Empress of Mars

Empress of Mars

The nobility of the warrior, the code of conduct to which they adhere, has been the subject of dramatic entertainment for millennia. From the amphitheaters of Ancient Greece, to the television programs of today, we can still be awed by the discipline and honor exemplified by history’s greatest warrior civilizations. The reptilian species of Mars once held this level of esteem — one facet of a complex and unique nature — and the Doctor himself recognizes it. “They could slaughter entire civilizations…and weep at the crushing of a flower.”

In the latest Doctor Who episode, the Ice Warriors are once again formidable, noble, and fierce. Long Live the Queen.

This week, we look to Mark Gatiss one more time, perhaps the last time, to tell a Whovian tale in “The Empress of Mars”. In a set of circumstances wonderfully unique to this program, our Doctor takes Bill and Nardole to the red planet in 1881, only to find the British Royal Army already there, making short work of crossing a very powerful — and irascible — queen. We discuss the deflation of patriarchy, the true villains of the tale (hint: they aren’t reptilian), the restored glory of the Ice Warrior species, and the return of a Pertwee-era character that closes a wholly entertaining continuity loop.

Bonus Segment:

As more entries roll in for our “Let’s Discuss Gatiss” contest on Facebook (open until 23 June), we pull on one of the threads within to reflect on Gatiss’ many episode contributions to Doctor Who, from ‘The Unquiet Dead’ all the way up to ‘Empress of Mars’. Reactions to his legacy seem to fall into two camps: he’s either a skilled storyteller who incorporates “moments” from time to time that throw viewers; or he’s a mediocre writer who occasionally has moments of brilliance. Got an opinion? Join the discussion — and be entered to win some DW swag, in the process! [Note: we recorded this episode before the recent interview Gatiss held where he discussed his controversial “protest” to casting in ‘Empress of Mars’. More on that next week…it would have had a profound impact on our opinions, for sure.]

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Let It Be Written

Doctor Who Writers

We are appreciators, enthusiasts, and fanatics of certain television programs due in no small part to the captivating nature of the stories they tell. They are the creators and builders of worlds, the artists that add color, detail, and depth to an audio-visual experience that captures our imaginations, stimulates our minds, and often touches our hearts. With over 250 televised stories within Doctor Who, how does each writer put their individual and unique mark upon the tale being told? Can a producer or showrunner look to a repertoire of wordsmiths, knowing which ones can fulfil certain wishes or needs for the program’s trajectory in a given season? What aspects of fledgling writers stand out to make them ideal candidates to be given a first opportunity to write for the program?

This week, we look at the contributions of a series of beloved Doctor Who writers, classic and new, veteran and freshman. We discuss the nature of their individual craft, what impact their stories had upon the DWU both within their respective seasons and beyond, and what adept skills many of them demonstrate when penning a script for the Doctor. From the prolific Robert Holmes, to the acclaimed Paul Cornell, to brilliant newcomer Sarah Dollard, the pen so often proves mightier than the sonic screwdriver.

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Sleep No More

Sleep No More

There are moments where the format of a long-running program needs to be shaken up, risks taken, and experiments conducted to see not only how far the limits can be pushed, but how far the audience will travel in that ‘concept car’. Mark Gatiss has certainly dropped a large amount of unfamiliar content, story structure and cinematic elements into his latest episode, and the response has been polarizing, to say the least. But in the end, does it even matter?

This week, we scratch our heads after watching a few iterations of “Sleep No More”, the found-footage bottle episode that finds our Doctor and Clara on a 38th century research vessel orbiting Neptune. You might feel as if you’ve just simultaneously viewed The Ring and Paranormal Activity while playing Doom and reading Gaiman’s Sandman, but it’s alright, because none of this [bzzzt] really happened, after [bzzt-crackle] all. Just go back to sleep.

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