Mark Gatiss returned yet again with a script that is distinctively Gatiss; we had Victorians, we had Mars, we had Ice Warriors and their queen, and most importantly, we had Alpha Centauri. What did I think of Gatiss’ latest episode, Empress of Mars?
It was alright.
The pacing seemed slightly off to me, and I’m not sure why; it seemed like a lot of build off, for a quick climax and very little payoff, but maybe that’s just me. Is it my favourite episode of Series 10? No. Could it be my favourite Gatiss episode? Maybe. I’m not sure yet, and I do love me some Gelth.
Anyway, I thought the opening scene at NASA was odd and it’s clear that Gatiss wrote this script early on in the conception of Series 10 as Bill felt slightly off, and Nardole just felt shoehorned in (which I think he was). To me, it could have been much more interesting if the TARDIS trio were watching the announcement on the TV in Bill’s flat, as a little insight as to what the dynamic is like outside of having conventional fun. Maybe having a Chinese takeaway, the news comes in with the photo from Mars, Bill and Nardole turn to face the Doctor, and they all band towards the TARDIS.
I’m aware this is all wishful thinking.
The Victorian soldiers were alright, they were nothing memorable. I couldn’t tell you any of their names without looking online, which is a shame, as it just shows how irrelevant they felt to the plot. The only guy I can really remember is the guy who was hanged unsuccessfully and the one who transpired to be a bit of a git.
I have a feeling that if you’re into the camp Bank Holiday style movies, you’d feel right at home watching this episode. If you’re not a fan, like myself, some moments feel sluggish or dull. My favourite moment though, has to be when the Doctor and Bill are liaising with the soldiers whilst having tea provided by Friday (I’ll get to him in a moment). There was something so quintessentially British in a literal alien setting that just worked for me. I wonder if American audiences liked it so much too.
Now onto Friday, the Ice Warrior missing an eye. He was alright I suppose. Considering he was the main Ice Warrior I felt like he was slightly lacklustre. At least he was better than Skaldak from Cold War. I like how Friday was like the Ice Warriors of old, he wasn’t evil, he just wanted to get home and help his race. The Ice Warriors were never really inherently evil like the Daleks or the Cybermen; like humanity there are good ones and not so good ones. Friday, on the whole, was a good guy.
Considering that the title of the episode is Empress of Mars, I have to say that the Empress of Mars was actually really well done, and my favourite character. I enjoyed seeing the more feminine side in Martian society, and I thought she was played really well. I loved how she asked for Bill’s opinion, as she was the only other woman present, and the idea of the Ice Warriors being led by a matriarch was really interesting, considering we’d only seen the males up to this point. Like Friday, the Ice Queen wasn’t all black or white in regards to her morality, she was very diplomatic and it was obvious she was a leader. My only gripe with her was that we didn’t see enough of her leading.
Now, I normally watch Doctor Who with my family, and I try my best to get them to sit in absolute silence for forty-five minutes, with varying degrees of success, but this week, the talking point was the deaths. Rubbery cubes of humans. Why? I’m not sure. Was it needed? Yet again, I’m not sure. Did I enjoy it? Eh, it was different. Was it a conversation starter? Absolutely.
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that Empress of Mars is a middling episode in Series 10, it’s not my favourite, I can’t imagine it being anyones ultimate episode of Doctor Who, but it passed the time. I know it’s not the highest compliment, but it did. I’ve seen certain people online saying that they thought the episode dragged, but for me that wasn’t the case. If you thought this episode felt long, try watching The War Games in one sitting. Anyway, Gatiss improved from his last foray into Sleep No More, even though that wasn’t too difficult, but he didn’t create anything revolutionary.
Thanks to Sam Bentley for allowing me to use his artwork at the top of this article, if you want to look at more of Sam’s artwork, you can check out his website here.