Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent put it best in The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero or you live to see yourself become the villain.” “The Waters of Mars,” our first Doctor Who adventure in months, is a very emotional and very dark entry into the Doctor Who universe. Much like “Torchwood: Children of Earth” it is a very difficult episode to sit through without feeling sad or punched in the gut from shock. If you’re looking for a sunnier adventure like always, this episode isn’t for you. But considering what is to come at Christmas, the set up is necessary.
David Tennant. We’ve seen him play happy. We’ve seen him play sad. We’ve seen him play the hero. But here, we’ve seen a far different side of The Doctor, one I’ve somewhat suspected we’d see eventually. The dark side of The Doctor was a slap to the face for me. It was like watching Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader by becoming power hungry and get it in his head that he can control everything around him. It’s always hard to watch a hero you respect and love fall so low. And by the end of the episode…well you just get the feeling that it may be time for The Doctor to step down and start anew.
Lindsey Duncan is fantastic as Adelaide, the hard edged leader of the Mars expedition. She stays a constant force to be reckoned with throughout the story; showing strength around her subordinantes and even accepting to follow her historical fate when the chips are down. But her best scene is at the end when she stands up to the monster The Doctor has become. Her stand and final defiance at the second chance she has been given is sad, no doubt, but amazing and selfless. It sucks she does die in the end as she could have made an amazing full time companion. But Adelaide will definitely go down in history as one of the best Doctor Who companions EVER.
Every other aspect of this episode is above and beyond as usual. The Mars Base looks amazing and there are plenty of explosions that look fantastic in execution; so good you can accept the eight month wait between “Planet of the Dead” and now in order to make the visual effects as spectacular as possible. The water creature is silently terrifying and the infected crew members play creepy very well. The Mars crew themselves are pretty standard scifi horror cast and most are defined pretty well, save for one, the Asian officer, who isn’t as well explored as the rest of the crew. But then again, given how this story is pretty standard fare, everyone is expendable no matter how developed a character they are.
One thing is certain, the stage set for Christmas is a dark one. Even the lighting within the TARDIS reinforces that. The Doctor has crossed the line and now he knows it. The surprise visit by Ood Sigma, who heralded The Doctor’s death back during Series 4, just reminds you that the end is indeed nigh. And just how bad are things going to get? Well, thank goodness Christmas is just a little over a month away.
Next Time-“It’s said that in the final days of Planet Earth, everyone had a bad dream.” The time has come…The Doctor faces his fate, and an old enemy returns for some unfinished business. The End of Time-Christmas 2009