A chilling adversary

56 years ago, on 11th November 1967, the Doctor faced a unique and menacing antagonist for the first time. Among the multitude of adversaries that have left an indelible mark on Doctor Who, the Ice Warriors stand as one of the most iconic and enduring foes the Doctor has ever encountered. Created by writer Brian Hayles for his fifth-season story titled ‘The Ice Warriors’, these reptilian creatures from Mars made an immediate impact. Encased in formidable armour and possessing a cold, calculating demeanour, the Ice Warriors captured the imagination of viewers and paved the way for their recurring appearances throughout the show’s long history.

In this six-part serial, the TARDIS lands in a futuristic Earth besieged by a new ice age. The Second Doctor, portrayed by Patrick Troughton, along with his companions, Jamie and Victoria, and a group of scientists, discovers a buried Martian spaceship. To their astonishment, they revive a hibernating Ice Warrior, awakening a formidable adversary for the Time Lord.

The Ice Warriors’ debut was met with widespread acclaim, and it became evident that the creators had stumbled upon something truly remarkable. Their distinctive appearance, characterised by their reptilian features and imposing armoured suits, made them visually striking villains. However, it was their demeanour, a combination of intelligence, honour, and ruthlessness, that truly set them apart.

Following the success of that first story, these Martian warriors reappeared in subsequent Doctor Who adventures, including ‘The Seeds of Death’ (1969), ‘The Curse of Peladon’ (1972), and ‘The Monster of Peladon’ (1974). In the revived series, writer Mark Gatiss expanded on the Ice Warriors’ mythos when he brought them back in ‘Cold War’ (2015) and ‘The Empress of Mars’ (2017). Throughout all of these narratives, the Ice Warriors continued to evolve, displaying a complex society and diverse characters within their species. Their presence added depth to the Doctor Who universe, offering viewers a glimpse into the intricate politics and moral dilemmas of an alien civilisation.

The enduring appeal of the Ice Warriors can be attributed to their multifaceted nature. Despite being formidable adversaries, they possess a code of honour, making them more than mere monsters. This complexity fascinated viewers, prompting the show’s creators to revisit these intriguing creatures multiple times over the years.

Additionally, the Ice Warriors’ impact extended beyond the television screen. They have made appearances in various Doctor Who novels, audio dramas, and comic strips, further expanding their lore and cementing their status as fan-favourite antagonists. Their ability to adapt to different mediums while retaining their core essence is a testament to the strength of their design and characterisation. The Ice Warriors have become an integral part of the Doctor Who universe, leaving an enduring impact on the show’s rich tapestry of characters and stories.

Audio commentary on several Doctor Who adventures featuring the Ice Warriors is available now on two releases in our popular Who Talk series. Mars Attacks! includes commentary on the first episode of ‘The Ice Warriors’, two episodes of ‘The Seeds of Death’ and the 2017 story ‘The Empress of Mars’; while Peladon contains commentary on episodes from ‘The Curse of Peladon’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’. Additionally, for fans of writer Brian Hayles’ work, his novelisation of his 1978 fantasy television drama The Moon Stallion is available now in paperback and as an audiobook read by Sarah Sutton.