Tuesday, 4 July 2017

TV Review No. 63 Doctor Who: Empress of Mars (S10, Ep9)

Strong Points:
Some great British colony moments
The Ice Warrior's weapons made me uneasy
Pop culture references
Still no setting for wood
Great CGI
Detailed costumes
Nardole and Missy - consequences
Godsacre and Catchlove were good characters

Weak Points:
The constant British jokes could become tiresome
The ending seemed to forget, partly, how many lives were lost
Red shirts in actual red shirts this time
Nardole and Missy - why it happened
The classic accidental shot technique

In-depth Review:
As someone who actually really liked Gatiss's last episode 'Sleep No More' I had high expectations from this episode and it actually delivered. On most of them. It was more of a classic 'Monster of the Week' scenario with the Ice Warriors returning and it was definitely nice to see an episode which wasn't trying to really explore the human condition or relationship with technology. Don't get me wrong, I like those episodes which require you to think, but it's also nice to just enjoy the show!

We started the episode with a nice little pre-credits scene showing how disturbing The Doctor can be to everyday life as he and Bill suddenly appear in a NASA control room just as they're touching down on Mars. While the NASA crew don't seem too fussed about the two random people entering the control room (probably due to the Deus Ex Machina paper The Doctor always has on him) they were definitely fussed about what they found on Mars. A giant mural to the Queen of course - which also happens to be the final scene, just to remind us that yes, this is definitely a time travelling show.

Turns out a squad of Victorian soldiers had made it to Mars with the help of an Ice Warrior called Friday (getting to him). The use of stereotypical Victorian soldiers - stiff upper lip, deep patriotism, stubbornness and the belief that they are invincible, allowed for some great humorous moments as well as more dramatic parts such as Catchlove declaring mutiny from Goldsacre. Finding out that Goldsacre was originally nearly hanged for desertion as well was a great twist and added a lot more depth to the character and his relationships with others, helping to make sure the army wasn't made up completely of one-dimensional stereotypes.

Back to Friday now, a character I wish they'd spent a little more time with as the design of him - eye removed, getting to the end of his life compared to the other Ice Warriors - allowed for a much bigger backstory and character. As it was though, he was used, along with Bill, as the bridge between Ice Warrior and human and he fit his part well. Bill being used as the envoy was interesting as its normally The Doctor who gains the trust of people but it did seem a bit like they put the Ice Warrior Queen trusting Bill as she is a woman just to make a point, as she didn't really have a lot of effect on the Queen's mind anyway (although she wasn't helped by the classic 'accidental shot' technique).

The Ice Warrior Queen was quite a classic Doctor Who antagonist - headstrong, confident, stubborn and with access to a pretty cool weapon. The weapon in question can basically crush people into a Wall-E-esque heap and was used to great effect to show just how powerful The Ice Warriors are compared to the British army. We also got the sense of the ineffectiveness of the British Army via the literal red shirts, especially with the case of Vincey - I knew as soon as he started talking about getting home to meet his sweet heart that he wouldn't survive and would you look at that? Crumbled into a box. Of course, he was because people can't have hopes and dreams in shows unless they're the main characters!

The ending fell a bit flat in my opinion, in a similar way to Smile, namely, the attacks just stopped, they all made up and went on their merry way without a thought about all the lives just lost. It wasn't as infuriating as Smiles ending - at least both races learned from the experience, but still I feel there should have been something more.

I don't know why the TARDIS disappeared when Nardole entered and it was definitely the biggest plot convenience of the episode. It did allow more screen time and development of Missy though which was good as she still feels very much like a side character, although things do seem to be gearing up for a big finale.

Conclusion: overall, this was a nice, enclosed episode with references both to Classic Who and pop culture - The Doctor talking about Frozen was one of my favourite parts, especially as he didn't know any of the films Bill was talking about originally.

Rating: 80%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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