Huh. You’d think that with the previous episode titled “Planet of Death” and this one “The Waters of Mars,” we might see more life in this episode and not the other one. But no. Almost everyone lived through “Planet of Death” while almost everyone dies in “The Waters of Mars”. But the bigger thing about this one is what it means in an unexpected way: the Doctor loses.
I’ve sat through ten Doctors so far. It’s not something that happens very often. At worst, he’ll have some kind of Pyrrhic victory if anything. It’s always bad if he loses a companion. Adric’s death weighed heavily on the Fifth Doctor, and the loss of Donna Noble didn’t sit well with this one, to say nothing of what happened with Rose. The Tenth Doctor has been getting increasingly gloomy, almost annoyingly so. But this time may be the first time I saw the Doctor, well, lose.
He sort of had to. He popped up on Mars in the year 2059 where the first human Mars colony is. He’s caught by the multinational crew there, but the biggest problem is he realizes he remembers all of these people…and the fact they all died on Mars. Oh, and they died the same day the Doctor arrived. One of them, the commander of the mission, Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), is the companion for the episode, plus future Eternal Gemma Chan is there, but the thing is, the Doctor knows he has to leave because this is a Fixed Point in Time. Normally, the Doctor can try to save people, but the deaths of these people is important for the future.
Or, more accurately, Adelaide’s death is. Her death will inspire her granddaughter to be the pilot for the first faster-than-light space voyage to another galaxy. The Doctor doesn’t tell her that right away.
Yeah, he probably shouldn’t have told her at all, but he did tell her. Mostly because he had to leave her and the others to die after they all figured out why some members of the crew were dripping water through very parched lips and acting like water-spewing zombies. It seems if you remove a cheap filter from the water system, then the people inside may become infected with ancient Martian lifeforms.
In a nice touch, since I would have made a joke about it if they didn’t, the Doctor says this is all probably connected to the Ice Warriors.
But hey, Fixed Point in Time. The Doctor can’t help this time. He can’t save these people. The universe won’t let him. All he has to do is walk back to the TARDIS and leave.
But then he hears the anguish in a trapped woman as the infecting water gets closer to her as she listens to a recording from her own young daughter back on Earth for the final time, and the Doctor, despite everything he said, decides that he is the last of the Time Lords and he can do as he damn well pleases and still save people. He even manages to pull something off, using a robot, the TARDIS, and good timing to rescue Chan’s character, another guy, and Adelaide.
And then he does something somewhat uncharacteristic. See, most Doctors are at least a little arrogant. Some are worse than others. The Sixth was probably the worst. The Third talked down to most people. The First initially didn’t even want to deal with people. The Ninth called people monkeys when he thought they were being stupid, even Rose once. But this time, I saw something I never thought I’d see from this Doctor.
He calls the three people he just saved “little,” something that the Doctor never does because all people matter. He acts like he can decide things like a god. He acts as if he is utterly above everyone around him. By then, Chan and the guy have run off. But Adelaide…she is having doubts. After asking the Doctor to save her, now she wants to know how she can inspire her granddaughter if she doesn’t die. The Doctor dismisses her concerns. It’s like he doesn’t care.
Spotting that Ood across the street is probably why as far as that goes. Yes, he’s probably celebrating the fact that he maybe isn’t doomed. But the scene left a bad taste in my metaphorical mouth. This seemed unlike the Doctor to me. When did the Doctor ever celebrate at the expense of others?
Moot point: Adelaide then goes off and commits suicide to preserve the timeline. The Doctor didn’t change much of anything. Yes, two members of the crew will live (crediting Adelaide, a woman who once stared down a Dalek in her youth), but the one the Doctor admired the most, the one he sought to save more than any of the others…she didn’t make it. For all the Doctor thought himself above it all, he really isn’t, and reality slapped him back hard.
There’s only one thing left for him to do now…