Big Finish Folly, Part 140 – Thin Ice, by Marc Platt
Moscow 1967. The Doctor and Ace have arrived behind the Iron Curtain, and the Soviet Union is seeking a new weapon that will give it mastery in the Cold War.
What is the secret of the Martian relics? As the legendary War Lord Sezhyr returns to life, the Doctor is faced with some of his oldest and deadliest enemies.
The fate of Earth – and the future of Ace – are now intertwined…
And so we hit the mini-season of Lost Stories that were originally intended as part of the season that would have followed Survival. As the interviews make clear, this would have explored the darker, manipulative side of the Doctor further, in much the same way that the Virgin line of New Adventures novels continued to do into the 1990s. But to begin with, here in Thin Ice, though the Doctor is busy trying to manipulate Ace’s future by enrolling her without her knowledge into a sort of Timelord academy (Big Finish have run with this idea, with Ace joining the Celestial Intervention Agency much further down the line), the Doctor is on rather uncertain ground. He’s at the mercy of his Timelord “handlers”, forced onto the sidelines to allow Ace to take care of the situation that they’ve been forced into. That situation turns out to be a sort of spin on the Italian Job – a motley collection of adventurers that includes the Doctor, Ace, a wide boy named Marcus Creevy, Russian agent Raina, and Ice Warrior Hhessh are in Moscow to rescue relics that once belonged to the legendary War Lord mentioned in the blurb above.
That’s not a bad premise: Ace has to come to the forefront and try to dominate proceedings, not always successfully, while the Doctor tries to influence from the sidelines, while remaining out of sight of the Timelord adjudicators, not always successfully. The heist scenario means the script is focused towards certain goals, and Platt achieves that very well indeed while adding a few twists, not least of which is Raina and Creevy’s relationship.
The aftermath and fallout of the heist is where things start to drift away from that initial premise, as the War Lord Sezhyr is revealed to be reincarnated via his helmet and the Ice Warriors begin to squabble amongst themselves. The drift loses some of the first half’s intent direction, and also becomes “Ice Warriors in a London warehouse”, which isn’t as much fun as “Ice Warriors in Moscow”. You can visualise some of this in the same tones as Revelation of the Daleks – grey, gloomy, a very heightened sort of ’60s – but it hems it in somewhat. The Doctor takes his eye off the ball as he and Creevy wind up holding the baby – quite literally – and the whole thing sort of canters to a halt in a confusion of Time’s Champion meddling and Timelord smug superiority, coupled with a clear signpost towards the Doctor’s next companion.
Hmm. If this was indeed how post-Survival was going to go, then the first step isn’t as awesome as a fair chunk of fandom would have thought it’d be. It’s not bad, but at best it’s a four-episode set-up for a new companion, along with a lot of hinting that the Doctor is moving the scenery in his own timeline a heck of a lot more than he should do.