Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x16: "The Waters Of Mars"

Written by Russell T. Davies And Phil Ford
Directed by Graeme Harper

The Doctor (to Adelaide): “It’s taken me all these years to realise that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me.”

Those are the kind of words that only a man who knows death is upon him could say. That being said, no-one should ever utter those kinds of words and the actions of The Doctor in this story alone prove why.

In the last two specials, we’ve had Cybermen in Victorian London as well as Tritovores and the Swarm in a ravaged planet. Here, we’ve got a planet that we actually know of only too well and a storyline that mostly attempts to be more tangible in terms of reality that Doctor Who has arguably ever done.

Mars, the red planet, the inspiration of a David Bowie song and in recent years, also reported to have water on it. If anything you could almost wonder why the writers have waited until now to tackle a story. As soon as The Doctor touched base on the red planet, trouble was always going to be looming behind him.

A harmless robot named Gadget didn’t waste much time in arresting him and as soon as The Doctor met the crew of Bowie Base One, he had to do some talking to win over Adelaide. His usual snarky behaviour about guns aside, credit had to have been given to Adelaide. She might have been suspicious of him but evidently not enough to blast him into the middle of next week. That probably took some patience on her part.

Keeping with the classy casting, Lindsay Duncan was an interesting choice for the role of Adelaide. On paper and from some of the descriptions we’d gotten over the last few months, Adelaide was supposed to be one of the cleverest companions that The Doctor had travelled with.

Also from the trailer that aired at the end of “Planet Of The Dead” back in April, we also saw that she was tough as nails. Adelaide certainly deserved the adulation bestowed on her by the writers and even by The Doctor. After all, hers is the only crew that are currently living on Mars and they seem to be doing a good job of it.

They’ve got a stable enough base, are able to keep birds and thanks to Maggie and Andy, also seemed to be able to grow carrot. Mars might not be the place to make a life for yourself but it certainly was working for Adelaide. Then The Doctor had to show up and everything else had to go down the drain.

Okay, it’s not exactly The Doctor’s fault for the chaos that happened on Mars but it would’ve been weird if Adelaide’s crew didn’t at least entertain the thought, given his unexpected arrival. Ed was even trying to get The Doctor to admit at one point that he was some sort of spy while Maggie was trying to speculate what nationality he was from. Given the lack of contact that they’ve had with other people, I don’t blame them.

As for the trouble element of the episode, when you make such a big deal about the fact that there is water of Mars, naturally this would have to become the source of the problem. It also happened rather quickly into the episode. One minute Andy was gushing about his carrots, the next his skin broke, water was dripping from him and he became something called the Flood.

It seemed that for the most part of this episode, the transformations were happening at different times with the crew members. Maggie got infected straight after Andy but it was Tarak who changed quickly. It was also him and Andy that started chasing both The Doctor and Adelaide without a thought to spare.

Maggie’s transformation was something more complex. Stuck in sick bay, Yuri started talking about his family and where he lived and Maggie began asking the right questions. If previous trailers hadn’t spoiled it, I still would’ve guessed that when Maggie was probing Yuri about his hometown’s water that she had become the Flood.

The surprising thing from that exchange was the fact that Yuri didn’t become the fourth Flood victim there and then. Then again, it did seem too obvious and given the loss count of this episode, Yuri was one of the luckier ones. Too bad that the rest of his comrades didn’t really follow suit.

Ed for example was Adelaide’s second in command and their relationship seemed pretty tense at best. I know for the most part that it made sense for Adelaide to treat Ed with the same icy reserve as the rest of the crew but he was trying to help and I think she could’ve handled it a little better.

After all, we could thank him for trying to get the shuttle working in order to get everyone off Mars on Adelaide’s command. Out of everyone, I almost expected him to survive the Flood but instead of allowing himself to be taken over, he blew himself and the shuttle to smithereens. I wish I could say that that was the only time someone in this episode had to end their lives in quite a drastic way.

Roman was also another unfortunate victim but his transformation came after Steffi’s traumatic turn into a Flood creature. The best thing about this story was the fact that a lot of the crew on Bowie Base One seemed to stand out a little more compared to other stories. Roman was the man behind Gadget and Steffi was also a rather tragic character in her own right. The scene where she’s transforming is pretty painful to watch.

The Flood themselves were interesting enough villains. Largely spewing water got them out of having proper dialogue with The Doctor and Adelaide in the end. Plus their origins were a little ambiguous as well. That certainly helped with the mystique factor of them.

However the painful thing about this episode in general is the knowledge The Doctor has. He knows that Bowie Base One is a fixed point in time and that everyone is meant to die. His first reaction when realising who Adelaide and her crew are is to leg it. He had at least a few good opportunities before everything really went to hell to get out of there. I hare to say but he should’ve taken them.

The Doctor did himself no favours with being cryptic as well. When you know that someone’s going to die and the laws of time cannot be broken in order to save, it’s probably not a brilliant idea to give the unfortunate people the biggest of inklings of being aware of their demises. Even Adelaide didn’t need to know her smarts to twig that The Doctor knew more than he was letting on. He was practically spelling it out for her.

The fixed point in time idea was something that “The Fires Of Pompeii” touched on. Donna persuaded The Doctor to save Evelina and her family and he did, with reservation. Nothing happened as a result. Maybe it was because of this that The Doctor finally decided that he could do whatever he wanted when it came to the time lines.

After all, Adelaide is certainly an inspiring character. Her past encounter with a Dalek and how the creature inspired her to travel to the stars was hard not to be moved by. The fact that the horrific events of “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End” could make her want to do something so wonderful was brilliant. And then there was the tying in of how her death would inspire her granddaughter to go further in the universe.

It’s because of this that The Doctor made a fatal error. Earlier on, Adelaide begged The Doctor to find a way for her to live, to spare her crew. She was even close to her own salvation until the Flood destroyed the shuttle. But even Adelaide realised that the laws of time couldn’t be tampered with.

When The Doctor came back to save her, her reaction was to tell him to leave. Adelaide knew what The Doctor was attempting to do was wrong. Even throwing the fact that he was the last of his kind and the four times a knocking wasn’t enough to dissuade. In fact there wasn’t a single person who thanked The Doctor.

Landing back on Earth, Gadget broke down, Mia freaked out and legged it and Yuri swiftly followed her. When it came to Adelaide, what really brought everything crashing down around her was The Doctor’s arrogance about changing a fixed point. The way he demanded that someone thank him was enough to make me want to punch him.

David Tennant played the last couple of scenes in this story brilliantly. If it wasn’t obvious before that The Doctor’s song was coming to an end, then this certainly made it abundantly. Adelaide rightfully tore The Doctor to shreds about what he had done but it wasn’t until she had to correct his mistake did he realise that she was right.

There are times on this show when I’m glad that something is concealed. I think Adelaide shooting herself inside her house where it couldn’t be seen was just as effective than if she had done it in front of The Doctor’s face. It’s depressing that in order to keep history consistent, Adelaide was forced to end her life voluntarily, even if that had been the original course of action she would’ve taken on Mars.

Seeing The Doctor’s reaction added to the intensity of the moment. For all the talk he had of being the Time Lord Victorious, Adelaide’s death was a big reality check for him. Then there was the sight of Ood Sigma. If ever there was a suitable harbinger of death, then the creature that told The Doctor his song was ending was the best way of doing it. Christmas is most definitely not going to be a bed of roses for The Doctor, that’s a guarantee.

Also in “The Waters Of Mars”

This is the second episode of the new series to have a co-written effort. Then again, because of this, Phil Ford can now say that he’s written for all three shows. Good for him. Lindsay Duncan’s name was also in the credits for this episode.

The Doctor (re gun): “But you could hurt someone with that thing. Just put it down.”
Adelaide: “Oh, you’d like that.”
The Doctor: “Can you find me someone who wouldn’t?”

I read somewhere that Adelaide almost went by the name of Grace. I think one is more than fine fans.

The Doctor (to the crew): “I’m sorry with all of my hearts but this is one of those rare times when I don’t have a choice.”

The Doctor: “That’s the Adelaide Brooke I’ve always wanted to meet. The woman with starlight in her soul.”

I liked the design of Gadget, deliberately scrapped together and the moment where Roman’s being electrocuted as a result of The Doctor’s upgrade is probably the funniest moment in the episode.

Adelaide: “Are you the Doctor or the janitor?”
The Doctor: “I don’t know, sounds like me. Maintenance man of the universe.”

Adelaide: “I thought you hated robots.”
The Doctor: “I do.”

The earliest trailer we got for this episode, post April was back in July as a result of Comic-Con.

The Doctor: “Water is patient, Adelaide. Water justs waits. When it’s done the cliff tops, the mountains, the whole of the world, water always wins.”

Adelaide (re Dalek): “It simply went away. I swore that night I would follow it.”
The Doctor: “But not for revenge?”
Adelaide: “What would be the point of that?”

Despite a lot of rumours, this episode did not feature the Ice Warriors but there was the strong implication that they trapped the Flood in a glacier on Mars.

Adelaide: “Why won’t you help, Doctor, if you know all this, why can’t you change it?”
The Doctor: “I can’t.”

Ed (to Adelaide): “You never could forgive me. See you later.”

This episode had an “In Memory” tribute to the recently deceased Barry Letts. I love this show for honouring past producers.

Adelaide: "It can't be stopped. Don't die with us."
The Doctor: “No, because someone told me, just recently, they said I was gonna die. They said he would knock four times and I think I know what that means and it doesn’t mean right here, right now ‘cause I don’t hear anyone knocking, do you?”

The Doctor (to Adelaide): “We’re not just fighting the Flood, we’re fighting time itself and I’m gonna win.”

A DVD for this episode and all of the specials (including “The Next Doctor”) is due for a January 2010 release.

Adelaide: “Is there nothing you can’t do?”
The Doctor: “Not anymore.”

The Doctor (to Ood Sigma): “I’ve gone too far. Is this it, my death? Is it time?”

The trailer showed the Master, Lucy, Donna, Wilfred, Joshua Naismith, Ood Sigma, alluded to nightmares and went under “The End Of Time”. A preview scene can be seen on Children In Need, BBC1 at 8pm from November 20th.

Given it’s unfortunate position, “The Waters Of Mars” not only turned out to be better than the previous episode but it was amazing. Devastating, highlighting a real beginning of the end feel that we’ve had to be accustomed with for the past year. Thank goodness we only have to wait a month for the next special. I don’t think I would be able to wait any longer for it.

Rating: 10 out of 10.


Anonymous said...

i feel the same, another stunning review mate! :) loved this episode and cannot wait for Christmas!! :D thank you

Anonymous said...

Great review!

I was interested in Adelaide and Ed's relationship. I'm sure there was something between those two. I wonder what she couldn't forgive him for.

Can we please have a spinoff to find out more about the Bowie base crew. I loved them all!

shawnlunn2002 said...

Thanks, this episode was utterly brutal but some of the best writing from the series. Maybe Adeliade and Ed were briefly lovers. Christmas cannot come fast enough.