Episode: Doctor Who 4.16 – “The Waters of Mars”
Original Air Date: November 15, 2009 in the UK; December 19, 2009 in the US
I’ll admit it: I was not a Who fan before this restart of the series. I had seen an episode or two of the older shows on PBS, in the middle of the night while battling insomnia, but that was as far as it went. In fact, I was a late bandwagon jumper for this version. David Tennant was already playing The Doctor before I even started watching the show. You can only hold out so long when all your nerd brethren rave and rave each week about something before you have to check it out yourself.
I went back and started with Christopher Eccelston, and the rest is history. I fell in love with The Doctor, and was skeptical when he regenerated into the version we have today. I liked Eccelston’s surliness, his sometimes cynicism, and wasn’t sure I’d like Tennant’s more enthusiastic and animated take. I quickly came around and have thoroughly enjoyed how much he seems to love the character and what he’s doing on the show. For me, when I think of “The Doctor,” I see David Tennant. So as a fan of Tennant’s Doctor, these last few episodes (mini movies?) have been somewhat disappointing. On the one hand, I’m disappointed that we don’t get a proper final season with him, only these four (five if you count The New Doctor) stragglers masquerading as episodes. On the other, the stories haven’t been that entertaining. At all.
The Doctor ends up on Mars in his usual fashion (i.e., he just plops down, not knowing what time/date it is), and quickly finds out he’s fallen into the middle of one of those points in time that can’t be messed with. The year is 2059, and the first crew of humans are living on Mars in the Bowie Base One. The commander, Adelaide Brooke (played by Lindsay Duncan, who was brilliant in Rome) is supposed to nuke the site and kill the entire crew on that very day. The reasons for her doing this are never known to the rest of the people on Earth. The Doctor, at first, doesn’t know why she does it either, but he does know why it has to happen and he can’t change it.
Adelaide turns out to be a survivor of “The Stolen Earth” storyline; she came face-to-face with a Dalek and it let her live. The Doctor hypothesizes that even the Dalek knew she had to die in 2059 on Mars. Seeing that Dalek made her want to follow it to space, but not for revenge. The Doctor reveals that her death on Mars inspires her granddaughter to become an astronaut, and subsequent descendants of hers are the reason humanity thrives and spreads throughout the universe. So, he knows something’s going to go down but he can’t save them and needs to leave. That is, typically, until something happens and he has to figure out the problem (he’s like House, only in alien form).
There’s some kind of alien entity in the water on Mars. When that guy turned after eating a carrot, I’m pretty sure none of the kids in the UK are ever going to eat their veg again. Seriously. This is the reason Adelaide is supposed to nuke the site; the Martian water bug wants to get to Earth, for obvious reasons, and she ensures that doesn’t happen — until The Doctor decides not to follow his own rules and changes history.
I suppose that was the most interesting aspect of the episode. It was intriguing and heartbreaking to see The Doctor do this because he went kind of dark there at the end when basically telling Adelaide he’s the master of time now and can do whatever he wants with it. Ood Sigma appears quickly right before the end, after The Doctor realizes that he may have gone too far this time, and reminds us that this is almost the end of the 10th Doctor’s run.
My main problem with the show (besides the continual running down corridors that never seemed to end and fire outside the atmosphere of the base — that broke my brain) was also the part that was the most interesting of the episode. The Doctor changed a moment in time that should have been fixed, and there were no consequences. Adelaide’s bloodline still spreads humanity throughout the universe, and even what happened with Rose in “Father’s Day,” those flying, screeching things, didn’t show up.
It was nice to see David Tennant do more than the excited version of The Doctor. He brooded, was unsure of himself, was egomaniacal and desperate along with enthusiastic about the situation he found himself in. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to make the episode one to remember for me.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars