Doctor Who: The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire (Except on Mars)

Title: “Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 9: Empress of Mars
Genre: Science fiction, Drama
Platform: TV – BBC America
Director: Wayne Yipp
Writer: Mark Gattis
Rating: TV-PG
Release: June 10, 2017
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
Feature image:  Source


A stock photo of NASA appears. Mission Control is excited about their Valkyrie space probe orbiting Mars. They begin their countdown and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) joins in. Doctor: “Sorry I could never resist a countdown.” Bill (Pearl Mackie) points to a picture and asks if it is Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the Moon. Nardole (Matt Lucas) cracks a joke about Bill’s human status. One of the mission analyst asks the Doctor who are they. The Doctor replies, “Friendly aliens. Don’t mind us. Just a friendly day out for the kids.” He shows them the psychic paper saying their chief has given them permission to be there. The space probe beams back pictures beneath the Martian ice caps, one of the pictures shows ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’ spelled out in stones. While Mission Control goes into an uproar, the Doctor smiles.

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Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Bill the message was from 1881. The TARDIS detected life signs underground, so the TARDIS materializes in a system of underground tunnels. They spot a campfire, Bill wants to remove her helmet, but the Doctor tells her to wait, Nardole doesn’t wait, he remarks that it’s just basic physics, a fire can’t blaze without oxygen. They begin exploring, Bill falls through a shaft. The Doctor is highly concerned and sends Nardole to the TARDIS to get some ropes and others supplies to pull Bill out. Nardole gets in the TARDIS and it takes off on its own. He tries to get it to go back to Mars but instead it materializes in the Doctor’s university office. The Doctor hears heavy footsteps heading towards him. Bill, who is unhurt, watches a door slide open and a figure, in what looks like an old-fashioned diving suit repurposed to be a spacesuit, walks towards her. The footsteps the Doctor hears are an Ice Warrior (Richard Aston). The occupant of the diving suit is a human, Captain Catchlove (Ferdinand Kingsley) who says to Bill, “I say, we weren’t expecting company.” The Doctor introduces himself to the Ice Warrior in their traditional greeting. A Victorian era British soldier points his gun, the Doctor tells him the Ice Warrior before them isn’t dangerous; the British soldier shoots at the Doctor’s feet and asks the Ice Warrior, he calls Friday, if he is all right. Nardole goes to the vault to ask Missy’s (Michelle Gomez) help in getting back to Mars. She agrees to help, but it would be easier if she can show him aboard the TARDIS.

Bill and the Doctor have tea with Catchlove and his commanding officer, Colonel Godsacre (Anthony Caif). Friday is their manservant. Godsacre explains that he found Friday and his ship in the veldts of South Africa. Friday was half dead. He asked them to help him get back to Mars, and for their assistance, they would be rewarded with jewels and gold. They would also be able to claim Mars for Queen Victoria. Catchlove complains they haven’t found anything. Godsacre tells the Doctor that Friday is the last of his kind; the Doctor knows better.

The Doctor explains to Bill who the Ice Warriors are. The Doctor: “The Ice Warriors, they build a city out of Mars’ sand then drench the skies with its blood. They could slaughter a whole civilization then weep at the destruction of a flower.” The Ice Warriors remind Bill of the Vikings; which reminds Bill of the movie “The Vikings” starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. While she is describing the movie to the Doctor, Friday walks in. Doctor: “Why did you really come back?” Friday: “I am old, tired, and spent.” Bill accidently drops a plate and he quickly catches it before it hits the ground.

“Don’t belong here? We’re British! Mars is part of the Empire now!” Captain Catchlove  —Doctor Who

The British soldiers are using a repurposed Ice Warrior cannon as a drill. They call it the “Gargantuan”. The British soldiers have been trying to make an opening and they finally do. Bill: “Oh, it’s beautiful. What is it, a tomb?” Doctor: “Not just any tomb. This is the tomb of an Ice Queen. I have a bad felling about this.” The Doctor tries to explain that Friday is using them. The sarcophagus the Queen is in leads to an Ice Warrior hive. They need to leave now. Catchlove is incredulous and says, “Don’t belong here? We’re British! Mars is part of the Empire now!” Sgt. Major Peach (Glenn Speers), Private Jackdaw (Ian Beattie) and Private Vincey (Bayo Gbadamosi) guard the tomb. Jackdaw has drugged Peach’s tea so he can loot the tomb. He tries to convince Vincey to join him. Vincey reminds him they are stranded on Mars. He tells Vincey that Catchlove is further along on repairs than he has led on, and he is going to go back home rich.  Vincey won’t join him but he doesn’t turn him in. He continues to keep guard. Jackdaw sings an old tune to himself why he pries jewels off the sarcophagus. He is too busy to notice the Ice Queen (Adele Lynch) is waking up.

“What manner of fleshy worm are you?” Ice Queen Iraxxa  —Doctor Who

The Ice Queen grabs him. Vincey walks in to tell Jackdaw that someone is coming when he notices he is missing. The Ice Queen Iraxxa asks him, “What manner of fleshy worm are you?” She kills a soldier who tries to shoot her.  Friday shows up and tells the Queen they slept for over 5,000 years. The surface of their world is destroyed. The rest of the British soldiers, along with the Doctor and Bill show up. Catchlove wants to shoot Iraxxa and Friday, but Godsacre reminds the Captain he is in command and permits the Doctor to speak to them. The Doctor confirms what Friday said. She is upset with Friday for allowing the British to make him their ‘pet’. Friday defends himself by saying it was a tactical decision on his part. Iraxxa turns to Bill and asks, “What do you say? I would value your opinion. We are both surrounded by noisy males.” Bill agrees with the Doctor that the planet is dead and they all need to cooperate. One of the British soldiers accidently shoots Iraxxa’s helmet. The Doctor asks how she is and quickly asks her to show mercy to the primitives. Catchlove objects to the term. Iraxxa: “You ask for mercy for these creatures. Then I grant it… (Slowly and menacingly steps towards the Doctor) They will die quickly.” She starts firing and killing British troops. The Brits quickly withdraw.

“I’m gonna make allowances for your Victorian attitudes, because, well, you actually are Victorian.” Bill Potts  —Doctor Who

Catchlove tries to use the Gargantuan to kill Friday and the Ice Queen. Bill hits something on the device so it hits the wall and causes a cave in separating the British soldiers and the Ice Warriors. Catchlove turns on Godsacre and shows the rope burn around Godsacre’s neck. The army bungled his hanging for desertion. He takes over command and has Sgt. Major Peach take him to the brig along with Bill and the Doctor. In the brig Bill asks him did he really desert. He found out he was a coward and he wasn’t fit for command, so he tried to desert. Catchlove found out and has been bleeding him dry to keep quiet. He came to Mars so he could get a new beginning. He asks who Bill and the Doctor are. The Doctor keeps referring to the British soldiers as if they are a different species. Bill tells him that she and the Doctor are sort of like the police. Godsacre laughs, he finds it funny a woman could be on the police force. “I’m gonna make allowances for your Victorian attitudes,” Bill angrily says. “Because, well, you actually are Victorian.” Catchlove thinks he has everything under control, but the Iraxxa has already awaken some of her Ice Warriors and is planning on attacking.

“The Mars you ruled is dead. Fight for the future, not a dead past.”  The Doctor  —Doctor Who

Vincey and Peach are talking about Vincey’s impending wedding to his girlfriend. They don’t notice that the Ice Warriors are burrowing from below. One pops up and kills Peach. The ‘big brave man’ Catchlove grabs Vincey and throws him between him and an Ice Warrior. Vincey dies; and Catchlove is ready to desert his men. From below the brig an Ice Warrior burrows up, but fortunately, it is Friday. He wants to help the Doctor end this. While Bill distracts the Queen by talking to her, the Doctor points the Gargantuan towards the ceiling. He yells at the Queen that they are under the north pole of Mars. If he fires, he will drop millions of pounds of ice and snow on them. She tells the Doctor he will die too. Doctor: “It’s a simple choice, Iraxxa. The oldest one in the book. We must live together. Or die together.” He continues, “The Mars you ruled is dead. Fight for the future, not a dead past.” She calls her troops off, but Catchlove sneaks up behind her with a knife. He has fixed the Ice Warrior ship, but he needs Iraxxa to fly it. To keep anyone from following them, he is going to set off explosives to trap them there.  He mocks his men by telling them that his command was too short, so goodbye. Colonel Godsacre had run off when Friday broke them out of the brig because of his cowardice, but he has regained some courage and sneaks up behind Catchlove. Godsacre: “I think you’ll find Captain. (Gunshot) I’m in command here.” Godsacre begs the Iraxxa not to judge his men and humanity by Catchlove’s cruelty and his cowardice. He requests she spare his men’s lives and Earth. He is willing to die, he in fact welcomes it. He and his men shout “God Save the Queen.” Bill asks the Doctor to stop this but he tells her to wait. Iraxxa commends Godsacre for his bravery but she won’t kill him. He should die with honor in combat and serve her. Godsacre pledges his allegiance to her, his new Queen. Bill asks the Doctor how he knew it would turn out like this. Doctor: “That has always been my problem, thinking like a warrior.”

The Doctor sends an intergalactic request for assistance for the Martians. Alpha Centauri receives their message, they will send ships to assist, and its message to them is, “Welcome to the Universe. The ships will need a marker to find them. Outside on the surface, Godsacre, Bill and the Doctor are creating the marker. Godsacre is going to join the Ice Warriors. He welcomes the new challenge and to get away from his old life. He thinks it is a shame that no one on Earth will ever know they were on Mars. The Doctor assures him one day Earth will find out they had been there. The marker reads ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’. Nardole shows up with the TARDIS and asks the Doctor not to get mad. On board is Missy at the control. She asks the Doctor, “Are you alright?” He tells her she can’t be there; she can’t be out of the vault. She must go back. Missy agrees, but she walks up to him looking concerned and asks, “But really Doctor, tell me; are you alright?”


After the heavier Monk trilogy, it was nice to get a more light-hearted action romp. It was fun watching Bill, Nardole, and the Doctor walk around Mission Control like they owned it. The idea of Victorian era British soldiers fighting the fearsome Ice Warriors is a fun concept. The British soldiers were a fun collection of lower class British caricatures, doing the type of cockney accents we Americans love trying to imitate. The Ice Queen was a fearsome warrior, the shoot first and ask questions type of leader. To her credit, she did have honor and carried about her people, unlike Captain Catchlove. What a great villain, the type of villain you want to punch, really hard. He must have been related to Lord Sutcliffe in “Thin Ice”. He was full of nasty little asides. One of his insults about the Ice Warriors that I really liked was, “I daresay the British army is more than a match for a bunch of upright crocodiles!” What an amusing bastard.  His counterpart was Colonel Godsacre. Godsacre was a coward, but he wasn’t cruel, he cared about his men and made good decisions. He made the great decision of listening to the Doctor. He overcame his cowardice to save his men. He joins the Ice Warriors, giving him a chance for redeemination. He exchanged serving one Queen for another. So the message of “God Save the Queen” on Mar’s surface could have been for both monarchs. I really enjoyed the episode, it could have gone deeper and in more interesting directions, but for a fun adventure romp, it was good.

Grade: B+















Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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