I found myself watching The Waters of Mars the other day, the Tenth Doctor’s penultimate adventure that was screened during 2009.
RTD had cleverly lowered expectations for the Autumn special with the pleasingly forgettable The Dangerous Planet. It wasn’t actually called The Dangerous Planet but that’s as much as I can remember about it, apart from the fact that it was utter shit.
Still, Waters of Mars had given us what was perhaps the best trailer of them all from the new series – a proper balls-out terrifying 30 seconds of H2O-based frights – alongside the knowledge that Tennant’s run was coming to an end, and all the attendant myfficism.
Expectations were running high, but was RTD through the looking glass by this stage? Was it utter Underwater Menace or was it stupendously Curse of Fenric.
Scares – Only once or twice during its return – The Empty Child, Blink or Midnight, perhaps – has Doctor Who dared to be this terrifying. The Flood-infected members of Bowie Base are a triumph of make-up, SFX and acting. They are designed and played to be bloody frightening, and so they are.
Time Lord victorious – I never warned to Tennant’s Doctor, truth be told. He was too shouty, too smug, too wacky. After three years of shouting and try-hard wackiness we finally see something interesting happen with the Tenth Doctor. A Time Lord gone rogue, shades of the Valeyard and the Master, is a fascinating development and an understandable one, given The Doctor’s recent experiences in the TIme War and his possibly-unstable Ninth incarnation.
Lindsey Duncan – Playing a bit of an archetype, but brings a believability to a role that the series was crying out for after two halfwit lovelorn goons and a comedy grotesque.
The Doctor’s moments with Adelaide at the end of the story are electrifying and quite wonderfully played by Tennant. WHen it is all taken away from him by Adelaide’s death and the appearance of Ood Sigma it’s equally riveting television.
Cast – Prett much all good, particularly the people playing the flood.
Dalek – An oddly dream-like moment that’s probably pivotal to the story
Ice Warrior reference – Nice little throwaway lines that will mean little to 99.9 per cent of viewers, but so much to fans
Barry Letts tribute – Right and proper and lovely
Murray Gold. Sorry to sound predictable, but any action sequences are totally undermined by Gold’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks via Scooby Doo music. A couple of sequences that aren’t great in the first place – The Doctor and Adelaide riding the Gadget Gadget thing and the Doctor standing around looking solemn while everyone does ‘busy’ acting are made much worse by Gold’s appalling audio.
Graeme Harper – Despite generally good stuff here, Harper is to blame for a few really duff moments. If there was such as thing as a Doctor Who auteur (there wasn’t, but bear with me) it was Harper with his interesting angles and superb action sequences. In the new series he was just another hack – in the trust sense of the word.
Gadget Gadget – Is that what it’s called? An odd, jarring note in a sombre, ominous story. Even (!) Doc Ten hates it.
Waters of Mars is one of the least typical NuWho stories of the run and, as such, it’s a welcome relief. Not since Logopolis has been the slightest angst over a forthcoming regeneration and it shows us a side of the Doctor rarely seen.
That WoM is, in itself, a strong, scary story is also in its favour. Deservedly won RTD and Phil Ford a Hugo award and suggested an epic, groundbreaking climax.
Predictably it was business as usual, like a final, weary wank from Davies following a Queer as Folk box-set for End of Time. Ho hum.