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It seems a fitting moment, while a probe is scooting around on the surface of the actual Mars, looking for signs of ice (among other things) to have a look at the fictitious frozen warriors that particular planet sent over to the Earth, to do battle with the Second Doctor, and his assistants Jamie and Victoria.
Now, one of the many odd things about the Ice Warriors is that we’re introduced to them in an out-of-sequence fashion. They first come to the Doctor’s attention during a second ice age, set in the far future (The Ice Warriors, possibly set around the year 3000) on Earth. When melting back some glacial ice, a scientific exploration team at Brittanicus Base found a hulking great lizardy brute buried deep within the ice for thousands of years. So of course they tried to melt him, to see what would happen.
Here’s the first sight of the leathery swine:
Here’s the Doctor attempting to make contact inside their ship, once he’d melted his colleagues. It does not go well:
You’ll have noticed one thing right away. They sound like scary monsters, and they look worse. This is partly because they are from Mars and are therefore unsuited to the Earth’s gravitational pull and atmosphere. But also, they’re lizardy, like snakes are, so they hiss, like snakes do, but they’re perfectly happy in the permafrost, a place no cold-blooded snake could survive. They’re basically a cross between a viking and a crocodile, and every bit as grumpy.
Plus they have plans to take over the Earth, as all good Whovian monsters do, although naturally the Doctor sorts it all out.
Note: you might be interested to know that this particular Ice Warrior was played by Bernard Bresslaw, the big balding fella in the Carry On movies.
But it turns out that some years earlier, in the mid-21st Century, the Martians had already attempted a full scale invasion, which would have been after the other ship set out, but before they were woken up. This time they planned to take over the T-Mat transporter that humans had become reliant upon, jamming some seeds in it and growing oxygen-eating plants (The Seeds of Death), to create an atmosphere suitable to sustain their race (and free up their naturally operatic voices).
Naturally the Doctor foiled that plan too. And this is when things start to get interesting. It appears that at some point between the year 3000 and their next encounter, the Ice Warriors decided to drop the whole warrior thing and become diplomats instead. So when the Third Doctor and Jo Grant turn up on the planet Peladon, at some even-more-distant point in the future, his initial distrust gives way to eventual respect (The Curse of Peladon), as it seems this scary monster with the scary monster voice has truly turned over a new leaf.
Here’s the Third Doctor’s first glimpse of his newly colored-in foe:
However, 50 Peladonian years later the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith pay another visit (Monster of Peladon), where they meet Federation peacekeeping troops (Ice Warriors) lead by Azaxyr, who turns out to want to return his people to their warlike ways. He takes over Peladon, but is thwarted by the Doctor and an insurgent army of Peladonians (and a dematerialising statue of a boar).
It’s at this point the on-screen Doctor parts ways with his confused Martian foe/friends. And he leaves them with something of an image problem.
Due to the extreme nature of their physical appearance (and those Gollumy voices) it’s easy to see how they could end up reverting to rotterhood and invading places again. But what the universe is always short of is hard-talking, cold-blooded and properly terrifying ambassadors, spreading a scary message of peace and accord without having to fiddle unduly with the atmosphere. And frankly, this is something they seem uncommonly suited for. One hissed “SSSSSTTOPPP FIGHTIIIIIING” and they”d put the wind up troublemakers before the first lazer bullet could be fired.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic