The Waters of Mars

Story No. 218 Water is patient.
Production Code Specials Three
Dates November 15 2009

With David Tennant, Catherine Tate
Written by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford Directed by Graeme Harper
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.

Synopsis: The Doctor encounters the first human colony on Bowie Base One. But Mars has secrets that may change the universe.


"Waters" Wins by Matthew Kresal 22/3/10

Once in a while, your favorite TV series will surprise you. I remember liking but not being blown away by The Next Doctor and being utterly disappointed by Planet Of The Dead. So I wasn't sure what to make of the next special, Waters Of Mars, especially with it seemingly delayed to the point of being an afterthought to what promises to be an epic finale to the tenth Doctor era. So imagine my surprise upon finally seeing Waters Of Mars and discovering that not only was it a major improvement over the two previous specials but that here was a story featuring everything that makes Doctor Who great was in it: action, fine acting, horror and yet it being a personal tale at the same time.

David Tennant turns in his best performance since Human Nature/Family Of Blood. Here we see a tenth Doctor like we have never seen before on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We first see a Doctor thrilled by adventure as he always has before realizing he's in the wrong place at the wrong time and trying futilely to not get involved. Then we see something unexpected during an incredible eleven or twelve minutes with a Doctor who throws caution to the wind and soon learns the price of doing so. Tennant's performance throughout all this is nothing short of one word: extraordinary. It's a performance that hits all the acting notes beautifully and may well be Tennant's best performance in the role.

There's also a fine supporting cast as well. Lindsay Duncan plays base commander Adelaide Brooke, who in a way becomes a one-off companion of sorts. Yet she is far more than just that though. In just an hour she becomes a full-fledged character with a backstory and a character arc as well. Brooke is a pioneer who finds herself caught up in a crisis with a man who knows what is about to happen and, in the end, will be utterly appalled by the actions he will take. Duncan plays the role well as she shares some fine scenes with Tennant during the back half of the special, especially during one of the most emotional scenes the New Series has yet served to its audience. Duncan was a perfect choice for the role and her presence helps to elevate the special's quality. There's also a good supporting cast as well in the form of base members including Peter O'Brien as Ed, Alan Ruscoe as Andy, Sharon Duncan Brewster as Maggie and Gemma Chan as Mia Bennett. Together they make a fine supporting cast.

There's also some fine work behind the camera as well. There is some fantastic make-up and effects work in regards to the villains of the special which make them, next to the stone angels from Blink, perhaps the scariest thing to have been used in the New Series, especially in the revealing of the first one which made he jump out of my seat (literally). The base is well realized both in the form of the set's interiors (including some fine location work) and the well-done CGI exterior as well. There's also a really-well-done version of the Martian surface as well which is almost convincing, especially with the Doctor walking on it. Then there's the robot Gadget as well, which is almost a character rather than a prop. Plus there's the music of Murray Gold that, especially in the last eleven or twelve minutes, shows once again the power of a Doctor Who score. To top it all off, there's the ever-fantastic direction of Graeme Harper who once again proves himself to be the best director on the New Series by walking the tightrope of action, emotion, horror and suspense without ever falling off. Fine work by all indeed.

Which brings us to the script. While Russell T. Davies' previous collaboration with Gareth Roberts turned out to be something of a dud, his collaboration with Phil Ford proves to be among the better scripts of the New Series. Waters Of Mars takes the classic Doctor Who formula of base under siege and feeds into that formula action sequences, horror, sacrifices and the question at the heart of any time travel series: if you knew what was to happen and could change it, should you? It is that last question that occupies the Doctor throughout the special and that ultimately leads to a powerful finale that answers that question all too painfully. The script does what any great Doctor Who story should do: be exciting, horrifying and yet personal.

Waters Of Mars qualifies as one of the finest stories of the New Series. It starts with fine performances from David Tennant, Lindsay Duncan and the supporting cast. It continues on into the production values including make-up, special effects, the CGI rendering of the base, the score and more of the fantastic direction of Graeme Harper. Then there's the script from Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford that hits all the right notes of action, horror, suspense and yet remaining a personal tale as well. Waters Of Mars ranks with Human Nature/Family Of Blood, Blink and Dalek as amongst the best stories to come out of the New Series and is a fine example of Doctor Who at its best.

Absolotely Spectacular! by Nathan Mullins 1/4/10

The Waters of Mars. What a title! It says it all really, doesn't it? We never did expect this to overshadow all else, did we? Does it really though? I mean, really? I think that The Waters of Mars is possibly one of the best Doctor Who episodes I have ever seen!'The best EVER!' Why? Because it's a masterpiece, it truly is!

So, what do I like about this 'master piece'? Well, at the very begining, when the Doctor first arrives on Mars, he's cheery, excited, full of charm and charisma, his lively attitude is wonderful to watch, taking into account that we, the audiance, know his song is ending, apparently very soon. Sure, the Doctor's has been warned of his death on previous occasions, but he doesn't let his fear of dying overcome the rest of his adventures. He merely takes his constant warnings as a pinch of salt, and strides on, through time and space, intent on having adventure after adventure, which leads him to Bowie Base One.

But having encountered the small robot, whose catch phrase 'Gadget gadget' aggravates the Doctor, truly adds some humor to what later turns into a horribly dark tale, is, before the titles roll, quite a letdown thinking that what's prodded the Doctor in his back is mean and scary, actually turns out to be smaller than the man himself, and quite friendly looking.

But then the titles roll, and we're introduced to the crew of the base itself. The supporting cast are excellent, each and every one of them. They each have their own characteristics, background and emotional backstories. As the tale unfolds, water being the ultimate threat doesn't overshadow the rest of the characters. And what I an by overshadowing was that this episode is considerably darker than any other Who story. I mean, of the tenth Doctor's adventures, there have been few that actually rank in my eyes as some of the best. These are Fear Her, School Reunion, Human Nature/Family of Blood, and of course the last two episodes of David Tennant's, The End of Time.

I like the darker tales than those less so. I find that David Tennant excells in giving a fantastic performance when placed in harsh surroundings otherwise pitted against real threats, such as the Weeping Angels, and the Devil from the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit. I find David Tennant is an amazing actor, an awesome Doctor, and I do hope he some day returns for a reunion of the 'living Doctors'. Oh, that sounds like quite a good title for a Who episode. But I like the Waters of Mars! I mean, the effects are fantastic, the incidental music intense and atmospheric, the fact that the Doctor leaves the cew behind, whilst they're dying is quite unlike 'the Doctor', yet he returns to the rescue, scrapping the so-called rule that he cannot get involved, then later pays the consequences of his actions, as the episode draws to an end.

I like the fact that, like the creature in Midnight, we aren't given a total explanation for what it is about the water, that has such grusome effects on those who drink from it, or even touch it. I mean, we aren't given a proper explanation for what is perhaps, in the water. We do not actually see a monster or a villan, a much as we never saw what the Vashta Nerada really looked like, nor the Midnight monster.

The Tenth Doctor is embarking on an emotional roller coaster though, in this dark, mysterious tale. That's one reason why I enjoyed it so. It has action, humor, real emotion shed between each and every character. The ending is desturbing, the appearence of an Ood informing the Doctor that his end is approaching, almost like the Watcher from Logopolis. I love the Tenth Doctor, and how his adventures stretched massively, in terms of the love affair he had with Rose, the seperation between him and Martha, the close-knit friendship between him and Donna, the loss of all his companions having defeated Davros in Journey's End, and then the bonding of those he met when confronted with the Cybermen, again. All of his adventures have taken us, the audiance, on an emotional ride.

I applaud Russell T Davies for taking on David Tennant as one of the best Time Lords since the classic era of the show. I applaud him for his efforts in giving the tenth Doctor some wonderful adventures, his last two episodes prooving to be some of the most emotional episodes of any Who episode I've ever laid my eyes on.

The Waters of Mars is terrific. It has all the ingredients of quintessential Who, with added special effects, and some wonderful acting! I love Doctor Who. This episode has been described as a taster for what to expect in the finale, but no. I disagree with those who share that opinion. This episode stands on its own two feet, when up against The End of Time. It has a wonderful surporting cast, and the themes therein are moody and wonderfully convincing.

For me, this is a 10!