Saturday, December 19, 2009

Doctor Who, "The Waters of Mars": Wet wet wet

As I mentioned in the "Dollhouse" post directly below this one, we're at the end of a long week for me and I'm not physically or mentally up to doing a write-up of the penultimate "Doctor Who" movie with David Tennant, which started out as another story of The Doctor trapped on a space station whose crew get picked off one by one, and then became something very different in the final act.

So tell me what you thought, and in a week's time we can discuss (hopefully at more length) the first part of the final Tenth Doctor story, "The End of Time."

25 comments:

MyFawny said...

The Doctor is tired and once again his extreme loneliness has reared up. Without Donna Noble or any other companion to balance out his ego he decides he is The Time Lord Victorious & lets his ego get to him. He makes a rash decision, not understanding the ramifications.

Myles said...

First experience with Who since a few random forays into the Eccleston years, and Tennant really tore the house down for me - like you say, Alan, the final act takes a left turn that feels (although I don't entirely know the context surrounding the current narrative) like the perfect launching pad for the grand finale of Tennant's run.

Its strength has inspired me to catch the rest of Tennant's movies and eventually probably some of the highlights (which my own readers were kind enough to help me narrow down in the comments to my own review of TWoM) of his run on the show, so mission accomplished Davies!

Kensington said...

As much as I enjoyed it, I have to point out one fairly glaring example of plot idiocy that might well demolish the controversy of the Doctor's actions in the last act.

Basically, why didn't he just take the survivors somewhere obscure and tell them to lay low for the rest of their lives? That way, history is preserved, yet they don't have to die.

I'm a little surprised this didn't even come up for debate.

Kensington said...

Now, that criticism aside, I'm happy to say that The Waters of Mars was probably the most enjoyable episode in rather awhile, certainly after the mediocrities that were the previous two specials.

M.A.Peel said...

Keningstone, I thought the same thing, that he could have save their lives and kept history intact. But that's part of the hubris that is taking him over.

On the other hand: he is a Time Lord. The underlying truth of the mythology, I think, is that the history of the universe is his call. If he wants it to be "different" from any point in time, it will be. And there is no higher power, I don't think, to say he shouldn't play around the history of everything.

Myles said...

As noted, my connection to the mythology was limited, but my guess is that Davies avoided the middle ground because it wouldn't have satisfied the basic needs of humanity: from what we saw, the people on board the base were highly dependent on their connection with loved ones (via video messages, etc.), and for them to abandon that is to lose their lives as they know them.

But you're right in that it at least should have been a point of discussion, and that Davies mostly leaves it out so that he can the Doctor's move from passive acceptance of History's authority to active attempts to change the course of history through his actions is more sweeping.

Matthew L said...

Basically, why didn't he just take the survivors somewhere obscure and tell them to lay low for the rest of their lives? That way, history is preserved, yet they don't have to die.

Like M A Peel said, it's just the Doctor deciding he can do whatever he likes - he came, I felt, pretty damned close to declaring himself a god, and if you feel you are that powerful, then why not use your power like that.

40 minutes into the show, I was convinced the story was going to have a shocking ending, and that shocking ending would be the Doctor walking away and leaving them all to die because they had to. And yet the ending where people actually are saved and survive is even darker. Extraordinary.

Nicole said...

Frankly this is the first special that wasn't a complete waste of time. The other ones were basically placeholders and finally this was a story with consequences, which is what happened with the series, and it's what makes the show worthwhile. I can't wait until the last Tennant episodes because I think Davies' entire run has been building to this, the Time Lord truly acting like a god, and while there were hints that the companions are what kept him from embracing the megalomania full tilt, we actually see the results.

I think you can link this to some of the behaviour we saw in the Family of Blood two parter, especially after regaining his memory as the Doctor. The Doctor's hubris also sets up the likely reason for Ten's downfall, so while it will be sad, it will probably be better for us and the Doctor that Eleven and Steven Moffatt takes over.

I do wonder if there was any discussion in terms of where Ten will be emotionally and how that links to Eleven. RTD hasn't said much about it but then he probably can't discuss it without spoiling what happens.

I was glad to see Lindsay Duncan as the unofficial companion, both as a character with substance and one who questioned the Doctor's prerogative, as Donna occasionally did.

J said...

Kudos to the BBC for airing the last two Tennant eps in the US in a timely fashion!

Been waiting for an unchecked, egomaniacal Doctor since the end of "Family of Blood." As punishment the show will turn him into a petulant teenager and send him to his room without supper.

Nicole said...

Although I am not impressed that Space is not airing the first part on Dec 26th, at least both episodes air on Jan 2nd. I still think that these will most some of the most torrented episodes out there, because of the transition form Ten to Eleven.

Tausif Khan said...

@ M.A. Peel/Matthew L

The Time Lords to do not control time. As The Doctor has said previously and in the preview of this special that there are fixed moments in time which can not be changed. Case in point the episode where Mount Vesuvius explodes.

Craig Ranapia said...

I do wonder if there was any discussion in terms of where Ten will be emotionally and how that links to Eleven. RTD hasn't said much about it but then he probably can't discuss it without spoiling what happens.

Nicole: Davies has been quite explicit that he hasn't had ANY discussions about what directions the Eleventh Doctor is being taken in, because he felt it was creatively important (and professionally respectful) that he just back off and leave Steven Moffat and the rest of the new team get to put their vision of Doctor Who in place. If my memory serves, Moffat saw the scripts for 'The Waters of Mars' and 'The End of Time' so there would be a smooth transition, but RTD has said he's looking forward to seeing Doctor Who as just another viewer next year for the first time in two decades.

I was glad to see Lindsay Duncan as the unofficial companion, both as a character with substance and one who questioned the Doctor's prerogative, as Donna occasionally did.

All the way back in 'The Runaway Bride' it was Donna who said The Doctor needed to find a new companion, because he needed someone to just say "stop" occasionally.

Craig Ranapia said...

As much as I enjoyed it, I have to point out one fairly glaring example of plot idiocy that might well demolish the controversy of the Doctor's actions in the last act.

Basically, why didn't he just take the survivors somewhere obscure and tell them to lay low for the rest of their lives? That way, history is preserved, yet they don't have to die.


Kensington: Because that's still violating a "fixed" point in history; just as he couldn't prevent the destruction of Pompei by preventing the Pyroviles from coming to Earth; or, all the way back in 'Genesis of The Daleks', preventing them from existing in the first place.

The Time Lords are powerful and ancient: But for every Doctor, there's others who've shown a disturbing degree of arrogance, if not outright callous disdain, for "the little people". The Master is the worse, but not the only one in the history of the show.

Inconnu said...

The episode was fairly standard, the big twist being the ending. Which comes out of left field. The Captain wanted help, wanted to be rescued, and then does a quick 180 and worries about history? WTF?

My major problem is the Doctor's FEAR of his "death" None of the previous Doctors have feared regeneration, they might not have wanted to regenerate, but they didn't fear it like this one seems to.

M.A.Peel said...

About the concept of a "fixed point in time": that's exactly what the Doctor is now challenging. It's like he's had an awakening. Maybe there are fixed points, and maybe there aren't. He has the power to change them, and why shouldn't he? So history will change. Then it's just a different history. Who's to say the "original"--say from Vesuvius exploding as it did--is any more valid than what would have happened if he had stopped Vesuvius.

Icconu, I thought the same thing about this fear of death. Unless he believes for some reason that he isn't going to regenerate, but actually die. Since everyone on his planet died, it's a possibility.

Lorrie said...

About the concept of a "fixed point in time": that's exactly what the Doctor is now challenging. It's like he's had an awakening. Maybe there are fixed points, and maybe there aren't.

But it's not like these fixed moments in time are written down in some Time Lord encyclopedia. The Time Lords didn't decide which are fixed moments and which aren't. Whether a moment is fixed or variable is just something the Doctor knows, almost instinctively. Within that context, his belief that he can subvert of the laws of time is terrifying. He more or less declared himself a god.

Craig Ranapia said...

My major problem is the Doctor's FEAR of his "death" None of the previous Doctors have feared regeneration, they might not have wanted to regenerate, but they didn't fear it like this one seems to.

Except this time the circumstances are different. Previously, The Doctor has regenerated as the results of severe physical trauma, often to save the lives of others.

He knows he's arrogantly fraked around with the very fabric of time itself, and there will be consequences. But for once, he doesn't know what they will be but is absolutely certain they won't be good. As far as he knows, he's not facing the prospect of regeneration but the end of his life. (Remember, not even the Time Lords are immortal -- they have a finite cycle of regenerations, unless you're willing to go the route of the Master and steal someone else's body or other acts of cosmic douche-baggery.)

Matthew L said...

The Time Lords to do not control time. As The Doctor has said previously and in the preview of this special that there are fixed moments in time which can not be changed. Case in point the episode where Mount Vesuvius explodes.

I'm aware of this - but the episode was about the Doctor deciding he was not governed by those moments, which was the point I was trying to make.

My major problem is the Doctor's FEAR of his "death" None of the previous Doctors have feared regeneration, they might not have wanted to regenerate, but they didn't fear it like this one seems to.

Plus, by the time the others actually came to regenerate, it was actually a bit of a surprise for them. "Oh dear, I've been injured, I'll have to regenerate." But in this case, he's known this was coming since Planet of the Ood, when Ood Sigma said the Doctor's song would end soon, and then Planet of the Dead, with the "He will knock four times" warning. Knowing the end is coming soon would understandably make you more afraid than if the end came suddenly with no warning. (The closest to this would be Tom Baker's regeneration in Logopolis, where The Watcher is always present, and from memory the Doctor does seem rather uncomfortable with his presence.)

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

And here's another reason why The Doctor has very good reason to be afraid -- he and Donna visit the Ood Sphere in 4146; the Ood are telepaths but it should be no more possible for Ood Sigma to appear to The Doctor on Earth in 2059 (two thousand years and three galaxies away), than it was for Rose to travel from her parallel Earth. And that time the universe -- all universes -- was in very deep crap indeed.

Nicole Marie said...

I hated so much about this episode. Seriously, if the whole fixed point of time point is that the commander's death at the space station inspired her granddaughter, how exactly does her killing herself do the same thing? I thought it was glaringly obvious from the beginning that he could save them so she could inspire her granddaughter in person, so it was an incredibly weak point around which to build a histrionic and ridiculous episode. Which made all the drama leading up to his big speech seemed a bit pointless, and if you couldn't see that big speech coming a mile away, you've never seen this show before. Ugh, so frustrating, and it makes me glad that the next special is Tennant's last and I'll finally be able to stop watching.

Craig Ranapia said...

Nicole:

Just to save your blood pressure, I've talked to an acquaintance who attended the press preview of The End of Time, Part One a couple of days back and you're going to hate it.

Nicole said...

There are two of us here... and while there probably was another way to inspire the granddaughter to get into space travel, I bought the premise, just like the one where the guy travels in a police phone box.

I don't want to set my hopes too high, because while RTD is great at setting up the finales (so part one will be good), the actual conclusion is usually a bit of a let down (except for Doomsday, but then he went and erased that in later finales). Since there has to be an actual consequence in this finale, I think the conclusion will actually be one of the better episodes.

I am glad to know that Moffat has read the scripts before starting filming with Eleven, because while I trust SM implicitly, there will need to be a little continuity for the emotional transition.

Craig Ranapia said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

There are two of us here...

Sorry about that, Nicole.

I am glad to know that Moffat has read the scripts before starting filming with Eleven, because while I trust SM implicitly, there will need to be a little continuity for the emotional transition.

Not only that, but British television being what it is, Moffat accepted the job and started working on story ideas before RTD had even locked down the scripts for The Stolen Earth/Journey's End. I don't think the Eleventh Doctor's debut season is going to contain any stories set in the first human colony on Mars or Victorian London. It's also pretty important to do some groundwork on the character of the new Doctor and companion, and their relationship, before you start casting.

I share you trust in Moffat, but also feel a little sorry for him and Matt Smith, though, because the expectations are going to be so high there's no way they can satisfy everyone. Then again, I'm sure there are plenty of writer/producers and actors who'd love to have that kind of problem. :)