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We're not just fighting flood... we're fighting time itself! And I'm gonna win!—The Doctor
Our special begins with the good Doctor stepping out onto the surface of Mars, wearing a very familiar space suit. He's come to Mars on a whim, and quickly finds himself looking upon a Human colony on Mars: Bowie Base One. Of course, he is captured right away by a little robot named Gadget and taken to see the person in charge of the base: Captain Adelaide Brooke, stepping into the companion role for this outing.
It doesn't take long for the Doctor to realize exactly where he is, and when: November 21st, 2059. The subsequent conversation is interspersed with brief flashes to a series of futuristic electronic newspaper articles about Bowie Base One and its occupants (which presumably the Doctor read at some point and is now remembering). As the Doctor quickly rambles through the names of the crew gathered around him for interrogation and fanboys over most of them, the series of articles becomes a set of obituaries, all with the same date -- and guess what that date is? Pausing slightly, the Doctor quickly begins making his goodbyes and now seems like he wants to leave.
Before he leaves, though, the Doctor notices a pair of people are missing, and wonders where they are. , one of the missing (Andy) is already dead and the other (Maggie) is found already conked on the head. She's taken off to the medical dome while Adelaide drags the Doctor off into where Andy was last seen: the Bio Sphere, joined by Expendable Crewman Tarak. Within a good few minutes, Tarak is separated from the Doctor and finds what appears to be Andy... water flowing off of Andy like he's a theme park ride. Andy's face is then seen - a cracked parody of the human face also eternally drooling massive amounts of water.
The Doctor, meanwhile, keeps making vague excuses about how he has to go. Considering how unsubtle the story has been about this being a spam cast setup, it's hard to blame him.
Maggie, deep in an isolation room, also shows signs of... whatever this is -- generally freaking out the base's medic, Yuri. He contacts Adelaide about this, and she realizes it's best to leave the dark, scary giant building with lots of places for something to jump out at them. But they make one last look around for Tarak... and find him. In the same water-zombie state as Andy, who is standing right next to him, or what used to be him. Dragging Adelaide away, the Doctor announces it's running time, and they barely escape the two infected humans.
Locking the two infected forms out of the main central dome, we pause for a little while to have a discussion about the properties of the infected by viewing Maggie through the windows in her isolation room. It's also revealed that these water creatures are demanding to go to Earth - where they can thrive in water. This, obviously, is very bad. The Doctor also raises up the question of who else is infected, if the virus/parasite/whatever isn't inside everyone else on the base already, as it thrives in the water and obviously came from the Martian water everyone has been drinking. Adelaide goes off to check the ice cap that this base is built atop of, while the rest of the crew begin prepping for escape to Earth. The Doctor, still moping about like he should be leaving, decides to instead run off and join Adelaide instead, seeing as he can't leave without his spacesuit.
At the ice cap water extraction dome (or whatever it is), the Doctor and Adelaide look out over a rather impressive ice cap while the Doctor rambles about an old enemy of his - the Ice Warriors. Adelaide begins to question the Doctor about why he's so eager to leave and how he knows so much about the Mars colony. The Doctor explains that this is a "locked moment in time," confusing the hell out of Adelaide for a few moments before the Doctor quickly changes the subject to why Adelaide came out into space: The Dalek Invasion of 2009. She looked into the eyestalk of a Dalek, it looked right back, and left her to live. Adelaide simply wished to follow that Dalek out again - not to kill it, but to meet other creatures in peace.
Inspired by this, the Doctor rambles on about how awesome Adelaide's descendants will be and how massively important they'll all be to the future of all time and space. (More newspaper flashbacks.) Which is a really cool moment, but seems to freak the hell out of Adelaide in general. In seconds, though, it's revealed that everyone else still alive doesn't happen to have the virus - so it's time to start leaving!
...or it would be, if the infected bodies that were once Andy and Tarak didn't somehow climb up on top of the central command building to start spewing water everywhere. Fuck.
The Doctor finally starts to leave (being given back his space suit certainly helps), but Adelaide refuses to open up the airlock hatch until the Doctor explains why he's being so... awkward around everyone. For those few viewers who weren't smart enough to gather what happened from all the obituaries spewed forth from the Doctor's head, he explains it all for us (and Adelaide): this very day is the day that Bowie Base One is destroyed with all hands lost.
And it's one of those pesky 'fixed points in time' that the Doctor can't do anything about.
But the Doctor leaves anyhow, listening to the attempts of the remaining cast trying to fight fate the best they can. He hears about the water seeping into the main control room, taking out another member of the cast. Yet another castmember is infected as a single drop hits his face - and this one demands the crew leave him before he's infected. The pilot of the shuttle, Ed, is also infected - but chooses to blow up the shuttle rather than let the Earth get infected. The resulting explosion traps our remaining three castmembers in a single storage room, and knocks the Doctor quite a good distance.
All looks grim for Adelaide, Yuri and Mia... until the Doctor walks into the storage room, shouting out orders like a maniac and trying to save those people he'd once declared dead. Adelaide begins to panic, wondering why the Doctor is throwing his previous worries out the window. Almost foaming at the mouth, the Doctor launches into a speech about how there are laws of time. Laws of time that were once enforced by a group of people - a group long since dead...
"Do you know who that leaves? ME!! It's taken me all these years to realize it, but all those laws of time are mine. And they will obey ME!!! "
Adelaide, reasonably enough, looks like she believes the Doctor to be insane. Which is rather understandable, as the Doctor declares he's also fighting time itself. Not even close to giving up, the Doctor finds that robot buddy Gadget in storage and uses it to bring the TARDIS to him - even while Adelaide sets the base to self-destruct. With four seconds to go, the TARDIS begins to re-materialize. As it finishes, the countdown reaches zero...
...but everyone left actually survives, as the TARDIS arrived just in time! The Doctor takes the survivors to Earth: same time, same day. Mia, unlike many companions of the past, utterly freaks out at the TARDIS itself and flees - Yuri running after her. The Doctor himself is all grins and smiles, proudly proclaiming how he essentially made time his bitch - giving himself the new title of Time Lord Victorious. Not only did he save two of the "little people," but he also saved one of the "big ones" (the Doctor's own words there). Adelaide does not take this well, trying to reason with the Doctor - claiming that no one person should have so much power. However, she just cannot get through to him, as the Doctor is finally realizing everything that he can do, all that he can accomplish... such as opening up the door to Adelaide's home.
Adelaide simply glares at the Doctor and enters her own home. A blue flash through her windows makes it perfectly clear what she did. The Doctor finds himself remembering a different set of newspaper articles: Adelaide's death on Earth, the surviving crewmembers paying tribute to her heroism (and wouldn't it be fascinating to find out what they had to say about the Doctor?), and then her descendants, inspired by her example, continuing on exactly as before the Doctor started messing with things. We see the Doctor himself snap, realizing that he's gone too far. Ood Sigma appears for a moment and the Doctor questions the Ood, wondering if this is his time. If now is when he's supposed to die.
Ood Sigma simply vanishes, leaving a distressed and panicked Doctor to simply dash into the TARDIS and lock the door behind him. The Cloister Bell begins to go off, but the Doctor declares "no" and valiantly throws himself into the next episode preview.
- The Aesthetics of Technology: Although the Doctor is using a spacesuit from humanity's future, it doesn't look like it, making the comment on its advanced technology a bit odd.
- Presumably because its more lightweight and noticably less bulky than the suits they are using, which would go some way to why they wonder where it came from.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Its heavily implied that something may have gone on between Adelaide and Ed that ended very badly, hence why their relationship is extremely tense.
- Call Back: To "The Fires Of Pompeii", the last time fixed points in time were mentioned.
- The Doctor is also wearing the spacesuit from Sanctuary Base 6, as seen in "The Impossible Planet".
- Chekhov's Gun: The Gadget robot.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Really gets to the Doctor in this episode. The Bowie Base One disaster is a fixed event, and as such he would've been more rational and just left right away, but Adelaide forces him to get just involved enough to let his heroic instinct get to him.
- Continuity Nod: Given that they have a good 45 years to work with, this is to be expected...
- In particular, the Doctor's mention of the Ice Warriors - notably the humans regard the idea of a sentient race once living on Mars with skepticism.
- And the Doctor mentions what happened the last time he tried changing a "fixed point" in time.
- This isn't the first time this Doctor has met a "funny robot"...
- Is it at all possible that was a slam against Kamelion?
- Creator Provincialism: Averted for once; while there still seem to be a disproportionate number of Britons around, there is a realistic international representation including the major space powers of the United States and Russia.
- Many countries that are currently not too important on the world stage are described as being major powers after an 'oil apocalypse' which is never really explained (it only gets a brief mention from Adelaide in which she describes that the human race was almost wiped out). Two of these are Spain and the Philippines.
- Deconstruction: The ending essentially deconstructs the Doctor himself and the mythology surrounding him. As with pretty much every episode ever, he saves the day, does the impossible, gets a little bit smug about it afterwards and all-in-all lives up to titles like the "Lonely God" -- and far from being charming and admirable it's creepy and unsettling, because he's also in the process of completely losing touch with the "little people" surrounding him as a result.
- Do Not Go Gentle: The Doctor!
- Eldritch Abomination via parasites in the Martian water that turn people into craggy, water-spewing Zombies. With unholy screams that can free the real Eldritch Abomination hiding deep within the ice.
- Exty Years From Now: The story takes place on 21 November 2059. RTD gambled on the episode airing on 21 November 2009 and lost, but it's close enough.
- Fake American: Mia Bennett was born in Houston, Texas, but her actress Gemma Chan uses her native English accent.
- Fake Russian: Aleksander Mikic, who plays Yuri, is from Bosnia.
- Foregone Conclusion: You are told upon meeting the supporting characters that they all die. Today. Yeah.
- Foreshadowing: During his A God Am I stage, the Doctor starts acting like the Time Lords who appear two episodes later (Same Screw the Rules, I Make Them personality).
- Also during his brief reign on terror, he uses some of The Master's quotes. Guess who also shows up a few episodes later?
- Glass-Shattering Sound: The zombies' roars cause the glacier to crack.
- A God Am I: The Doctor seems to be resembling the Master more at this point. A much nicer Master, to be sure, but still far darker and morally questionable than before. He also starts thinking of himself as the Time Lord Victorious and talking in such a way that suggests he thinks all of time and space is going to bend to his will.
- For those who didn't get the point, bear in mind that the Doctor's comment about how the laws of Time will obey him is eerily similar to the Master's old Catch Phrase of "I am the Master, and you will obey me!"
- Go Mad From the Revelation: A subtle execution of the trope - but it certainly applies when the Doctor realizes he changed nothing at all in the long run, in spite of his efforts.
- Arguably what happened to Adelaide Brooke as well. Despite what the entry below says, maybe she wasn't a Heroic Sacrifice at all; maybe she just freaked out at the thought of a sappy eccentric guy playing God and saving peoples' lives based on simply whether they are important or not...
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Adelaide Brooke
- Hypocritical Humor: "I don't like funny robots."
- As well as "Oh, well robot dogs are different!"
- Heroic Sacrifice: One played straight, one subverted in that the sacrifice wasn't to prevent something from happening, but to keep the timeline intact... or considering that Adelaide's death was changed from a straight sacrifice on Mars to suicide on Earth, is it? It could also be interpreted as heroically sacrificing herself to save the world from the horrors of the Time Lord Victorious.
- Ed who detonates the rocket to stop the Flood from reaching Earth when he realises that its onboard and its infected him.
- Informed Ability: While the offscreen sprays of water are obviously damned powerful, the onscreen water sprays don't even look like they get close to the power of a fire hose. Still looks damned creepy, though.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The water sprays were actually made by fire hoses.
- In Memoriam: To longtime Who alum Barry Letts.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The Doctor's begins to do this at the end, with a truly terrifying Motive Rant.
Doctor: There are laws, laws of time. And once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws, but they died!. All of them died! And do you know who that leaves? ME! Its taken all these years to realise it, but the laws of time are mine! And they will OBEY me!
- Kill'Em All: A Foregone Conclusion. Which is then subverted, when the Doctor saves three of them! Yes, Adelaide kills herself, but Yuri and Mia are still alive at the end.
- Knight Templar: The Doctor becomes this for the laws of time. It doesn't end well.
- Large Ham: Tennant. You'll know it when you see it.
- Making a Splash
- Meaningful Background Event:
- Andy bites a carrot, then the shot changes to focus on Maggie. He remains out-of-focus in the background, convulsing and suddenly falling still.
- Same thing happens to Maggie later, with Yuri in the foreground.
- Multinational Team: The astronauts on the base. Several British and American, a German, a Russian, a Pakistani, an Australian, and whatever Mia was. Freeze-Frame Bonus told us she was Korean-American (there's a South Korean flag sticker on one wall and her obituary said she was born in Houston and studied in Stanford), but Gemma Chan doesn't put a whole hell of a lot of effort into hiding her accent (and possibly didn't know she needed to. The obituaries were likely made during post-production, it's possible that they made the decision to have Mia be from Texas long after filming.)
- My God, What Have I Done?: Going hand-in-hand with Go Mad From the Revelation, when the Doctor realizes he let his arrogance go to his head.
- Never Trust a Trailer: One of the trailers shows the Doctor mentioning the prophecy from the previous special ("he will knock four times"), just before some knocking starts. In the actual episode, it's only one of the water creatures and it only knocks three times.
"And three knocks is all you get!"
- Noodle Incident: Some incident to inspire animosity between Adelaide and her number two is alluded to but never elaborated on.
- No OSHA Compliance: Whoever decided that a room that was meant to Quarantine people should have a basic seal and not a Hardinger Seal, clearly didn't understand why an unbreakable seal would help to keep something contained.
- Not So Different: Many an Ironic Echo abounds when the Doctor starts to snap and unknowingly begins to channel the Master.
- Omniscient Morality License: Deconstructed. The Doctor becomes so overwrought with the guilt and fear that everyone is supposed to die in the expedition, he snaps and saves the three remaining members in which he himself catergorises as two "little people", plus one "big person". The Doctor declares himself "Time Lord Victorious", and says there's nothing anyone can do to stop him. Until Adelaide, who is quite frankly, disgusted with this notion (and rightly so) does manage to stop him by committing suicide, ensuring that her descendants lead the human race outside the cosmos, and the timeline is somewhat fixed. It took this to realise The Doctor's hubris had completely got the better of him.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Adelaide actually paying someone a compliment is noted to be a bad sign.
- Our Zombies Are Different: See the entry for Eldritch Abomination, above.
- Pokémon-Speak: Gadget gadget!
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: "I don't hear anyone knocking!" *...knock...knock...knock* "Three knocks is all you'll get!"
- Real Life Writes the Plot. When the biodome scenes were being shot, the film lights woke up the birds, and a line was added to the script to explain the birdsong.
- The Red Planet
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Yes and no; the Doctor's memories of history change at the end, but he seems to be aware that they've changed, and from what.
- Robot Buddy: Gadget
- Running Gag: The Doctor's insistence that they should have brought bikes. Also a Lampshade Hanging on the amount of running that goes on in this show.
- The Doctor commenting that he really should go.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them: Sums up the Doctor's speech.
- Self-Deprecation: Again, the Doctor "doesn't like funny robots."
- He does avoid self deprecation later on by saying that robot dogs are different, making it closer to Hypocritical Humor.
- Shout-Out: The first human base on Mars is called Bowie Base One. There's a David Bowie song called "Life on Mars", so you know.
- It's the wrong song, but both halves of the line Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do from "Space Oddity" seem significantly reflected in this episode (not to mention the event of someone dying in space for reasons never known back on Earth).
- When the Doctor changes history, we see news entries with changing text.
- Not to mention the flaming tire trails.
- The sound the computer makes when it tracks the crew members is from 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Possibly unintentional, but the horrific alien zombie virus is called the Flood.
- A member of the crew is infected by the virus when a drop of the tainted liquid hits their eye.
- It may just be the use of stock sounds, but the door that leads into the comm room where Adelaide contacts The Doctor closes with the same sound effect as the doors in the video game Doom.
- Slasher Smile: Briefly adopts one while using Gadget to remote pilot the TARDIS.
- Survival Mantra: After the Doctor snaps, channels the Master and starts fighting the water: "Not beaten, not beaten".
- Tear Jerker: Stephanie's death, she was the last to try to get out of the room, only to be trapped inside by the water seeping through. As more and more water breaks through the ceiling, the last shot we get of Stephanie is her turning on the computer and watching a video of her two very young daughters from their home in Germany.
- Tempting Fate: The Doctor when he realises where he is.
Doctor: I should go. I really... should go.
- Hears a roar over the tannoy*
Doctor: Oh, I really should go...
- Later when they are evacuating the base.
Doctor: Right, I should leave! Finally! I should leave! Yuri my old mate, no, no point in me seeing the Ice-field? No point at all! No... *begins to run after her* ADELAIDE!
- There Can Be Only One: In the Doctor's "Time Lord Victorious" speech, he says that as the last Time Lord, he is the "winner" and master of the laws of time, allowing him to break them.
- The Virus: The Flood.
- Water Source Tampering: Turned Up to Eleven with the aliens in the water.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The Doctor himself is called out on this by Adelaide. Several times.
- World of Cardboard Speech
- The X of Y
- You Can't Fight Fate / Screw Destiny: Played with in pretty much every way possible.
- Zombie Infectee: Averted - the infectee immediately tells the others to leave him behind.
- ↑ And, again, a lovely splash of their obituaries. Nice job with the subtlety, RTD.
- ↑ But not before saying that it's not his time to die yet... resulting in a minor awesome moment for the Doctor - only one of many for this serial.
- ↑ Not in so many words, but...
- ↑ He worked on the franchise from 1967 until 1981 and was pretty much the guy who chose Tom Baker to be the Fourth Doctor