Voiceover: Neil "Doctor" Fox
LWT for ITV, 24 January to 21 March 1998 (9 episodes in 1 series)
Consider the pub on a Saturday night. Serving behind the bar are barmaids who are more than likely to be blonde. Now, without wanting to label stereotypes here, let's just assume that this is a dumb blonde. Now, dumb blondes may look very pretty and are able to pull a pint but does this make them interesting? No it does not.
As you may have worked out then, Ice Warriors is the dumb blonde barmaid of the old Saturday night schedules. Basically, it was Gladiators on ice but instead of the Glads we had the Ice Warriors - hurrah! Not, sadly, warriors made out of ice (which would have cost a few bob) but people dressed in Medieval costumes and called things like 'Rax the Destroyer', 'Plax the Mouthwash', 'Hattie Jacques out of the Carry On Films' and so on. Interestingly, whilst we aren't told the statistics in the Gladiators stylee (height, weight and so on), the Ice Glads are given attributes like Strength, Magic, Beauty, Intelligence and suchlike. Not a bad idea and one that suits the show fittingly.
Lord of the Ice Plain (read - some specially-built ice rink in Manchester) and the man with the loudest, boomiest voice is... The Ice Master. The man who is quite literally the Master of Ice. The man who rules the rink with a rod of, erm, ice we guess. Anyway, it's his job to do the announcing of the games and the points. 'I award the city of Nottingham 50 credits!' he would say and everyone at home would mock him. Oh dear. John Anderson this man is not. He does have an assistant though who was a stupid goblin, Schnapps, for reasons we can't be bothered to remember.
So what of the games then? Well, the opening episode had the following delights for the two teams:
Zero Degrees: Players skate in and out of markers whilst ducking and diving over the giant Ice Propeller being pushed by the Ice Warriors. Now the first time this is played, it's quite amusing if somewhat brutal. Second time round it's a bit dull. Fourth time round (twice each for women and men) our remote control trigger finger is getting itchy.
Porcupine: A team of contestants attempt to throw a Saturn (like a Frisbee ball thing) into the back of a moving ice vehicle called the Porcupine (for obvious reasons...?) whilst the Gladiators, sorry, Ice Warriors try and stop them. A bit like basketball on ice really. Only duller.
Scythe: Iiiiitt's a race! And this week's novelty... is bits of wood! The ice warriors can use said wood bits to make barriers. Now that's all well and good but actually utterly pointless because the two teams are racing against each other.
Stretch: It's a tug of war on Ice!
Assault: The best game by quite some way, this was quite a complicated little obstacle course where the Ice Warriors could keep teams out of the points by finishing in the first or second positions. Oh, it was all on ice skates.
Chain Gang: For obvious reasons, three players on each team are linked together and if one goes down, they'll all fall down. Oh, and it's a race. On ice skates.
Later episodes included such magnificent ideas as Iceberg (contestants charge around the rink, but the Ice Warriors are trying to stop them by pushing around some seven-foot-high polystyrene shapes) and Cresta Run (in which teams pushed a bobsled round the rink and into a wall, and got it all done and dusted in less than 20 seconds.)
After all those six hi-octane dull rounds, and a bizarre Entertainment (think Riverdance, but On Ice. And duller) the team awarded the most credits gets to play for big cash prizes in..
The Polar Pursuit: Well if three rounds can follow the same winning formula, why change it? Yep - it's another race, and this time it's a Pursuit. The Ice Warriors each carry flags and have to complete four laps of the track with the players giving chase. If the players catch up with their Warrior, they can grab the flag, take it to the centre, plant it in the flagpole, and win a whopping £250. But if the Ice Warriors completed four laps, then they were safe. The prize values increased through the knockout competition.
So then, the main problem in the show lies in the fact you can't actually do very much with ice skating other than a) skate on a boring, flat surface and b) try and do it faster than anybody else. It's this that killed the show stone dead.
Host of the show was the lovely Dani Behr who lied to get the job, saying that she could skate when in reality she couldn't. She took lessons. You shouldn't have bothered, love.
In some ways, this is almost a shame because despite not being thought out properly the show had very high production values. The music was all classical in nature and rather jolly with it, the set was equally good - lots of plaforms and icicles with some random fire pools in places.
So then, you see it on a Saturday, it looks and sounds lovely but try and have an in-depth conversation with it about about the finer details of chess or an argument of Communism against Capitalism and it'll just stare blankly at you. Much like our dumb blonde barmaid in fact.
"I award the city of Manchester 50 credits!" (and similar pomposity)
"We come here not to fight, but to excel!"
"The god of fortune has not smiled on you."
Devised by Julian Grant and Roy Scammell.
Perhaps surprisingly and perhaps not, Ice Warriors won the Bronze Rose of Montreux in the best game show category.
One ITV executive said, on visiting the set, "Wow, that looks like a million dollars." In fact, it cost £1.5 million...
The show was made at Manchester Arena, which had just been completed and had a permanent ice rink as part of its structure. When medieval-clad loons weren't bombing around on it, the ice played host to Manchester Storm in the Ice Hockey Superleague.
Images of the million-pound set can be found at designer Andy Walmsley's website.