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Reviews & Ratings for
"Doctor Who" The Waters of Mars (2009)

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23 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

"I've gone too far. Is this it? My death? Is it time?"

10/10
Author: 1stbrigade from United States
18 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While "Doctor Who" has always had its share of fun, there have been times that it's taken a darker tone. "The Waters of Mars," the second of four specials that mark the end of David Tennant's time as the Tenth Doctor, is such an episode. It's a thrilling, funny, and downright creepy episode. And dare I say it, but I thought it was the darkest episode of the show's history. But not because of the creatures, which the Flood is a downright terrifying monster for the Doctor to face. And it's not the fact that the Doctor has landed at a fixed point in time where historical events must take place, meaning everybody on Mars' Bowie Base One will die. What makes this the darkest episode of all time is none other than the Doctor himself. After having witnessed so much death and destruction, including the death of his own people, the Time Lords, he takes a turn for the dark, believing that he has a right to change historical events, because he is the last of the Time Lords, and decides to take on time itself. He begins by rescuing the three humans not infected by the martian water, including Adelaide Brooke, the base's commander, and a hero. Through some truly ingenious work, he gets them back to Earth on the same day as their death. But now, the Doctor has taken on a dark and malicious arrogance, and believes that there is nothing he cannot do. But Brooke decides to make sure the time line stays right for her, and commits suicide. When she does this, the Doctor realizes that he has gone too far, and believes that his death is at hand. "The Waters of Mars" is definitely the best special created so far: an exciting, character-driven, dark adventure that takes on a more grim storyline that is more suited for "Torchwood," but works here. If there is a complaint I have, it's this, which is more an observation: This episode, with it's dark ending, is definitely not one for young children. But still, it's a terrific episode, and bodes well for the final two episodes of the David Tennant/Russell T. Davies era of "Doctor Who." Grade: A+

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27 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Not the monster you were looking for

10/10
Author: Andrew_in_NH from United States
16 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode covers a wide range. It made me laugh out loud, and it made me cry. It had a silly robot. It touched on very human reactions to an uncanny event. It had some excellent performances, but from David Tenant and Lindsay Duncan that is hardly surprising. Finally, we have an act of selfless bravery in the face of something we have seen in the series before, but that I never expected to see this way. If you have been watching for the last four years, you may remember the Doctor uttering the phrase, "there is nothing so extraordinary as an ordinary man." Look for him to return to that phrase, and for its memory to make the scene and the story into something entirely new.

The episode is scary, but not quite in the old "hide behind the couch" way. I wonder just how many kids will refuse to bathe after seeing this story.

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24 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Ultimately a passable if underwhelming and frustrating outing for Tennant

5/10
Author: Robert McElwaine from Clydebank, Scotland
18 November 2009

After a gap of seven months, the long awaited "The Waters of Mars hit UK television screens. The second of Russell T. Davies planned one hour specials, this latest outing which marks David Tennant's penultimate story before his successor Matt Smith is left to carry to carry the baton marks a daring attempt to put an unforeseen slant on the iconic time lord protagonist. Set, wouldn't you know it on the planet Mars in the year 2059, Tennant's Doctor arrives at Bowie Base One, a research station run by no nonsense Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan). Understandably concerned if not not a little unnerved by the unforeseen presence of the enigmatic stranger, Adelaide and her crew's concerns soon shift to greater things as a water based virus make it's malevolent presence known and proceeds possessing the bodies of the inhabitants of the station. Transforming them in to zombified monstrosities. The Doctor would usually rise to the challenge of defeating the alien threat were it not for his knowledge of what were to come.

Visually striking and typifying the bold new step that the BBC made when it chose to delve once again in to the science fiction genre while it's gorgeous backdrop is a testament to the production crew, "The Waters of Mars" feels a little uninspired and lacking in originality. Indeed it is unquestionably one of the darkest and most challenging story's in the show's long history and has readily been blasted by some die hard fans, alienated by it's rather unsettling denouement, leaving viewers divided. My personal criticism with RTD's bold masterstroke is with the heavy handed and self indulgent manner in which it's delivered. Lacking anything in the way of subtlety, a short coming that had unfortunately become a hallmark of Davies who in his own right I'm sure is a good writer given the critical acclaim he garnered for "Queer as Folk". With Science fiction or at least family friendly science fiction he appears to be less at ease. With a habit of overstating the emotions and thoughts of the main character it feels as if he's spoon-feeding his audience and doesn't afford the mesmerizing David Tennant the opportunity to let his physical acting do the talking.

The water induced abominations, undoubtedly the worst personifications of any eight years olds worst nightmares never the less feel like knocks off's that have emerged from Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later". Also given the presence of the similar virus carrying clones of series two's "New Earth" which was also penned by RTD, typify the executive producer's imaginative laziness.

Never the less the performances on display are first rate with Tennant arguably giving his best performance of the legendary time lord to date, honing his talents to give his best portrayal of the time lord. This is a very adult turn in a series which has narrow mindedly been la-bled by it's obtuse detractors as a children's programme. The crisis of conscience which the lonesome, melancholy wanderer and the actions he takes bring the characters moral ambiguity to the fore and are conveyed with unflinching effortlessness. Stirring support is on hand from Duncan who while excellently understated as the tough Adelaide Brooke also conveys a more fragile side concealed behind her steely veneer. Former "Neighbours" and "Casualty" star Peter O'Brien also offers solid support.

Perhaps too ponderous and padding seemingly meant to be seen as a build up of tension, "The Waters of Mars" is a brave if some what underwhelming attempt to put a chilling new spin on the Doctor who's arrogance and less savory side isn't totally unprecedented. RTD seems content to tease his audience and taking in to account that one of the trailers seemed to promise that more would be revealed about who will "...knock four times", some fans might be left frustrated. Never the less "The Waters of Mars" is a passable affair and with the trailer for "The End of Time" thrown in just before the end credits role, promising the return of John Simm's Master and what should hopefully be an awe inspiring, show stopping swansong for Tennant. I can hope it won't be something of an empty promise.

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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Waters of Mars Special: Solid special that is good despite not delivering on the potential it had (suggestive spoilers)

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
22 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Following the child-friendly colour and noise of Planet of the Dead (complete with flying London bus for sh1ts, giggles and "cool-Britannia brand recognition), I was looking forward to the next specials as they were sold as being a lot darker and more suited to adults than their children. Of course it was still going to be family-friendly but what I knew of the plot going in suggested it would be more than that. The first 15 minutes confirm that the potential is definitely there and indeed it does seem like we are on our way to something particularly good. The monsters have the deadly patience and determination of zombies and visually are well filmed to be unsettling and frightening. The Doctor's knowledge of the fate of the base (and its importance in time) introduces a familiar theme but one that still has legs – his ability to stand back and watch events that have already happened unfold as they have already done – whether they are right or fair.

Does it deliver on this potential? Well, the fair answer is "sort of", because while it never produces something really impressive, it is still pretty good. The fast moving plot benefits from decreasing options and the inevitable nature of the plotting but at the same time it never really nails any one aspect as well as I would have liked. The infected/possessed characters are indeed creepy and feel unstoppable, while the infection of some of the characters do indeed have some emotional impact – as Theo has said already, there is an air of 28 Days Later about it and I think that this is one of the things it did well. The weaknesses come in with the more complex character themes that the show tries to deal with beyond the specific adventure plot. If you wrote these conflicting inner turmoil down in a couple of sentences then you would have developed them as fully as this special does. Mostly it is done by having the Doctor square his jaw and look determined and/or in deep thought. This I have no real problem with but it is not backed up by good dialogue or clever character observations – the final few moments of the special maybe do this but it is just as superficial. Maybe I am being unfair since this is still a Sunday evening piece of family entertainment but it did give the special a tone of "doing the basics", with the "importance" of certain things painted on rather than being engrained into the characters and plot in the way that works best.

The supporting aspects of the special can either shore it up to be stronger or give it a weaker base that doesn't help. In this case the threat of the infected is definitely a shoring factor but everything else doesn't help that much. The Gadget robot put me in mind of Tweaky in Buck Rodgers or that bl00dy dog in the original Battlestar Galactica. It was an unnecessarily silly addition and the impact of two infecting chasing the Doctor and Adelaide was undercut somewhat by having them escape on a "tricked-out" Gadget, complete with flames coming from the exhaust. The supporting cast were solid and I did think that Duncan was good but could really have done with a little bit less running and a bit more time to process her character's actions to produce something more memorable. The computer effects were OK but the use of music was mostly poor – often being obvious and intrusive. Tennant is on typical good form though as he approaches the end of his tenure – he is capable of doing more with the darker character stuff but this special didn't give him the time.

Waters of Mars is certainly a massive improvement on the last special even if it doesn't live up to its potential and fudges some aspects it should have been strong on. One more special remains, containing the Master; I suspect that it will be similar to this special in the mix of running, threats and darker aspects, I would just hope that it can match the impact of the better parts of this special while also doing a better job on the more interesting thematic/character aspects, which I didn't think were that good here (even if they were present).

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Remember to change the water filters

7/10
Author: Jeff Stone (straker-1) from New Zealand
20 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well, after a seven month wait that seemed longer than the nine years between the TVM and 'Rose', we have the most ambitious and expensive looking DW episode ever. And was it an improvement on Planet Of The Dead, the last special? Well, yes, because...almost anything would have been better than Planet Of The Dead. But let's get down to specifics. What we have here is a solid, exciting, genuinely disturbing first half hour of classic Dr Who that shares with the instant-classic episode "Blink" a monster that would actually scare young children. To date, Russell Davies' creatures have usually been more laughable than frightening, and it is as of he's trying to make up for lost opportunities and mistakes like the Slitheen. I say 'first half hour' because things go a bit pear-shaped in the second half. The tension and claustrophobia of the story gets largely thrown out in favour of 'cosmic angst', lengthy flashbacks, and incredibly clumsy foreshadowing. Yes, we all know that there is one thing Russell D can't manage, and that is subtlety. The story's sets are phenomenal, as are the simple but effective CG-treated Mars surface shots. I do wonder about the scale and the engineering wisdom of the base in the CG shots, however - the dialogue states that the designers scrimped on every kilo, yet decided to make pointlessly long and ludicrously huge dome connector tunnels made of very heavy steel that don't seem to serve any function other than being long metal box-tubes. But that's nitpicking. As for the plot, it's not exactly original. John Carpenter's late 80s horror movie Prince Of Darkness is, in effect, stolen wholesale here, and the director's later film Ghosts Of Mars is also mined. Throw in obvious pinches from 28 Days/Weeks Later, and you don't have a great deal of new stuff here. It's only when the Infected plot basically slams to a halt and we get the 15 minutes of angsting that we see any new material. And what new material! We have a galaxy-weary Doctor more or less becoming the Master here, with his self-imposed rules about not messing with 'fixed' Time being thrown out. Davies and Ford do not give Tennant enough of a chance to do more than yell a lot in this, so the chilling implications of a rogue Doctor are undermined somewhat. But the writing for those scenes is very good, and Tennant himself is never anything less than superb. The acting in general in 'Waters' is good, with "that guy from Neighbours" (as I think we all greeted him when he appeared) being the obvious standout for me.

Amazing sets and CG, a threat that's actually scary, a handful of the most poignant scenes in the show (the German crew-woman playing the video of her daughter and sobbing as she awaits her doom is, hands down, the best acted and shot scene in the entirety of DW)...there's a lot to like here. Some to not like, though - Murray Gold's music is typically overblown, intrusive and mixed FAR too loud on the soundtrack - but that's quibbling. A good special, all in all. Gripping telly!

OBVIOUS CONTINUITY ERROR The first humans on Mars? Er, sorry, that honour would go to the crews of Mars Probes 6 and 7 eighty years before Bowie Base even existed, as seen in Season 7 of the old show. :)

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20 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Classic scary Doctor Who

10/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
16 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All the publicity for this one off episode suggested that it would be scarier than most Doctor Who episodes and I think it was... I'm sure it will have had some children hiding behind the settee just as their parents did in the seventies.

The episode opened in an easy going manner with The Doctor arriving on Mars and going for a stroll, his walk takes him to a small base. It isn't just any base though, nor is it any day... it is the first ever human base on Mars and it is the day it is destined to be lost along with all its personnel. At around the time The Doctor is captured outside the base two of its staff are harvesting the first crops to be grown there, something is wrong though, as soon as one of them bites into a carrot something strange happens, he starts to drip water and the area around his mouth appears cracked giving him a scary appearance. It is clear that they must be kept away from the rest of the people there at all costs and that anybody who gets the water on them is lost.

Unusually The Doctor is keen to leave them to their fate, not because he is afraid but because he believes it is a pivotal moment in time and they must die if humanity is to fulfil its destiny and explore the stars. As the people there prepare to evacuate The Doctor tells Adelaide Brooke, the leader of the base personnel, what her destiny and why he can't help.

I feared that we were going to get a cop-out happy ending but with a nice twist we got an ending that was both dark and showed The Doctor in a bad light.. it will be interesting to see where this leads in the next special. David Tennant once again does a great job as The Doctor, he will be missed when he leaves the role, he was ably supported by a good cast including Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke.

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26 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Terrific Episode

9/10
Author: ewaf58 from United Kingdom
15 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes unlike dear old Earth there's no water shortage on Mars (hopefully we'll go there one day) although it should carry a health warning 'Eau non potable' as they say in France. This episode had a clever twist and was very emotional at the end leaving the door open for the final swansong of this incarnation of the good Doctor.

Although only referenced it would be great to see the Ice Warriors again. The BBC certainly rendered Mars very well (although it was filmed in a quarry pit with the help of green screen).

So here we are leading up to the final climax - I hope it's as good as this episode,

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27 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

Once Again A Very Uneven Episode

7/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
16 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was looking forward to The Water Of Mars . Seeing the trailers made me think it might just live up to the tag of " special " and let's be honest here there was no way it could be any worse than the nonsense we saw at Easter with the flying bus . After seeing it there was a feeling of dissatisfaction with the story . Some of this was my fault since I thought i'd be watching a Danny Boyle homage with 28 DAYS LATER meeting SUNSHINE hyped no doubt by BBC releases describing it as " The scariest episode ever " but most of the fault lies with Russell T Davies

RTD has created memorable monsters with the " water infected " and they're similar to the greatest shock horror moments from the show in the mid 1970s and they're given a big brooding build up until they're revealed . The bad news is that their final form is unfortunately revealed as far back as Easter when the trailers were first broadcast . It seems superfluous and self defeating for this to happen and Rusty being executive producer should have blocked all images of the water infected in every piece of pre-publicity instead of making it a selling point

He's also written an episode which does become irritating the more it goes on and one which contradicts previous continuity . Anyone remember Father's Day where Rose saves her father from a fatal road accident ? A wonderful piece of dramatic television showing the consequences of interfering with time . Apparently this no longer seems to matter since the Doctor can now save people predestined to die on a certain date and the laws of time do not intervene . I know internal continuity shouldn't over ride other concerns for a TV show but the final pay off isn't strong enough to breaking this continuity

There is another character who is destined to die and that is the tenth Doctor . I'm glad to hear it because Tennant spends much of the episode running around and shouting which sounds just like what he does in most other episodes too - OOOH WEEEEEEEEEEll . What makes this more obvious and more irritating is that when he gives a long brooding look you do realise how good the potential is if Tennant would speak less and brood more . Looking on the bright side he's leaving soon . And you can tell because there's so many references creeping in with Daleks and Ood making an appearance . Let's hope The End Of Time doesn't end on a mega-medly of the tenth Doctor's best moments

That said the first half of the episode is very well done and one can't help wishing this should have been the prime focus of the episode . It's very traditional and a throwback to the good old days of Ten Little Indians being bumped off one by one , a staple formula from the classic series as seen in The Moonbase , Web Of Fear and Planet Of Evil amongst many others . Such a pity the tempo wasn't sustained

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8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

"Waters" Wins

10/10
Author: Matthew Kresal from United States
16 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Once in a while your favorite TV series will surprise you. I remember liking but not being blown away by The Next Doctor and being utterly disappointed by Planet Of The Dead. So I wasn't sure what to make of the next special Waters Of Mars, especially with it seemingly delayed to the point of being an afterthought to what promises to be an epic finale to the tenth Doctor era. So imagine my surprise upon finally seeing Waters Of Mars and discovering that not only was it a major improvement over the two previous specials but that here was a story featuring everything that makes Doctor Who great was in it: action, fine acting, horror and yet it being a personal tale at the same time.

David Tennant turns in his best performance since Human Nature/Family Of Blood. Here we see a tenth Doctor like we have never seen before on a roller coaster ride of emotions. We first see a Doctor thrilled by adventure as he always has before realizing he's in the wrong place at the wrong time and trying futilely to not get involved. Then we see something unexpected during an incredible eleven or twelves minutes with a Doctor who throws caution to the wind and soon learns the price of doing so. Tennant's performance throughout all this is nothing short of one word: extraordinary. It's a performance that hits all the acting notes beautifully and may well be Tennant's best performance in the role.

There's also a fine supporting cast as well. Lindsay Duncan plays base commander Adelaide Brooke, who in a way becomes a one-off companion of sorts. Yet she is far more then just that though. In just an hour she becomes a full fledged character with a back-story and a character arc as well. Brooke is a pioneer who finds herself caught up in a crisis with a man who knows what is about to happen and, in the end, will be utterly appalled by the actions he will take. Duncan plays the role well as she shares some fine scenes with Tennant during the back half of the special, especially during one of the most emotional scenes the New Series has yet served to its audience. Duncan was a perfect choice for the role and her presence helps to elevate the special's quality. There's also a good supporting cast as well in the form of base members including Peter O'Brien as Ed, Alan Ruscoe as Andy, Sharon Duncan Brewster as Maggie and Gemma Chan as Mia Bennett. Together they make a fine supporting cast.

There's also some fine work behind the camera as well. There is some fantastic make-up and effects work in regards to the villains of the special which make them, next to the stone angels from Blink, perhaps the scariest thing to have been used in the New Series, especially in the revealing of the first one which made he jump out of my seat (literally). The base is well realized both in the form of the sets interiors (including some fine location work) and the well done CGI exterior as well. There's also a really well done version of the Martian surface as well which is almost convincing, especially with the Doctor walking on it. Then there's the robot Gadget as well which is almost a character rather then a prop. Plus there's the music of Murray Gold that, especially in the last eleven or twelve minutes, shows once again the power of a Doctor Who score. To top it all off there's the ever fantastic direction of Graeme Harper who once again proves himself to be the best director on the New Series by walking the tightrope of action, emotion, horror and suspense without ever falling off. Fine work by all indeed.

Which brings us to the script. While Russel T. Davies previous collaboration with Gareth Roberts turned out to be something of a dud, his collaboration with Phil Ford proves to be among the better scripts of the New Series. Waters Of Mars takes the classic Doctor Who formula of base under siege and feeds into that formula action sequences, horror, sacrifices and the question at the heart of any time travel series: if you knew what was to happen and could change it, should you? It is that last question that occupies the Doctor throughout the special and that ultimately leads to a powerful finale that answers that question all too painfully. The script does what any great Doctor Who story should do: be exciting, horrifying and yet personal.

Waters Of Mars qualifies as one of the finest stories of the New Series. It starts with fine performances from David Tennant, Lindsay Duncan and the supporting cast. It continues on into the production values including make-up, special effects, the CGI rendering of the base, the score and more of the fantastic direction of Graeme Harper. Then there's the script from Russel T. Davies and Phil Ford that hits all the right notes of action, horror, suspense and yet remaining a personal tale as well. Waters Of Mars ranks with Human Nature/Family Of Blood, Blink and Dalek as amongst the best stories to come out of the New Series and is a fine example of what Doctor Who is at its best.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The Doctor battles the Waters on Mars, a much darker episode.

7/10
Author: Paul Evans from Swansea, United Kingdom
29 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Doctor lands on the red planet, Mars 2059. He stumbles across the first Space Colony led by the charismatic bud domineering Adelaide Brooke, Bowie Base One. On site they have a massive garden on board, their very own Eden. One of the gardeners is quickly infected with something, and becomes quickly disfigured. A worried Doctor tries to escape but is encouraged to stay and help. Another gardener, Maggie, is discovered unconscious and placed in isolation, soon after something happens to her and she too becomes infected, as does yet another member, Tarak. Water begins streaming out of all of them and their skin becomes disfigured. The crew try to take off back to Earth, but the infected humans have other ideas. The Doctor has two choices, to leave the crew to their intended fate of death, or to intercede.

I have to mention Lindsay Duncan, as a huge fan of hers from her many Stephen Poliakoff dramas i was overjoyed to see her guest in Doctor Who, she did not disappoint, she was fantastic. I enjoyed her discussion about seeing a Dalek.

After the nightmare that was Planet of the Dead, this was a much better episode. The hour long format is good, it allows a great development of story and characters. A far more scary episode, this time there is real menace from the infected beings, the scene of Andy infecting Tarak is quite a nasty one. Much faster paced and more dramatic, there's a real feeling of danger and threat. A slightly sour ending, the Doctor's getting a little cocky, he's starting to play God. 7/10 (on the right day maybe an 8)

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