BooksDoctor Who

The Waters Of Mars by Phil Ford (book review).

Phil Ford and what an appropriate surname wrote this for the TV series and has adapted and expanded the story, ‘The Waters Of Mars’, for the novel. On the TV, this was incredibly disturbing and one of those episodes where I questioned the term ‘family drama’. On paper, I find it just as disturbing which means it does its job very well.

The Doctor is only on a lonely voyage among the stars. He’s already haunted by the news that he hasn’t got much longer in this incarnation and he’s not ready to give up. He misses Donna because she kept him grounded. Arriving on Mars, he is hoping for a quiet time of reflection in the late 20th  century but the TARDIS has brought him to a time of the first and most disastrous mission. Today, he will find out why this is a fixed point in time. Why the crew of Bowie Base One must die.

Adelaide Brooke has seen so much. She was a young girl when the Daleks stole Earth. She remembers them and how it felt to nearly die. She wants to live very much. She’s the Commander of the space station. At her mid-life, she is very proud to be one of the first on Mars.

The water that seeks to destroy is a simple virus. It changes the human form into the vision of the drowned. It easily overtakes the form of crew members and it is patient. From recent experience, we all know what damage a virus can do. How it can take family and loved ones from us which makes this story both poignant and chilling.

‘The Waters Of Mars’ is where the Doctor begins to break down and once again rail against the strictures of non-interference. The 10th  becomes quite unlikeable at this stage. He becomes the Time Lord Victorious but it will end in tears. In this novel, I feel more sympathy for his plight. Who wouldn’t if they owned a time machine try to change a small something? We all have something we would like to make right in the past but when you are living through it the temptation would be even stronger.

This is a fantastically rounded novel which gives us insight into Adelaide. It can’t quite replace the remarkable acting of Lindsay Duncan who gave it such gravitas but we have those actors in mind at the end of this and see for a moment what a complete arrogant bastard the 10th has become. The final image written or seen of the Ood in the snow is the sign that the end is coming and it’s about time.

Sue Davies

September 2023

(pub: BBC Books/Penguin, 2023. 192 page paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-821-3)

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