Clara started bonding with Professor Grisenko (Bad Guy From Tron, a.k.a. the great David Warner -- this episode is a serious contender for Best Cast of British Character Actors in this Doctor Who season.) She was feeling a bit scared. He recommended she cheer up by singing one of his very favorite songs: Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." In context, some of the lyrics may have been inappropriate. "In touch with the ground/I'm on the hunt I'm after you/Smell like I sound I'm lost in a crowd/And I'm hungry like the wolf." -- Pause to imagine those lyrics being sung by a seven-foot-tall slinky reptile-alien. Clara knew all the lyrics; "I do it at karaoke on Hen Night," she explained. (That's a decent populist choice, although true karaoke connoisseur know "Ordinary World" is the more bold option.)
They came across a couple Soviets who had been torn apart with forensic precision. "It's all got very real," Clara noted. Monsters who live in the internet, evil demon-stars, speaking Russian without realizing it: That's all in good fun. But seeing a couple dudes torn to pieces was bringing things home for the Doctor's new Companion. To make matters worse, it looked for a moment like the Professor was going to go a bit crazy. "So you're from another time?" he asked, stalking forward. "Can you tell me what happens? Can you tell me? Ultravox! Do they split up?" The two shared a little laugh. (FWIW, Ultravox is currently back together, and will be playing a few shows in the UK this November with Simple Minds. In other news, I'll be unavailable this November.)
Right then, a couple of reptile hands flashed down from the ceiling. The Professor unslung a six-shooter and fired at the Ice Warrior: "I don't just like western music!" he exclaimed, right before the martian grabbed him.
I figured the Prof was a goner, and that the rest of the episode would unfold Alien-style, with the crew slowly being picked apart by Skaldak. But Doctor Who zigged: Skaldak lingered on the ceiling above the Professor, the man's life in his hands. His red eyes glowed in the shadows. He told the Doctor he only needed one missile: "One missile to end this Cold War." (Ice Warrior, Cold War: It's a simple joke, but an effective one.) Skaldak preferred the nihilism of global destruction; there was nothing left for him. "There is something left for you," the Doctor argued. "Mercy." The idea that "mercy" is the most powerful move to make in the game of warfare is one of the central running arguments of Doctor Who. It's also not an argument that made sense to Skaldak or to Captain Seaworth, who preferred to negotiate using the Churchill method: "Negotiate, but from a position of strength."
Skaldak let the Professor live, but the Martian -- re-armored now -- made his way to the control room and hacked into the missile launch bay. "Now, there will be a second red planet," he said. He further clarified: "Red...WITH THE BLOOD OF HUMANITY!" But the Doctor continued to plea with him. Five thousand years ago, Mars was the jewel of the solar system, and mankind was just emerging from prehistory. Let the humans have their moment. Skaldak wasn't moved. So the Doctor tried another tactic. Skaldak was a great soldier, but what he was about to do was simply mass murder. "Show them there is honor in mercy," the Doctor begged. Like the protagonist of an old biblical fable, Skaldak refused for a second time.
NEXT: The Doctor makes his closing argument