It's the age-old question everyone's asked: what would happen if Victorian British soldiers went to Mars? Happily, Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 10 provided the answer!
Turns out, they claim Mars in the name of the British Empire and start a war with the natives.
"The Empress of Mars" didn't sport a ton of surprises. Even Friday's claim to be the last of his kind was an obvious untruth, since the Doctor previously saw a whole bunch more in Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 8, "Cold War," set during the, well, Cold War.
Plus, the title of the episode itself made it apparent to anyone with any sense that said Empress was more than likely to make an appearance.
I will say this, though: the episode actually featured one rather large surprise for very-long-time fans of the series. This story marked the return of the character Alpha Centauri!
For those of you scratching your heads in confusion, this high-pitched, giant-one-eyed alien appeared in two stories in Classic Who, around forty years ago, and once again it's voiced by Ysanne Churchman! Nice touch, that.
While Bill compared the Ice Warriors to Vikings, another comparison arose in my mind: Klingons from Star Trek. Especially when Iraxxa popped out this line:
To die in battle is the way of the warrior.Iraxxa
Fans of Star Trek may recall a two-part Deep Space Nine story titled "The Way of the Warrior," which was a big Klingon episode.
In terms of real life, the "way of the warrior" philosophy is based on certain interpretations of the Japanese Bushido warrior code (similar to the concept of chivalry in Europe).
The episode nicely tied up the loose end that brought our heroes to Mars in the first place, the message of "God Save the Queen" having been placed by themselves. This would hardly be the first example of a stable time loop in Doctor Who!
Bill: If there *are* people here, why would they bother writing messages on the surface of the planet?
The Doctor: State visit, patriotic fervor… rogue graffiti artist…
On a side note, movie fans probably got a bit of a kick out of this one, with clear references to The Thing, Terminator, Star Wars, and Frozen ("That's a movie!").
Nardole, alas, found himself put to the side after the TARDIS inexplicably acted up. This I found more than a little perplexing, as the TARDIS doesn't normally go off on her own.
I doubt we'll get any sot of satisfying explanation on that regard next week. Was it an excuse to remove Nardole from the episode? Bring Missy into it? It's not quite clear.
Whatever the meta explanation, the execution came off a bit odd.
I do give Mark Gatiss props for the character arc demonstrated by Colonel Godsacre. It's not often that a one-off character gets a lot of development in a forty-two minute episode, but he managed.
Godsacre may have been a deserter, but he found his courage and put a fatal bullet into Catchlove, who had outright betrayed his men. Godsacre, meanwhile, offered up his own life to save them.
Who was the better man, then?
I do have to ask: what happened to the remaining Victorian soldiers? Was the Doctor going to cart them back to Earth, or did they all swear fealty to the Ice Queen?
The Ice Warriors here didn't seem altogether menacing (maybe something to do with one serving tea -- remember the Daleks and Winston Churchill?), but there's something to be said for them turning the unfortunate soldiers into people-cubes.
Well, I daresay the British Army is more than a match for a bunch of upright crocodiles!Catchlove
Looking at this episode from a wider perspective, it served as a standalone following an unusual three-parter that some fans regard as being weaker than the earlier episodes.
While not absolutely awe-inspiring, "Empress of Mars" made for a fairly enjoyable and solid hour of television featuring a classic Who alien in the Ice Warriors.
Be sure to check out the Doctor Who quotes page for a rundown of some notable quotes from this episode!
You can always watch Doctor Who online, and don't miss the next installment, Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 11, "The Eaters of Light," when it airs on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 9/8c on BBC America.
There are now only three episode left in the season, with the finale scheduled for Saturday, July 1, 2017. I'm already sad, I confess. Curse those short British television seasons!
So, what did you think of "Empress of Mars"? Did the face-off between the Victorian soldiers and the Martian Ice Warriors live up to your expectations, or did it fall short? Let us know in the comments below!