What To Expect: Cold War
Guest contributor Gustaff on what to expect from the upcoming “Base under Siege” episode Cold War.
It’s a tried and true format and probably one of the oldest story types in the Doctor Who book. If you couldn’t read the title for some reason, it’s the Base under Siege and pretty soon, we’re going to be seeing yet another one entitled Cold War. Up until now, we’ve had a few good Base Under Siege stories. Fans are probably already revisiting these stories while they wait in anticipation for the new kid on the block to see how it measures up to the big dogs. The big dogs of course…from New Who would be The Impossible Planet, Voyage of the Damned and The Waters of Mars. But what is Base under Siege and what can we expect?
First off, we can expect the Doctor and Clara to arrive in some kind of enclosed environment. Space base? Sea base? Close…it’s a submarine this time…which is quite the attention grabber. Hope nobody gets sea sick. The base in question will be besieged by external forces. This time…Ice Warriors! They will be closing in fast and hard, crew morale will be low, you can even expect a traitor in the ranks to be revealed somewhere along the line. Oh and there is one more important hiccup I forgot to mention…if you think you can escape the plot by getting out of there, think again because there is NO WAY OUT!
Another important element in these stories is the Time Limit. There has to be some sort of 42 race to the finish line feel…that if they don’t get there in time, the base will explode or they will be killed or something major like that. A good thing to remember is that in these stories, it is supposed to be impossible to stay, yet impossible to leave.
I know it takes quite a lot of people to man a submarine, but usually the base only has a few people in the cast, so Ice Warriors…feel free to kill a few before the titles start up.
Moving on, the story also needs an Escape Route. If it didn’t have one, then the cast would all be in big trouble. In this story, the Escape Route looks like the TARDIS, but any good Escape Route can only be used at the last moment. Anything else is unacceptable. A good way of creating the last moment would be to put the Escape Route on the wrong side of the door! If that’s the case, you can expect the door mechanism to be broken or inaccessible or resilient enough to withstand the might of more people than you’ve currently got on hand. Bummer!
What will the base look like?
Like a submarine obviously. Never been inside one? Okay. The base will be cramped…clearly. Lots of corridors (this is Doctor Who after all). There will be customized barricades. There might even be ventilation shafts (doubt it) and there probably won’t be a lot of wide open spaces where a gun fight can be conducted.
The Twist is usually optional and turns everything you’ve learned so far on its head. The bad guys might not actually be bad or the good guys might not be as good as they claim to be. (It depends on who you meet first) The Twist is not to be toyed with. It may not be used facetiously and be made to look recognizable. It has to be quick and cunning and completely unexpected. You can probably expect (see what I did there?) the Twist to occur roughly ten to fifteen minutes before the base is scheduled to blow up…or flood.
Every Base under Siege story has a certain number of stereotypical characters holding their positions while the enemy tries its best to break in. There is the Guy in Charge, usually a high ranking officer or an Uncertain Commanding Officer. Most of the time, he/she will be ambiguous and be prone to self-doubt or a loss of confidence. If Anyone can Die applies in the story, then he might not make it to the opening titles. There is also the Lancer, a character totally opposite to the Guy in Charge. If the Guy in Charge wants to go right, then the Lancer wants to see what Left has to offer. If the Lancer trusts our heroes, then the Guy in Charge doesn’t.
Usually in these stories, you have the one (or two) guys that are so heavily armed and so badass that they can’t possibly die…usually you don’t want them to either. However, they probably will die, however it might not be until the later portion of the story.
Also common in these stories are the Pain-in-the-Ass people. These people usually have some sort of illness or injury that spits on everyone’s plans. If the base is an elevator that has gotten stuck, you can expect at least one of the people inside to be pregnant. Unfortunately, the Pain- in-Ass characters don’t tend to die very often. They are some of the only people allowed to make it to the end of the story.
Lastly, we have the Traitor. How does the saying go: Every boat needs a captain…and a conspirator? (No! I made that one up, but it sounds like it fits) The Traitor needs no explanation. Or at least I hope not. Usually the Traitor’s motives include promotions, money, or he just has a few screws loose. He might be in the game for himself or the other side pays better. (What’s the currency on Mars again?) Luckily, you can expect the Traitor to die too, just not soon, but eventually. Fingers crossed. Oh and they normally die ironic or karmic deaths. Look out for that one!
When we talk about the atmosphere, which is really important in this story; the base needs to inspire the viewers to give up hope that there is no chance of escape. Good examples where this has happened would be The Impossible Planet and Voyage of the Damned with the TARDIS completely ejected from the narrative. Given that the atmosphere would need to be tuned for a submarine, it’ll probably be very claustrophobic, damp and there might even be some under water turbulence to shake things up a little.
And there you have it. Everything you oughta know about Base under Siege. See what tropes and clichés you picked up in the episode and compare it with the things listed here.