Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars (BBC America) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

(BBC America, Saturday, December 19, 9/8 Central)

Dec 18, 2009 Web Exclusive
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"Don't drink the water, don't even touch it, not one drop" warns one character in The Waters of Mars, which returns Doctor Who to form after the last two good, but not great, special episodes (The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead). The welcome dark tone is driven by a moral dilemma faced by The Doctor, one specific to time travelers. It's rare to find The Doctor so indecisive, so reluctant to step in, and David Tennant plays the character with the complexity and gusto we've come to expect since he took over the mantle of the long-running and iconic character in 2005. This is the last of three episodes to star Tennant as The Doctor before Matt Smith takes over the part next year and The Waters of Mars reminds viewers why he's a fan-favorite and how much he'll be missed.

For the uninitiated, The Doctor is the last of an alien race known as The Time Lords and he travels in time and space with a devil-may-care attitude, getting caught up in various adventures where and when, often saving lives in the process. In The Waters of Mars The Doctor finds himself on Mars in 2059, at Bowie Base One, humanity's first off world colony, which is manned by a small international crew led by Captain Adelaide Brooke (a confident Lindsay Duncan). Soon after The Doctor arrives at the base, the crew start to become infected by the Martian water, turning into hosts for a water-based creature of sorts, and the time traveler realizes that he's stepped into a tragic moment in history that he may be powerless to stop. "Certain moments in time are fixed. Tiny, precious moments," The Doctor tells Adelaide. "Everything else is in flux, anything can happen. But those certain moments, they have to stand." Does The Doctor intervene, as he has done many a time before, even if it means seriously disrupting human history? Several times The Doctor says, "I should go," but he can't help but observe, like a bystander watching a car wreck. But will he get involved? Can he live with himself if he doesn't? Can he live with himself if he does? These dilemmas lead to some fantastic characters moments for The Doctor and reveal sides of the Time Lord rarely seen, both moments of despair and defiance.

Executive Producer Russell T. Davies co-wrote the script with Phil Ford and it approaches the darkness of Davis' Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries in a way that few Doctor Who episodes have. In fact, watching The Waters of Mars, it's sometimes hard to believe that Doctor Who is viewed by millions of children in the U.K., especially after one particularly chilling scene at the end. But the episode is still fast-paced and not buried under the weight of its deeper meaning-there are plenty of chases down corridors and an exciting countdown, and monsters are creepy. The one kid-friendly element is also the episode's one slight misfire-a clunky robot named Gadget Gadget that keeps saying his own name-but even the robot is used in a nice reference to Back to the Future and during a cool moment in the climax.

All of this bodes well for The End of Time, the two-part final Tennant episode that will air in the U.K. on Christmas Day and New Year's Day and in the U.S. on December 26 and January 2. In The Waters of Mars The Doctor realizes that his death/regeneration may be approaching and Tennant successfully balances that gravitas with the more gung-ho aspects of the character. Davies has a knack for bold and exciting finales, and since The End of Time will be his last ever Doctor Who finale, as well as Tennant's, if The Waters of Mars is any indication, Doctor Who fans are in line for an exiting and weighty Christmas treat. (

(Read our recent interview with David Tennant.)


Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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December 20th 2009

I’d give the last fifteen minutes a 9.

December 21st 2009

This episode was a perfect set up for the exit of Tennant with the doctor tempted to the dark side and the exercise of all of his power.  In the hands of a great actor the touch of the “MASTER” in his face and voice was almost frightening.  Tennant will be missed, but he has given us a doctor that may never be equaled.

March 20th 2010

10th Doctor Forever - I thought the same of David Tennant when he first took the role over - I’d just gotten into the Christopher Eccleston groove and was really liking the time war-battered character. Grew to like DT by about halfway through his first season. I immediately like Matt Smith, although I wish that the new showrunner had written the regeneration scene so that it wasn’t a carbon copy of DT’s. On DT’s passing, I’m of mixed feelings. He was a great Doctor. However, in the last few stories, they really pushed his ego into a place it shouldn’t have gone. The Longest Regeneration Ever was a nice swan song on one hand but other than seeing the characters one last time did it accomplish anything? He really didn’t say goodbye to anyone, and if I were Sarah Jane or Captain Jack I’d wonder why he popped in, nodded, and left without saying anything. “Oh, he’s dying” wouldn’t be at the top of my list of assumptions. Ultimately, The End Of Time is as uneven as the rest of the show has been - lots of good ideas that seem to lose something in the translation. Sad to see DT’s time gone, but definitely looking forward to The New Guy this time.

Indonesia Today
April 8th 2010

Lol, the angle made him look like the creep from the prison break