“The Waters Of Mars”
The Doctor takes a trip to the first Martian colony, only to discover himself walking straight into a pivotal moment in history. He knows the fate of the stations crew but will he cross the line and use that knowledge to save them?
Great episodes of Doctor Who tend to be the ones that have both an immediate impact upon you but also an impact that doesn’t dissipate with repeat viewings. These are the episodes that bring out the same emotions and reactions in you on the 5th or 6th viewing as they did when you first saw them. “The Waters Of Mars” certainly falls into this camp. What begins seemingly as your average Doctor-to-the-rescue plot soon descends into a brooding character study that asks the question of just how far could or should The Doctor be willing to go in order to “do the right thing”.
The crisis that takes place at Bowie Base One (who doesn’t love a Bowie reference?) is one of the few instances where The Doctor stumbles upon events that are a fixed point in time. This simply means that what happens here has to happen and always has to have happened. To change the outcome would be against the laws of time as laid down by the Time Lords. Although The Doctor is often more than happy to jump into a situation and lend a hand, such situations are usually open to multiple potential outcomes. But the crisis at Bowie Base One has to take place in order for certain moments in future history to occur, important events that are pivotal in shaping the evolution of mankind’s future exploration of the stars.
Put simply, The Doctor can’t get involved. He should have walked away the moment he realised that this was a fixed point in time but he doesn’t and this is where the drama comes into play. It’s the dark examination of The Doctor’s character that makes the episode so memorable and so captivating as opposed to the events of the story themselves. Should The Doctor interfere when he knows that he shouldn’t? His curiosity and his conscience are heavily explored as he witnesses the deaths of the bases residents at the hands of The Flood, a sort of conscious virus that has been lurking for centuries in the planets ice cores and has been unleashed by the drilling operations of this colony team, lead by the stern Captain Adelaide Brooke (played wonderfully by Lindsay Duncan).
This stands as one of David Tennant’s finest performances as The Doctor. We see him battle through his emotions as he reacts to what he’s seeing, we’re given a glimpse of the weight he shoulders from knowing the outcome of these events and we understand the pain he feels at not being able to warn the station’s inhabitants. When the situation finally becomes desperate, we witness the dark and unsettling turn as The Doctor’s deeply buried Time Lord instincts win through and he declares himself the master of time and space. He skirts dangerously close to the kind of mentality we’d expect to see in The Master, believing himself to be blessed with the right to decide what should and should not come to pass in the universe. And though events are altered, it turns out that even The Doctor cannot hault the course of history. When Brooke proves him wrong at the end of the episode, he’s brought crashing back to reality with the dreadful realisation of what he has done and terrified by what the consequences might be. Tennant’s performance throughout is a tour de force but it’s in these final moments when Ood Sigma mysteriously appears to him as the snow silently falls that Tennant delivers his most pained performance, asking his old friend if maybe this time he really has gone too far. It’s one of the truly breathtaking moments of New Who.
A fantastic examination of the results of The Doctor’s decisions, with one of Davies’ most accomplished scripts and a spell-binding performance from David Tennant. A future classic if ever there was one. Nothing less than 10/10.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett