Empress of Mars may have whisked us away to the red planet,
but after the reality questioning, expectations confounding Star Monks trilogy
we were very much back on familiar grounds. It was an episode that played to
various tried and tested Doctor Who formulas: bug eyed monsters, check; a timey
wimey resolution, check; a mashup of different eras and civilisations, check;
humans acting as duplicitously as the aliens, check.
Love it, or loathe it, Mark Gatiss’s story will have won a
permanent place in the affections of long term fans for a completely unexpected
cameo which will give hope to lovers of the Zarbi, the Monoids or even the
Kandyman. But the episode itself is a routine and otherwise predictable affair, though no less fun for it.
Undemanding isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it will have
provided light relief for those who might have befuddled by recent episodes,
particular with the unsettling characterisations of the Doctor and Bill in The
Lie of the Land. That’s not to say that Empress of Mars didn’t raise a few
questions of its own. Enquiring fans will have been given plenty of morsels to
chew over as we gear up for the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s run.
Paul Driscoll is a freelance writer and author across a range of subjects from Cult TV to religion and social policy. He is a passionate Doctor Who fan and January 2017 will see the publication of his first extended study of the series (based on Toby Whithouse's series six episode, The God Complex) in the critically acclaimed Black Archive range by Obverse Books. He is a regular writer for the fan site Doctor Who Worldwide and has contributed several essays to Watching Books' You and Who range. Recently he has branched out into fiction writing, with two short stories in the charity Doctor Who anthology Seasons of War (Chinbeard Books). Paul's work will also feature in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme collection (A Clockwork Iris, Obverse Books) and Chinbeard Books' collection of drabbles, A Time Lord for Change.