Monday, 14 January 2013

Doctor Who 'The Waters of Mars' Review

The Doctor and Adelaide must stop the terrifying Flood.

The Doctor, now travelling alone, lands on Mars in the 2059 and whilst wandering the landscape of the red planet comes across ‘Bowie Base One’.  Initially the Doctor is delighted to find the crew of ‘Bowie Base’, the first human colonists on Mars led by their captain Adelaide Brooke, but his delight is quickly wiped away when he finds out the exact date.  The Doctor discovers that he has arrived at the base on the very day that it is destroyed in a nuclear blast, killing the whole crew.  This event, though tragic, would spur humanity and Adelaide’s grand daughter in particular to continue exploring into space and as such is a ‘fixed point’ in time.  If the Doctor was to try and save the people on the base it could have tragic effects.

The Doctor tries to leave before he becomes dragged into the course of history he is not allowed to alter, but before he can exit the base Adelaide looses contact with the crew members in the bio-dome.  Suspicious of the Doctors sudden appearance at the same time that they have lost contact with members of their crew Adelaide investigates the bio-dome, forcing the Doctor to join her.

In the bio-dome they discover the lost crew members, who have become infected by some kind of virus present in the base’s water supply.  The virus causes the victim to produce large amounts of water from their body, water that can infect others with a single drop, and attack their fellow crewmates. 

The Doctor and Adelaide barely manage to escape from them and return to central control, where they manage to seal off the bio-dome.  By studying an infected crewmember they discover that the infected personnel desire to go to the water rich earth, something that they cannot allow to happen.  Despite knowing that he cannot interfere without running the risk of severely altering the timeline a large part of the Doctor wants to stay and help, whilst his rational side tells him to leave while he can.  The Doctor must face the impossible decision, does he try to save the crew of Bowie Base One and risk the entire course of history, or does he let events play out on their own, leaving everyone else to die?
The Flood begins to infect and change the crew of Bowie Base One.
‘The Waters of Mars’ is one of the episodes from the year without Doctor Who, one of a handful of special episodes that aired over 2009, and is my personal favourite of these.  The story is a classic base under siege tale that has an effectively creepy menace.

The Flood, as the infected are called, are a creepy concept, with even a single drop of infected water on your skin can turn you into one of these evil, twisted creatures.  This threat is used to great effect when it’s not just the infected the humans have to be afraid of, but any source of water that the Flood uses to block off certain routes and trap people within the base.

The crew themselves are a great mixture of characters, representing a wide range of the nationalities of earth.  A few of the characters are more engaging than others, and I would have liked to have had more screen time with them, but as it is the pacing is so good that any more scenes with the characters may have run the risk of slowing down the pacing of the rest of the show.

The standout of the guest characters has to be Adelaide Brooke, who acts as a one off companion for the Doctor in this story.  It’s great to have an older companion someone who is played by a seasoned actor that can bring much more depth to their character, especially as she is only in this one episode.  Lindsey Duncan plays Adelaide brilliantly, showing us the characters strength and her vulnerability, making her such a well crafted and well played character that it becomes and absolute joy to watch her work.
Has the Doctor gone too far this time?
Lindsey Duncan plays off against Tennants Doctor wonderfully, especially towards the end of the story when the Doctor begins to go off the rails.  Having flaunted the rules of time the Doctor begins to show a darker side to him, acting more like one of the renegade Time Lords.  Seeing the effect her survival has had on the Doctor Adelaide takes matters into her own hands and kills herself, putting the timeline back on a roughly similar course.  This is an amazing scene, showing how much the doctor relies in the rules he has imposed upon himself and the effect breaking them can have.  It also shows the bravery and sacrifice of Adelaide, the lengths she will go to to ensure that the future the Doctor told her about will come to pass.

A great chase story that ends with an incredible emotional punch, ‘The Waters of Mars’ is one of the best examples from the Tennant and Russell T Davies era, and the best of the ‘special’ episodes.  8/10


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