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The Waters of Mars

The Waters of Mars was the first Doctor Who special not tied to a particular holiday. Mostly a character piece, it showed the extremes to which the Doctor would go when unregulated by either other Time Lords or companions. It continued the “He will knock four times” story arc begun in the previous episode.

It won a 2010 Hugo Award for writers Russell T Davies and Phil Ford. After years of stability at the producer’s office, The Waters Of Mars was the fourth episode in a row to be produced by a different person.


The TARDIS arrives on Mars and the Tenth Doctor steps out in his spacesuit, seemingly just to relax and enjoy the landscape. Stumbling across a base inhabited by a team from Earth, he is detained by a remote-controlled robot called “Gadget” and taken inside. The base commander, Adelaide Brooke, is at first suspicious of the Doctor, but after a tense interrogation, decides to trust him. The Doctor learns that the date is 21 November 2059, and this is Bowie Base One, the first human outpost on Mars. History has it that on this date, the base was destroyed in a mysterious explosion and Brooke and her crew were all killed. Unwilling to break the laws of time and interfere with a doctor_article_1“fixed point” in history, the Doctor decides to leave. However, a crisis is developing: a crew member, Andy Stone, has been infected by a mysterious life form which takes over his body and causes him to gush copious amounts of water. Maggie Cain, another crew member, screams as Andy growls and attacks her, leaving her unconscious in the bio dome corridor. After Ed Gold attempts to establish contact with Andy and Maggie over the com-link and they hear Andy’s guttural snarls over the com-link, Adelaide confiscates the Doctor’s spacesuit, thinking he may be responsible for the infection in some way, and orders him to come with her and another crew member, Tarak Ital, to investigate.

As the Doctor, Adelaide and Tarak walk down the corridor with Gadget, operated by Roman Groom from the central dome, the Doctor asks the famous Adelaide Brooke if the Bowie Base One mission was worth everything she sacrificed, to which the Captain replied that Earth was reaching the point of being uninhabitable with all the smog and pollution, all of which pushed humanity to the brink of extinction, and that to walk on another planet without any smoke but just infinite sky… yes, it’s worth it. The Doctor is greatly impressed, and tells Adelaide that she was the woman with starlight in her soul. Adelaide says nothing, but her expression is thoughtful.

As they walk down the corridor, Adelaide’s torch picks out Maggie’s unconscious form, and they race to her. She is still alive and breathing, but has a nasty gash on her head. Tarak calls Yuri Kerenski over the com-link, who arrives with a medi-pack for Maggie and a stretcher. Ed also arrives, after realizing that only one other person was in the bio dome — officer Andrew Stone. Ed tells Maggie that the only way this couldn’t have been an accident was that Andy has gone berserk. Adelaide dismisses him using rank and security protocol.

Meanwhile, Steffi Ehrlich checks the growling noise on the diagnostics unit of the computer, and is shocked to discover that the growling was the voice of Andy Stone. She calls Adelaide on the com-link to warn her that it seems Andy has gone wild. Adelaide, Tarak and the Doctor step into the dormant bio dome, and using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor restores the lights, all of which had been shorted out by the infected Andy. Tarak goes to the left to check the bio dome airlock doors, while Adelaide and the Doctor go to the right. Maggie awakens as they walk down the bio dome, unwittingly carrying the mysterious virus which is hiding in her body, but she has amnesia of the previous occurrences. Slightly groggy, she tries to get Yuri to open the door for her to come out, but Yuri refuses, saying a little rest won’t hurt. As he turns his back, however, Maggie’s features crease into a disapproving frown, indicating that she is not herself anymore…

Tarak is the first to find Andy, who swings round onto him and infects him with the virus by pouring water over his head, causing Tarak to acquire the same zombie-like characteristics that Andy has. At that point, in a conversation with Yuri, Maggie’s virus finally becomes active. The organism occupying her body reveals its desire to reach Earth, a planet rich in water. Yuri is first alerted to her transformation when she speaks in a deep voice distorted by the internal fission, “We should like that world”, while gazing at planet Earth on a monitor, and Yuri, stammering in horror, briefly describes what has happened to their comrade: the skin around her mouth has become horrifically cracked and broken, her teeth have blackened and she is emitting water in an overwhelming torrent from her mouth, as if she is drowning.80047

Adelaide, realizing the bio dome is unsafe, tries and fails to establish contact with Tarak over the com-link, and then she and the Doctor run back through the dome in time to see Tarak transform. While Adelaide points her gun at her infected crew member, the Doctor tries to encourage Andy to take his dripping hand away from Tarak’s head. Amazingly, Andy seems to obey, and yanks his hand away from Tarak, who collapses as his mutation is completed. The Doctor then acts friendly and introduces himself to the infected man, but then Tarak flicks his head up and turns to face them, and they are horrified to see that Tarak now looks just like Andy — the skin of his mouth has cracked, his eyes are a dead, white-blue, his teeth have gone black and copious water pours from his mouth. The Doctor, realizing they have to get away, runs with Adelaide hot on his heels, but then Andy and Tarak run after them back through the dome to the door, whose seals are set at maximum, just as Andy fires a thick stream of viral water from his hand onto the door. Not a single drop gets inside, but Andy then steps closer to the door and slams himself against it.

Ed reaches the medical dome to see Maggie for himself. He is shocked by her appearance, and his face shows his fear. Steffi, Mia Bennett and Roman look through the medical dome camera at Maggie, and Steffi wonders what she has become. She calls Adelaide over the com-link, begging her to come back, but Adelaide orders Ed to make sure that Maggie is contained. Ed confirms it, then Adelaide orders all the water supplies to be closed down, and also orders the others: “Don’t drink the water, don’t even touch it, not one drop”. The Doctor examines Andy, who looks at him with his dead white eyes, and suddenly grins. The Doctor fails to get a response from the zombie or his friend standing behind him. Andy then starts examining the door, and the Doctor realizes that humans are 60% water, so they are the perfect host for something like a mutating water virus. The Doctor says he has to go, and that he can’t stay to see what happens, leaving Adelaide confused.

Suddenly, Andy slams his whole body against the door, making both the Doctor and Adelaide jump. Andy growls at Tarak, who then attacks the door by firing water from his mouth into the side, fusing the systems and causing the tortured door to open. The Doctor and Adelaide escape and start running down the corridor back to the central dome, but Andy and Tarak then break out of the bio dome doors and race after them. Realizing that the infected men can run faster than them, the Doctor sonics Gadget, making him able to move considerably faster, and he and Adelaide hitch a ride on the robot, which causes agony to Roman Groom, the robot’s operator. Andy and Tarak, still infected, chase the Doctor, Adelaide and Gadget back to the central dome, but are unable to pursue them any further due to the hardinger seals in the central dome airlocks and are contained in the base’s “bio-sphere” section while Maggie is secured in the medical wing. The Doctor, however, is worried about the doors and whether they can protect them from creatures with such power, making a chilling statement, “Water is patient, Adelaide, water just waits. It wears down the clifftops, the mountains, the whole of the world. Water always wins!”

In the medical dome, the Doctor and Adelaide meet the infected Maggie, who just stares at them all, but she suddenly takes an interest in the Doctor when he speaks ancient North Martian to her, Maggie appearing to understand it. The Doctor realizes that, looking at Maggie’s blackened mouth and cracked skin, that whatever the infection is, it doesn’t just live as water, it can produce immense amounts of it. The crew plan to evacuate in an escape shuttle, and the Doctor grimly tells the news to Adelaide that they could be carrying the infection, as they discovered, from Maggie’s transformation, that the infection could hide in a human and mutate it at any moment. As the Doctor and Adelaide go to inspect the glacier from which the virus came from, Maggie breaks out of confinement by seeping water into the door and alerts Andy and Tarak in the bio dome corridor to the humans’ plans by emitting a terrifying alien scream that is heard by the two men over a hundred meters away. The infected men slowly lower their heads and then look towards the medical dome from which the scream is coming from, then they slowly walk away.

In the dome containing the glacier, the Doctor hypothesizes that the virus may have been preserved and imprisoned in the glacier by the Ice Warriors to prevent its spread. However, before they can get to work, Adelaide queries the Doctor on how he knows so much about them. Reluctantly, the Doctor comments that she may have a story to tell, and Adelaide agrees. She says that when she was 10 years old, the sky had changed, as it was the moment when the Earth was snatched by the Daleks, and Adelaide says that she saw a Dalek float down to her window, and it saw her and just stared at her, then flew away. Adelaide says that she knew, someday, she would follow it into the stars.

The Doctor and Adelaide work out, through a last message from Andy, that the water was fine to drink until the filter broke and the virus could get into the water supplies. Since the water won’t yet have been drunk by the rest of the crew, they are free to leave. The crew plan to evacuate in an escape shuttle, and the Doctor breaks the news to Adelaide that she must die today, on Mars, if events are to unfold as they should. Adelaide begs him to help but the Doctor insists he cannot interfere, so Adelaide allows him to leave, saying two last words: “Damn you”. However, as the crew prepare to leave, Andy and Tarak climb the maintenance shafts in the main dome, walk to the centre of the roof of the control center, fall to their knees and exude more water from their hands and mouths through the girders in the roof. The water quickly pours into the room and claims a distraught Steffi Ehrlich, even as she watches a tape left by her two daughters. Shortly afterward, Roman is infected when a single drop of viral water falls on his cheek. However, he warns the others to run just before he changes. Mia screams and sobs as he is infected, but Yuri restrains her, and so they all make for the shuttle.

As Ed prepares the shuttle for take-off, Maggie infiltrates the shuttle and blasts water up the shaft into the pilot room, which cascades over Ed’s arm, infecting him with the virus. However, just as the infection consumes him, and his eyes turn white-blue, Ed bids Adelaide, Yuri and Mia a final farewell, “See you later”, and triggers the shuttle’s self-destruct system, which traps the Flood on Mars but leaves the rest of the crew stranded with no means of escape. The Doctor narrowly avoids being caught in the blast, but nevertheless can hear the cries of the doomed and their desperation as escape seems hopeless. Tortured by their suffering, he thinks about how the Time Lords used to enforce the laws of time, but they are all dead and gone now. He is the last Time Lord; he can make his own rules. With fierce determination on his face, he returns to the base to save the crew.

Finding the base falling apart, the Doctor rallies Adelaide, Mia and Yuri, and tries to assess the situation. Adelaide insists that the Flood cannot be stopped and the Doctor should save himself, but the Doctor tells of the prophecy regarding his death and states, “It doesn’t mean right here, right now, ’cause I don’t hear anyone knocking, do you?!”. In response, the infected Andy slams his fist against the door three times; the Doctor shouts back, “Three knocks is all you’re getting!” and electrifies the door, causing Andy to conduct the electricity, scream with pain, and let go of the door. The Doctor realises that, coming from Mars, the Flood creatures would be very sensitive to heat. He reasons that if heat worked against the Ice Warriors, it would work against the Flood. He plans to activate the environment controls and boil them. Adelaide reminds him of his assertion that they must die to ensure history unfolds correctly, but the Doctor replies that as the last of the Time Lords, “The laws of time are mine, and they will obey me!”s0_07_wal_20

Suddenly, an explosion rocks the base, destroying its environmental controls. The Doctor states he will reactivate them from outside, only to find his spacesuit destroyed. Refusing to admit defeat, he plans to get a spacesuit from the storage section of Bowie Base, only to find the entire section flooded. At the same time, Maggie heads to the glacier and lets out a deafening shriek that begins to crack the very ice. As the glacier cracks under Maggie’s screams, the base’s stability begins to collapse; sensing that history will follow its inevitable course, Adelaide activates Action 5 — a nuclear device placed at the heart of the base. It will destroy the Flood, but also kill everyone else, infected or not.

The Doctor, realizing they have one chance, uses Gadget to roll across the Mars landscape and bring the TARDIS to the base. As time runs out, Maggie continues to wail at the glacier, causing even more ice to crack, and the other infected personnel, Andy, Tarak, Roman and Steffi begin to scream as well, adding their efforts to the Flood’s release. Just as the Flood begins to escape the glacier, the TARDIS materializes in the control room, and the survivors get inside. The nuclear device explodes, destroying the base and wiping out all the Flood creatures, the explosion unnoticeable from Mars’ atmosphere.

The TARDIS materializes outside Adelaide’s house on Earth. Mia and Yuri are shocked by their experiences on Mars and by the Doctor’s power and depart, bewildered. In a conversation with Adelaide, the Doctor reflects on why he ultimately decided to save her and the others. He argues that the rules of the Time Lords were only valid while their civilization existed, and that since he is the last of his race he has total authority over time. He proudly declares himself the “Time Lord Victorious” and remarks that with this power he will now be able to save influential figures such as Adelaide as well as “little people”: the likes of Yuri and Mia. Horrified by the Doctor’s newfound arrogance, Adelaide says: “Who decides how important they are!? I don’t care who you are, the Time Lord Victorious is wrong!”.

After that, an adamant Adelaide returns home. The Doctor begins to walk away from her door, thinking all is well. He is grievously wrong. The windows of her house erupt with blue light as a single laser blast rings out. Adelaide has committed suicide, reverting the changes that the Doctor has made to the timeline. The Doctor feels the course of history being re-written in his mind. His fond memories of reading about thDoctor-who-the-waters-of-mars-97e Bowie Base One article are painted over and exchanged with the morbid amendments he engraved on history. Captain Adelaide Brooke has been robbed of her noble death on Mars, now a martyr who left her remains on Earth in the most
disgraceful fashion. The two crew members he rescued will be spared an early demise and live fruitful lives, but they are somewhat emotionally damaged from their ordeal. And though Adelaide’s granddaughter will still travel into space, she will bear more sorrow for her grandmother’s senseless demise. The Doctor’s spirit breaks.

Only now understanding the full impact of his actions, the Doctor is overcome with horror, and realizes that there will be a price to pay for his interference. Ood Sigma inexplicably appears in the street, prompting the Doctor to ask him whether he has finally gone too far — whether the time has come for him to die. The fear in his voice is incredibly potent.

Unresponsive, Sigma vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS to the ominous sound of the Cloister Bell. With a defiant “No!”, he begins to work the machine’s controls, staring down with the most forlorn, serious glance he can possibly make. The Doctor resolves to keep travelling on, finding adventures anew, in a desperate plight to delay his impending death as long as he possibly can.


The Tenth Doctor
Adelaide Brook