It’s time for Carry On… Base Under Siege. On ice.
Sue: These opening credits are HUGE! Brian must be really proud of this story. Actually, I’m surprised that RTD didn’t go in for credits like this.
When we are introduced to the bedlam that is the Brittanicus Base, Sue immediately has a problem with its central computer.
Sue: Is there a Dalek loose on this base? Is that why everyone is panicking?
The next thing that Sue notices is – inevitably – the base personnel’s rather distinctive clothing.
Sue: It’s like an avant-garde fashion show. It’s very 1960s. Has Mary Quant taken over the world in this one? I do like the way they aren’t all wearing the same design, though. It shows a great deal of imagination, even though it must have cost a small fortune.
As tempers flare and tensions rise inside the base, Sue lets out a weary sigh.
Sue: Remember how I praised The Abominable Snowmen for not being hysterical? Well, this is hysterical. I’m surprised this woman’s plastic visor hasn’t steamed up.
The base’s computer continues to prove a source of irritation for Sue.
Sue: I didn’t understand a thing that computer just said. Apart from the words “South Africa”. I can only assume that something bad is going to happen there. This is probably yet another example of the rac -
Me: Don’t even go there! You mentioned the r-word once during The Tomb of the Cybermen and a militant faction of fandom wants to burn us both at the stake. Well, they want to burn you, but I’ll do my best to protect you.
Sue is excited to see the TARDIS land askew, and she’s even more impressed when it slides down an embankment, forcing the crew to evacuate horizontally.
Sue: Didn’t Matt Smith have to do this once? I can’t stop seeing all these links to the new series. The crew have great chemistry. They are very comfortable together. Can’t we just knock about with them for a bit without them getting into trouble? That would make a nice change of pace.
Jamie believes they are still in Tibet, because there’s snow in both stories.
Sue: Snow? What snow are you talking about, Jamie? The Himalayas are incredibly mild at this time of year, remember? But at least this cold weather means they can get the most out of Troughton’s new coat.
It doesn’t take very long for Sue to acknowledge the incongruous sight of old-fashioned chandeliers illuminating a so-called hi-tech base from the future.
Sue: They must have spent all the money on the costumes and they couldn’t afford to make any futuristic sets. It’s a clever way out of it, I suppose. And even if the decor does look antique, they still have gadgets like the vibrochair, which sounds very sexy and modern. Can we get a vibrochair?
When Peter Sallis and Angus Lennie appear as Penley and Storr, Sue cries out.
Sue: Oh look, it’s Last of the Summer Wine man!
Me: Don’t you mean, oh look, it’s Shughie McFee from Crossroads man?
Sadly, Sue doesn’t recognise this giant of the small screen and Storr could be played by Billy Connolly for all she cares.
At one point, the Doctor and his companions are threatened with transportation to Africa and Victoria almost faints with fear when the continent is mentioned.
Sue: What has Victoria got against Africa? You know, this show is definitely -
Me: Stop it!
Sue: OK, on a more positive note, I really do like Peter Barkworth. He has intensity of Patrick McGoohan and the charm of Simon Pegg. He’s great. I like the way he drops in all the back story with a little quiz. That’s a very clever way of doing it.
Things are pretty bad. An Ice Age has enveloped the planet and it’s down to the base’s ionisier to keep the glaciers from advancing across Britain. Clent shows the Doctor just how bad things are on a map.
Sue: They’ve put an Elastoplast on some glass. What the hell does that mean?
Me: Perhaps it’s a subtle metaphor for the role they are playing in this unfolding disaster.
Sue: Or perhaps the budget went on all the costumes.
Meanwhile, after a very flirty scene where Jamie tries to coax Victoria into wearing some kinky underwear (“There’s nothing left to say”), a frozen Ice Warrior, that has been discovered by the base’s resident archeologist (don’t ask), is brought inside Brittanicus. It starts to thaw.
So, this is basically The Thing meets Downton Abbey. OK, I can go with that.top
Two and Three
A couple of hours before we settled down to watch Episode Two via a YouTube reconstruction, I suddenly remembered that the BBC did something special when they released this story on VHS back in 1998. After checking with the kind folks on Twitter, I confirmed that a recon of episodes two and three were produced by the Restoration Team for that very release. And it was only fifteen minutes long! Sue almost kissed me when I told her.
Sue: Everything’s gone green.
Me: I’m not sure if that’s the age of this copy or if the recon was tinged with green deliberately. It’s odd, but it won’t last long.
Sue: I bet the Ice Warriors are green.
Me: Spot on.
Sue: They don’t look that bad.
Me: Why do you sound so surprised?
Sue gives me that ‘do I really have to ask?’ look. However, while things may look good, they sound terrible.
Sue: I can’t understand anyone anymore. The Ice Warriors slur their words, the computer is unintelligible and everyone else is either Scottish or yelling over a storm. This story should come with subtitles.
The telesnaps allow Sue to concentrate on every detail of the Ice Warriors’ design. She believes she may have spotted a fatal flaw.
Sue: How did the Ice Warriors get where they are today with no opposable thumbs? How do they carry their guns?
Me: Their guns are built-in to their hands.
Sue: I bet they don’t go on many dates.
Me: Maybe, but they do make great drink holders (copyright Tachyon TV’s notorious Cyberwoman podcast commentary, still available, folks!).
The mini-recon flies by and the gist of the plot is delivered to us with great economy.
Sue: Why can’t we watch all of them like this?top
Sue: I’m starting to go off Victoria a bit. She’s turning into a classic damsel in distress. She was kick-ass in that Cyberman story but now she’s just a passive victim, now. And she has a scream that could start an avalanche.
Sue is proved right a little later (which doesn’t help), and as a Warrior stalks Victoria through the glacier, Sue is further aggravated when he manages to walk straight past her.
Sue: So, poor peripheral vision affects Martians as well? At least they can blame it on their big helmets. Actually, I do like their design. It’s very organic and it doesn’t look that fake. I’m surprised this lot haven’t turned up in the new series.
Me: They are name-checked in that David Tennant episode set on Mars.
Sue: I’ll look out for that when we get there.
Me: I’ve told you before – we’re stopping at 1996!
Sue quickly changes the subject.
Sue: Look at the size of that Ice Warrior’s arse!! In fact, that Ice Warrior in the middle doesn’t look right to me. Is he the runt of the litter or did the fibreglass mould go wrong?
Storr, who hates anything to do with the base, tries to do a deal with the Ice Warriors. He offers to help them destroy the scientists. The Ice Warriors kill him instead.
Sue: I really like the ruthlessness of these Ice Warriors. They don’t piss around.
The Doctor heads off to face the Martians and Clent monitors his progress via a communicator.
Sue: Peter Barkworth is great. He’s selling this scene to me even though he’s just staring at a screen saver. I can’t give him enough praise, even if the character he’s playing is a bit of a dick.top
Sue: The Ice Warriors remind me of the snake from The Jungle Book.
Me: All that hissing?
Sue: No, they’re sending me to sleep. I’m kidding! I like the Ice Warriors. At least you can take them more seriously than a cuddly teddy bear. I like the way they snigger at things. It’s not your typical evil villain laughter either: it’s proper full-on sniggering. Not that you can blame them – that last cliffhanger was a complete joke.
The base’s staff lament the fact that the central computer won’t instruct them.
Sue: The computer can’t instruct them because no one can understand a bloody word it’s saying!
When Penley and Clent finally meet, sparks fly.
Sue: Peter Barkworth is very good. Have I mentioned that yet? This story is very intense and it’s mainly thanks to his performance. Wallace is pretty damn good, too.
The Ice Warriors decide to take out the base with a sonic canon.
Sue: Is that like the sonic canon the Japanese use on Whale Wars to knock out the Sea Shepherds?
The Doctor takes out his phial of ammonium sulphate. It may be just a stink bomb to us, but it could prove fatal to nitrogen-based creatures from Mars.
Sue: See! It is Whale Wars! The good guys use stink bombs in that as well.
The Ice Warriors direct their canon at the base.
Sue: It’s Bernie the Bolt.
Me: Nice 1967 reference. Well done.
Sue: I can imagine Matt Smith taking down an alien with a stink-bomb and not being able to get the cap off. It’s very funny.
Well, it was funny until Victoria throws the Martian equivalent of acid into an Ice Warrior’s face. But when he falls to the floor, he still manages to fire the bloody canon anyway.
Sue: Oh dear, the Doctor seems to have lost this one. You don’t see that very often. Now, that’s how you do a cliffhanger.top
Sue: I like the way this guy suddenly freaks out and starts points out the blatantly obvious – he’s playing the Rhys role in this. You know, like on Torchwood when Rhys will suddenly flip out and say what everyone’s thinking. They’re f***ed.
Me: As this is the last episode, there’s just enough time left for us to play ‘Let’s spot the heavily disguised Carry On… actor playing the lead Ice Warrior’.
Sue: Is it Hattie Jacques?
Me: You’re not taking this seriously, are you?
Sue: No, but Jamie and Victoria are getting very serious; there’s definitely a romance blossoming between them. Did you see the way Victoria reacted to the thought of Jamie in danger? She’s definitely got it serious.
Back at Brittanicus, the computer is erring on the side of caution when it comes to blasting the Ice Warriors with its ioniser.
Sue: It really is the computer that says “No”. It’s probably an Apple. Just look at its curves. And it’s gone wrong at the precise moment you need it to work. It’s definitely an Apple.
Penley urges Clent to ignore the blasted computer but he falls to pieces instead.
Sue: This is basically a really bad day at the office for Peter Barkworth. I can’t say that I’m surprised to see him finally have a nervous breakdown. He’s bound to redeem himself at the last-minute though.
He doesn’t. It’s left to Penley to sort out the mess. Sue can hardly believe it. She thought the ending would be a lot more pat than it is.
Sue: I can’t understand a word the Ice Warriors are saying as their ship blows up. This story needs some bloody good sound mastering. Do you think they’ll ever VidFIRE this one day? Are you impressed that I can remember what VidFIREing is? Because it depresses the hell out of me.
Me: I’m very impressed. You even got the capitalisation right.
And then it’s all over. But before Penley can thank the Doctor and his companions, they’ve legged it back to the TARDIS.
Sue: Oh look, it’s standing upright again. That’s nice.top
The Final Score
Sue: That was fairly enjoyable. It’s a shame about the missing bits. It had some good performances, some interesting monsters and the plot wasn’t too bad. However, It is getting a bit samey now. I hope we get something different soon.
The experiment continues…
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