In Review: Doctor Who – The Empress of Mars

The Time Lord, Bill and Nardole end up in a stand-off between mankind and alien forces

Synopsis: The Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive on Mars and end up embroiled in a stand-off between humanity and alien forces – but this time mankind is the aggressor. Victorian soldiers have invaded the red planet and their activities threaten to awaken a hive of militant Ice Warriors for whom Mars is home.

Review: This episode begins with the Doctor and his companions intruding in a NASA base only to find that there is a monument on Mars that reads “God Save The Queen.” The Doctor, Bill and Nardole go beneath the surface of the planet and get separated, with the TARDIS taking Nardole away from the planet. Bill and the Doctor discover a platoon of Victorian soldiers who are being aided by an Ice Warrior, Friday, to supposedly find precious stones in the caves. As it turns out Friday is attempting to locate the queen of the Ice Warriors, who is resurrected when an avaricious soldier removes a gemstone from her sarcophagus. The Doctor attempts to play peacemaker but the deceptively nasty Catchlove, played by Ferdinand Kingsley, provokes a war between humans and Ice Warriors. Only the heroism of the Colonel, played by Anthony Calf, and assistance from Friday brings peace between the two species.

I felt there was a lot of subversion of expectations in this episode, from the dramatic moment at the start that was made funny by the intervention of the Doctor and his companions, to the seeming affability of Catchlove that ultimately gave way to villainy, to the Doctor’s first encounter with Friday that ends with a soldier firing a warning shot at him not the Ice Warrior. Peter Capaldi continues to show his outstanding acting ability when the Doctor explains the Ice Warriors as well as when he threatens the Ice Queen. Ferdinand Kingsley has a great scene with Peter Capaldi when the Doctor attempts to stop the budding war between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

I thought Anthony Calf acted very well in this episode too. His scene at the episode’s climax with the Ice Queen, played excellently by Adele Lynch, was definitely a highlight. The extreme close ups of the Ice Warriors coming up from the ground were brilliant, and the music when the soldiers discover the tomb was great. An interesting quandary was raised in this episode; the humans are the invaders but the Ice Warriors are capable of wiping them out. Sexism and imperialism are explored when the Colonel laughs at the idea of a woman being in the police and when Catchlove says that Mars is now part of the British Empire.

In a subversion of RTD’s Who but perhaps as a nod to the Classic series one of the soldiers is portrayed as somewhat corrupt, willing to ransack the tomb for whatever he can find with the younger man roped into his fellow’s scheme. There were some great lines during this outing, with the Doctor finally getting to say “I have a bad feeling about this.” Noteworthy as well was when the Doctor says to the Ice Queen “Fight for the future, not a dead past” and also the rather bittersweet “That’s always been my problem. Thinking like a warrior” when the Colonel wins the Ice Queen’s respect. Very interesting too was the Ice Queen asking Bill for her opinion.

Special mention must go to the return of Alpha Centauri from the Peladon stories in the Classic series. Intriguing also was Nardole enlisting Missy’s help to fly the TARDIS, and the Doctor’s reaction when he sees her at the controls.

Overall, a great and fun episode.

9.1
Doctor Who - The Empress of Mars
  • Story
    8.5
  • Acting
    9.0
  • Incidental Music
    9.5
  • CGI
    9.5
2 Comments on this post.
  • Ian Cullen
    10 June 2017 at 7:59 pm -

    Have to say. I really enjoyed this episode.

    The Ice Warriors are a race from Doctor Who that much like the Silurians have not been given a fair shake.

    So was great to see another story featuring them on the screen.

    Hopefully we’ll see more stories featuring them in future series.

  • Raissa Devereux (@RaissaDevereux)
    11 June 2017 at 2:09 am -

    That was great! I especially liked that they got Ysanne Churchman back to voice Alpha Centauri as she did during the original Peladon stories.

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