After a bit of a miscalculation The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) materialize on a sinking Russian nuclear submarine near the North Pole in 1983 which has just picked up a rather unusual passenger in the form of a Martian Ice Warrior whose mere presence on the sub puts the entire crew, and perhaps even the entire world, in danger. While the ships first officer (Tobias Menzies) dismisses The Doctor’s explanation of events as pure rubbish, the ship’s Captain (Liam Cunningham) and scientist (David Warner) try to keep an open mind.
When one of the submarine’s crew attacks the Ice Warrior, thus declaring war for the entire planet, Skaldak (Nicholas Briggs) sends out a distress beacon calling other Ice Warriors to join him and lay waste to all who oppose him. The Doctor’s attempt to mediate the situation through the most nonthreatening person aboard the sub (namely Clara) doesn’t go quite as planned as the Ice Warrior leaves his armor chained up in the ship’s torpedo room to begin picking off the crew one-by-one.
As The Doctor hunts for the creature with the ship’s crew, Clara stays behind with the professor and begins to second guess her choice to travel with the mad man in a box. When his distress call goes unanswered Skaldak returns to his armor and decides to heat up the Cold War and begin the destruction of the entire planet Earth with a single missile after declaring the planet forfeit under Martian Law. Only the combination of Clara’s pleading and the eventual arrival of a Martian spacecraft halt Skaldak’s hand as the Martian Marshall leaves Earth more or less as he found it.
“Cold War” proves to be one of the creepiest episodes of the new series complete with a wonderful claustrophobic feel, the level of detail of the submarine set is terrific, and a only partially-seen monster reaching out from the darkness. In the show’s 50th anniversary season it’s good to see more classic returning creatures like the Ice Men whose original design is kept but updated for 2013. Clara’s doubts about traveling with The Doctor eventually subside, and in true companion tradition, she offers the right words at just the right time to help The Doctor save the day, and even sings a little Duran Duran to mark the occasion. After a couple of lukewarm episodes to start the second-half of Series Seven, it appears Doctor Who is back on track and moving ever closer to its 50th anniversary special in November.