The clock is running down for the last of the Time Lords (if last indeed he be...more on that next week) as the last three episodes of David Tennant's run as Doctor begin their broadcast. This one's quite a bit darker than the last couple, and a harbinger for the finale, which has already been described as one of the most serious stories in the show's history.
But enough looking ahead, let's turn our eyes to the Red Planet for a look at The Waters of Mars. Spoiler shields up, dynatherms activated, and alons-y!
The Waters of Mars
by Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford
Directed by Graeme Harper
The story starts with what looks like a modern-day home movie/video of a young woman and her daughter wishing her mother well. But we see quickly that the woman watching is in a high-tech lab of some type. It's a pre-recorded letter from home, beamed from Earth. It breaks up un the middle due to solar flares, much to the viewer's disappointment.
Cut to the red surface of what is now obviously Mars, where the TARDIS lands and The Doctor emerges, clad in a spacesuit that has obviously seen some wear. Alone and obviously just looking for a diversion, he heads off in a random direction. Back at what is presumed to be a Mars-base, an astronaut named Yuri is setting up some telemetry equipment, and jokingly hangs a "no trespassers" sign. His commanding officer berates him for wasting power, oxygen and a solar panel over his joke. As he's doing so, his commanding officer (the woman viewing the video at the beginning) comes by and berates him, thinking he's in on the fun. He's none too pleased with her rebuke.
The Doctor has done some exploring, comes across the base, and decides to drop in to visit. Before he can, a gun is poked into his back and he's told to turn around. He's had the drop drawn him by...a small jury-rigged robot bearing some small resemblance to the love child of Johnny Five and WALL-E.
Back in the base after the credits, the female Captain has the Doctor at gunpoint, asking him what he's doing here. His reply of "Fun" isn't met well. The small crew of the base are amazed to see another person this far from home, and curiosity strains the limits of their training. the doctor sweet-talks the gun away from his head, thought the robot ("Gadget") still has him under guard.
In the bio-dome, another crew member calls in to ask why the computer says there's another person on the base. The Captain cuts her off abruptly. "It's like we're a couple gardeners" she say to her fellow agricultural technician, Andy. He's harvesting the first Earth vegetables grown on an alien planet, some nice looking carrots, which he rinses off under a tap and tucks into.
This was a mistake.
In the background, we see Andy drop to his knees and start quivering while the first gardener wonders aloud who could have traveled to Mars. Finally noticing he's silent, she heads towards him, only to see he's taken a horrifying turn.
Back in the command center, the Doctor's interrogation continues. He "admits" to being from whoever they theorize he's from, if only to get the ball rolling. He asks their names, and the Captain sarcastically that there's no way he couldn't know who they are; the first base on Mars. Connecting the dots, he realizes where he is, and who these people are...this is Bowie Base One, founded in 2058. Through a series of website news articles, we get a flashback education of the triumph of Bowie Base One...and its tragedy. The Doctor now knows who they all are: Captain Adelaide Brooke, Edward Gold, Tarak Ital, Yuri Kerenski, Steffi Erlich, Roman Groom, Mia Bennet, Margaret Cain and Andrew Stone. As he realizes he's talking to Captain Adelaide Brooke (you can hear him put the capital letters in her name, and the implied "THE" beforehand) and the rest of the crew, we get another series of web pages, all remarking that the entire crew in 2059...specifically, the day he's arrived. The day an unexplained nuclear explosion destroys the base, with no survivors and no explanation.
The Doctor realizes where he in, when he is, and realizes that he has to go. He explains that he cannot help them, talking apologetically that this is one of those important moments in history that cannot be changed. He shakes their hands reverently, and actually salutes Captain Brooke. He realized that Margaret and Andy aren't there, and asks where they are. Ed calls them on the comm and offers them a chance to meet a new person, and only gets a guttural roar in reply. The Doctor knows he should go. He doesn't. The crew start scanning the Biodome to see what that sound was. The cameras are down, and the lights in the dome are going out. Adelaide says she's going to investigate, and take The Doctor with her, reasoning that he might be connected to this.
As they walk, The Doctor asks Adelaide if the sacrifice of the mission was worth it - the time away from friends and family, her whole life. She gives a wonderful speech about how yes, it was very much worth it. The Doctor is truly impressed with her, "The woman with starlight in her soul". They find Maggie in a pile on the floor, alive but unconscious. They get her back to the base, careful not to touch her without gloves, and the team moves forward to the bio-dome. Scanning the growl they heard, they realize the sound is indeed Andy's voice, making them all the more wary. Maggie wakes up in isolation, seemingly fine, asking to be let out, but Yuri says she has to stay in there for 24 hours. She doesn't take well to that...
In the dome, Tarak has found Andy, but the reunion has not gone well. Andy turns and attacks him. Yuri, while checking out Maggie, is watching a video card from his brother. He starts talking about his brother and his adventures while Maggie transforms in the background, mirroring Andy's transformation from earlier. Maggie, however, can still speak - she asks more questions about where Yuri's family lives, Yuri pulls up a picture of the Caspian Sea. Maggie comments that it's beautiful, and that "WE should like that world". She's got the same look Andy had - lips and face cracked and split, and water pouring from her mouth. Quite a scary look. Yuri reports this change to Capt. Brooke, who don't know Andy has been found. She calls for Tarak to return, with no reply. As she and The Doctor search for them, Ed heads to sickbay to check out Maggie. The Doctor and Adelaide find Andy and Tarak, Andy in the midst of transforming/infecting him. The Doctor tries to talk him away, but it's too late - Tarak rises and they both head towards them. Adelaide and the Doctor get to the airlock in time, with the transformed Andy and Tarak standing outside, looking in at them. All three transformed crewmembers seem to be exuding water from their bodies, pouring from their mouth and pores. Adelaide alerts the crew to turn off the water supply, not even to touch it. The Doctor is truly torn, saying once again that he has to leave. The door is airlock, and therefore watertight, but The Doctor remarks "That depends on how clever the water is". It's fairly clever, they get the airlock door to short out, and they're through it quickly, catching up quickly on the Doctor and Adelaide. The Doctor hotwires Gadget the robot, boosting his power output and they get away riding him far faster than the monsters can run.
Heading for the sickbay, they try communicating with Maggie. She doesn't reply to them, but when The Doctor tries a couple phrases in Ancient North martian, she turns as if recognizing it. The Doctor asks where they get their water, he learns it's from an underwater glicier the base is built on. They explain that the water is heavily filtered and screened, and has been safe. Past tense, obviously. Adelaide declares Action Procedure 1 - evacuation. They start the process, but The Doctor reminds Adelaide that Maggie remained normal looking for some time before transforming, suggesting that any of them could be infected already, and returning to Earth could mean doom for the whole planet. Adelaide inspects the ice field to try and determine when and where the infection took place, and the Doctor...should leave. And doesn't.
Yuri leaves the sickbay, leaving Maggie behind, and she makes for the door of her containment chamber, immediately beginning to work at it. When she escapes, she screams into the air, which somehow the Andy and Tarak creatures hear, rousing from their wait. They head back out to the biodome.
Adelaide and The Doctor inspect the Ice field. The Doctor begins talking about the Ice Warriors. He opines that they found something in the water, smoething they froze on purposr to keep trapped, something the Earthlings freed. They work together to search the computers for information about a change in the filtering process. Adelaide comments that all The Doctor's wated to do is leave, after making it so clear he knows so much about them. He begins to speak about moments in time that are so important that they must remain unchanged. Again, he cryptically remarks that the events of Bowie Base One are important, or "wonderful". Something, he says, that started fifty years before. Adelaide knows exactly what he's referring to, and is amazed he knows about it, as she never told anyone. He reminds her that she told her daughter, and in the coming years (he "guesses"), she will tell the story to her daughter. Adelaide remebers clearly the events of the day the Earth was stolen by the Daleks (ythe events from "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End"). As a child, she hid in an attic, told to hide by her father. Looking up, she saw a Dalek, who looked right ather, and took off, leaving her unharmed. She felt no desire for revenge, but a burning desire to follow it to the stars. It was that lack of a desire for revenge that "makes you remarkable", the Doctor says. He reveals to her that it was her desire to explore, passed on and talked about by her daughter and granddaughter (who we met in the opening video) that eventually takes humanity to the stars. Her family will be the leaders of a glorious age of exploration.
"Why are you telling me this?" She asks.
"As consolation", he sadly replies.
The computer interrupts with a log entry - Andy logged in to remark that a filter from one water tank was broken, and the replacements don't fit. Adelaide realizes that the tank for the Biodome was only infected yesterday, which means the rest of the crew means they can't be infected, which means they can leave. She heads back to the main dome, with The Doctor close behind. The evacuation is proceeding well, Adelaide hands The Doctor his spacesuit back, and tells him to leave as well. He knows he should leave. He doesn't.
Andy and Tarak are climbing up above the base, placing themselves above the command center. They begin to create thousands of gallons of water, trying to use its weight to break into the module. the water starts to cause splits in the base's seals, and water starts trickling into the command center.
The Doctor knows he should leave.
Ed heads to the shuttle to get it started up. The Doctor enters the airlock, which has been sealed...by Captain Brooke. On a private commlink, she asks what is going to happen to them. He begins to ramble, talking about Pompeii, and trying to save everyone from the volcano, by in so doing, causing it to explode. He admits to Adelaide that very shortly, she will sacrifice herself, her crew and the base by detonating a nuclear device the destroy themselves and the alien creatures in the water. It's that sacrifice that inspires her granddaughter into exploring the galaxy, all because she dies. And The Doctor knows that he can't do anything about it. He apologizes again and again, and makes it clear that she and her crew has to die to cause the future to happen. She realizes he's right, and lets him out of the airlock.
Water drips into the command console, and they are quickly cut off from escape. The water traps and infects Steffi and Roman. Maggie makes his way into the shuttle, infecting Ed, and he is forced to detonate the shuttle to keep them from getting control of it.
The Doctor can hear all of this through the radio is his suit, and keeps walking away from the base, obviously torn apart. As the shuttle severely damages the base, The Doctor struggles with himself, remembering his own statements from earlier adventures. He rises...and heads back to the base.
Taking control of the situation, he orders everyone into action. He tells Adelaide that he was told he would die soon, and that it wasn't going to be today. He drives the Andt creature away with an electrified door, and tries to turn the heat pumps up to drive them away. He says he's realized that as the last of the Time Lords, the laws of time that he constantly bemoans are his to command.
His space helmet is broken, the water streaming in from everywhere, and he's almost raving, that he's fighting time itself.
The Maggie Creature roars in the ice field chamber, which begins to crack and fissure.
The Doctor is desperate, looking for something he can use to save them. In a storage cabinet he finds Gadget who was packed away. He uses the robot to pilot though the water, across the red sands and into the TARDIS. Capt. Brooke, however, realizes she's in a no-win scenario, and activated the base's self-destruct. In a classic last-second countdown, Gadget makes it to the TARDIS and gets it activated, bringing it to the storage camber in which they're all trapped. 3....2....1...The base explodes.
The Tardis appears on a street in England. Adelaide, Yuri and Mia exit the TARDIS incredulously, The Doctor right behind them. They can't grasp what's happened. The Doctor is almost arrogant, heady with success, asking "Isn't anyone gonna thank me?" He explains to them that he's saved them from the base and brought them to Earth at the exact same moment, in front of Adelaide's house. They're alive, and safe.
But for the first time, The Doctor is showing off. He's almost swaggering as he explains it to them. And for the first time, they aren't happy. Mia almost has a breakdown and runs off, Yuri chasing after her. Adelaide can't believe what he's done. After all he's said about the future, inspiring her granddaughter, and he flippantly says she can inspire them all in person now. She challenges the Doctor, saying that no one should have so much power, and he simply replies, "Tough". She backs away from him, almost horrified. He explains that he's done this before, saving what he calls "little people", but never such a causally important person as her. He looks and acts as if he's just eaten a fine dinner, savoring the feeling. He tells Adelaide that he's been viewing himself as a survivor all this time, and he realizes he's "a winner". He dubs himself "The Time Lord Victorious". She tries to reason with him, and he verbally brushes her away. He opens her locked house with the Sonic Screwdriver and tells her to pop inside. She retreats from him, pulling out her weapon as she slips into her house. He hears it discharge, and realizes in a flash exactly how far wrong he's gone wrong.
Shots of the obituaries of Adelaide change-she is now reported to have died on Earth, An interview with Yuri and Mia now reveal to the world the events on Bowie Base One, and Brooke's role as a hero, before a mystery. Her granddaughter still goes to the stars, now the latest in a legacy of heroism, as opposed to one of mystery.
In an agitated state, he looks around and sees, standing in the snow, Ood Sigma, the member or of the race that first told him his "Song must end soon" in Planet of the Ood. The Doctor asks if this is it, but there's no reply. The Ood stands silently, and vanishes. The Doctor enters the TARDIS visibly shaken, staring into space, nervous and confused. The Cloister Bell begins to peal, and The Doctor's face grows determined. He mutters "No," and sets off to places and times unknown.
This is a solid thriller from stem to stern. It's a classic siege story with the barbarians at the gate. Tennant is absolutely chilling at the end, going from paranoid to raving to arrogant. By the time they get back to Earth he's almost as arrogant as The Master. My only problem with it is it went far too quickly - he's magnificently arrogant for mere minutes before he snaps back to sanity. I'd almost like to have seen him be arrogant a bit longer.
Like the thematic link between Planet of the Dead and Midnight, this episode is a bookend to The Fires of Pompeii. He begins to talk about Pompeii, and how in the act of trying to save everyone he ends up causing the explosion of Vesuvius. Like Pompeii, the destruction of Bowie Base One is a "fixed point" in time, a point so important to future history that changing or preventing it would unravel everything that would come afterwards. In FoP, Donna all but slaps him verbally, telling him he can't just walk away without at least trying to save someone. Here he takes it to the next step, that there's no one to keep him from doing anything he wants to muck about with time, and that's "A deadly thought" as RTD talks
Similarly, when Adelaide says the line, "And there's No one to stop you", that line is a bookend to the first Donna Noble story the Runaway Bride, where she warns The Doctor to find a friend. "Cause I think sometimes you need someone to stop you". The Doctor is ready to kill The Racnoss and sacrifice himself in the process, and Donna tells him he can stop. It seems more true that without someone to temper him, he stands a better chance of doing more things that end up being wrong. While never seen, one of his earlier companionless forays was to the planet of what would become the Tesh and the Sevateem to repair their failing computer in The Face of Evil. Also, The Master has never had anyone to pull him back from the precipice.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details
SET PIECES - The Bowie Base One set was built on the remains of the Torchwood hub, which was destroyed for the recent "Children of Earth" miniseries. The flashback of Adelaide as a child hidden in the attic of the set for Sarah Jane's attic in The Sarah Jane Adventures. The Doctor is wearing a slightly modified space suit from his adventures against the Devil in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit.
A NAME FOR YOUR PAIN - Unlike the un-named aliens from The Planet of the Dead and Midnight, these aliens have a name - "The Flood". In the BBC commentary track it's revealed there's a scene with Maggie where they reveal their name, but it's cut out. Alas, The Doctor then uses the name thrice in the episode, but it's easy to explain that he uses it more in a general sense, as a force of nature (in the Noah sense) and not as a name per se.
Bowie Base One gets quite a few mentions by fans as a nod to David Bowie, who was well known for the "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" album. But given the pronunciation used, is quite possibly a reference (or at least a parallel) to James Bowie, one of the heroes of The Alamo (which does not have a basement) which was blown up by its defenders to keep it out the hands of Santa Ana.
Queer as Folk - Once again Russell slips in another almost subliminal mention of homosexual relationships - Yuri talks about his brother and "his husband" and their loving relationship. RTD has inserted bits like that into almost all of his DW episodes, quietly getting across the idea that such relationships are common, normal and as loving as hetero ones. Kudos to him for doing it without bringing the stories to a screeching halt, and to the BBC for not thinking that a children's TV show "isn't the place" for such things.
I'm heading for a wedding - Not counting any unknown alarums and excursions in between, The Doctor make one more trip to Earth in between the end of Planet of the Dead and Waters of mars - he made a appearance in the latest season of Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures in the episode The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. In it, he helped Sarah Jane and her companions fight The Trickster, a time-manipulating alien she's met several times. The Doctor knew of him, and mentioned that the beetle that attacked Donna Noble in Turn left was "one of the Trickster Brigade". He seemed in good spirits in the adventure, but got a bit melancholy as he said good-bye to Sarah jane, unable to answer her query if they'd ever meet again.
"A fine and noble race who built an empire out of snow" - The Doctor makes reference to the Ice Warriors, a recurring villain from the Troughton and Pertwee years. They made two appearances as bad guys in Troughton (With "Carry On" regular Bernard Bresslaw in the giant warrior suit) and two in a more ambassadorial (but still suspicious) role in the two "Peladon" episodes in the Pertwee years. They appeared via stock footage in two other Troughton episodes as well, and have made numerous appearances in the New Adventures and others.
Maaaaars...the Red Planet - Mars has made a great deal of appearances in Doctor Who, both in the regular series and the novels and Big Finish audio plays. At least three other races have come from its crimson surface: the lovecraftian Fendahl (seen in Tom Baker's Image of the Fendahl), the Osirans took up residency thousands of years ago (and crossed The Doctor's path in Baker's The Pyramids of Mars) and the aforementioned Ice Warriors.
Woof woof woof...hello, I'm Rags - The Doctor comments that he "hates funny robots" though later on, he admits he doesn't mind a funny dog. I should hope not; K-9 was a companion for several years, and was then passed on the old friend Sarah Jane Smith, who now both appear on Sarah Jane Adventures. K-9 has his own series as well, getting a new CGI body, but still ably voiced by John Leeson.
GUEST STAR REPORT - Lindsay Duncan, playing Adelaide Brooke, has had quite a varied career in England. She most recently had a recurring role in the series Rome and Lost in Austen, and the film Under the Tuscan Sun. She'll be playing Alice's mother in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland next year. To sci-fi fans, she's known for voicing the TC-14 protocol droid in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Peter O'Brien as Ed has had a umber of TV roles in the UK, but keeping with the DW team's love of re-using of actors, he had a regular role in Davies' series Queer as Folk as a man with a boyfriend who was a ravenous Doctor Who fan.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO - What a long strange trip it's been, but all trips and songs must end. The Ood are back, as are Donna Noble, Grandpa Wilf, The Master, and a voice that seems to know a great deal about what is to come.