extreme as “North Pole” cold when you’ve been soaking wet for hours.

  3. The episodes this year have been “okay”, but next week’s looks REALLY good.

    *fingers crossed*

    Time to stop the new character building and get back to normal!

  4. The one thing that bothered me was all the water in the submarine. It seems to me that if a submarine is deep under water, either there’s no water getting in from outside, or all the water gets in. I wouldn’t expect a splash here and a gush there. Once water is getting in, it’s over.

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