June 2, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “Empress Of Mars”

The Doctor goes to Mars to fight imperialism.

Oh wow.  The Doctor goes back to Mars to deal with…imperialism?  And Ice Warriors come in female?

This could be interesting.

See, after a trip to NASA with Bill and Nardole to see some exploration of Mars’s polar caps find neat stuff, the Doctor is instead amused to find a message, under the ice, written in rocks, in English no less, reading “God Save The Queen”.  Since this isn’t a new message, that means one TARDIS trip later will hopefully find out who wrote it and why.  That leads to some underground tunnels full of breathable air, and…a squad of Victorian soldiers with a single Ice Warrior.  The Doctor thinks he is protecting the Warrior from the armed human, but it turns out to be the Victorian is protecting the Warrior, apparently named “Friday,” from this stranger in the form of the Doctor.

Considering how much of this episode consists of Bill making movie references that the Doctor doesn’t get because he says he has no time for films…well, it could be that sort of episode, but in the end, the Doctor does reveal he saw and liked Frozen.

Now, there is a small problem here that when things started to get creepy, Nardole went back to fetch something from the TARDIS only to have the temperamental police box suddenly decide to travel back to the Doctor’s university office, and Nardole doesn’t know how to pilot the thing back on his own.

OK, so, here’s what I liked about this one:  the Victorians seem to represent both the best and worst of that era.  The commanding officer, frequently ignored by his #2, is one Colonel Godsacre.  He seems inclined to do things like, I dunno, listen, even as his #2, Captain Catchlove, seems inclined to claim Mars for Queen Victoria and then eventually head home with as many riches as they can carry.  The fellow called Friday appears to be the last of his kind, and he was nursed back to health by the humans when his ship crashed on Earth.  Feeling grateful, he took them back to Mars for, well, whatever it is they want there, but the only thing that looks like it might be valuable to some greedy 19th century types is a tomb for the Ice Empress.

Huh.  Frozen?

Regardless, Catchlove believes they just claimed Mars for Victoria, and that even if there were natives on the planet, they would be weak and primitive types that couldn’t stand up to a British soldier because racism, probably.

That seems less likely when two guys pry a gem off the tomb only to reveal it isn’t a tomb but a stasis chamber, and despite the best efforts of the Doctor, Bill, and even Godsacre, Catchlove reveals Godsacre was one hung for cowardice, survived by dumb luck, and as a result, doesn’t deserve command.  Sure, the Ice Warriors, led by the Empress, have a weapon that reduces men it hits into a ball of dead flesh, but there’s only two of them…wow, Catchlove is really dumb.  Locking up the Doctor, Godsacre, and Bill in a side tunnel after collapsing the chamber with the Empress and Friday sure doesn’t seem smart, even if Godsacre wanted to talk it out, Bill recommended something like forgiveness, and the Doctor just flat out warned the Ice Warriors have some really powerful weapons at their disposal.  Catchlove just thinks they can shoot some wannabe crocodiles, and that seems like more racism to me.

Because, you know, there are more Ice Warriors in there.  See?  Not a smart plan.

Fortunately, Friday sides with the Doctor, and even when Catchlove gets a knife on the Empress, Godsacre finds some courage to take him out and leave himself at the Empress’s mercy, figuring he owes someone a death.  And he does.  The Empress takes him into her service, lets the other surviving humans go, and the Doctor helps Godsacre write a message on the surface about how God should save the Queen to help gain attention from any space-faring civilizations inclined to help.

Oh, and the Doctor arranged for the Ice Warriors to leave with the people of Alpha Centauri, setting up the Galactic Federation from the classic series.

See?  Forgiveness and mercy means a lot.  So, when Nardole comes back with the TARDIS, and it turns out Missy helped him get back, the Doctor may forgive her or put her back in her vault.

He chooses the vault.  And she doesn’t argue.

OK, well, she is among the worst villains in the universe.  These things take time.

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