The Waters of Mars
|201 – "The Waters of Mars"|
|Doctor Who episode|
Maggie infected with the water.
|Writer||Russell T Davies and Phil Ford|
|Script editor||Gary Russell|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||15 November 2009|
"The Waters of Mars" is the third episode of the 2008-2010 specials of British science fiction television series Doctor Who, broadcast on BBC One on 15 November 2009. It aired on BBC America on 19 December 2009 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 11 January 2010 and in the US on 2 February 2010. The story is set on Mars in the year 2059 where the Doctor encounters the first human colony, Bowie Base One. This is commanded by Captain Adelaide Brooke who turns out to be a pivotal character in the history of humanity. The Doctor must decide whether to use his knowledge of her fate to change history. According to Doctor Who writer and producer Russell T Davies, the special is closely linked to the next two episodes but is not the first part of a three-part story. The special was dedicated to Barry Letts, the former writer and producer of Doctor Who who died in October 2009. The episode won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
The Doctor lands his TARDIS on Mars in 2059; while wandering the landscape, he comes across "Bowie Base One", the first human colony on the planet. He is detained by its crew, led by Captain Adelaide Brooke. The Doctor learns the current date, and sorrowfully recalls that on this date, the base was destroyed by a nuclear blast with no survivors; the event would cause humanity, including Adelaide's descendants, to further explore the universe and meet interstellar lifeforms, and thus is considered an event "fixed in time". He reluctantly becomes involved in the base's problems when Adelaide cannot communicate with crew members in the remote bio-dome.
In the bio-dome, they find the two crew members: they have become infected by a water-borne virus that causes their bodies to generate copious amounts of water and become zombie-like in movement. The virus is intelligent; it attempts to infect the others through the already-affected crew. One of the infected people is put into quarantine; Adelaide and the Doctor return to central control and the base is sealed. Studying the infected crewmember, the Doctor and Adelaide learn that the virus desires to go to the water-rich Earth, an event they must not allow to happen. While inspecting the glacier that is the source of the base's water, the Doctor surmises that the virus was trapped there eons ago by the Ice Warriors. Adelaide discovers that one of the filters was not properly fitted, which allowed the virus to enter the bio-dome's water supply. Adelaide realises that the rest of the crew has yet to be exposed to the tainted water, and orders them to prepare to return to Earth via rocket. The Doctor puts on his spacesuit and leaves for the TARDIS, but Adelaide stops him and demands he reveal what he knows; the Doctor sadly explains the fate of the base and its crew.
As the Doctor walks back towards the TARDIS, he hears over his headset the infected beings breach central control; others, including their pilot Ed, become infected. Ed destroys the rocket to strand the virus on Mars. As Adelaide and her last two remaining crew, Yuri and Mia, become trapped by the water, the Doctor returns to the base, delays the advance of the infected crew, and, as Adelaide initiates the base's auto-destruct sequence, uses the exploration robot GADGET to bring the TARDIS to the base in time to evacuate it before self-destruct.
The TARDIS materialises on Earth outside Adelaide's home. Yuri tends to an emotionally distraught Mia while Adelaide asks the Doctor why he saved them. He explains that before, such actions were prohibited by the Time Lords, but now as the last Time Lord, he can use his power to ensure the survival of pivotal figures such as Adelaide in addition to the "little people" he has rescued previously. Adelaide becomes resentful, and questions the Doctor's authority to make such decisions; the Doctor asserts that as the only survivor of the Time War, he is "the Time Lord Victorious". Adelaide turns and enters her home, soon there after killing herself with her own weapon.
The Doctor recoils in shock as he realises that Adelaide has ensured that history is unchanged, save for Yuri and Mia as witnesses to the fate of Bowie Base One. The Doctor is overcome with emotion as Adelaide's words - "I don't care who you are - the Time Lord Victorious is wrong" - echo in his mind. Ood Sigma appears in the street. Visibly shaken, the Doctor sees this as a message and says, "I've gone too far." He then asks whether it is time for him to die. Unresponsive, Sigma vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS to the ominous sound of the cloister bell. With a defiant "No!" he begins to operate the controls.
The Doctor's spacesuit is the same one that he wore in "The Satan Pit."
The Ice Warriors are classic series aliens that originated on Mars long before the events depicted here. In the series' original run, they appeared in The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death, The Curse of Peladon, and The Monster of Peladon; in the revived series, the creatures make their return appearance in "Cold War". In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor speculates that it may have been the Ice Warriors who froze the aquatic infection to stop it spreading.
The Doctor refers to the events of "The Fires of Pompeii", saying both events are fixed points in time.
Adelaide is shown in a flashback of her experiences as a young girl during the events of "The Stolen Earth", where her father put her in an attic to keep her safe from the Dalek invasion. Though a Dalek observed her through the attic window, it did not attack her; the Doctor presumes that the Dalek spared Adelaide because it realised that her death was a fixed point in time.
Ood Sigma (who is seen at the end of the episode when the Doctor realises the severity of what he has done) previously appeared in "Planet of the Ood", where he likewise predicted not only the events of "Journey's End", but the Tenth Doctor's death.
The Doctor remembers several previous declarations he's made about the Time Lords as he decides to help the survivors. These audio clips were taken from several episodes, including "Rise of the Cybermen", "Doomsday", "Gridlock", and "Utopia".
The Doctor makes reference to Carmen's prophecy that "he will knock four times", made at the end of the previous story. Leading up to the final destruction of Bowie Base One, the infected Andy Stone pounds three times on a secure door in a bid to gain entry to the control centre. The Doctor electrifies the door to prevent Andy striking the door a fourth time.
The Doctor refers to humanity's first venture outside the Solar System as taking place in the time of Captain Adelaide Brooke's granddaughter. In the classic series episode The Invisible Enemy, the Fourth Doctor states that this milestone occurred in the 51st century. However, this contradicted a number of previous episodes where the First and Third Doctors visited human explorers and colonies in other star systems as early as the 25th century, and has been contradicted by many episodes since. (See Chronology of the Doctor Who universe.)
"The Waters of Mars" was originally conceived as a Christmas special with the title "Red Christmas". In this story's accompanying episode of Doctor Who Confidential, it was confirmed that Bowie Base One is named after David Bowie, the writer and singer of "Life on Mars?". Filming for the special began on 23 February 2009. In late February, David Tennant, Duncan and other actors were seen filming in Victoria Place, Newport. The filming took place on a city street, which the production team covered with artificial snow. The glasshouse scenes were filmed in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire. Also present during filming were a small robot inscribed with the word "GADGET" and Ood Sigma from the 2008 episode "Planet of the Ood". The robot was included in a promotional image released on the official Doctor Who website.
Producer Nikki Wilson described Captain Adelaide Brooke, played by actress Lindsay Duncan, as "the Doctor's cleverest and most strong-minded companion yet." David Tennant said, "Well, she's not really a companion like the others have been... She's very wary of the Doctor; she's not the sort of person you could imagine hooking up with him and riding off into the sunset... she's kind of the alpha male in the room, really. So, the Doctor has to learn to assume a slightly different role when he's around her."
A 30-second teaser trailer for this episode aired after the broadcast of "Planet of the Dead". On 9 July 2009, a short clip of the episode was made available online. On 28 July 2009, at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, a longer trailer was shown, which was posted on the BBC website soon afterwards. On 8 November 2009, a short trailer was played on BBC One.
Broadcast and reception
According to overnight viewing figures, "The Waters of Mars" was watched by 9.1 million people. The episode also received an Appreciation Index score of 88 (considered Excellent). More accurate, consolidated statistics from the BARB state that official ratings ended up at 10.32 million viewers for the UK premiere and that "The Waters of Mars" was the fifth most watched programme of the week. It was first broadcast on a Sunday, the only non-Christmas episode of the revived series to air outside the usual Saturday evening slot.
"The Waters of Mars" achieved relatively high ratings in the United States, drawing over 1.1 million viewers: at the time the highest ever primetime rating for BBC America (later beaten by the Series 5 opener followed by the Series 6 opener).
Critical reception was generally positive. Sam Wollaston of The Guardian complimented the episode for showing "a side to the Doctor ... that we haven't really seen before – indecisive, confused, at times simply plain wrong" and Tennant's tenure of the part overall as bringing "humanity and humour to the part", with his only criticism being of "the irritating little robot, Gadget". Though Robert Colville of The Daily Telegraph criticised "the glaring inconsistencies" between this episode and the Doctor's previous frequent historical interventions, he complimented the scenario for "allow[ing] us to watch Tennant wrestle with his conscience and curiosity ... [in what] was a logical progression for the character".
Like Wollaston, Colville was "not sure what the children will have made of it, but it set things up intriguingly for Tennant’s final two-part adventure". Zap2it's Sam McPherson named it the fifth best Tenth Doctor episode, describing it as "fun" and "dark" and noting the character development of the Doctor.
"The Waters of Mars" won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, over the two previous Doctor Who specials, "The Next Doctor" and "Planet of the Dead".
Selected pieces of score from this special, as composed by Murray Gold, were included in the specials soundtrack on 4 October 2010, released by Silva Screen Records.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tenth Doctor|
- The Waters of Mars on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- "The Waters of Mars" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- "The Waters of Mars" at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Waters of Mars" at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
- "The Waters of Mars" at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Shooting Script for "The Waters of Mars"