Long ago in the city of Gandor, the last city buried beneath the red sands of Mars, a ruthless new species began its conquests – but the monster of Mars isn’t who you expect... 5* (6 episodes, 3 hours 21 minutes, 3 CDs)
John Dorney’s excellent script from storylines by Brian Hayles is (sort of) ‘Genesis of the Ice Warriors’ as intended by their TV creator, but in an unusual way and quite unlike the famous Dalek ‘Genesis’ story. True, there is a mad (or at least reckless) scientist and there are ice warriors on the rampage with their sonic weapons, but while we think we are seeing the familiar scaly future being born, there are twists that conceal the truth until the very end…
This ‘Lost Story’ bringing the Second Doctor for a rematch with the Ice Warriors was planned by their creator but subsequently dropped in favour of ‘The Seeds of Death’. That’s a pity in one way, because I thought this was a more interesting story and it would have been great to see it on screen. But on the other (green, clamp-like) hand, doing this adventure full justice would have gone far beyond the budgets of the time, especially in the final two episodes. On audio it’s an involving story that draws us in to detail, place and personalities before suddenly expanding into disaster-movie scale, excellently brought to life by the writing, the great cast and Steve Foxon’s sound design and music.
‘Lords of the Red Planet’ *is* a story about the first Ice Warriors with some definitely epic moments, but it’s also a tale of power, family, love, hatred and revenge among beings quite unlike the massive Martians we thought we knew. It’s also unquestionably a Second Doctor story. Thanks to the nicely detailed script, there’s never any doubt which Doctor we are ‘seeing’ here, with his quirky mannerisms well on display and the cross talk and banter between Jamie, Zoe and their scruffy, brilliant friend perfectly written and acted.
Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury share the very effective narrative passages that link and enhance the acted scenes, as well as returning once again to their popular roles of Jamie and Zoe – and Frazer Hines’ fabulous portrayal of the Second Doctor, performed with every ‘ah, yes, well’, ‘oh dear’ and all the other Troughton-esque vocal flourishes and throat-clearings present and correct; great fun.
The three friends fall into a deadly mixture of scientific ambition, societal decay and family hatred in the last surviving city on Mars, where a hideous creation has been unleashed and is planning a future which must never be. Scientific genius Quendril (Michael Troughton) is working on his latest, monstrously familiar project; ambitious, ruthless and tragic, he’s somewhere between Dr. Frankenstein and King Lear…
I won’t give spoilers, but just say that although the Ice Warriors aren’t the Doctor’s only problem this time, they are present almost as we remember them and cleverly seem to foreshadow the nobility of their species as well as the evil, just as encountered by the Second and Third Doctors on television. Nicholas Briggs is superb in this story in multiple roles. He’s playing the hissing, lumbering warriors of course, but also Risor, a rather poignant character - ‘Igor’ to Quendril’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’. In complete contrast he’s also playing proud Aslor, the first Ice Lord. Bear in mind that one actor played all three classic series Ice Lords, so we know exactly what they sound like – exactly like this.
Ruling over the realm are Zaadur (Abigail Thaw) and Veltreena (Charlie Hayes), two female Martians who couldn’t be more different in many ways, yet have more in common than you might think. The raw emotions that flow between them, Quendril and Risor will shape the fate of Mars and maybe worlds beyond, as the ultimate Lords of the Red Planet await their destiny in the stars…
This is an unusual story in some ways for its layers of emotional character motivation and the interesting take on the genesis of the Ice Warriors, but in other ways it’s a delightfully typical Second Doctor ‘monster’ story. It’s great to see the ‘Lords of the Red Planet’ thawed out from its long sleep at last and ready to take over our CD players for more than three hours of sonic enjoyment. 5*
(The CD booklet has interesting production notes and cast photos. Documentary tracks are as usual at the end of each CD, totalling 25 minutes, but it’s probably best to listen to these after enjoying the complete story.)