Sunday, June 18, 2017

Doctor Who 10.09: “Empress of Mars”

“Fight, yes, fight for the future not a dead past.”
- The Doctor

Now that the Monks have been expelled from the planet, the Doctor and Bill can go on another proper off-world adventure, this time to nearby Mars. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Doctor go to Mars and have some moral dilemmas. After all, Ten got super angry when he was last on the red planet. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole get to Mars by way of a visit to NASA where their new space camera finds a message below the surface of Mars’ icecap that says “God Save the Queen”. So, they headed back to 1881 because that’s when the TARDIS determined the message was carved.

Things quickly get confusing. First, Bill finds a fire so there’s oxygen. And then she falls down a dirt shoot. Nardole goes back to the TARDIS to get some rope and the TARDIS just takes off and won’t leave the Doctor’s office back in London. Unsure of what else to do, Nardole goes down to the vault and asks Missy for help. Yeah, don’t do that! She can’t be trusted. It’s going to end horribly for everyone. She may be putting on airs for the Doctor but I don’t believe she’s capable of change.

Back on Mars, the Doctor and Bill get a crash course in how a bunch of nineteenth century British soldiers ended up on Mars. One of the Ice Warriors crashed to Earth in Africa and the alien promised the soldiers riches for return to Mars. But there are no riches and the Ice Warriors appear to be dead so everyone seems to be losing out. The men have been digging for treasure and finally the machine breaks through a wall. But the Doctor isn’t happy with what he sees. Sure, it’s a nice gilded sarcophagus with some crazy gemstone rock formations but he suspects it’s the tomb of an Ice Queen and could in fact be the entrance to the Ice Warrior hive. When the Doctor and Bill question the remaining Ice Warrior, he just says that he’s old and tired.

Because humans are complete assholes, of the men drugs his superior with the intent of stealing the precious metals from the tomb and heading off world in the actually repaired ship. The Doctor is going to be very cross about all of this when he finds out. And in typical fashion, the guy steals some jewels and gets obliterated. And now we have an angry Ice Queen to deal with. The soldiers are all about fighting with guns but the Doctor tries to reason with the Queen diplomatically. He explains how the humans helped her sentinel return home and Bill even says that the world is dead and there’s nothing left. But one of the soldiers gets off a shot that pings off the Queen’s head and in response to the Doctor’s request for mercy, she promises to kill them all quickly. Yeah, this is not going well guys! I do have to wonder who the Doctor will choose when it comes down to it. I mean, he’s always been humanity’s champion for the most part.

The colonel quickly gets relieved of his command when the second-in-command brings up the fact he was nearly hanged for desertion (okay, he was hanged it just didn’t take). So now the colonel, the Doctor and Bill have been tossed in the brig while the half-cocked asshole readies his men to fight off what they assume are only two Ice Warriors. Much like the Doctor surmised, the Queen is waking her forces and these colonial morons are no match for Martian tech. As predicted, the Martians kick the colonial ass and then the colonel does something a little brave and killed the other guy. The colonel expects to be executed but the Queen sees fit to let him live. She’s impressed by his bravery and willingness to stand up for his people so she asks him to pledge his loyalty to her and she’ll ensure he dies in battle someday. He seems quite pleased with that outcome and hey, no one else has to die. Bill seems surprised that it all worked out this way, but as the Doctor points out, he knew it would end peacefully because he still thinks like a warrior.

We also see that the Doctor and Bill are responsible for the “God Save the Queen” message on Mars. See, the Doctor sent out a request for any space-faring races to pick up the Ice Warriors and take them to a new world. The message is for the incoming spacecraft to locate and lock on to. So, it didn’t end as badly as I expected and at least at this point the Doctor is a lot less angry than the last time he set foot on the planet. Well, that is until Nardole manages to show back up with the TARDIS. He just about warns the Doctor of what he’s going to find inside before the Doctor walks in and see Missy at the controls. We get some very odd music cues, that almost remind me of the drama between the Master and Ten when Ten regenerated which I have a feeling was done on purpose. I mean, we’ve known all season that the Master was supposed to show up. But the Doctor looks very confused and says he has to put Missy back in the vault. She seems okay with that but then asks if the Doctor is okay and he doesn’t answer. I’m very interested to see where the final three episodes of the season go. Will we actually get a regeneration prior to this year’s Christmas Special or have the actors and writers been pulling our legs? And will Missy actually find some sort of redemption? The Doctor/Missy relationship does make me want to go back and see what they were like in the Classic Who years because it’s clearly a very storied past and one that was obviously already explored that I just don’t know about.

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