Doctor Who Review – “Empress of Mars”

Series 10, episode 9 aired a couple of days ago. How is it feeding into the season ending cliffhanger?

Cast and Crew

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Pearl Mackie as Bill
Matt Lucas as Nardole
Michelle Gomez as Missy
Richard Ashton as Friday
Ian Beattie as Jackdaw
Anthony Calf as Godsacre
Lesley Ewen as Coolidge
Ferdinand Kingsley as Catchglove
Adele Lynch as Iraxxa

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Wayne Yip

Original Airdate

Empress of Mars originally aired on June 10, 2017.


A new probe lands on Mars, and finds rocks arranged to spell “God Save the Queen” below the polar icecap. The Doctor takes Nardole and Bill to Mars in 1881, when the message was left, to figure out how that happened. They discover Victorian British soldiers who have rescued an Ice Warrior and returned to Mars with him under the promise of riches. The Ice Warrior’s real plan is to resurrect his hibernating Queen and her army, and it’s up to the Doctor and Bill to defuse the situation with minimal loss of life.

High Point

The racism and sexism that the classic series often ignored are a natural part of this episode. It doesn’t get in the way of the story, but just comes out of it.

Low Point

We’re going to need one heck of an explanation for the departure of the TARDIS, and more importantly, why Nardole relaxed his attitude about the Vault.

The Review

The Ice Warriors have been used before, although not to the degree of the Daleks or Cybermen. They did something new and original with Friday and the Colonel, but for the most part, it feels like a typical Ice Warriors story. I give it 3 out of 6.

The effects were effective for the most part. A couple of the Ice Warrior attacks looked clearly to be made with CGI, thanks to some lighting issues with surface textures, but they mostly work. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story was well structured and well told. I just wish it was less like the other Ice Warriors stories we’ve seen. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting was well done all around. No issues here whatsoever. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response isn’t too bad. I’m interested in the tiny little B plot that must be feeding into the later episodes of the season, but the main story just felt too familiar to really engage me until the Colonel’s final act of command. I give it 4 out of 6.

The production is spot on, as usual. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this episode is fine, and it entertains, but it doesn’t enthrall. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Empress of Mars receives 32 out of 42.

6 replies on “Doctor Who Review – “Empress of Mars””

    • Gatiss might be devisive over his writing, but you’ve got to give him credit for his ability to put so many references to the earlier episodes in there for us old timers, and the conclusion sets up the Ice Warrior’s presence in the Peladon serial perfectly. Not only a truly dedicated Whovian, but addressing minor issues from almost *45 years* ago. Kudos. :)

  1. They even used the original voice actress for Alpha.

    While I didn’t think this was on par with the season’s earlier episodes, I found it far superior to the last couple. They were doing a kind of tribute to the original Doctor Who series, and it worked on that level.

    I can’t give it much for originality, though, for the reasons given, and because of the Ice Queen. Aliens with “hives,” apparently, must always have a queen, and (of course), the first female Ice Warrior has humanlike female secondary sex characteristics (and appendages that resemble braided tresses).

    Alpha, in previous appearances, may look like a certain appendage in a dress, but at least they tried to make an alien that was actually alien. The show needs to do that more often.

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