Monday, 29 July 2013

Review: Doctor Who 4.16: The Waters of Mars

I guess we're here. The last aired episode of NuWho that I've yet to cover. It's really been fun looking over Ten's era again, and I think now that I've got a much clearer image of the way that he and his era were written. What went right and what went wrong. In a week or so I head back to 1975 to resume my runthrough of the Classic Series, but this is my last review of pre-broadcast NuWho. Here goes.
The Time Lord Victorius
Doctor Who - Season 30, Episode Sixteen - The Waters Of Mars
Written 27/4/13

Something rather wonderful about the specials is their variety. You would expect that five episodes written by the same person consecutively would have similar tones or ideas or levels of quality, but the span of episodes from The Next Doctor to The End of Time is instead frustratingly varied. After an okay Crimbo special and a lacklustre Easter special, this... 15th November special brought the quality up a notch and played with both old and new sci-fi ideas to create an awesome horror story.
     The Doctor lands on Mars in 2059, where the first manned mission to the planet resides aboard Bowie Base One. The Doctor remembers that the base was destroyed by a nuclear explosion on the day he arrived, and that the death of leader Adelaide Brooke is a fixed point that inspired her daughter to be the first person to break the light barrier. Despite this, he can't stop himself from helping when a parasitic agent called The Flood arises from the team's Martian water supply, turning any member of the crew infected into water-spewing monsters. Enough crew members become infected to warrant exploding the base, but the Doctor is pissy about both being told he was gonna die last week and that Adelaide has to go too. He rescues three members of the crew, including Adelaide, and pronounces himself the Time Lord Victorius, ruler of all time. Just to put him in his place, she commits suicide. That showed him. The Ood call him off to the finale and the rest is history.
     The Doctor's attitude here as he wrestles with the fixed point is one that only really works within the context of the episode. In the Classic Series, given a few exceptions, The Doctor went around changing time willy nilly, and then after this in the Moffat era it's shown that preventing a fixed point makes all sorts of wibbly wobbly things happen. Doctor Who's core inconsistency catching up, I suppose. Given that Ten is already a bit of an anti-hero in terms of his stark arrogance and common selfishness, seeing him attempting to bend time itself to his will was simply an emphasised version of his regular personality, with that anger and confusion bubbling up to the surface. It feels like an acknowledgement of those traits by RTD, and the way that it's handled is brilliant.
The Flood infectees are brilliantly executed.
     Lindsey Duncan's Adelaide Brooke is an interesting temp companion, with a funky backstory and a temperment that made sure Ten was put in his place. I think that her being spared by the Daleks as a child due to her future importance was a little silly, especially as the Daleks were trying eradicate the Multiverse and so one child and her future shouldn't really matter. I also thought her "sacrifice" at the end, however nifty from a Time-travel standpoint, was completely out of character and quite frankly shocking. It's a continuation of a glorification of suicide that pops its head up now and then in the RTD era and it's really not a good thing.
     As a prefinale, The Waters of Mars shoves RTD's era into burgeoning new territory, and had the ideas set forth in this episode been followed up on I do get the feeling that The End of Time would be a much better set of episodes. There's a skill and an attention to detail in some of the aspects of Ten's "fall from grace" that ensure that The Waters of Mars stands out as the best of the Specials year. It's been fun reviewing Ten, but this is where it has to end. Ta ra.


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