Synopsis of 10×9: In a script by Mark Gatiss, the Tardis Three wind up on Mars facing off with Victorian Soldiers and ancient Ice Warriors.
Gatiss likes to write a lot of story with no resolve and no discovery. It works in his Sherlock episodes (since that’s what Sherlock is: lots of story, and a quick solution a la his own genius), but Doctor Who can be more universal and nuanced. So to see that opportunity fly away in favor of another runaway theme is well… annoying. Here is what I’m talking about.
The plot is as simple as follows:
- The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole wind up on Mars.
- They encounter an Ice Warrior.
- Next, they encounter Victorian era soldiers.
- Finally, they encounter the Ice Empress.
- The Doctor must resolve the problem.
That should be enough for the episode, right? The theme of this week seems to be, “Who does the Doctor, defender of the human race, side with when humans are the colonists on the attack?” There’s plenty there; especially since it’s Victorian soldiers who fight for “Queen and Country.” Then they meet a different Queen, who feels female solidarity with Bill. Within the ranks of the Victorian men, there are dissenters, thieves, a mutiny, and an attempted assassination, in addition to the theme of colonization. And neither side is completely in the right, putting forth the idea of comprise in the face of adversity.
Oh, and they’re still trapped on Mars. Who cares what you’re colonizing, if you can’t get back to your own land?
There are touches of social justice that I’ve been enjoying all season. There are black soldiers; there are female leaders and female understanding. Bill, as a mixed race-lesbian, must speak for the human race again. This marks the third time she’s done that this season: ‘Thin Ice,’ ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World,’ and here. Maybe that will be important later on.
And in the end, the resolution is that someone is willing to sacrifice themselves. That’s what keeps the Empress of Mars from killing everyone. Huh? One person kneeling and pledging to die a soldier’s death is enough to keep her from slaughtering the rest of his men? I know this is a family show, but come on! That’s not what the setup was for her character, so it was truly out of the blue.
And then there’s Nardole, who’s gotten kidnapped by the Tardis. He frees Missy in order to help save the Doctor. That’s all good and dandy, except we don’t know which side Missy is on yet. She’s playing a long-game. The shots of her are fascinating, reminiscent of Clara, or any companion. There are long lingering shots of her face, determined to help the Doctor at all costs.
There’s a lot happening in this episode. Almost too much, IMHO. I wish the story had just stuck to something simple, but nuanced. Like the relationship between Bill and the Empress. Or focusing on the dissenter and his men. Or focusing on the British colonization; there’s plenty there. But alas, this episode gave us all three, and Missy, and the kitchen sink too.
- This is the most badass Bill has ever looked. She’s like a much cooler version of Katniss Everdeen, with that black jump suit and those braids.
- Ferdinand Kingsely (aka Sir Ben Kingsley’s son) is a fox!
- More Missy is alway s a good thing. And maybe this means they’ll be much more of her to come in the final episodes!
- Hurray for the return of Classic Who characters: The Ice Warriors and Alpha Centuri! (Aka the giant eye at the end.) The original voiceover artist even came back for this one.
- All the “ho hums” and “old chaps” were a perfectly hilarious homage to Jolly Olde England. (Olde being the operative word.)