by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars"

Posted 6 December 2009 in by Catriona

Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve had a new episode of Doctor Who to live-blog. Not since “Planet of the Dead” in May, which is here, if you didn’t read it the first time.

Oh, dear: the ABC newsreader has just said that police in the Top End have been “dropping lines with youngsters.” I think it’s about fishing, but I’m laughing too hard to actually listen to the story.

Now, for this live-blogging I have my brother and his girlfriend, who are up from Sydney on a visit, sitting in, but I don’t know if they’ll be saying anything they want live-blogged. Let’s play it by ear, shall we?

Currently, my brother is being bewildered by the fact that Queensland ABC has a different newsreader than does Sydney ABC. He doesn’t come and visit me very often . . .

Here we are.

We open on crackly video footage of baby Susie and her mother, talking to Lindsay Duncan. The footage is breaking up, because of the solar flares, but before the woman can finish talking about her house deposit, the footage breaks up.

Then the TARDIS materialises, and out the Doctor steps in his spacesuit, saying, “Oh, the Red Planet!” That’s a beautiful shot.

But we cut away from it to a Russian chap, Yuri, who is setting a solar panel with “No Trespassers” on it outside the space base. Ed, an Australian chap, tells Yuri not to waste solar panels, just before Lindsay Duncan comes in and tells Ed she expected better of him. Ed gives her an unhappy look as she walks away.

Then the Doctor, looking over the space base, is arrested for trespassing by a robot.

No, seriously.


Beautiful shot of the dome, before we cut inside to find Lindsay Duncan holding a gun on the Doctor.

LINDSAY: State your name, rank, and purpose.
DOCTOR: The Doctor. Doctor. Fun.

People are fascinated by the Doctor’s appearance on Mars, but he’s more interested in convincing Lindsay to put down the gun that she’s holding to his head. She does, but only because Gadget, the robot, is still covering him. Gadget is being controlled through “auto-glove response” by a young American guy.

We cut to the bio-dome, where the gardeners are pulling up the first carrot grown on Mars. At which point my brother’s girlfriend, a botanist, goes into hysterics. But Andy, the gardener, washes the carrot (more hysterics), and drops to his knees in the background, where he starts convulsing.

Maggie, the other gardener, asks if he’s all right, and when he turns around, to show pale eyes and a cracked, dry mouth, she starts screaming.

Back on the control room, the Doctor has just learned that this is Bowie Base One, the first humans on Mars. And now he knows who they are.

And he runs through the names. “Oh, I’m so stupid!” he says. “You’re Captain Adelaide Brooke!” And we flip to her bio., which shows her as dying in 2059. Deputy Ed Gold, dead 2059. Tarak Ital, MD, dead 2059. Senior Technician Steffi Ehrlich, dead 2059. Junior Technician Roman Groom, dead 2059. Nurse Yuri Kerenski, dead 2059. Geologist Mia Bennet, dead 2059.

“Oh, you’re only 27,” he says to Mia, who looks more than a little freaked out by this.

The Doctor asks the date, and we flip to a news report that shows the destruction of Bowie Base One. Today.

The Doctor says he really has to go, because this is one of the rare cases where he really can’t interfere. But as he’s turning away, he asks about the other two members of the crew, Maggie and Andy. And when Ed brings up the bio-dome on the comms, we hear a strange roar.

Adelaide won’t hear of the Doctor leaving at this point, because this all started after he arrived. So she’s heading to the bio-dome, and he’s coming with her, she says. Tarak goes, too. And Gadget, though the Doctor keeps talking about how much he hates novelty robots.

ROMAN: My friend, she made her domestic robot look like a dog.
DOCTOR: Oh, well, dogs. That’s different.

As they approach the bio-dome, the Doctor asks Adelaide if it was worth it, and she says it was, talking about the environmental disasters on Earth. But the conversation is cut off—just after the Doctor rather cloyingly refers to her as “the woman with starlight in her soul”—when they see Maggie lying unconscious outside the bio-dome.

Yuri comes running with a med kit, so he can stabilise Maggie. Ed comes running because I’m quite convinced that he’s knocking off Maggie. But Adelaide gives him an official warning for leaving his post, and sends him back.

Steffi tells Adelaide that the voice print of the roar matches Andy’s voice print.

She, the Doctor, and Talak head into the bio-dome, which is a real botanical garden in Cardiff, apparently, complete with birds.

In the med. centre, Yuri tells Adelaide that Maggie is awake, but she’s in isolation for twenty-four hours. Ed asks Maggie if she remembers how she ended up in the tunnel, but Adelaide snaps at him to keep the comms clear.

In the bio-dome, Talak comes across Andy, who is standing silently at the end of a corridor, with water dripping from his sleeves in huge quantities. Talak asks Andy to turn around, and he does with the same roar that we heard when he turned on Maggie.

In the med centre, Yuri is talking about his brother, while, in soft focus behind him, Maggie starts convulsing. When she stops and looks up, her voice sounds different, as she asks Yuri where his brother lives. And when he turns and looks up at her, we see that she has the same dry, cracked mouth as Andy, and water is pouring out of her mouth.

Yuir contacts Adelaide, who tells him to calm down, but she tries to contact Talak to tell him that the area is unsafe. It’s certainly unsafe for Talak, who is currently down on his knees as Andy, who has a hand on Talak’s face, pours water over him.

They convince Andy to let Talak go, but to no real purpose, because Talak is already showing the same blank eyes and cracked mouth. The Doctor says that they need to go, and he and Adelaide leg it, followed closely by Andy and Talak. The Doctor and Adelaide make it through the sealed door, but Andy and Talak stand outside, trying to break the seals with water.

In the med. centre, Ed is looking at Maggie, who has both hands against the glass wall, with water pouring out from her palms and her mouth.

The Doctor, with his usual curiosity, wants to know if Andy can talk, but there’s no sign that he can. The Doctor has to dial his curiosity back, because he says he can’t stay, no matter what has started here. The door is airtight and therefore, Adelaide says, watertight, but it’s also electronic, so Andy and Talak fuse the circuits, and the door opens.

Luckily, since Andy and Talak can run faster than the Doctor and Adelaide, they’ve left Gadget outside, and the Doctor soups him up, so they can get to the main door ahead of their pursuers—of course, this isn’t much fun for Roman, who is still wearing the gloves, but at least they make it through the door ahead of Talak and Andy. This door is hermetically sealed, so they can’t break through, says Adelaide, but the Doctor says that water is patient, and water always wins.

Adelaide heads to the med. centre, with the Doctor trailing behind her, complaining about the distances they have to travel. In the med. centre, the Doctor speaks to Maggie in a language that he says is “ancient North Martian,” though Adelaide tells him not to be ridiculous. Maggie seems to recognise the language, though, as Ed points out.

The Doctor wonders what the creatures want, and Yuri says she was looking at the picture of Earth, with all its water.

Ed tells Adelaide that this is an unknown infection, and they need to go to Action One. The Doctor leaps in to say, “But that’s evacuation!”

Yes, it is. They need to evacuate the base, especially since these creatures seem to want Earth.

So they’re stripping the base as quickly as possible. But the Doctor takes Adelaide aside, to point out that though Talak changed immediately, Maggie did not. Any one of them could be infected, the Doctor says, and water is patient: they could take the infection back to Earth.

Adelaide agrees, and heads out to check the ice field.

There’s no reason for him to check the ice field, the Doctor says to Yuri, who isn’t paying the slightest bit of attention as he packs up the med. centre. No reason at all—before he goes haring off, screaming, “Adelaide!”

Yuri leaves the med. centre, and Maggie immediately blows out the electronic seal on the isolation bay door, steps out into the med. centre, and screams, a scream to which Andy and Talak respond.

At the ice field, the Doctor talks about the Ice Warriors, and wonders if they ever came across this creature.

As he and Adelaide access the computer data about the water flow, Adelaide says to him, “You don’t look like a coward. But all you’ve been trying to do is run.” And he explains that some moments in time are fixed, some moments in time must always occur. And this moment here, on Bowie Base One, must always happen.

What happens here? Adelaide asks.

And the Doctor says that he thinks something wonderful happened. Something that started fifty years ago. Adelaide says that she never told anyone that, but the Doctor says that she told her daughter, and maybe, one day, her daughter told the story of the time, fifty years ago in continuity, when the Earth was stolen (at the end of season four of Doctor Who), and Adelaide saw the Dalek.

She says it looked right into her, and then it simply went away. She knew that night that she would follow it.

DOCTOR: But not for revenge?
ADELAIDE: What would be the point of that?
DOCTOR: And that’s what makes you remarkable.

He tells her that she, Adelaide Brooke, is the woman who starts the human race’s movement into space, when her granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke is the captain of the first lightspeed shuttle to Proxima Centauri. That, he says, is the start of it all.

ADELAIDE: Why are you telling me all this?
DOCTOR: For consolation.

The computer beeps to tell them that Andy logged on to explain that the replacement water filters they sent didn’t fit. So the infection arrived today and since water is only cycled out of the central dome every week, the rest are clear.

She gives the Doctor his suit and tells him to leave.

ADELAIDE: I know which moment this is. It’s the moment we all escape.

But as they’re carrying food and equipment to the shuttle, and the Doctor watches then, we see Andy and Tarak climbing up ladders onto the top of the central dome, where they drop to their knees. Adelaide hears the beeping noise that the module sensors give, registering Andy and Talak’s presence on the roof. And from there, they start forcing water down through the structural elements of the dome.

Mia, clutching Yuri’s hand, wants to know whether they can get through. Adelaide says no: that’s ten feet of steel combination up there. But she asks Roman to keep an eye on the ceiling while the rest are loading the shuttle.

And as the film drops to slow motion and the music swells, the Doctor finally turns his back and heads out into the airlock. Adelaide watches him leave.

Ed races to the shuttle.

In the airlock, in his spacesuit, the Doctor finds that he can’t open the door. And Adelaide’s voice comes over the intercom, demanding to know what happens to the crew.

ADELAIDE: I could ramp up the pressure in there. Crush you.
DOCTOR: But you won’t. You could have shot Andy Stone, but you didn’t. I loved you for that.

And he tells her to imagine that she’s somewhere, say Pompeii. And you try to save them, he says, but what you do actually makes it happen. “Whatever I do, it makes it happen,” he says.

But he tells her that she’s taking Action One, and there are four other actions: the fifth is detonation. There’s a nuclear device in the heart of the dome, and today, Adelaide Brooke detonates that, destroying the base and all her crew. That’s what inspires her granddaughter.

DOCTOR: She takes your people out into space, because you die on Mars. You die. Today. She flies out there like she’s trying to meet you.

Adelaide asks the Doctor to help her, but he says he can’t. Most of the time he can, he says: most of the time he can at least save some of them. But not her: that’s why the Dalek spared her, because her death is fixed.

“You’ll die here, too,” she says. But he says no: she’ll save him.

She opens the door, saying “Damn you.”

And water breaks through the ceiling, at first blocking off their exit, and then blocking Steffi off from the rest of the crew. The Doctor hears all this through his helmet, as he walks away from the base.

Steffi locks herself into a small room, as Adelaide says they’ll get her from the access panels at the back. But, no: the water has broken into the room Steffi is hiding in, and she, pressed up against a comm panel, triggers a video of her family, which she’s watching as the water hits her and she begins convulsing.

The Doctor keeps walking away, and Adelaide tells the rest of her crew to get out, as Steffi opens to door and walks towards her.

In the shuttler, Ed is getting the engines online: we see them catch in the background as the Doctor walks away from the base.

As the rest of the crew hurry through the dome, Roman catches a drop of water on his face, and tells them all to go without him as he begins convulsing.

Ed, in the shuttle, is attacked by Maggie, who manages to drench him. He sets the shuttle to destruct, saying that he has no choice: they want the shuttle to get to Earth. He tells Adelaide that he hated this bloody job, that she never gave him a chance because she could never forgive him. Then he blows the shuttle—and that debris burns for quite a while in what must be a non-oxygen atmosphere.

The base burns, and the Doctor, knocked off his feet by the explosion, hears in his head all the snippets of information he has given his companions over the years, about how he’s the last of the Time Lords, that all the other Time Lords died, all of them.

And he marches back into the dome.

ADELAIDE: It can’t be stopped. Don’t die with us.
DOCTOR: Someone told me recently that I was going to die. They said “He will knock four times.” And I don’t think that meant here. Because I don’t hear anyone knocking, so you?

And then someone knocks. But only three times. The Doctor tells them that three knocks is all they get.

Adelaide tries to tell him that this futile, but he says there used to be people in charge of time, but they all died. He’s the last, and the laws of time are his to do with as he wishes.

This, right here, is the culmination of the Doctor’s Messiah complex of the last three seasons. This is the Doctor seeing himself as a god. Let’s see how well that works.

It seems as though the laws of time are going to win, as every step he takes (literally) blows up in his face, but he still has Gadget, left in storage, whom he sends haring out of the dome, in a slightly silly shot.

Maggie, down on the ice field, causes the glacier to crack.

And Adelaide initiates Action Five, setting the countdown for the nuclear device.

But Gadget reaches the TARDIS, and it’s a good thing that the Doctor didn’t forget to give him the key. I would have forgotten to give him the key.

Gadget triggers the TARDIS’s dematerialisation, but the bomb only has seconds left to countdown.

Bowie Base One explodes, and we pan back from the now-empty Mars. But, it seems, seconds were long enough, because the TARDIS rematerialises in the street, in the snow, discharging a smug Doctor, a stony Adelaide, a phlegmatic Yuri, and a heavily traumatised Mia.

They’re standing outside Adelaide’s house. Mia, seemingly, can barely cope with the fact that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside, though I think it’s more that this is the only trauma she can articulate at this point.

She runs off, and Adelaide sends Yuri off after her.

Adelaide stays, and challenges the Doctor. She accuses him of changing the entire future of the human race.

ADELAIDE: No one should have that much power.
DOCTOR: Tough.
ADELAIDE: You should have left us there.
DOCTOR: Adelaide, I’ve done this sort of thing before. Saved some little people. But no one as important as you. Oh, I’m good.
ADELAIDE: Little people? Like Yuri and Mia? Who decides that they’re so unimportant? You?
DOCTOR: For so long, I thought I was only a survivor. But I’m not. I’m a winner. The Time Lord Victorious.

I can hardly look at his face as he says this. Adelaide tells him that someone needs to stop him, and he asks who will, her?

Adelaide walks away from him, through the front door of her house—which he opened from a distance with his sonic screwdriver, drunk on his new sense of power—and shoots herself.

The Doctor staggers back against the TARDIS, hearing Adelaide’s voice telling him what she just told him: that she doesn’t care who he is, the Time Lord Victorious is wrong. The music swells behind him, as he watches history reshape itself to show that Adelaide Brooke died on Earth.

“I’ve gone too far,” he says, turning to see an Ood standing in the London street behind him. “Is this it?” he asks. “My death?”

The Ood doesn’t answer and the Doctor, heading into the TARDIS, stands and stares at the console before saying “No” and sending the TARDIS spinning off into time and space.

Share your thoughts [15]


Wendy wrote at Dec 6, 11:05 pm

I liked this episode much much more than the previous special. Lindsay Duncan was great!! And Australia’s own Peter O’Brien!!
But most of all liked the ending…a darker Doctor….when is the next one airing???


Catriona wrote at Dec 6, 11:21 pm

I was very disappointed in the last special: its real value, I thought, was in setting up the Doctor’s impending death.

(The next two air at Christmas and New Year in the U.K.: I don’t know about Australian airdates, but they’ve been fast-tracking them all so far. Well, medium-fast tracking them, I suppose.)

I don’t like the darker Doctor.

Actually, I should clarify that. I thought the development was great, but I was horrified and distressed by it.

I like the idea of the Doctor having to come to terms with this Messiah complex that he’s developed, but I want him to get his comeuppance. I’ve wanted him to get his comeuppance since he killed the Rachnos children in “The Runaway Bride” (and we’ve also discussed this change in the character in the comments thread for the live-blogging of “Family of Blood” in season three). I thought he’d rather learned his lesson in “Midnight,” but clearly not.

Lindsay Duncan was fabulous. And bless the BBC for giving us an actress who actually looks old enough to have the years of experience she’s supposed to have.

The BBC’s good at that, but it’s always such a relief after all those Hollywood films with archaeologists and rockets scientists and the like who are about twenty one, and show they’re smart by putting on their glasses and sexy by taking their hair down.

Although, now I say that, the Doctor shows he’s smart by putting on his glasses. Or is he showing that he’s sexy by putting on his glasses? Hmm.


Wendy wrote at Dec 7, 02:02 am

i think the Doctor’s glasses are meant to be smart and sexy…I guess

Yes I liked that Adelaide was older and allowed to show her experience.

It was a bit disturbing but that was what I liked about it…perhaps I’ve been too taken with Torchwood lately?

I would like fast fast tracking…


Matt wrote at Dec 7, 02:19 am

My iPhone ate my comment and I’m too lazy to retype it. The gist was that the episode had familiar devices: zombies and airlocks but the ending and setting were awesome.

I wanted to know more about the water things. Was Maggie their leader? Why did they want to go to earth if they can create water?


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 03:34 am

I suspect they wanted to go to Earth because they live in water. So they can create it, but presumably only in finite quantities, whereas if they’re on Earth, they can spread out over almost the entire planet.

Though now I type that, it doesn’t seem to make sense.

It does look as though Maggie was in some sort of position of control. I’d be interested to know whether that was because she’d been infected by the leader-creature (though I don’t see how that was possible, since she was presumably infected by Andy), or whether it was something in Maggie herself that allowed the creature in her to take charge, or whether the creatures just decided this was her task and it just looked to us as though she was in control.

Wendy, I agree that I liked the darker element of the show. I really liked this episode (except for the supercharged robot, which I thought was deeply silly).

But I still need to see him get his comeuppance, because this is clearly not the way the Doctor should be behaving. He’s entirely bought into his own Messiah complex in this episode.

So much stuff is boiling to the surface here: the death of the Master and the fact that he’s alone again; the fate of Donna and his guilt over that; his loss of Rose; the events of “Midnight”; the nearly nine-hundred years he’s spent running away from Gallifrey and the dusty senators who kept such an iron grip on the laws of time and space; and his grief over the loss of Gallifrey. All that’s boiling to the surface here, and it’s sent him over the edge.


Wendy wrote at Dec 7, 04:41 am

It’s pretty exciting though isn’t it!!

what was with the sudden obsession with bikes? surely the Doctor is not tired of running??


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 05:00 am

I thought that was a bit odd myself! All that stuff about how much running there is with the Doctor, and now he’s all about the little bikes? Odd.


Tim wrote at Dec 7, 05:47 am

Psst! Roman Groom also died in 2059.

The water zombies looked daft, I thought. Maybe not as daft as the fire-track robot, though, but even less plausible. Their production of vast quantities of some sufficiently advanced fluid indistinguishable from water was too hand-wavy to be scary. Lindsay Duncan was impressive, but the rest of the cast didn’t have enough time to be interesting — some running-around-in-corridors or Doctor-standing-still-wondering-what-to-do time could have been cut for that. (They could have built bikes on site.) And the Doctor’s turn to the Dark Side was too quick. And really, he ought to have thought of just packing them into the TARDIS as soon as he knew who wasn’t infected. The whole fixed-point-in-time thing seemed silly to me — there are obviously other humans who want to go to the stars, and how is Adelaide’s suicide supposed to be inspiring?

> the Doctor rather cloyingly refers to her as “the woman with starlight in her soul”…

New Who has been overdoing this sort of thing for a while. I guess RTD thinks it’s poetic and clever.


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 06:05 am

The thing is that the 0 and the 9 are terribly close together, and this was actually a difficult episode to live-blog. Lots of action, lots of fiddly details, not enough time to stop and explain why I didn’t like some bits.

(Nick said almost exactly the same thing about the “starlight in her soul” line. I really didn’t like that line.)

I liked the water zombies. At least, I liked the make-up and the dripping water. I did think they looked a little silly when they were spraying water out of their mouths, but not enough to undercut my general liking of the episode.

I have to ask: they could have built bikes on-site, but wouldn’t they have had to bring extra materials for that purpose, anyway? And wouldn’t that have just led to an increase in the required fuel, just as bringing bikes would have?

As to Adelaide’s suicide, I don’t know that it was meant to be inspiring. I read it as a reaction to the horror of watching her crew get whittled away by alien creatures, and being snatched away from it by someone who (as you pointed out and as she must have realised) could have saved them all right from the start, and then finding that the man who saved her did so because he deemed her to have some sort of value.

As she indicates when she asks whether Yuri and Mia are “little people,” she seems to think that the Doctor might well have left them to die, if she hadn’t been there, too. And that’s a particular kind of horror.

No, I didn’t think she meant that to be an inspiring act. It’s more a “screw you” than anything else.


Tim wrote at Dec 7, 06:50 am

They had trolleys (e.g. for moving the protein packs), so a couple of bikes would have been easy enough. A five-year mission in the 21st century is going to have some sort of machine shop. Also, they had multiple construction robots when they built the base. (I was expecting the point about the construction robots to be relevant later in the episode.)

I think we’re meant to read that Adelaide’s suicide is a heroic act to preserve the timeline. She’s not acting out of horror but of belief that she has to die. She doesn’t seem petty enough to do it as a ‘screw you’ gesture, and she’d want to see her daughter and granddaughter, but she’s accepted what he tells her about her fixed role in time. Which is silly, because I don’t see that she has much reason to believe him.


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 07:51 am

I agree that we’re meant to see it as an attempt to preserve the timeline.

I agree that she believes what he’s said about her death being a fixed point.

But I also think that the final conversation she has with him says that there’s more to her suicide than that, and it doesn’t need to be pettiness. It seems to indicate that she’s also doing it to show him that people have free will, and that whatever he thinks of himself, he is not a god to rearrange their lives as he sees fit.

She’s horrified by him and by what he’s done.

She’s horrified by his cavalier attitude to Mia and Yuri, especially since Mia prompted his compassion earlier in the episode. (In a way, his reaction to Mia shows how radically his stance has changed).

She’s horrified by the loss of her crew and by the destruction of the mission she’s been working towards for her entire life.

Given all that, and given that she barely leaves herself a moment to think about her action, I don’t think we need see the suicide purely as a heroic action. I think it looks as much like a traumatised reaction as it does a heroic action.


Tim wrote at Dec 7, 12:47 pm

Sure, it’s a reaction. But if she’s horrified by what he’s done to her crew and mission, why doesn’t she devote the rest of her life to helping raise her granddaughter or going back to Mars or something? I just don’t really buy that that character would kill herself, to be honest.


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 01:00 pm

Well, there are various forms of expiation. Not everyone automatically thinks in terms of good works. And we know she’s hard on her crew and intolerant of error, so it’s not outside reason that such a character would seek an extreme form of expiation.

Then again, I’m not sure that helping raise her grand-daughter or going back to Mars (and would they fund another mission to Mars? Knowing what they know?) would be the sort of response you’d necessarily have to such extreme trauma. As I mentioned above, she didn’t leave herself any time to think. Those kinds of responses are ones that you need to think about: she acted on impulse, much as she did when she detonated the nuclear device.


Tim wrote at Dec 7, 01:37 pm

Detonating the nuclear device seemed like a more rational act to me. It at least made sense in context.


Catriona wrote at Dec 7, 09:34 pm

When I first saw the episode, I thought the suicide had a strong flavour of the Captain going down with her ship, which also never struck me as a particularly rational act, but which made sense to me in context.

I still see it as being as much about that type of impulse as it is about trying to preserve the sanctity of the time streams: that is, if she didn’t have the horror and the guilt on top of the assurance that her death is a fixed point in time, she might have chosen another form of expiation or another way of inspiring Susie.

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