Doctor Who has been on quite a roll this season, and there was bound to be an episode that came along that was a bit of a filler. Empress of Mars feels to be that filler episode, and what we are given is a story that is simple, okay.
After seeing an unexpected message on the surface of Mars, The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie), and Nordole (Matt Lucas) go to investigate who left it there. Finding Victorian soldiers and an Ice Warrior living under the surface, The Doctor begins to investigate how they arrived there.
In some ways, The Doctor going to Mars and taking on the Ice Warriors feels like an old school Doctor Who episode, and in some ways, that is exactly what we have. It comes as no surprise that this is a Mark Gatiss written episode it just feels like his style.
Where Empress of Mars feels a little weak is that it is full of stereotypes that feel worn down when it comes to the “British Empire”. We have arrogance, we have an officer who stands out so much as “trouble” that we know he is going to be the idiot to mess everything up. Hell, we even have a character named Jackdaw who is a thief. It just feels a little too telegraphed as to how the story will progress, and there are no surprises.
What is typical of Doctor Who is that we have him saving the day and finding a way to make peace with warmongering races (yes including the nefarious British Empire…*coughs* I mean the humans). This is where this episode just feels like it is a typical Doctor Who episode, nothing really stands out in terms of the main story.
What we also see is more added to the adventures of Missy (Michelle Gomez). I won’t say what happens, but it is interesting enough and it allows to add a question at the end of the episode that may be setting up The Doctor’s fate. We’ll have to wait to see just what happens between him and Missy, it feels like something is brewing, and we know where that is leading.
Empress of Mars isn’t really a bad episode, it just doesn’t really offer anything new. In a full season of a show, sometimes these episodes are needed just to give the audience a breather, and prepare them for what is to come. It was nice to see the Ice Warriors again, but in truth they could have been any other alien race, I wouldn’t say this is one of their best episodes, really, they were just the “Monster of the Week”.
If anything Empress of Mars is an odd episode, and I can’t help but feel this week was merely to have the Missy moment, adding a piece to the puzzle as to how the season will end. We are getting closer to Peter Capaldi’s end as The Doctor now, and we expect something big. Could Missy’s actions this week be just part of a plan that is starting to come to fruition?
Doctor Who airs in the UK on BBC 1 on Saturdays.