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

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23 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Ultimately a passable if underwhelming and frustrating outing for Tennant

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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13 out of 15 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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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

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

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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26 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Once Again A Very Uneven Episode

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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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Remember to change the water filters

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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21 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Not the monster you were looking for

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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20 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Sorry, but no

Author: Jeremy Dimmick from Oxford, England
17 November 2009

I wanted to like this, I really did. The BBC were trailing it as just the kind of episode I wanted to see - taut, scary, grown-up, sombre, intelligent sf. And if you'd cut it by about half, re-edited the remainder, and come up with some new stuff, you'd hit the jackpot. I like David Tennant's Doctor more and more, and will miss him in the role - he has a near-perfect combination of gravitas and impatience, and can shift in a moment from excessively cheerful to deadly serious to alarmingly peculiar, like no-one since Tom Baker. And I like any episode that doesn't turn on conventional sexual tension imported from Buffy. Trouble is, the script just wasn't good enough. Scenes went on and on, with diminishing returns. Doomy, adolescent self-indulgence got substituted for seriousness. Scary gave way to vaguely embarrassing. I started feeling sorry for Lindsay Duncan without even being sure whether she was feeling sorry for herself or had got sucked into the corporate self-regard of a show that badly needs to be stripped back to basics. I prefer to be optimistic that Steven Moffat is the man for the job, given the very high quality of the eps he's written. Lots of hard work went into 'The Waters of Mars', but the writing is hollow.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

I wanted to like it...

Author: Tiana ( from United States
23 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a huge David Tennant fan, and am the kind of viewer who will forgive a lot of a beloved actor when he/she is handed a difficult assignment.

This was the kind of script where I had to do a lot of forgiving. The sets were very pretty, and I kept wondering how they did the water special effect for the monsters, and most of the acting ranged from good to brilliant. But. The script was clumsy at best.

There's a bit toward the beginning, when the Doctor's meeting the crew of the station, where we see a file on a computer screen about them, underlining over and over that all these people are going to die. That was interesting the first time it was used, but I very quickly started rolling my eyes and going "Really? There wasn't a better way to introduce everyone?" A joke about bicycles was a little overused, but paid off in the end.

What hurt my soul the most was the Doctor's hubris toward the end. He has shown time and again that he won't change the important points in history. As William Hartnell, the Doctor scolded Barbara for trying to change history, telling her "You can't rewrite history. Not one line!" Having the Doctor proclaim himself as a rogue who answers to no one...that smacks of becoming like the Master or the Time Meddler or anyone else he's run into who tries to bend history out of shape. That's not the Doctor, and never has been. Maybe if there had been a more logical progression toward this change, I could have accepted it, but it came out of the blue after "The Next Doctor" and "Dead Planet".

I love Tennant very much, and wanted to love this episode because it's one of my last chances to enjoy him as the Doctor. And I hated this episode. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

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12 out of 22 people found the following review useful:


Author: glenn-299 from Australia
17 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What we have here is your basic traditional zombie film plot. The doctor and sundry others are trapped in an environment from which they cannot escape; first one person is infected, then another - the heroes barricade themselves in, anyone touched becomes a zombie - jeez, its just Night Of The Living Dead all over again. This could work if the dialogue was witty and interesting and if the characters were better defined and developed but it isn't and they aren't. There's an interesting attempt at the beginning to create some friction between the captain and her second-in-command but it doesn't go anywhere. When Dr Who is at its best it features intricate, interesting well written plots - this ain't one of them. Fresh writing blood is urgently needed.

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22 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Terrific Episode

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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