THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
"VALHALLA" AND "THE
BIG FINISH CD#98
RELEASED IN AUGUST
In 1929, Lord Barset's
expedition to the
Antarctic is lost
without trace. Or so
Nearly a century
later, his grandson
funds a much-
publicized return to
the icy wastes. His
mission: to discover
what happened to the
But what he finds
instead is an enigma –
a battered London
police box frozen in
ice millennia old.
But something else
lies in wait in this
something from an
era before humankind
set foot on the
continent's cold soil.
A menace frozen in
When I first looked at the cover for Frozen Time a few months ago on the Big Finish website, my interest was hardly piqued. In fact, if I’m brutally honest I wasn’t looking forward to this release at all - it looked like The Land of the Dead all over again, only with an exploding helicopter.
I love it when I’m wrong.
Frozen Time is another Big Finish bolt from the blue. Like Dust Breeding and The Harvest before it, this play sees the return of one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies without the slightest hint of fanfare or publicity. The Earthshock-style appearance of the Ice Warriors towards the end of the second episode is perhaps even more surprising than previous Big Finish shockers as writer / executive producer / Dalek Nicholas Briggs cunningly leads the audience into believing that Lord Barset’s quarry are in fact Earth Reptiles. Now what I thought was really clever is that Lord Barset is actually looking for Earth Reptiles – he just finds something else. Something worse…
The Ice Warriors themselves are fantastic here. It’s hard to believe that in almost a hundred monthly releases they’ve only appeared once as their unique voices are just the thing for audio – they’re so distinctive. In fact, one of the few positive things to come out of Red Dawn was how well their voices were realised.
Sadly, with Red Dawn the story just wasn’t very good. Thankfully though, that isn’t a problem here. Briggs has a real knack for churning out high quality Doctor Who stories like there’s no tomorrow, and Frozen Time is no exception. I particularly like how he taps into the idea that the Martian Ice Warriors aren’t a race of baddies like the Daleks or Cybermen – at the end of the day, they aren’t that far removed from humans. There are good Martians, bad Martians, and very, very bad Martians. For the most part, Frozen Time is concerned with the latter – Arakssor is quite possibly the baddest Martian that we’ve seen to date – because, let’s face it, as refreshing as stories like The Curse of Peladon may be, it is baddie Ice Warriors trying to blow up the world that we want to see, not friendly ones! Nevertheless, Briggs doesn’t portray the whole Martian race as warmongering psychopaths; his script takes the time to house a couple of short, sweet flashback scenes that show us that there are some good Martians out there too. Or at least, a million years ago there were…
I also like Arakssor’s means to destroy humanity – he wants to use Global Warming against us! How topical is that?
What really makes this story stand out though is the Doctor. According to the CD Extras, Sylvester McCoy has asked Big Finish to write him more of these ‘lone ranger’ stories so that he can explore the loneliness of the Doctor’s character. Recently he’s certainly been getting his wish – both Return of the Daleks and Valhalla have portrayed the seventh Doctor in a new and remarkable way, no small feat considering just how many stories are out there now across the formats featuring the incarnation. In this story, Briggs takes the seventh Doctor back to basics. He freezes him in a block of ice, leaves him for a million years, and then has him revived just prior to an Ice Warrior attack. When the Doctor comes round, he has no memory of who he is save for the odd name and face flashing before his memory. Hex. Ace. Mel. And over the course of the four episodes, the Doctor has to find himself again whilst trying to save the day, much as he does in your typical post-regeneration story. It’s just a pity Briggs that can’t go back and over-write Time and the Rani…
Furthermore, as with Valhalla a couple of months ago, the Doctor gains a couple of pseudo-companions here. Ben (Gregg Newton) is an affable chap in Lord Barset’s employ with an even broader Scots accent than the Doctor, and Genevieve (Maryam d’Abo – Bond girls
are forever!) is a French scientist whom the Doctor really takes a shine to. It’s even implied that she gets a TARDIS trip or too in the last episode. I wonder…
Finally, it wouldn’t be fair to review Frozen Time without mentioning Anthony Calf’s performance as the young Lord Barset. He’s a great character that when listening to the play it’s difficult to get a handle on – is he good? Bad? Misguided? All three? A wonderful bit of characterisation from Briggs.
It’s also worth pointing out that the value for money we are getting from these CDs now is better than ever. Not only do we get some insightful CD Extras every month, but also excerpts of isolated score. I wasn’t too bothered about this little bonus previously, but as this play contains some truly haunting incidental music from Steve Foxon – particularly what I would call ‘the Ice Warriors theme’ – you really do feel like you’re getting that little bit more for your hard-earned cash.
At the end of the day, Frozen Time is a bombshell. It’s full of twists and turns and – though if you’ve read this, I’ve totally ruined it for you – surprises and, most important of all, Ice Warriors being used well. With the desolate Antarctic setting and those rasping voices, this play really took me back to those grim old monochrome Patrick Troughton serials. What higher praise can I give to this play than that?
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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