Doctor Who would take a small “rest” the following year for a couple of reasons. Not only would it give the audience a little time away from the show to appreciate it a little better, but it also gave star David Tennant time to work on other projects besides Doctor Who.
However, there would still be Who on television over the next year. It would consist of five specials, to begin with, the now annual Doctor Who Christmas episode on Christmas Day in 2008. Each special would feature a one-off companion and would climax with the end of Tennant's reign as the Doctor as well as final episode made under Russel T. Davies watch as executive producer.
Ideas for the various specials were moved around and changed as time went on, with the number of specials finally settled at four in April of 2008. Waters of Mars was originally intended to be the Christmas episode, previously going by the titles“Christmas on Mars” and “Red Christmas.”
However, budget issues plagued the special and the episode was almost abandoned, with Davies rallying to include the Mars adventure.
Eventually, it was said to be the long rumored Halloween special, which suited the overall tone of the scripts. Sadly, it was broadcast almost two weeks past Halloween, crushing my dreams of seeing the Doctor acknowledge my favorite holiday.
Thankfully, this made little difference to the end product, which was everything a fan waiting for good old fashioned scary Doctor Who could wish for.
Doing things right is always a tricky thing, especially when you are talking about the tastes of the Doctor Who fan, an eclectic bunch to be sure, with people loving episodes others despise.
Waters of Mars hits all of my personal buttons as far as quality Who goes; it is epic, dark, poignant and best of all, scary.
Horror stories only work if there is a significant and realistic story behind the monster to make it scary in your mind as well as in your soul. The stakes in this one are high. If the Flood reaches Earth, with all of its water, it will mean the end of the Human race. It will also mean that Captain Adelaide Brooke will inspire her grandchild to be one of the first pioneers in deep space travel when she dies preventing The Flood's plan.
Add this to the fact that Captain Brooke's death is a fixed point in time that the Doctor is forbidden to interfere with and this episode has gravitas in spades.
The special also really delves into Doctor Who's history as well.
Not only in name dropping the Ice Warriors a couple of times but also in the fact that at the end, when Captain Brooke tells the Doctor to leave Bowie Base One, you can see the torment on the face of the man who never could stand just to watch and observe when lives were at stake. It makes the episode all the more powerful and it is done admirably well by David Tennant, who despite a little too much yelling does a hell of a job as the “Time Lord Victorious.”
I think that as far as endings of Doctor Who adventures go, only the false regeneration at the end of The Stolen Earth and Adric's death at the end of Earthshock actually made me as speechless as the Doctor's actions at the end of Waters of Mars.
The Doctor showed both the strain of knowing about his own death and the virtues that made him the hero and god-like figure he had become by this time. You can almost hear the Doctor's thoughts that if he can save an “important” historical figure like Captain Brooke then surely he could also find a way to possibly save himself from his own fate.
Waters of Mars is also a script that besides the modern continuity could have been made in 1975 just as easily as 2008. The running through corridors, the base under siege, the monster of the week and the fate of the Earth in the balance. All classic elements that although touched on since the series returned in 2005, never felt as similar as they did throughout most of Waters of Mars.
Doctor Who works best when it makes you think a bit about going in the Underground to catch a train or makes passing shop window dummies at night a little more uneasy. Waters of Mars is saturated with this factor and is dripping with the little moments that I loved as a kid and I let my imagination get the best of me.
Excuse all the bad water puns, it's just that it's started to rain and after I finished writing this review I was going to get a coffee...was.
Water always wins.
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