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We’re in the North Pole and it’s 1983, the height of the actual cold war. In a Soviet sub, the captain prepares to launch a nuclear strike, but is put off by a professor singing “Vienna” by Ultravox. Luckily it’s just a drill, and it turns out the prof has found a something in the ice.
It’s at this point we realize one of the crew is setting about the ice with a blowtorch, like a fool. He sees movement within, and suddenly an arm reaches out to strangle him.
Roll the credits, the Ice Warriors are BACK!
Well, it’s one Ice Warrior, and he’s effectively knackering the sub, making his way through the crew and causing it to take on water, and sink. It would be a rotten time for visitors to arrive, and yet, with a familiar groan, that is exactly what happens.
The Doctor and Clara emerge, dressed for summer, and are immediately drenched. Seizing control of the situation immediately, the Doctor helps the sub to land on a ledge, then the crew tie them up and search them. But suddenly the TARDIS dematerializes, and Clara falls over and faints. Explanations will be forthcoming shortly, I expect.
So, when Clara wakes, the Doctor and the Captain are arguing, but they’re soon interrupted by the arrival of the Ice Warrior. The Doctor attempts to negotiate with him across drawn weapons.
He’s Grand Marsall Skaldak, that’s as far as we get before another crewman electrocutes him and he collapses.
The Doctor reveals the Grand Marshall is the greatest hero of the Ice Warrior people, and they chain him to some girders. He attempts to contact his people while the Doctor explains a little of the history of the Ice Warriors. If they had let him go, there would have been no trouble, but as he’s been attacked, they’re all in big trouble.
But who can try and broker a peace? The Captain smells of soldier. The Doctor does too. But what about Clara?
So, Clara goes in, with the Doctor in her headphones. They try and talk him out of his righteous anger, with Skaldak talking directly to the Doctor about his daughter and Clara slowly walking towards him. Something’s wrong. Something’s not quite as it should be…
Oh! Skaldak has left his armor! H-how? Where? All we can hear is hissing and rattling, and Clara has to sneak off and hide. Skaldak, however, has escaped. He’s at large somewhere in the sub, he’s stopped signalling for help, and he has nothing to lose.
And just at the point at which everyone realizes he could take over the nuclear missiles and blow up the world, the sub gives a jolt, as if preparing to fall off the ledge. Things look bleak.
Meanwhile, some bony Martian hands have grabbed the crew member who attacked Skaldak with the cattle prod. He explains the mechanics of mutually-assured destruction, and Skaldak considers this as a viable plan of action. Oh dear.
Time to search the sub. And sing a bit of Duran Duran.
Skaldak claims another crewman, tearing him apart and examining the bits. The Doctor leaves Clara with the professor, and she tries to work out how she feels about this adventure and her part in it. Then two bony hands come down and seize Clara’s head. The professor shoots at them, and they retreat, only to come down on the professor’s head instead.
Then the Captain arrives, pointing a gun at Skaldak, they have him cornered! Or at least, they WOULD have him cornered if his armor wasn’t standing behind the Captain, waiting. In the confusion, Skaldak re-enters his armor, then, impervious to bullets he strides towards the control deck, to launch the single nuclear missile that will set off a chain reaction and destroy the planet.
The Doctor sets up a mutually-assured destruction scenario of his own, threatening to blow up the sub if Skaldak insists on launching that missile. There’s a tense stand-off, and Clara reminds Skaldak of his daughter.
And then… the submarine is caught in a beam from above, it’s being raised to the surface by… by… oh great! A space-ship full of Ice Warriors.
But Skaldak still has control over the missile, he has no reason not to fire it, but will he? Will he show mercy? Will he leave the humans alone?
YES! The red light turns to green. The world is saved from the Ice Warriors, by the Ice Warriors!
On top of the submarine, the Doctor unwillingly admits that he’s been fiddling with the TARDIS and turned on the hostile action displacement system, or HADS for short. This is why the TARDIS disappeared. To the South Pole. On the other side of the world.
And with a salute from the Doctor, the Ice Warriors fly off home to a nice relaxing frost bath (or something).