Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Waters of Mars

I loved the latest Doctor Who special The Waters of Mars. Yet again, it had zombies - this time the poor humans on Bowie Base were being converted into servants of "The Flood", a kind of unseen entity frozen in a glacier (by the Ice Warriors of things - yet another Russell T. Davies continuity reference) that had been recently tapped as water supply for the base. It seems to give you a particularly bad case of chapped lips and scary eyes. You also get a weird ability to exude water from your body. It starts with a few drips down your arms, and ends with projectile vomiting torrents of H20 out of your mouth. And as the Doctor says, "Don’t drink the water. Don’t even touch it. Not one drop.", otherwise you get taken over by The Flood.

After the classic initial hostile reception, the Doctor gets involved with his usual enthusiasm, until he realises that he has unwittingly stumbled into a historic event - one, as with the Fires of Pompeii, he is unable or unwilling to get involved with due to the "Laws of Time". For most of the story, he remains as essentially an observer, and actually refuses to help the leader, Adelaide, because she is destined to be the inspiration for humanity leaving the Earth, and this only happens if she dies. The Doctor tells Adelaide this, and not only does she believe the Doctor, she is prepared to nuke the base, if that is what it takes to make sure history survives. However, at the last minute, the Doctor has a change of heart. This section is brilliant. After all the awful scenes of the humans being assimilated one by one, he returns in "Doctor mode", and manages to save the last three, including Adelaide. And I loved him for that.

However, they are not as happy as the Doctor thinks. Adelaide asks why did he do this, and the answer is essentially "because I can". It becomes apparent from the Doctor's arrogant attitude that he believes that since he is the last Time Lord left, why shouldn't he able to change history to make him feel better. She actually ends up committing suicide in her old house. This is a big change from the character we saw played by Christopher Ecclestone. And it seems that by changing history, he has hastened his own demise: he gets a vision of Ood Sigma telling him that he has little time left; and when he goes back into the TARDIS, the cloister bell is ringing.

Despite this, I was slightly confused about the in-world logic here. The idea seemed initially be that the ex-humans were literally dehydrating themselves to provide the water. This would have been a cool concept, as they would be left as husks. However, the amount of water was way over the top for that. Later on, it seemed that they were literally creating water out of nothing. However, if this was the case, why did they want to seize the oceans of earth? The only explanation that makes sense is that they were somehow channelling the water from the glacier. Best not to think about it (like a lot of recent Doctor Who).

I was also confused about Adelaide's motive for committing suicide. For a start, she had no definite proof that the Doctor was initially "right" about letting her die on Mars. She only had the Doctor's word on it. Also, by committing suicide on Earth, I can't see why that would somehow "fix" the timeline back to the original. As the Doctor says, she could end up mentoring her grandchild to make exactly the same inter-system flight that she makes in the original timeline.

However, all in all, this was a welcome return to form, after the last two dreadful specials. The next two episodes look like they are going to be good.

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