Welcome to the next episode of Doctor Who! Before you get confused, let's just establish that Liam Cuningham is in this episode, as captain of a submarine, and he's only denoted as "Captain." Because of that, I am just straight up calling him Davos, because come on, seriously? Did Mark Gatiss go on a big Song of Ice and Fire binge just before series 7b? It's the only logical explanation. But enough, let's begin.
Don't forget: spoilers.
A Russian submarine prepares to destroy the world, on account of the capitalistic opulence of American society. Before Davos can push the detonator, a crazy old man with a Walkman (1983 what what!) interrupts. We learn it was a drill anyway, and that this Professor also has a frozen specimen of unknown and possibly dangerous origin in his lab, which one of his interns decides to thaw out, because definitely releasing an unknown force upon your submerged tin can is a great idea. Sure enough, a Murder-y Hand emerges and grabs the intern by the throat.
The Doctor and Clara interrupt the chaos in the TARDIS, which in turn interrupts their trip to Las Vegas. Despite helping them save their sinking submarine (sort of, anyway), the Ruskies aren’t all that welcoming and search them. The captain takes the sonic screwdriver, the TARDIS disappears, and everything gets all fuzzy.
Murder Hand shows back up. Apparently it’s actually an Ice Warrior. The Doctor asks his name and he responds that he is Grand Marshal Skaldak, which The Doctor does not seem terribly encouraged by. Is this another one of those moments that’s supposed to make me feel bad for not watching the old school series? Fortunately the Grand Marshal, greatest of all the Ice Warriors, is susceptible to electrified cattle prods. They chain him up.
The Doctor explains that Skaldak is very, very dangerous. The Ice Warriors evolved biomechanical suits on Mars to combat the cold- they are fierce fighters, difficult to defeat and terrible in the field of battle- and the Taser only worked because the heat overwhelmed their systems. Skaldak sends an SOS to his brethren.
Skaldak apparently would have been content to ignore them had they not attacked him. The Doctor wants to try to reason with him, but Davos wants to go in his place- there’s an argument about who smells like a soldier (spoilers: they both do) and so Clara pipes up and volunteers to entreat with their formidable adversary.
She speaks to the Ice Warrior, who isn’t an idiot and realises that it’s really the Doctor speaking through her mouth. Skaldak reflects sadly upon his daughter, whom he last saw when they marched into her first battle together. Aww, they grow up so fast! So we establish that he’s got nothing left to lose, having been separated so long from his people. We also soon learn that he got out of his biomechanical casing, in order to escape the chains.
Before you can say, “It couldn’t get any worse,” it does, and the submarine starts leaking some more. Meanwhile, Skaldak grabs Lieutenant Stepashin, who weakly tries to plead with him. Clara and The Doctor discuss thermonuclear war.
The professor gives The Doctor back his screwdriver and some other Russians search for Stepashin. The Doctor investigates the sub while the professor tries to keep up Clara’s spirits, attempting to lead her in a rousing round of Hungry Like the Wolf. Fuck yeah, Duran Duran!
Meanwhile, Skaldak is snatching up soldiers and crushing them into a fine powder. This helps him better understand our weaknesses, one of which is being crushed into a fine powder. After scuttling about the ship some, Skaldak attacks Clara, though the professor saves her by shooting his hands- which, of course, counts as an attack, and renders the entire population of Earth as forfeit to the Martians. Those seem like pretty intense rules of engagement.
Skaldak calls his suit over and hops back in it, now that he’s acquired all the information he needs on destroying all the humans. He aims to create a new Red Planet, which is a nice little cold war pun (I hope). The Doctor begs for mercy on behalf of Earth, ignorant cave people that we are. He threatens to use the sonic screwdriver blow up the submarine, taking them all with it. Did his screwdriver go all darkside?
Skaldak and the Doctor have something of a Mexican Standoff while Clara also tries to appeal to Skaldak’s mercy. Before we can determine who gets to blow up what, the Martians come and beam up the sub and Skaldak. The warheads are still armed- the Ice Warriors could detonate it with a pulse from their ship- but Clara hums some Hungry Like the Wolf and Skaldak disarms them. Davos looks happily out over the North (couldn’t resist) and we learn that the TARDIS had ran at the first sign of a hostile enemy due to the Doctor’s tinkering. Whoopsies!
Not a bad episode, all told. It felt sort of true to form as a one-off. Next week we’ll possibly get more information on what exactly Clara is, but also probably we won’t really. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to rest my PBR-drowned head.