Villordsutch reviews Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 9: Empress of Mars…
Directed by: Wayne Yip
Written by: Mark Gatiss
Captain Catchlove – Don’t belong!? We’re British! Mars is part of the Empire now!
After the past three episodes of Doctor Who which linked across a rather dark three-story arc, this week’s episode from Mark Gatiss (The Unquiet Dead, Sleep No More) sees the series return to a more singular format, with just a pinch of a looming doom constantly shadowing the Time Lord.
With a daytrip out to NASA suddenly being called off due to a bit of space graffiti being found under the ice-caps of Mars, the Doctor and Companions return to the Red Planet in 1881, as the TARDIS summarises that this is the probable year when the message was left. Whilst wandering through the caverns looking for clues, Bill (Pearl Mackie) falls down a shaft and Nardole (Matt Lucas) is sent to the TARDIS to get climbing equipment. However, once he enters, the temperamental time machine automatically takes itself and our bald companion back to St. Luke’s University in Bristol in the present day and refuses to respond to his actions on the console.
Within the tunnels of Mars, the Doctor and Bill soon come across both a regiment from the British Army – from when Queen Victoria was on the throne – and their servant, a scarred Ice-Warrior called Friday. It appears his ship was found upon Earth and he promised the regiment untold wealth if they helped him return to his home-world; however what really lies beyond the walled off catacombs of this red planet isn’t what they’re hoping for.
Mark Gatiss is clearly a fan (as myself) of Classic Doctor Who. Obviously, he likes NuWho too, but anybody that grew up with watching Doctor Who from the 1970’s will see instantly that Mr. Gatiss was eating the same Rainbow Drops and drinking the same American Cream Soda from the “Pop Man” as you were. His love of Classic Doctor Who sings loudly in Empress of Mars. From the amazing opening of the message under the Martian ice-caps, to the preposterous – but brilliant – British Soldiers drinking tea and eating cake under Mars, the brilliantly named “Gargantua” weapon/drill and the message to the Ice Warriors at the end.
Yes, it’s not as powerful as the previous few episodes we’ve just seen, but after the levels we were pulled down to with the Doctor & Company, a bit of glorious Sci-Fi is needed to bring the spirits of Doctor Who back up. Though please don’t consider this to be a slapstick, pratfall episode. There are some gruesome endings for a few tourists to Mars.
A few interesting things are raised here in this episode, some of which I shan’t mention not wanting to go into spoilers, though I shall say, “Is Time Lord hypnotism being used there?”. Also, the TARDIS once again seems to be doing something else on its own -what’s going on here? Is this Gallifrey’s influence on the stolen device, trying to retrieve the lost property from the rogue Time Lord?
The Empress of Mars is a corking episode. Very much-needed after the darkness of the past few weeks.