The latest episode of David Tennant’s farewell tour as Doctor Who, THE WATERS OF MARS, aired last night on BBC America. A young actor named Matt Smith takes over the role in the next year(judging by his appearance, he looks about half the age of the show itself, a kid really).
****SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*****
As the story opens, the TARDIS lands on Mars and the Doctor emerges wearing a space suit. Walking across the landscape, he comes to a ridge and looks down at a base on the plain. He learns it is Bowie Base One(more on this later) when he’s taken captive by a robot and brought into the base.
I have to do an aside here. Though this may be one of the darkest Who tales I’ve seen, there are moments of humor as well. The robot is a flimsy looking construct(resembling the robot in Short Circuit) which keeps uttering “Gadget, Gadget!” which is it’s name.
“I hate funny robots with cute names!” he utters until someone mentions a friend dressing one up that looked like a dog. “Dogs! That’s different.” Long time Who fans know that he once built a robot dog named K-9(actually two of them).
Since the Doctor never goes anywhere that trouble isn’t about to erupt, we know something’s up. He asks the date and the answer, 2059, makes him realize exactly where he is and, as he starts calling off each crew member’s name, his mind is flashing on an obituary. Everyone has a date of death as 2059. Asking the exact day, his mind flashes on a headline citing this day as the one that Bowie Base One was destroyed by a nuclear blast.
It’s not long before we learn that the water used in the botanical gardens came from one of the icecaps and seems to have a parasite in it that begins infecting crew members one by one. The human body is mostly water and the infected begin to break down, spewing water from their mouths, fingers, whatever it takes to burst the seals preventing them from getting at the unaffected.
There seems to be some intelligence to the parasite as one such affected crew sees Earth on a monitor and they decide that’s where they need to go. By whatever means possible.
The Doctor seems helpless as all this is going on, standing around, saying he has to leave, nothing can be done. it’s already been established that there are fixed points in time that can’t be altered without changing everything that is to come later(it’s what prevents the Doctor from going back in time and stopping Gallifrey and all his fellow Time Lords from being destroyed in the war with the Daleks).
The base commander. Adelaide Brooke, is one such fixed point. Her death inspires her granddaughter and her descendants to push the human race to explore further and further into space.
The look on the Doctor’s face as he walks way from the base, a sort of helpless rage, as he listens to the unaffected crew’s desperate battle to escape over the radio says it all.
And then his ego takes over. The Doctor, in all his various lives, has always had a large ego and it’s stood him in good stead until now. He suddenly decides he can save the crew and work out a way to avoid the consequences.
That’s all. I won’t tell how it comes out in case anyone wants to see this episode. It’s very good, one of the best, and, with the two part finale, winds up both David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor and Russell Davies’ as the writer/producer.
On the subject of the base’s name, Bowie Base One, I read a number of reviews this morning before doing this one and not a single one mentioned what seemed obvious to me. It might be because I’m an old fogie and most of the other reviewers were probably young squirts.
At the beginning, as the Doctor first spots the base, we see the main hub with spokes radiating out all around to smaller domes, looking for all the world like a spider. Bowie Base One? One of David Bowie’s signature albums was ZIGGIE STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS OF MARS. Hello!
I’m looking forward to the finale which starts next weekend, THE END OF TIME. The next Doctor, young Matt Smith, has a hard act to follow.
Here’s the trailer: