It’s that time of year again, for the inevitable Mark Gatiss episode. This year, Mark is taking us to Mars during the Victorian era. The question is, do I think that The Empress of Mars will be a success like The Unquiet Dead or a flop like Sleep No More?
This will not be as bad as Sleep No More. There, I said it. Stop worrying. I’ve not seen The Empress of Mars yet; I’ve seen the trailer, and the clips on YouTube, but I can already tell that it’s going to be better than Gatiss’ last effort. From interviews, Gatiss has stated that The Empress of Mars is his passion project, and I hope he’s not just saying that for a juicy soundbite. From experience, “passion projects” in TV go one of two ways, and they’re the extremes. They’re either extremely well done, executed and make a good end product, or the writers can be blinded by their passion to allow any wiggle room for improvement. Which do I think Gatiss will lean with this episode? I pray it’s to the side of good.
Saying that, I don’t think that Empress will shatter any records, I can’t imagine it being the stand out episode of the series, or the Twelfth Doctor’s era, but when you compare it to the last Ice Warrior episode, Cold War, also penned by Gatiss, I think we’ll see an improvement.
I, for one, love the idea of Victorians on Mars, mainly because it’s so odd and Doctor Who. It seems very Classic Who. Gatiss showed audiences he can write for Victorian characters in The Unquiet Dead and in The Crimson Horror (a guilty please of mine), so having them be astonished that they’re on the red planet should be entertaining. My only concern with this, is that I fear Gatiss will go too over the top with the disbelief, and it’ll detract from any potential of character development. If one of these Victorian soldiers dies, I want to feel upset.
On the subject of the Ice Warriors, and now, the Ice Queen, I have one request. Please, please, please keep them in their suits of armour. Please. I don’t want to see the CGI abomination we saw in Cold War ever again. Thanks.
In regards to the Doctor and Bill, I don’t think anything I anticipate needs saying by now; I think they’ll be terrific, no matter what script they have to work with. I’ve read that Nardole isn’t that involved in this episode, and for me, that’s fine. As much as I’ve come to love Nardole (which still surprises me), I think we need a Nardole-lite week. Nardole is like Ben and Jerry’s, a nice guilty pleasure, but some weeks you should just not have it as much. Although I do love Phish Food.
Overall, I think that The Empress of Mars will be a fairly middle of the road episode, totally contradicting what I said earlier about passion projects; but this is Gatiss we’re talking about. In my opinion, he’s one of the most inconsistent writers in Doctor Who history, so I can never be too sure with what I’m going to make of an episode until it airs. There’s only one way to find out…