Doctor Who season 10 episode 9: The Empress Of Mars by Mark Gatiss

June 10, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

The big reveal was shown at the end of the last episode but from here in there are spoilers!

Seeing a message left on Mars, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole go to the red planet in 1888 and investigate the tunnels. When Bill falls through a hole in the ground, the Doctor orders Nardole to get ropes from the TARDIS and then it dematerialises on automatic. Nardole doesn’t get to do too much of anything really.

In the meantime, individually, the Doctor and Bill meet British troops and the sole surviving Ice Warrior, Friday, who had been in suspended animation in his spaceship on Earth. They help restore his spaceship and he gives them a weapon that can be used for mining before taking them to Mars. However, supplies are limited when the Doctor and Bill meet them. The troops find a hidden room and the apparent dead Ice Queen who later revives and not happy about the state of Mars, especially as Friday says they’ve been hibernating for 5,000 years to survive a war. Then there’s a matter of a little tussle with the Queen’s military. For the rest you can watch for yourself.

Unusually, the supporting cast get more than a few lines to say and although some plot elements with them are clichéd you do get to spend some time with them and not all cannon-fodder.

Even of the synopsis. Despite the preposterousness of some plot elements this story fares better than usual. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some questionable logic. How did Bill know to have her hair in a plait considering she didn’t know she was going to wear a space helmet? Bill’s endless film references become tiresome and she must surely have realised by now that the Doctor doesn’t go to the cinema.

What is it with writers wanting to mirror the ‘Aliens’ (1986) film with queens and hives. Granted this is our first opportunity to see a female Ice Warrior but how come there is only one?

With the British military, in that time period although there were black soldiers they weren’t given equal status to their white counter-parts and this looked more like actor quota filling. Quite how the troops would have any technical knowledge to help repair ‘Friday’s spaceship beats me. You would have thought they would have been less gun-happy.

The Doctor’s complaint that his sonic screwdriver doesn’t work on wood and forgets the bars on the door which would have surely succumbed.

One does have to wonder who the Ice Warriors were originally at war with although not said one would have to think of the episode ‘The Waters Of Mars’. The twist at the end neatly advances Ice Warrior history to a certain Pertwee generation story.

The absurdities can also be attributed to the likes of HG Wells’ ‘First Men On The Moon’ and probably Edgar Rice Burroughs’ SF books but it would be difficult not to draw on some of their influence.

I think this episode does better simple since the other stories in this season have fared so badly. It’s certainly better for Gatiss than his earlier efforts. See, I can be nice, Mr. Moffat.

(c) GF Willmetts 2017

Category: Doctor Who, TV

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (1)

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  1. Julian White says:

    A neat way to dispose of Nardole for much of the episode – even though he’s not as irritating as I thought he might be – but the lack of any explanation as to why the TARDIS decides to have an awayday isn’t explained. I liked the use of a Pauline Collins picture of Victoria rather than an historically accurate one!

    Nothing to argue with in your review!

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