This Blog Contains Doctor Who Spoilers

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Time Lord Victorious! WoM summary

So after months of waiting and weeks of discussion The Waters Of Mars was finally transmitted last night on BBC1. And, luckily for so many of us, it did not disappoint at all! In fact, it may possibly have been the most rounded, interesting, absorbing hour of Doctor Who we have been treated to since its Resurrection in 2005. Never has a simple Base Under Siege story been so... well, complex!

The following review contains episode spoilers. If you haven't watched The Water Of Mars yet, click here first.

Mars. November 21st, 2059. Captain Adelaide Brooke and her crew are the first people to found a base on the Red Planet. Our dear Doctor arrives on the very same day, just sightseeing. But on meeting the crew of Bowie Base One (nice, eh?) he remembers that the members of it's crew are not famous just for being the first to Mars. Something else happens today, something that MUST always happen to assure the progression of the human race. Bowie Base One and all of it's crew are doomed. An interesting idea. Like the Pompeii episode of Series 4 The Waters Of Mars deals with those times in history that MUST BE. Fixed points in time. Only, this history hasn't happened for us yet. And it is within this "fixed point" that the drama lies. True, there are some nasty monsters... There's something in the water which infects the humans with only one drop. They go from mild mannered Mars-Gardeners to viscous, water-spewing zombies within seconds of contact with the water. This was how the threat factor of the episode was sold to us. Scary, ugly monsters on Mars. And they were. Scary I mean, very scary. But this wasn't the threat!

You see, the Doctor has always been one for saving things. People, planets, it's what he does. So when faced with a situation that doesn't allow for his meddling - whether saving lives or not - he's faced with a dilemma he rarely has to think about. Adelaide Brooke MUST die. Her death is what inspires her granddaughter to follow in Nana's footsteps and explore the heavens. Susie Fontana Brooke is the one who will lead humanity into the stars. She even, we are told in a throwaway line, creates a whole new species by falling in love and having children with an alien prince. Humanity needs her. And she needs Adelaide. Unfortunately, it's her death that's the clincher here.

So, the Doctor is stuck. He has all these people in front of him, people he knows will die. But he cannot do anything about it for fear of breaking the laws of time and changing future history! What to do, what to do? And the Doctor does the only thing he believes he can do. He walks away.

Que some running down corridors, avoiding water and trying not to get infected while at the same time trying to evacuate the base! If one drop of this infected water reaches Earth, that's it. The End. So... evacuation is the chosen option. But time has other ideas. A series of unfortunate events - the infection/death of a few more crew members (beautifully acted by a stellar cast) and the loss of the rocket that was to take them home (in one of the grandest shots ever to grace out screens... Seeing a suited Doctor blown forward by the destruction he has decided to leave behind him is beautiful) means that the fate of the base and it's crew is sealed. They are stuck. Only one option remains, detonation.

And this takes us up to the most thought-provoking scenes in Doctor Who's history, in my opinion. Bigger even than the "have I the right" bit in Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor has to decide whether to let innocents die knowing he can save them so easily. A dilemma shared by us watching at home. We all know what the Doctor is about. He's a superhero, basically, who travels the universe saving people and planets. He is morally solid. Always a role model and never seen to be troubled by this role. He helps. He makes people better. He is The Doctor. The Last Of The Time Lords...

...And it is remembering these words that we see him change. Our Doctor - Our Doctor - changes completely. The realisation that he is the last Time Lord hits him and the next fifteen minutes of the episode are where The Waters Of Mars becomes REALLY scary. How are children meant to react when they see a situation like this? They know he should save the crew. But they have also been told, by Their Doctor, that he cannot. And now? He decided that the laws of time are his "and they will obey me!"

Suddenly we see the Doctor proclaim himself not as the only survivor of the Time War, but the WINNER! And this is very true! He is the last Time Lord in existence and has the power to change events! He can do literally whatever he wants to do. There are no Time Lords and, now, no companions to stop him! And it is with this new found lunacy, filled with this God Complex, that the Doctor (using the most annoying Robot in television history, in a good way) uses his TARDIS to take the three last survivors, including Adelaide, back to Earth. He saves those who should never have been saved.

So, away from the threat of the Flood (as the water zombies are so-called) and in a snowy street the Doctor does things that, for me anyway, cement him as a prick. The Doctor has become arrogant, all-powerful and irresponsible. Adelaide tells him this, warning him that he can't do this, that this is just too much power for anyone! To which the Doctor spits "Tough!") His words to the frightened, damaged humans he has just wrongly saved are "Isn't anyone going to thank me?!" (WHAT?! WHEN DOES THE DOCTOR EVER ASK FOR THANKS?!) He refers to Adelaide as the most important person he has ever saved, adding that he has saved others before but they were just "little people"!

But pride comes before a (fucking massive) fall. Adelaide knows the risks of her being alive and decided to do something about it. She enters her house and kills herself. She is the hero here, the Doctor is the villain! Eventually realising he has gone too far, that all his efforts have resulted in death anyway, the Doctor turns to see Ood Sigma, in the snow, "Is this it, my death? Is it time!?" asks the Doctor...

...And as we all know, the next special The End Of Time (trailer below) answers this question with a massive "YES".

The Waters Of Mars was incredible. A mature, thoughtful, dangerous, heartbreaking lesson in what the Doctor has to face everyday. I enjoyed it greatly. And I plan to post a "proper" review as soon as I can.


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