The Waters of Mars

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201 – "The Waters of Mars"
Doctor Who episode
A woman with cracked skin around her mouth with water leaking from it.
Maggie, infected with the Flood.
Directed byGraeme Harper[1]
Written byRussell T Davies and Phil Ford
Script editorGary Russell
Produced byNikki Wilson[2]
Executive producer(s)Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
Production code4.16
Series2008–2010 specials
Length60 minutes
First broadcast15 November 2009 (2009-11-15)[3][4]
← Preceded by
"Planet of the Dead"
Followed by →
The End of Time
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The Waters of Mars" is the third episode of the 2008–2010 specials of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC One on 15 November 2009.[3][4] It aired on BBC America on 19 December 2009 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 11 January 2010[5] and in the US on 2 February 2010.[6] The story is set on Mars in the year 2059[7][8] 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.[7] 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.[9] The special was dedicated to Barry Letts, the former writer and producer of Doctor Who who died in October 2009.[10][11] The episode won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.


The Doctor arrives on Mars via his TARDIS in 2059, near humanity's first Martian colony, "Bowie Base One". He dons a spacesuit to walk to the base, where inside he is detained by its crew led by Captain Adelaide Brooke. As they interrogate him, he discovers that today is a "fixed point" in time; the base will explode, killing the entire crew, but their death will inspire Adelaide's granddaughter to explore the stars. He tries to stay uninvolved, but Adelaide forces him to assist her responding to an alert from the remote biodome.

Two crewmen appear to be in a zombie-like state, generating copious amounts of water. One of Adelaide's team gets infected, and they quarantine her while sealing off the biodome. From observation, they discover that the infection is by the intelligent virus, the Flood, and now seeks to get to Earth. The Doctor suspects the Flood were sealed in the glacier the base was using for water by the Ice Warriors aeons ago, and a bad filter allowed the virus to infect the crew. Adelaide realises the remaining crew have not yet touched that source of water and are uninfected, and orders the crew to evacuate to their rocket back to Earth while setting the base to self-destruct. Before departing, the Doctor is forced to explain to Adelaide what he knows happens and why he cannot get involved.

The Doctor starts walking back when he hears cries of help: the infected crew have broken the biodome seal and are now attacking the central hub with massive amounts of water, infecting several others. The rocket's pilot is infected, but he sacrifices himself by causing the rocket to self-destruct to strand the Flood, at the cost of stranding the remaining crew as well. The Doctor races back and rescues Adelaide and the last surviving crew, Yuri and Mia, via the TARDIS moments before the base destructs. He returns them to Earth, arriving outside Adelaide's home. Yuri takes a shocked Mia away, while Adelaide demands to know why the Doctor saved them and risked changing history. The Doctor insists that he can break the laws of time to save the "little people", calling himself "Time Lord Victorious". Adelaide becomes indignant and warns him, "I don't care who you are - the Time Lord Victorious is 'wrong'", before stepping into her home and killing herself.

The Doctor is shocked; he realises that history has not changed save for knowledge of the base's fate from Yuri and Mia. Ood Sigma appears in the street. Visibly shaken, the Doctor sees this as a message and says, "I've gone too far", and asks if it is time for him to die. Unresponsive, Sigma vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS to the ringing of the cloister bell. With a defiant "No!", he begins to operate the controls.


The Doctor's spacesuit is the same as the ones that he wore in "The Satan Pit" and "42".

The Doctor mentions the Ice Warriors, villains from the classic series most often associated with the Second Doctor.

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 serial The Invisible Enemy (1977), 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.


Filming of "The Waters of Mars".

"The Waters of Mars" was originally conceived as a Christmas special with the title "Red Christmas".[12] 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?".[13] Filming for the special began on 23 February 2009.[2] In late February, David Tennant, Duncan and other actors were seen filming in Victoria Place, Newport.[14] The filming took place on a city street, which the production team covered with artificial snow.[14][15] The glasshouse scenes were filmed in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire.[16] Also present during filming were a small robot inscribed with the word "GADGET" and Ood Sigma from the 2008 episode "Planet of the Ood".[17] The robot was included in a promotional image released on the official Doctor Who website.[18]

Producer Nikki Wilson described Captain Adelaide Brooke, played by actress Lindsay Duncan, as "the Doctor's cleverest and most strong-minded companion yet."[2] 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."[19]


A 30-second teaser trailer for this episode aired after the broadcast of "Planet of the Dead".[20] 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.[21] On 8 November 2009, a short trailer was played on BBC One.[22]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

According to overnight viewing figures, "The Waters of Mars" was watched by 9.1 million people.[23] The episode also received an Appreciation Index score of 88 (considered Excellent).[24] 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.[25]

"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).[26]

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".[27] 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".[28] 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.[29]

"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".[30][31]


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.


  1. ^ Spilsbury, Tom, ed. (2009-02-04). "Gallifrey Guardian: Harper confirmed as director for Special 4.16". Doctor Who Magazine. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics (404): 6.
  2. ^ a b c Spilsbury, Tom, ed. (2009-04-01). "Gallifrey Guardian: Filming starts on the next Special". Doctor Who Magazine. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics (406): 5.
  3. ^ a b "Doctor Who - The Waters Edge Closer". BBC. 2008-03-28.
  4. ^ a b "Doctor Who 'Mars' airdate revealed". Digital Spy. 2009-10-30.
  5. ^ Spilsbury, Tom, ed. (2009-12-09). "Gallifrey Guardian: DVD box sets galore for 2010!". Doctor Who Magazine. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics (415): 9.
  6. ^ "Doctor Who DVD news: Release Dates for The Waters of Mars and Other Specials on DVD and Blu-ray". 30 October 2009. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Network TV Programme Information - Week 46 - Sunday 15 November 2009". BBC. 2004-02-10.
  8. ^ "Desert Storm". Doctor Who Confidential. 11 April 2009. Julie Gardner: ...our Autumn episode, set on Mars...
  9. ^ Davies, Russell T (March 2009). "SFX Magazine". SFX Magazine.
  10. ^ "Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars - A Round Up". BBC. 2008-03-28.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who - A Tribute to Barry Letts (1925 - 2009)". BBC. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
  12. ^ "Doctor Who: The Commentary". BBC Radio 7. 2009-11-16.
  13. ^ Russell T Davies (2009-11-15). Doctor Who Confidential episode 61. BBC.
  14. ^ a b Lewis, Tim (2009-03-02). "Fans gather to see Doctor Who's new assistant". Western Mail.
    Nicholls, Matt (2009-03-01). "Doctor Who teams up with award-winner Lindsay Duncan". Wales on Sunday.
  15. ^ "Walesarts, Victoria Place, Newport". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
  16. ^ "National Botanic Garden of Wales : Doctor Who". Garden of Wales. Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
  17. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (2009-03-02). "The Comeback That Brings The Doctor To His Knees". io9. Gawker Media.
    Anders, Charlie Jane (2009-03-04). "The Genesis Of Nero's Star Trek Quest. Plus Rorschach Opens Up". io9. Gawker Media.
  18. ^ "Doctor Who - Tantalizing!". BBC. 2008-03-28.
  19. ^ "David Tennant unveils Dr Who special, The Waters Of Mars". ITN. 14 November 2009. Archived from the original on 25 December 2011.
  20. ^ "The Waters of Mars Trailer". BBC. 11 April 2009. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012.
  21. ^ "Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars - Videos". BBC. 2008-03-28.
  22. ^ "Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars - New Trailer". BBC. 2009-11-08.
  23. ^ "Waters of Mars Ratings". The Doctor Who News Page. 2009-11-29.
  24. ^ "Waters of Mars Appreciation Index". The Doctor Who News Page. 2009-11-17.
  25. ^ "Over Ten Million Watched Waters of Mars". The Doctor Who News Page. 2009-11-29.
  26. ^ "'Doctor Who' Special Propels BBC America to Best Prime Ever". Multichannel News. 2009-12-22.
  27. ^ Wollaston, Sam (2009-11-16). "Review: The Waters of Mars". The Guardian.
  28. ^ Colville, Robert (2009-11-16). "Review: The Waters of Mars". The Telegraph.
  29. ^ McPherson, Sam (2010-01-02). "The Tenth Doctor's Top 5 Doctor Who Episodes". Zap2it.
  30. ^ "2010 Hugo Award Winners". World Science Fiction Society. 2010-09-06.
  31. ^ "2010 Hugo Award Nominees – Details". World Science Fiction Society. 2010-04-04.

External links[edit]