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'The Waters Of Mars' - The Verdict

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'The Waters Of Mars' - The Verdict
"Don’t drink the water. Don’t even touch it. Not one drop."

For something so hugely anticipated, given the Doctor Who drought this year, 'The Waters Of Mars' was pant-wettingly brilliant. A well-measured script and genial performances wrung every drop of tension and emotion from the dire predicament of the Bowie Base One crew and a certain beleaguered knock-fearing Time Lord.

Cranking up the terror with some chillingly-directed sequences courtesy of Graeme Harper, particularly Maggie's initial transformation, 'The Waters Of Mars' functioned as a clever riff on the tried-and-tested 'base under siege' plot. The relentless and unstoppable advance of the squishy enemy undoubtedly sent plenty of adults taking up residence behind the sofa with the kids, as a refreshingly bleak tone established events for the forthcoming regeneration and 'The End Of Time'. The Doctor was very much a broken man by the time The Ood arrived, with the process of his psychological dismantling throughout the hour both compelling and horrifying to watch unfold.

David Tennant delivered one of his most affecting portrayals of a man yet to come to terms with survivor guilt and the burden and helplessness of having all these lives resting on his shoulders. The images of the impotent Doctor in his spacesuit striding away from the base, with the pain etched on his face as he hears the cries of anguish from those he had to desert, deserve to be lauded as some of the most powerful and poignant in the show's long and rich history. It very much builds on the excellent climax to 'The Fires Of Pompeii' as well, an experience still looming at the forefront of The Doctor's mind.

As Adelaide, the excellent Lindsay Duncan took a no-frills approach and built on the superb writing to create an abrasive character driven by ambition and a rather touching Dalek-based encounter from her childhood. So thick was her skin that she failed to even swoon in the Time Lord's presence, threatening to kill him unless he revealed the grim truth about her apparent fate. This led to the memorable "you die today" exchange between the pair, whose mutual respect failed to develop into the usual mateyness that happens between The Doctor and his leading female.

The shocking demise of Adelaide left not just a lump in the audience's collective throat, but the poor Doctor with an overriding sense of blood on his hands - despite saving her from her supposed death. Arguably the scariest aspect of 'The Waters Of Mars' was the development of The Doctor himself. "The laws of time are mine!" he boomed maniacally, not unlike his soon-to-return nemesis The Master.

Along the way, there was an exhilarating chase sequence after The Doctor turned Tim Westwood and pimped up Gadget, fan-pleasing references to the Ice Warriors and a tribute to Who legend Barry Letts, a Rocky-style fightback from The Doctor when all hope was lost, plus a supporting role for Shane Ramsay from Neighbours! Furthermore, the initial exchange between Adelaide and The Doctor, where the latter stated his name, rank and intention, was sublimely funny. The only noticeable flaws were the occasional messy editing that detracted from the clarity of events, and the ridiculously repetitive scene featuring various online obituaries of the crew being zoomed into. Yes, we get the idea - they all died in 2059!

To paraphrase the great man Russell T Davies, good drama is good drama whether it's set in 1759 or 2059. 'The Waters Of Mars' aptly demonstrated this, shocking us into submission with the no-win dilemma that The Doctor had to deal with and plunging us into a claustrophobic and imaginatively visualised Martian environment. Forget going out to buy Christmas presents, start stocking up on the tissues instead. It looks like an emotional time lies ahead for Number Ten...

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