BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

The Ice Warriors

Production Code: OO

First Transmitted

1 - 11/11/1967 17:10

2 - 18/11/1967 17:25

3 - 25/11/1967 17:25

4 - 02/12/1967 17:25

5 - 09/12/1967 17:25

6 - 16/12/1967 17:25


The TARDIS arrives on Earth at the time of a new ice age and the travellers make their way into a base where scientists commanded by Leader Clent are using an ioniser device to combat the advance of a glacier.

A giant humanoid creature, termed an Ice Warrior by one of the scientists, has been found buried in the glacier nearby. When thawed, it revives and is revealed to be Varga, captain of a Martian spacecraft that landed on Earth centuries ago and is still in the glacier. Varga sets about freeing his comrades and formulating a plan to conquer the Earth - Mars itself now being dead.

The scientists meanwhile realise that continued use of the ioniser could cause the alien ship's engines to explode. Their trusted computer is unable to advise them without further information, and it seems that disaster is imminent. The disaffected scientist Penley, supported by the Doctor, eventually decides to risk activating the ioniser. There is only a minor explosion, which destroys the Martians and, at the same time, checks the ice flow.

Episode Endings

The frozen creature has been brought to the ioniser base and is left to thaw out while the scientists hold a meeting. Jamie and Victoria debate the merits of the clothes worn by the female scientists, oblivious to the fact that behind them the massive creature is starting to move...

Varga has escaped from the base, taking with him a hostage in the person of Victoria and some portable power packs to thaw out his still frozen crew. Having blasted away the ice wall, Varga attaches the power packs to his comrades and stands back as they begin rapidly to thaw out.

Victoria escapes from the Martians' ship and uses one of the scientists' communicators to contact the Doctor at the base. She tells him that the aliens are ruthless killers and will stop at nothing. Inside the ship, the Martians' sonic cannon is trained on Victoria and the operator, Zondal, awaits the order to fire.

The Doctor goes to the Martians' ship, where Varga allows him to enter the airlock. Sealing the outer door, Varga threatens to reduce the atmospheric pressure in the airlock to zero unless the Doctor answers his questions.

Zondal has been left in charge of the Martians' sonic cannon while Varga and the others try to gain entry to the base. The Doctor and Victoria, held prisoner in the ship, use a vial of hydrogen sulphide to incapacitate Zondal. The collapsing Warrior makes a desperate attempt to activate the cannon, while the Doctor struggles to hold back his arm.

The Martians' ship is destroyed and Clent is happy to have Penley back working with him once more. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria have meanwhile slipped quietly back to the TARDIS, which dematerialises from the snowy landscape.


The Thing from Another World.

War of the Worlds.

Quatermass and the Pit.

Jamie misquotes Macbeth ('Lead on Macduff!').

Dialogue Triumphs

Victoria : "You won't succeed! You can't be so inhuman!"

Varga : "We only fight to win."

Penley : [On Clent] "He's got a printed circuit where his heart should be."

The Doctor : [On Victoria's knowledge of stink bombs] "The benefits of a classical education?'"

Dialogue Disasters

Varga : "You will maintain your Earthling body temperature by helping me."

Double Entendre

"I await your punishment, Commander!"

"Come along, Victoria, blow, blow!"


It is Walters who first coins the phrase 'Ice Warrior' to describe Varga. The Ice Warriors rarely refer to themselves by this title (the exception is in 'The Monster of Peladon). The Doctor believes the Ice Warriors have a 'far greater fluid content' than humans.

The Warriors never refer to their home planet as Mars. Varga calls it 'the Red Planet' whose atmosphere is said to be mainly nitrogen based.


The History of Mars


The Brittanicus Ice Base, possibly England, during 'the second ice age'. [c. 3000 AD? Clent talks of 5000 years of history buried under the glacier, which might point to the Ice Age around the year 5000 mentioned by the Doctor in The Talons of Weng Chiang.]

Future History

The Doctor speculates that ionisation, and a dispersal of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is responsible for the climatic changes that produced the ice age [perhaps a reaction to large scale weather control attempts].

Clent states that the discovery of artificial food sources which helped to end world famine 'a hundred years ago' [an advanced form of the synthetic carbohydrates mentioned in The Seeds of Death] caused an abandonment of natural forms of growth. 'Then, one year, spring never came.'

Ionisation helps to prevent the advance of the glaciers. Rehabilitation centres for those evacuated from affected areas are in Africa. It is implied that there are still national groupings (Clent's remark on the Russians).



There is an unusual fading in and out of the opening story title, episode number and writer credits.

Gentle giant Bernard Bresslaw, best known today for his many appearances in the Carry On... films, appears as the impressive Martian leader, Varga.

Peter Sallis, now well known as one of the stars of Last of the Summer Wine, appears as the scientist-turned-scavenger Penley.

A real live bear was used in specially shot film inserts (as opposed to stock footage).

Miss Garrett's entire costume unexpectedly changes between the fifth and sixth episodes.


The base computer is called ECCO. (This name was invented by writer Brian Hayles for his later novelisation of the story.)


The Doctor can tell that the computer is malfunctioning by the sound of its pitch.


The TARDIS materialises on its side at the beginning of the first episode, and yet it is upright when it dematerialises at the end of the sixth.

Varga's head design changes after he wakes up.

Fashion Victim

Victoria shows a prudish reaction to Jamie's appreciation of the skirts worn by the base's female staff.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Victoria - Deborah Watling

Arden - George Waring

Clent - Peter Barkworth

Davis - Peter Diamond

Isbur, the Ice Warrior - Michael Attwell

Miss Garrett - Wendy Gifford

Penley - Peter Sallis

Rintan, the Ice Warrior - Tony Harwood

Storr - Angus Lennie

Turoc, the Ice Warrior - Sonny Caldinez

Varga, the Ice Warrior - Bernard Bresslaw

Voice of Computer - Roy Skelton

Walters - Malcolm Taylor

Zondal, the Ice Warrior - Roger Jones


Director - Derek Martinus

Assistant Floor Manager - Quenton Annis

Costumes - Martin Baugh

Designer - Jeremy Davies

Film Cameraman - Brian Langley

Film Editor - Michael Lockey

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Sylvia James

Producer - Innes Lloyd

Production Assistant - Snowy Lidiard-White

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Peter Bryant

Studio Lighting - Sam Neeter

Studio Sound - Bryan Forgham

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Bernard Wilkie

Visual Effects - Ron Oates

Writer - Brian Hayles

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I'd sooner live with the ice age than with his robot universe!' A great minimalist tundra landscape, fine performances from Peter Barkworth and Peter Sallis, and the eerie hissing voices of the Ice Warriors themselves, help turn a standard 'don't trust the machines' storyline into something special.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

One of the most immediately striking aspects of The Ice Warriors is the costumes: not only the Ice Warriors' impressive reptilian forms - now justly famous - which designer Martin Baugh based around the idea of a crocodile with an armoured shell, but also the human scientists' distinctive outfits. The latter consist of figure-hugging unitards for the women and tight suits for the men, all adorned with strange psychedelic patterns based on printed circuits, which Baugh derived from the notion that at this point in the Earth's future there might be machines that could automatically spray clothes onto a person.

Director Derek Martinus's casting of large actors to play the Martians was a good move, as the creatures tower over the rest of the characters and look very imposing. Their hissing voices and terrifying presence are what really give this story the edge. His choice of Bernard Bresslaw to play Varga was a particularly inspired piece of casting, and Bresslaw makes the part totally his own. Martinus's decision to have the Warriors' voices recorded separately was also astute, as it meant that the lips of the masks could be attached directly to those of the actors, allowing their mouths a full range of movement and reinforcing the impression of a race of truly alien creatures.

The rest of the guest cast playing the base personnel - who have to overcome not only the Martians but also the glacier and even their own internal conflicts - are uniformly excellent. Peter Barkworth deserves a special mention for his superb portrayal of Clent; and praise is also due to whoever came up with the simple but highly effective idea that he should play the part with a pronounced limp and walk aided by a stick. It is in the characterisation of Clent - and perhaps even more so in that of his assistant Miss Garrett, also well portrayed by Wendy Gifford - that writer Brian Hayles makes what is arguably the story's main point, specifically that it is dangerous for human beings to become too reliant on computers. This theme of man's relationship to machine is established early in the first episode, when the scientists at the base are seen to be so dependent on their computer to tell them what to do that they do not even realise that it is about to blow up until the Doctor arrives and manages to prevent the disaster. It is then explored throughout the rest of the story, principally through the symbolic conflict between Clent and Garrett on the one hand and Penley and his scavenger friend Storr on the other.

'Hayles was not trying to convince us that anti-technology was the right path,' argued Robert Shearman in Cloister Bell 10/11, dated March 1985. 'Penley was the most sympathetic character because, while he hated the effects that computerisation had on characters such as Clent and Garrett (and presumably most of the world), "We're not all like Clent. He's the kind that uses scientists' skulls as stepping stones to top jobs..." He does respect science and the great good it is capable of doing for mankind - "Discovery is as exciting and purposeful to me as hunting game is to you" [he tells Storr]. The reason... the Ioniser was used [by Hayles] to solve the problem [at the end of the story] was... to emphasise that technology is good if under control. It is the humans who decide to use the Ioniser, whatever the dangers which cause the computer to run down.'

'Brian Hayles comes out firmly in favour of Penley,' affirmed Martin J Wiggins in Oracle Volume 3 Number 4 dated January 1980. 'It is shown that only the individual can take initiative or risks, so that individualism is the key to an unpredictable, changing society, while regimentation yields only staticism.'

A possible error in Brian Hayles' scripts was pointed out by a Miss J Kirkcaldy of Grays in a letter printed in the 14 December 1967 edition of Radio Times: 'I would like to point out to Doctor Who that there have already been four great ice advances and retreats, three of which, to give them their German names, are Guntz, Wurm and Mindel. This is what my geography mistress states and what I am learning for my O Level. Therefore if Doctor Who has to be in the grip of the Second Ice Age he will have to go back in time - not forward to AD 3000.' Hayles himself provided an answer to this, albeit not an entirely convincing one, in the same edition: 'The glacial advances known as Guntz, Mindel, Riss and Wurm were all "surges" within the overall Ice Age period, also known as Pleistocene or Quaternary.'

Another, perhaps more serious problem with Hayles's story is that it fails to give the viewer any real sense of where all the various settings are in relation to one other. The glacier face could be just a few hundred yards from the base, as could the shack where Storr and Penley hide out, but they could just as easily be miles away. Sometimes it takes people ages to travel from one place to another, yet on other occasions they do so quite quickly. The avalanche at the glacier face in the first episode does not appear to affect the base, and yet the glacier is supposed to be almost upon it. This, though, is no more than a minor irritation. Otherwise, there is very little to fault in The Ice Warriors, making it another in a succession of superb stories.

An important element in the success of this era of Doctor Who is the excellence of the three regulars, and again they are in fine form here. Patrick Troughton manages to make the most of certain scenes that allow for touches of humour, such as when the travellers emerge from the TARDIS at the start (the Doctor freezes in apparent terror, staring off into the distance... because Jamie has knelt on his hand!), when the Doctor asks about a machine used for creating chemicals (he needs to use it urgently... because he's thirsty!) and when he prepares to attack Zondal with ammonium sulphide (he cannot get the stopper off the test tube!). He is equally good, however, in scenes where the Doctor is forced to accept the gravity of the situation, such as when he approaches the Martian ship and when he speaks with Varga in the base. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling also give a good account of themselves in their respective roles.

'The relationships of the trio from the TARDIS were at a zenith at this time, with each playing off and complementing the others,' wrote Marc Platt in Shada 14, dated March/April 1983. 'Although Jamie is confined mainly to buckling his swash, Victoria remains the enchanting innocent, even when she spends most of her time close to hysteria. Her vulnerable sense of wonder is undampened by her adventures and is an essential element of the magic that thrived throughout the fifth season. Troughton's Doctor is a constant surprise and it is that quality that makes him so admirable... He marches into the base, is marked out by his scruffiness as a Scavenger, patches up the ioniser on the spot and takes over Penley's job. He uses an automatic chemical dispenser as a drinks supply, and when Miss Garrett proudly announces the base to be fully computerised, he says "Well, never mind"... He then sets off into the blizzard to rescue Victoria from the Martians, whom he hopes will treat him as a guest! Troughton's magnificent gift is that the more outlandishly he behaves, the further ahead of us we know his quicksilver mind to be.'

The following story, however, would see the three time travellers playing strangely unaccustomed roles in the action...

< The Abominable SnowmenSecond DoctorThe Enemy of the World >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy