Time Lord Victorious – The Waters of Mars – Reviewed!

ROLLEI

Image Credit: shining.darkness (Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Image Description: The Flood are coming…

In a jaunt away from new TLV content, John Salway takes a look at the stories featured on the Road to the Dark Times Blu-Ray, and their place in TLV canon. Last but not least, The Waters of Mars

We’ve finally reached the end of the Road to the Dark Times with The Waters of Mars, the penultimate adventure starring David Tennant as the Doctor, and the story that gives the Time Lord Victorious range its name. But that comes right at the end of the tale, so for now, let’s look at the episode as a whole.

Judged on its own merits, The Waters of Mars is a highly polished and dramatic adventure, telling the story of a Mars colony doomed to destruction from a terrifying water-based infection that seeks a route back to the Earth. The Doctor knows that things must end badly, and that the tragedy forms a “fixed point” in time, but cannot tear himself away as the events unfold. Eventually, something snaps, and he resolves to break the laws of time to save the crew’s lives. It’s a bold, big-budget thriller with a weighty ethical dilemma, and pushes the Doctor into genuinely new territory at its conclusion. The production values in particular are also impressive, with some exceptional creature make-up and choreography for the infected colonists, and an inspired use of the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales for the base’s biodome. Add to that a strong guest cast headed by Lindsay Duncan, and you have a story I personally really enjoy, and that, I think, is generally well regarded at large.

I can absolutely see why they’ve tried to use this story as the launching-off point for some extra adventures with the Tenth Doctor. On the one hand, there’s an indefinite gap between this story and the next which is ideal for fitting stories in. Furthermore, as the Doctor is travelling alone, you have the freedom to introduce whatever companion or ally you wish to assist him, like Brian the Ood. But trying to tie the concept of the “Time Lord Victorious” into the ongoing arc you’re developing doesn’t really work because it’s an element that The Waters of Mars introduces and resolves entirely within its own length. The Doctor seemingly breaks one of the rules of time, declares himself the “winner” of the Time War, and boasts about his power. He is then immediately humbled by Adelaide Brooke’s sacrifice, which proves the emptiness of his previous words. Following this, he is then haunted by the image of an Ood, foretelling his (somewhat) imminent death, and himself admits that he has “gone too far”. So, in the space of five minutes, he’s already learned that he is not the Time Lord Victorious, that he does not want to be, and his death is near. It’s a resolved plotline, and the Doctor’s face-off with the Kotturuh in the Dark Times sometimes feels like a re-tread of similar material as a result. I also can’t shake the possibility that they fit a plotline in here just because they thought “Time Lord Victorious” sounded really cool…

In fact, if I had my way, there wouldn’t even be a gap here for Time Lord Victorious to exist at all, because I think The Waters of Mars could have made for an exceptional regeneration story. It’s an adventure that pushes the Doctor to his ethical limits, and even sees him push beyond that, yet it is Adelaide who pays the harshest penalty for his choices. At the story’s conclusion, Adelaide shoots herself to maintain the proper course of history, and to prove the Time Lord Victorious wrong. But I say, why should Adelaide be forced to punish herself for the actions of the Doctor? She should have shot him instead! It would be a bold ending for the character, providing the necessary punishment for his actions, and thematically “resetting” him back onto the right track. Of course, the general viewing public probably wouldn’t be as keen on a dark, moody ending for their favourite Doctor as myself. Not to mention, if I don’t leave the gap for Time Lord Victorious, I’d be putting myself out of a job! And just when the end is coming in sight…

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