The Martians. Reptilian humanoid cyborgs. Commonly referred to as ‘Ice Warriors’. They have proved to be a popular creation that celebrates 50 years onscreen this year. But how has the visual design of these creatures changed over the years?


Anglo-Saxon helmet excavated from Sutton Hoo (c) The British Museum

Writer Brian Hayles envisaged a reptilian biped from Mars in his script. Over the course of a few episodes the appearance of these new creatures would evolve. Occasionally it would differ from one scene to the next. Whilst the scaly body costume pieces would remain constant, the headpieces changed significantly. Hayles suggested that the headpiece should resemble an Anglo-Saxon helmet such as that discovered during the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial. The first few shots of the warrior, thought to be of Tony Harwood’s empty suit, were of it still within the ice and so it cannot be seen clearly. As the first episode reaches a conclusion the creature within the ice begins to twitch into life once again. It provides us with a good look at the initial Ice Warrior design.

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors (c) BBC


Towards the end of the first episode the creature within the ice begins to stir. Viewers saw the clamp-like hands, looking a little rubbery admittedly, before seeing the headpiece. This closeup shot shows a very different headpiece to what we now identify as an Ice Warrior. Unlike later helmets the chin was entirely exposed. Instead the helmet dropped over the nose of actor Tony Harwood. Below that was a scaly mouth prosthetic with hair protruding from beneath the helmet. This shape is very similar to that of the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors – Turoc (Sonny Caldinez) (c) BBC

Two of this style of helmet were created for initial filming at Ealing Film studios. Whilst one was worn by Harwood, playing Varga defrosting from the ice, another was worn by Sonny Caldinez. Scenes with Caldinez, playing Turoc, pursuing Victoria through the ice caves were recorded for insertion into the fourth instalment of the story. These two helmets, with an exposed chin and protruding hair, were large and proved impractical. Harwood and Caldinez had limited head movement, able only to see directly ahead. They also complained of problems in the crotch area of the costume. After filming concluded at Ealing, modifications were requested before production continued in Lime Grove.


Ice Warriors - Doctor Who (c) BBC
Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors – Zondal and Varga (c) BBC

Conscious that guest actor Bernard Breslaw would take over the role of Varga, a smaller, slimmer helmet was requested. This provided him the ability to turn his head and hopefully make the experience more enjoyable than the larger helmet would allow. Breslaw also had a large amount of dialogue, which ultimately he prerecorded and mimed to, which saw these new slimmer helmets fitted with a defined jaw within the helmet. Instead of a curved edge below the nose, a horizontal opening was seen above the lips. A second of these helmets was also requested for Zondal, another Ice Warrior with dialogue, who featured in the story played by Roy Jones. This slimmer helmet design has since become the image of the Ice Warriors which is now associated by Doctor Who fans.

Brian Hayles with two of his Ice Warrior creations


To match Varga and Zondal the two original helmets were modified, although the size difference remained obvious. Whilst Turoc is thought to have been seen trapped in the ice during the cliffhanger of episode two it is difficult to tell what, if any, modifications occurred because the footage no longer exists. As Turoc’s other scenes had already been pre-recorded at Ealing this warrior may not have had a jaw fitted to the helmet. It may also have been disposed of after filming concluded as it no longer matched the remaining Ice Warriors. Tony Harwood’s warrior now became Rintan. His helmet was definitely modified with the new jaw piece added but looked a little slapdash. In the last episode Rintan’s helmet can also be compared to a fifth warrior helmet.

Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors (c) BBC

Isbur was an odd combination of the two styles, a large head but with a fixed chin that appears neater and less slapdash than Rintan’s. Looking closely at the footage it does appear like the helmet was constructed as a single piece with the jaw already attached and not added later. Perhaps the jaw was simply fitted more accurately? However the opening for the mouth appears smaller within the helmet, with the curvature less deep than on Varga and Zondal. The two large-headed warriors, Rintan and Isbur, can be clearly identified because of the bigger head and smaller mouths. After filming was completed the Ice Warrior costumes were put in the Ealing storage facility for a potential return.

The Seeds of Death

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death – Ice Warriors and The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) (c) BBC

The Ice Warriors proved popular and returned swiftly to Doctor Who. Bobbi Bartlett examined the costumes in Ealing. Picking up an Ice Warrior leg she was startled by a rat living inside it! The available costumes were cleaned and resprayed once they had been sent to the wardrobe department. Three actors were hired to play the role of Ice Warriors, Steve Peters and the returning duo of Sonny Caldinez and Tony Harwood. All three donned the slimmer head design, reinforcing that look as the standard appearance of Martian Ice Warriors. As only two had been constructed for Varga and Zondal in ‘The Ice Warriors’ this suggests that a third head, at least, was prepared for the production.

Lord and Marshal

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death – Slaar, the Ice Lord (c) BBC

This story also saw the introduction of a sleeker Martian, generally called an Ice Lord. The helmet for this creature, with the exposed chin beneath, was much closer to the intended Anglo-Saxon inspired design seen originally. It was also smoother in texture, with an absence of scales seen on the warriors. Slaar’s shoulder armour was a single solid piece, unlike the warrior’s fibreglass torso, which limited actor Alan Bennion’s arm movements. Bennion also had to endure the significant prosthetic effect to his chin and black tooth enamel. Slaar was more senior with the warriors subservient to his orders.

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death – Martian Grand Marshal (c) BBC

In addition to Slaar a further, more senior ranked Martian was seen on a screen towards the end of the story. Similar in appearance to Slaar, the Grand Marshal was identifiable by a more ornate style of helmet with jewels adorning the headpiece. As the Grand Marshal was in his own atmosphere he also spoke without the whispering hoarseness attributed to the warriors and Slaar. Sadly this would be the only onscreen appearance of a Grand Marshal, or any Martians more senior than the Ice Lords. That was until ‘Empress of Mars’ 45 years later.

The Curse of Peladon

Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon (c) BBC

For the first time the Ice Warriors appeared onscreen in colour! Those with colour televisions could see the green Martians with reddish eyes. Alan Bennion returned to wear his Ice Lord costume once again. A new helmet was constructed, noticeably shorter at the back. Unlike the previous character Slaar, Lord Izlyr now also wore a rather fetching new cape.

Given the cavalcade of alien creatures involved in the tale only one other Martian, Ssorg, featured in the story. As his original Ice Warrior costume would’ve fitted few others Sonny Caldinez returned to fill the role. The slimmer style of helmet was again used, reinforcing the belief that this and not the large-headed original design was the normal form for a Martian warrior. The weaponry, consisting of a small battery operated torch, which had been seen in the previous two stories had been removed for this appearance. Instead Ssorg used a separate sonic blaster.

The Monster of Peladon

Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon – Sskel and Azaxyr (c) BBC

The final appearance of the Ice Warriors in the classic series saw the costumes undergo another fresh coat of paint, with a darker shade of green used. This was particularly noticeable on Ice Lord Azaxyr, who was once again played by Alan Bennion. The helmet was the same as had been used for ‘The Curse of Peladon’ but it and the chest armour was resprayed to this darker green. Closeups of the Ice Lord show a patchy paint job, which may or may not have been intentional. Azaxyr also wore a cape, now in green, which was a new addition as was a ceremonial belt.

Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon – Ice Warriors (c) BBC

The Ice Warriors return in force

Supporting Azaxyr was an increased number of warriors, including Sskel played once again by Sonny Caldinez. When revealed at the start of Part Four, one of the Ice Warriors appears to be a darker shade of green than the other. Occasionally the variation of shades of green can be seen on the same warrior; for example in Part Four when the Doctor brings a Martian in to see the events unfolding in the mines. This warrior also used an original large head from 1967. Worn by Terence Denville it had been photographed in 1970 and he donned the costume again for this story. The large helmet was recently rediscovered and has been carefully restored, which you can read about here.

A further three actors were hired to fill the roles of Ice Warriors. Four warrior costumes were seen onscreen, all dating back to 1967, with the three slimmer heads seen in ‘The Seeds of Death’ plus their large-headed colleague. As with Azaxyr, the four warrior costumes were prepared for their return including being given a new weapon, this time a handheld device but one which delivered the same effect to humanoids but could also melt through doors. However some of the warriors, including Sskel, still had the silver torch weapon attached to their right arm in addition to their new weapon.

Cold War

Cold War (2013)
Doctor Who: Cold War (c) BBC

When the Ice Warriors finally returned to the modern version of Doctor Who in 2013 as the show prepared to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. The appearance was kept entirely consistent with what was generally considered to be the norm for the Martian warriors. This traditional look of the Ice Warrior was achieved with modern techniques and substances. The armoured suit was retained with powerful shoulders and legs matching those which had been seen during the classic era of Doctor Who. Additionally a slimmer style head was retained, fitting the established Ice Warrior look with exposed chin consistent with Ice Warriors such as Varga, Zondal, Ssorg and Sskel.

One set of arms and legs was created for actor Spencer Wilding with a torso and helmet also constructed for the future Darth Vader. A second torso and helmet was also built for the scene in which Clara learns that the creature inside has left the armoured suit. Skaldak’s weapon was also on the right forearm, as seen during the two Sixties stories. In 2013 however the weaponry was more built into the arm rather than appearing to be an attachment.

Skaldak - Ice Warroir - Cold War Doctor Who (c) BBC
Doctor Who: Cold War – Skaldak the Ice Warrior (c) BBC

For the first time ever we also saw the Martian creature beneath the helmet. This was a largely CGI creation with piercing red eyes and the jagged teeth which until that point had been hidden beneath the helmet. The scaly skin matched what had been alluded to since 1967 and the Martians very first appearance in ‘The Ice Warriors’.

Empress of Mars

Doctor Who S10 Empress of Mars (No. 9) Friday (RICHARD ASHTON) - (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide - Photographer: Simon Ridgway
Doctor Who S10 Empress of Mars (No. 9) Friday (RICHARD ASHTON) – (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide – Photographer: Simon Ridgway

It would be a few years but the Martians returned once again this week. The modern Ice Warrior design received an update; for the first time we saw an injured warrior. Named Friday, the Martian warrior had clearly been injured with what appears to be scarring inside a left eye, exposed by a damaged helmet. This is similar to the wounded Terileptil seen during ‘The Visitation’ (1982), which adds to the character’s history. Perhaps for the first time in their history, the Martians looked like warriors, ones who bore the scars of conflict.

Doctor Who S10 Empress of Mars (No. 9) Iraxxa (ADELE LYNCH) - (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide - Photographer: Simon Ridgway
Doctor Who S10 Empress of Mars (No. 9) Iraxxa (ADELE LYNCH) – (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide – Photographer: Simon Ridgway

Of course the title of the episode focused on the new creature, Iraxxa the Queen and Empress of Mars. She is notable for being the first female Martian seen during televised stories. The domed helmet with exposed chin is a nod back to the Ice Lords seen in the past. It is also similar in style to the original design inspiration; the Anglo-Saxon helmet. Her cape is reminiscent of those worn by Izlyr and Azaxyr on Peladon, highlighting Iraxxa’s seniority within the Martian species. The dreadlocks are clearly inspired by the Predator creature from the movie of the same name. However, the concept of hair protruding from the helmet was seen in the original warriors way back in 1967 before being modified.

As the Ice Warriors celebrate 50 years in Doctor Who it is apt that they would return to the show. Iraxxa, the Ice Queen of Mars, is a wonderful new addition. In a manner befitting the 50th anniversary of Brian Hayles’ creations, this new Martian nods back to the original Anglo-Saxon inspiration and the original helmets, whilst the story also features the modified helmet style that have become commonly associated with the Ice Warriors of Doctor Who.


  1. A great article. As a child the Ice Warriors were always my favourites. They scared me more than any other alien. Thanks for a brilliantly researched article. 🙂

  2. Oh my god, THANKYOU! 🙂 I’ve been wondering for years why there was always those ‘other’ ice warriors; larger heads, bigger eyes, strange mouth formation, no dialogue


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