Saturday, June 17, 2017

Doctor Who Is NEW!: Empress of Mars

Hi there! Happy Saturday to you! 

Unless you'reading this tomorrow, then happy Sunday to you!

If you're reading this yesterday, how are you doing that? But nonetheless, Happy Friday to you!

We're down to 3 new episodes of Doctor Who Series 10 and we're getting closer to our farewells to Peter Capaldi & Steven Moffat. (Please don't go!)  

The Noff's successor, Chris Chibnall (a.k.a. "The Chib") got some press for his upcoming turn as head writer and executive producer.

Chris said the BBC hired him to be "risky and bold".  He added, “I had ideas about what I wanted to do with it. When I went to them and said, ‘This is what I would do’, I actually expected them to say, ‘Ooh, let’s talk about that’, but they said: ‘Great!’”

One such idea was a season long story, much like what Chibnall did for Broadchurch.  

Whatever the Chib (That's not going to catch on, is it?) has planned, we still have Peter and Steve with us.

Tonight is the premier of "The Eaters of Light". But before we reach for the future, let's look at where we've been. 

Here are some thoughts on last week's episode, the "Empress of Mars", right after break.

Empress of Mars
by Mark Gattis

The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are on a field trip to present day NASA. (Why? Because.) NASA is remotely poking around the ice cap of Mars. 

Oh, look: Rocks!

Rocks that form the words, ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. 

The Doctor smiles broadly. Oh boy! A new mystery.

Mars and the year 1881 is a just a short TARDIS hop away.  While the Doctor and Bill go exploring, Nardole goes back to the TARDIS. (Why? Because) which then takes off resisting Nardole's efforts to control it. (Why? Because.)

The Doctor and Bill find human soldiers from Victorian Britain working underground with oxygen and stuff. The soldiers are there courtesy of an Ice Warrior they named “Friday” whose spaceship crashed on Earth. After Captain Catchlove and his men rescued him, Friday took the soldiers back to Mars where they can mine the planet for precious minerals and get rich. The Doctor suspects Friday is using the humans to dig out an Ice Warrior hive.

Eventually, the soldiers discover the tomb of the Ice Empress. Colonel Godsacre orders the men to stay away from the tomb. Do not touch it.

No touch!

No touchy! 

Do. Not. Touch!

But one guard missed the “not” part of that command and whoops! The Ice Empress, Iraxxa, is revived. Ta-da!!

Iraxxa wakes up in  bad mood, what with the humans there stinking up the place. Friday tells Iraxxa she’s been asleep 5,000 years and the surface of Mars sucks as a place to live. Iraxxa asks Bill for her opinion, as a fellow woman and decides to give peace a chance. But a soldier has to go shoot his gun; the shots bounces harmlessly off Iraxxa's helmet. But she’s still ticked about that and she returns fire. Catchlove takes command, traps Iraxxa and Friday within the tomb. He also locks up the Doctor, Bill, and Godsacre who Catchlove exposed as someone who survived being hanged… for cowardice.

Catchlove figures he and his men are more than a match for a couple of Ice Warriors.

Inside the tomb, Iraxxa starts reviving more Ice Warriors.

Ice Warriors: ATTACK!!!

Except for Friday who allies himself with the Doctor and Bill to stop this bloodshed.  Then Catchlove (we don’t like him) holds Iraxxa at knifepoint and attempts to force her to help him pilot a spaceship back to Earth. Godsacre finds his courage, surprising Catchlove and kills him. (We didn't like him so good riddance.)

Then Godsacre begs Iraxxa to kill him. He is prepared to give his life to save his men.  

Iraxxa's impressed. She calls off the attack in exchange for Godsacre pledging himself to the Ice Warriors. The Doctor covertly contacts Alpha Centauri (an alien being, not the star system) to assist the Ice Warriors finding somewhere else to live since Mars isn't as fun as it used to be.  

The Doctor and Bill help Godsacre leave the message that NASA will discover.

Nardole then re-appears with the TARDIS, with Missy piloting the ship.

The Doctor is not happy to see Missy is out of the vault.

Meanwhile, Missy seems to very concerned about the Doctor's well-being.

They hold a really long, very awkward stare at each other. They're not going to make out, are they? Ewwww!

Mark Gattis delivers a solid story that would've worked well in the classic series, even with their budget. Definitely for Jon Pertwee's third Doctor. It's a solid adventure of humans vs. aliens. It's a conflict entirely of their own making, each race's arrogance and sense of superiority over the other is what drives the fighting.  

Bill is not as powerful a presence as she has been in previous episodes. She does get a good moment when the Empress looks to Bill for her opinion because she is female. Nardole just gets shunted off by a plot device the TARDIS.  Apparently, when Mark wrote this, he didn't know Nardole was going to be a companion. Maybe it was early enough that no one had a handle on Bill which may account for her diminished role. 

The big twist is the human army are British soldiers in service to Queen Victoria. They certainly are possessed of a strong sense of entitlement, indicative of men in the Victorian era. The whole idea of Victorian men with their contemporaneous 19th century tech on Mars and acting like they own the place? Straight out of an H G Wells story. 

Nice touch: the painting of Queen Victoria looks like the one we met way back in Series 2, Tooth & Claw. 

Empress of Mars is a perfectly serviceable story; not very remarkable but hardly an embarrassment. Just a nice one off adventure before things get really intense by the end of Series 10.

Seriously though, what was the deal with that really long, very awkward stare between the Doctor and Missy?

Tonight, The Eaters of Light, the first new era Doctor Who story by a writer from the classic series, Rona Munro. 

Tonight at 9 PM on BBC America. 

The write up will post next Saturday.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.  

Counting Down To Infinity