First – and only – broadcast on BBC1 across November and December 1967, The Ice Warriors was a classic Second Doctor-era serial typical of the time's predilection for what has become known as ‘base under siege’ stories. During Doctor Who’s fifth season, producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Peter Bryant decided that the show’s budgetary needs were best served by centring the action around one big ‘centrepiece’ set that would be the focus of the show’s action and its dramatic imperative. This coincided with a predominance of classic stories that largely followed the same format but featured many of the show’s greatest monsters – the Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti – pitting themselves against an enclave of humanity based in one focal point location. The Ice Warriors, by Brian Hayles, is a fine example of the type as the Doctor (Troughton) and his companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) arrive on Earth during a new ice age at a base cleverly installed in an old Edwardian mansion fighting to hold back the advance of glaciers threatening to overwhelm the British Isles. But something nasty lurks in the encroaching ice in the form of a troop of lethal frozen aliens who, when thawed, hatch a diabolical plot to take over the planet.
Frustratingly, Episodes Two and Three of the serial are missing from the BBC Archives (although they were subsequently animated and released on DVD in 2003) and this entire soundtrack, now released as the latest in Demon Records’ lavish presentation of classic Who soundtracks, has previously been released on CD. As usual, this is a beautiful package, three discs on glorious ice blue vinyl, presented in a chunky box with each album in its own illustrated sleeve that, when assembled, creates a mosaic of the cover Ice Warrior illustration. The soundtrack itself is crisp and crystal clear with Frazer Hines’ linking narration usefully filling in those awkward onscreen dialogue-free moments and the story is fairly typical of an extended six-part serial with plenty of captures and escapes, subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) story padding and the odd head-scratching plot holes and inconsistencies. But the Ice Warriors themselves (this is the first appearance by the reptilian rotters who would return to confound the Doctor in the following season and appear twice in third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s era before being ‘reimagined’ several years ago for the modern series) are a terrifically threatening presence, their sibilant voices and lumbering gait underpinned by an ominous score by the reliable Dudley Simpson. The whole serial also benefits from a solid cast of 1960s TV character actors like Peter Barkworth, Peter Sallis, Angus Lennie, Michaael Attwell and, most extraordinarily, Carry On regular Bernard Bresslaw, cast as the imposing Ice Warrior leader Varga thanks to his towering physicality.
TV soundtracks might seem like a curious anachronism in a digital age – the story is available on DVD and on the Britbox streaming service – but these Demon releases are so lovingly and sympathetically designed they’re hard to resist as collectors’ items for completist fans and those with an eye for their very special visual aesthetic.