Doctor Who 10.9 – “Empress of Mars”

It’s something from an H. G. Wells novel…

Soliders from 1881 find themselves on Mars, encountering strange creatures.

Actually, it’s what happens to the Doctor this week, and he has to decide who’s really the threat.

Also, Nardole has TARDIS trouble, and the solution may be worse.

SPOILERS BELOW

This is the Ice Warriors’ first return in four years, but this time they have to deal with people invading their planet. While it may be a shock seeing British soldiers on Mars, their plans to take over the planet the way they took over India and Africa were way too typical. They also have typical Victorian names like Jackdaw (Ian Beattie) and Godsacre (Anthony Calf). It really puts a damper on an interesting invasion story, in my opinion.

However, the Ice Warriors have a new look, less thin compared to the 1970’s. Their Queen, Iraxxa (Adele Lynch), is also very interesting. She is a Queen without a kingdom because of past wars, and that she and the other Warriors have slept for 5,000 years. Waking up to invading Brits would upset anyone. You can’t blame her for attacking them.

Anyway, the Doctor’s trip to Mars is sparked when NASA finds something in a probe to the Martian ice caps: the words “God Save The Queen” spelled out in stones.


This is literally out of a sci-fi movie from the 1960’s. He’s even at Mission Control when the discovery is made, which may or may not be a coincidence.

The Doctor heads to Mars in 1881, where he finds British soldiers under the planet. A soldier named Catchlove (Ferdinand Kingsley) discovered a spaceship that crashed on Earth. It had an Ice Warrior inside, who is later nicknamed Friday (Richard Ashton). Catchlove agrees to help him get back to Mars to find Iraxxa, and Friday lets them use a massive laser drill, called the Gargantua, to, hopefully, find riches. What they find is a sarcophagus with Iraxxa inside. Typically, Jackdaw is interested in the jewels on it, and he winds up waking her up…and getting killed.

Meanwhile, Nardole (Matt Lucas) goes back to the TARDIS to get rope after Bill falls through a hole. She’s all right, but it suddenly decides to head back to Earth. He has to ask Missy (who’s still in the vault) for help, and she agrees. It looks like an excuse to leave him out of the story, but it will lead to something.

By the way, Bill deals with visiting Mars by comparing it with movies the Doctor says he hasn’t seen, including The Terminator. Yet he is a fan of Disney movies, apparently.

The Doctor hopes the Brits and Iraxxa don’t start a big battle because there is no way the Brits will survive, especially when her weapons literally turn people into a bundle of clothes. She promises the Brits will, at least, have a quick death. There’s also a clash between Catchlove and Godsacre about who’s in charge. Catchlove later reveals Godsacre actually deserted his post, and almost died from being hung for his crime. He winds up in a cell with the Doctor and Bill.

Both Iraxxa and Friday plan to wake up the other Ice Warriors, and there are a lot of them. How they’ve been sleeping inside the walls of the caves may remind people of Tomb of the Cybermen, where other invaders disturbed their tomb. The Doctor stops this by threatening to use the Gargantua to fire at the ice caps above and bury everyone. Catchlove, though, pulls a knife on Iraxxa and apparently plans to escape with her with the spaceship that got them there. However, he’s shot to death by Godsacre, who finally found his courage. He also offers to sacrifice himself as long as the other soldiers and Earth are left alone. This impresses Iraxxa, and she offers him a place on Mars. Since there’s nothing left for him on Earth, he takes it.

The Doctor sets up a distress signal, and they get an answer from a strange alien called Alpha Centauri….

Yes, it’s that odd alien who was in both Peladon episodes in the 1970s. From this, Mars and the Ice Warriors join in a galactic alliance that would continue in Curse of Peladon. Of course, they’ll need to know where the Ice Warriors are.  That’s where the “God Save The Queen” message comes in.

Nardole does get back to Mars with the TARDIS…only Missy is also inside. The Doctor is stunned, to put it lightly. She promises to go back to the vault, yet wonders if there’s something wrong with the Doctor. Is she really worried or is this a head game?  Maybe that tear from last week wasn’t enough to change her spots.

The episode wasn’t only a great return of an old favorite, but another example of sacrifice. Catchlove was willing to leave his men behind, but Godsacre, the deserter, wound up being the true hero, willing to give up his life to stop a possible war between Mars and Earth. It’s just too bad the Brits were a cliche in this story.

Next week, something is making a forest in Scotland very dangerous.

P.S.  For those who were surprised there was a Black soldier in this episode, episode writer (and co-creator of Sherlock) Mark Gatiss explained how he was uneasy about the BBC’s decision to add such a character until he learned there was a Black soldier during Victorian times. In the episode, he’s known as “Vincey”, played by Bayo Gbadamosi. Here is the full story from the Telegraph.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008