Doctor Who review: Deimos (Eighth Doctor audio)

The Eighth Doctor and Tamzin visit Deimos, one of the moons of the red planet itself, Mars. But what happens when the original inhabitants want their home world back?

It’s hard to know where to begin with a Doctor Who story like Deimos. On the surface, it comes across as a straightforward fight for survival against a ruthless enemy. That’s certainly how it starts.

But it’s only half of a story. A story that could, quite possibly, be one of the greatest Ice Warrior stories in any medium. (And considering how much this writer loves Ice Warrior stories, that’s saying something.)

Having said that, when Deimos begins, you’ll probably wonder just why it needed to be split into two. The Ice Warriors aren’t revealed right at the very end after a huge amount of buildup.

Instead, they show up at the very start of the story, desperate to take back their home planet, and everything escalates from there. It has such a fast, unrelenting pace that you almost have to wonder why a story like this would need two CDs instead of just one.

But while Deimos has the fast pace of something straight out of a New Series episode, it also feels delightfully old school, too. There’s a real “base under siege” feel to this story, a template that was very common to Second Doctor stories.

The Ice Warriors

And speaking of the Troughton era, these Ice Warriors feel like they come straight from it. And that’s definitely a good thing. After the Troughton years, there was some complexity given to the Martian race, ever since The Curse of Peladon. Even the New Series has explored their code and sense of honor.

That complexity is brilliant and does help them to stand out even more. But it is incredibly refreshing to see a group of them exactly as nasty as those seen in The Ice Warriors or The Seeds of Death. We’re reminded of just how truly vicious the Ice Warriors used to be.

And while they’re given a form of motivation by wanting to return to their home world, which has now been colonized by humans, you still can’t feel any sympathy for them in this story. Especially as they’re so willing to kill and torture anyone who gets in their way.

The Eighth Doctor and Tamzin face the Ice Warriors. But is there more going on than meets the eye…?
(Photo credit: Doctor Who/Big Finish. Image obtained from Big Finish Productions.)

Strong characters

The human characters are written very strongly, which helps sell the threat a lot more. Two especially brilliant characters are old married couple Harold and Margaret. They only came to Deimos for a holiday. Of course, they never expected to be taken hostage, threatened and tortured. They come across as incredibly sweet, and you really root for these two.

Finch and Grenville, two of the senior people at the base on Deimos, are also great to listen to. Grenville, played by Nicky Henson, is fleshed out as a relatable and rather likeable character. He’s had his problems in the past, but he also knows how to handle himself.

Finch, meanwhile, is a very pragmatic commander who isn’t afraid of making tough decisions. Brilliantly played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, she’s almost the exact opposite of her TV character, Yvonne Hartman. Whereas Yvonne was personable and likeable, Finch doesn’t care about being liked, only getting the job done.

But while Yvonne also held some very questionable beliefs and morals, Finch has strong moral convictions and wants to save as many lives as possible. However, when faced with the possibility of the deaths of thousands, she isn’t afraid of killing a few hostages if the Ice Warriors are taken down with them.

David Warner

One final, brilliant performance that has to be mentioned is David Warner as Professor Schooner. An “expert” on the Ice Warriors, he’s amazed – even awed – at the prospect of meeting them in person. Of course, he’s in for one or two nasty surprises when he does come face to face with them.

Warner is an absolutely legendary actor, and it’s always fantastic to hear him in a Big Finish production. His role as Schooner is still a performance that stands out among other great performances.

When the story finishes, it’s after a rather thrilling battle against the Martians, full of death and loss, but also full of hope. In fact, the heroes come very, very close to truly stopping them and ending the whole thing then and there…and then the Doctor gets a message. A message that changes everything. When you hear the last two words of Deimos, you realize that the story is about to get far, far bigger…

Have you listened to Deimos? Are you a fan of the Ice Warriors? What’s your favorite story that features the green Martians? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.