The latest Doctor Who story has finally aired. What did I think of “The Waters of Mars”? You’ll find out below, but as always:
Like the previous special, “Planet of the Dead”, this one had the problem if being a so-so story that wouldn’t have been a big deal in a full season, but greatly disappoints as a special. At its core, it was the standard base-invasion story that the show has done dozens of times. There isn’t anything particularly special or interesting about the invaders, they’re just things to run away from. And these days, with the hour running time, there’s even less time to give all these people enough time to let the viewer invest in them. Who will survive? Apart from Adelaide Brooke, who really cares?
(I will say that the monsters are pretty creepy, and the crackly bits around their mouths did remind me of the Ice Warriors, who I’m glad got namechecked.)
But to make matters worse, an extra layer was put on top of the whole thing. This event is a “fixed point in time” that the Doctor cannot interfere with. While it’s true that he’s sometimes adamant about not being able to change certain things (or, at least, adamant about not wanting Adric hanging around again) it’s a strange idea to have the Doctor so resigned to what’s happening.
And with him resigned, Russell Davies is also resigned. The base crew don’t even attempt to try and harm the creatures. Obviously freezing them does something, how about boiling them? Shooting them? Doing something other than pretty much giving up from the get-go? In an ordinary episode the Doctor would find a vaccine or something, some way to solve the problem. In this one, we’re told right away that whether or not a solution is possible is immaterial; the base must be destroyed to preserve the important feature of Adelaide’s granddaughter wanting to go into space. What? Fine, then destroy the base and take the occupants away in the TARDIS, letting them live out their lives elsewhere in Time and Space. Net effect is still the same, and we don’t have to edit Wikipedia to preserve the change.
What I’m saying is, the “fixed point” idea is an interesting concept, but it totally removes the suspense. The viewer should not be asking himself, “Man, I sure hope the Doctor can manage to do nothing in this episode!”
And the Daleks respect this fixed point bullshit? What? The DALEKS? We are to understand that the Dalek, understanding how important Adelaide is to the future of humankind, looks at her and says, “Man, I want to exterminate the shit out of that little girl, but the laws of time forbid me to! JJJJJJJ!“? I’m sorry, but that is absurd.
And then, then, on top of all of these things, the Doctor loses his mind at the end of the story. For no good reason. Again, he can easily go, “Okay, blow up the base and I’ll take you elsewhere and everyone is happy,” but instead he flashes back to the end of “The Armageddon Factor” and decides, “Huh! I should have remained the master of space and time after all! What was I thinking?” And why? Because Russell Davies needs Something Big to end out his and Tennant’s tenure, so we go to Dark Doctor mode. He needs a companion to stop him and all, blah blah blah, we’ve seen this all before.
This overlooks the fact that we watch Doctor Who and we love The Doctor because he is the HERO. Because he’s not the typical violent hero or more violent anti-hero. Because he loves Adelaide because she doesn’t fire her weapon. Of course he always has this undercurrent of danger about him, but the whole point of the character is that despite the power at his fingertips, he is the good guy. I don’t want to watch him bluster and yell and be called a monster just because there isn’t currently someone palling around with him. That’s not why I tune in. (And yes, I understand the whole dramatic concept of tearing something down so you can build it back up, but since this is Russell Davies we’re talking about here, all it means is that things go to shit and then someone glows and everything is right again.)
Now, I am interested in the previews for the next special. I’m glad we’re getting the whole “Master” thing right out there for once, and I think pal Dave has the connection between him and Donna figured out. But again, with Davies at the helm, I’m a little bit wary (don’t get me wrong, I think we all owe Davies a great deal, but he just does some bad writing and awful, awful endings.)
So,”The Waters of Mars”: not so good. Better if you take away the Dark Doctor foolishness, and better still if you remove the “fixed point” absurdity, but even then you’re just treading extremely familiar ground.