Empress of Mars is the title of this 9th episode in series 10 of ‘new-Who’ and is also the title bestowed upon Iraxxa, the Ice Warrior Queen.
After a pointless opening sequence where, on Earth, the Doctor learns that the Valkyrie device probes Martian ice caps, to see under the poles and beam back pictures and sees a “God Save The Queen” message, it isn’t clever enough to figure out exactly what’s going on under there…
And that is – once they get there, The Doctor and Bill on Mars with two members of the British Army (and more to follow) from 150 years ago in the Victoria era, and an Ice Warrior who they’d dubbed Friday, aka Man Friday from Robinson Crusoe, because he’s acting as their servant, but instead was readying for the resurrection of Iraxxa, albeit after 5,000 years rather than a bit sooner.
Of course, oxygen is plentiful under the surface despite, after all that time, what’s up top on the planet being completely dead, and so since there’s just the Brits and the aliens together, instead of having a war, they should form a coalition.
But none of that earlier stopped army member Jackdaw – who, somehow, was the only single indivudual who knew of the existence of Iraxxa’s sarcophagus (thanks to their mining machine, Gargantua, which uncovered nothing decent… until now) and didn’t account for the fact that on spotting the jewels adorning it, all that glitters is not gold… or ruby, sapphire, etc… and can basically lead to imminent death for the greedy.
Once again, a misunderstanding in Doctor Who was leading to another war, this time with the “upright crocodiles”.
So, how to resolve it? The only two women having a chinwag – Iraxxa, the Ice Warrior Queen… and bloody Bill! Would the Queen kill Bill? I keep hoping for it every week!
Sadly, this was a missed opportunity, as was a number of other brief elements going nowhere because they were quickly forgotten about, such as The Doctor threatening death to everyone including himself with the Gargantua machine.
On the plus side, this was another Nardole-light episode, as he went into the TARDIS never to be seen again… well, for 40 minutes. Bang on cue, he turned up at the end and, pointlessly, with Missy having somehow escaped from the Vault. I really can’t see what the point is of her brief soujourns into most episodes in this series, this time simply for her to ask “Doctor, are you alright?” as he looks surprised, despite her trickery being anything BUT a surprise to the audience.
Clearly, it’s leading to her turning back into John Simm’s Master, but gah… we did that TEN YEARS AGO!!!
Oh, and Bill kept making movie references, such as to The Terminator and The Thing, just so The Doctor could make another with Frozen. Are they trying to make us care that they’re bonding? She’ll be gone in three more episodes, so who cares?!
So, almost 50 years since the Ice Warriors first came into Doctor Who and this Mark Gatiss episode wasn’t a total waste of time, but it offered nothing new at all. It’s another typical early Chritmas turkey from Gatiss. He’s also responsible for their last appearance, Cold War, in 2013.
Next week: The Doctor and Bill find that a beast known as the Ninth Legion Keeper of the Gate has slaughtered 5,000 Romans. What to do about it? Get back in the TARDIS and go somewhere safer, I’d say!
Empress of Mars is available on the BBC iPlayer until one week after the series ends.
Individual episodes can be bought in HD and SD here.
Director: Wayne Yip
Producer: Nikki Wilson
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Music: Murray Gold
The Doctor: Peter Capaldi
Bill: Pearl Mackie
Nardole: Matt Lucas
Missy: Michelle Gomez
Godsacre: Anthony Calf
Catchlove: Ferdinand Kingsley
Friday: Richard Ashton
Iraxxa: Adele Lynch
Sergeant Major Peach: Glenn Speers
Jackdaw: Ian Beattie
Vincey: Bayo Gbadamosi
Knibbs: Ian Hughes
Coolidge: Lesley Ewen
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.