Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Waters of Mars"

Up until this point, the Doctor Who seasonal specials have been lackluster. Last Christmas’ love song to steam punk was full of so many plot holes about the only fun aspect of the episode was counting them. The less said about the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang check out Michelle Ryan’s behind suffered through at Easter, the better. “The Waters of Mars” has made up for both of them.

The story features a lot of homage to past Who. There an air of claustrophobia with people trapped in aremotelocation by a seemingly unstoppable creature that harkens back to the peter trough ton years. Various other aspects bring back memories of “The Fires of Pompeii’ and “Journey’s End” with the sense of tragedy from “Doomsday.” it all melds together perfectly.

The doctor lands on mars in 2059 and is immediately captured by a group of international explorer who have established Earth’s first base on Mars. After defusing the tense situation of him being a trespasser, it dawns on the doctor hehasarrived at a key point in history. Everyone on the base is supposed to die today. Their deaths inspire future generations to continue exploring. It is one of the fixed points in time that cannot be altered. The Doctor hastily opts to leave before he affects events.

Two of the base personnel drink water which is contaminated by parasites. They become zombie-like creatures by cheap special effects, but still effectively frightening. Anyone they splash with water becomes infected, too. The doctor realizes this must be how they all die and thereforedoeshis best to stay out of the way. Yet, it isclear his conscience bothers him. He is determined to leave anyway.

He hassome nice monentswith guest star Lindsay Duncan, who plays rare middle-aged companion capt. Adelaide Brooke. Brooke was inspired to becomean astronaut when she encounteredadalek during their conquest of Earth in “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.” it uncharacteristically spared her. The doctor replies that it is because her death is set in time. The revelation leads to her convincing him to confess they are all going to die today because they have to.

Brookedoesnot accept that. She rallies the rest of her people to escape as all of the infectedzombiescircle around. The doctor, clearly troubled, heads for the TARDIs and is nearly there before he changes his mind. He eventually rescues everyone by getting the TARDIS to the base before thezobiesbreak through.

All that is esciting andwell done. I even liked the robot that was Cleary a nod at Wall* E. usually, I think think Russell T.Davies isbeing too cutesy for his own good when hedoes stuff like that. It was welcome comic relief. All that said, it is the final moments that make the episode.

What changed the doctor’s mind is the realization the Time lords were the only obstacle to him altering any bit of history he wished. Now they are gone. Hecan do anything he wants. He is, for all intents and purposes, agod. When he takes the three survivors back to Earth, all but Brookeare terrified of him and run off. Brooke stays behind because she has suddenly realized the Doctor hasalrteredthefuture forever in away that was not meant to be.

I have to admit the sudden change in him was startling. Killing the daleks to end the Time War, and destroying Pompeii to preserve the timeline among other brutal acts have put Immanuel Kant’s theories on human nature into action. The doctor now feels hecan do anything because there is no one to tell him hisactsare immoral. He starts to boast of saving significant and “little people’ because, as the last, triumphant Time Lord, he sets the rules.

Brooke says no one should have that much power. The timeline should not have been changed. sheand the rest of her people should have died for subsequent generations to have their moment. She walks into her house, pulls out her gun, and commits suicide. Her actionsareenough to convince the Doctor there are still consequence to his actions. Ood sigma appears to remind him he is nearing the end of his life. The Doctor, distraught, heads off to parts unknown in the TARDIS.

“The Waters of Mars” is dark, particularly the end, but very good. I can even forgive the cheap special effects done on the water creatures because they wind up being incidental to thereal plot, which is how power without ultimate responsibility has ultimately corrupted the Doctor into believing the ends justify the means. I havea hunch it is aset up for the doctor taking on a humancompaion yet again to stay grounded. Catherine Tate returns in the next special as Donna Noble. It cannot be so obvious that he wants her guidance now, but something along those lines must be up. I am anxious to see. For the previous two specials, I did not care much. That is the mark of a good episode.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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