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.