Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

Low expectations may have helped, but all three Verities enjoyed this ep to varying degrees. Join Deb, Erika, and Katrina as we talk about what we liked and, of course, the few things we didn’t. There was some definite “iffy” territory to cover as well.

What did you think of “Empress of Mars”? Was it rollicking, fanservicey fun? Did it make you uncomfortable from a representational perspective? Possibly both? Does the title need a definitive article? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Gene Demby mentions Doctor Who
Does the dog die?

Download or listen now (runtime 1:09:40) 

Comments on: "Episode 141 – Empress of Mars Attacks" (12)

  1. Squibby said:

    I adored this episode. It may be my second favourite new Who episode after the 50th anniversary special. Yes I’m that kind of fan.

    Re the Colonel laughing at the idea of a woman police officer – that was a BBC in-joke. The actor was on the tv series ‘New Tricks’ for many years as the supportive boss of two kick-arse women police detectives. By the way, I think he’d be a wonderful Doctor

  2. Squibby said:

    P.S. OMG the three of you haven’t seen Monster of Peladon!?!
    Sarah Jane Smith’s most feminist story, the one that truly set her character and you haven’t seen it?
    Yes it’s long, and yes many fan boys dislike it because there’s a whole plot thread about feminism which isn’t a reason for you to avoid it. Really its the one Sarah Jane story you three should watch!

    Empress of Mars has massive fan service links to it. The miners, the gun, the Queen, the machine they use at the end of the ep, lots of plot points (I won’t spoil Monster of Peladon by telling you which ones.)

    Watch it!

  3. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek and commented:

    New Verity!

  4. RE: Historical Accuracy and a Black Soldier on Mars.
    Setting aside the fact we have multiple photographs which include black and asian soldiers in Victoria’s army, let us remember that as this story is playing out on the planet Mars, back in London there is a Silurian lizard woman who owns property, presumably does banking and interacts with tradesmen, and is married to an adorable Welsh woman (and let’s not not forget their Sontaran butler, as well as Henry Gordon Jago and Dr. George Litefoot and their exploits with and without the Doctor). I am disheartened by Mark Gatiss’ statements about the casting of a black actor in this terrific episode.

    Empress of Mars is not my favorite episode of the series so far (that would be Thin Ice), but it was wonderful. I love Kat’s description of it as a Pertwee episode with a few licks of new paint, and a Capaldi mask.

  5. Andrew said:

    I think the intention behind the “woman policeman” was to highlight the way in which people maintain their prejudices even in the presence of blatant contradictions. Not only do the soldiers fight on behalf of their Queen, but they’ve just been faced with a warrior culture where the supreme warrior is a woman (an Empress no less)… and yet they don’t see the absurdity in protesting against the possibility of women from the future being members of the police force.

    Clearly it wasn’t very successful at making that point, but I think that was the intent.

  6. saxon_brenton said:

    For the most part I enjoyed the episode, and definitely had a squee moment at the cameo of Alpha Centauri. But I’m afraid that squee was immediately spoiled by the way the story cut from the image of Alpha Centauri to the Ice Warriors who turned to look at the camera in an almost pantomime “Did you see *that* boys and girls?”
    In an era when the motto on continuity references has essentially been, include easter eggs that the long term fans will enjoy but which the non-long term fans won’t be bothered by, that seemed to me to be obnoxiously drawing attention to itself.

  7. Richard S said:

    Wondered if I’d seen The Curse of Peladon on TV and, yes, early 1980s, actually 35 years ago next month. It was the opening 2 x 50 minute serial in producer John Nathan-Turner’s “Doctor Who And The Monsters” mini-series, one of the very VERY few times the BBC has made the effort to repeat an entire collection of classic stories.

    As I’m of a certain age, I grew up with Alpha Centauri on my bookshelf, possibly the first Pertwee Target novel I owned (published in 1975 when I’d just started watching the show). Need I also mention the two Weetabix character cards, for the diorama & board game promotions? In those circumstances, it’s almost impossible (trust me) to regard Alpha Centauri as anything less than Iconic Whovian Galactic Cultural Heritage.

    So, there’s that. Also, IMHO, all three of those Ice Warriors have never looked better. Would like to know the method used to achieve the cube-packing effect, as I’m guessing it was ingenious and cost-effective.

    Loved the narrative economy used by Gatiss to show how the soldiers got to Mars, borrowed from (I believe?) his main influence for the story, Edgar Rice Burroughs. What else… ohhhh, steampunk spacesuit design! Always a win! Yeah… Steampunk spacesuit design… And, errr…

    That’s pretty much the end of what I liked about the story. Don’t remember if any of you mentioned the pre-credits scene. After that very believable bio-engineering setup of a few weeks ago, that NASA scene just looked so fake. My mood was not improved by a couple of my pet peeves, namely any dialogue which begins, “Okay / Listen up/ All right, People…,” and the lazy use of national anthems as a locational motif in film soundtracks.

    The thing that really broke the episode for me was Vincey’s death, for the reasons Erika mentioned – here’s a sudden cliche backstory, then boom! Or whatever noise the cube gun made. Shwip, maybe? I have to add here that, for certain (unpackable) reasons, I’d assumed Vincey would be one of the survivors. Maybe I should interrogate (?) that assumption upon re-examining the character from a Doylist or perhaps Gatissian perspective?

    Long story short: yes, there have been great character moments this series, but only between the Doctor, Bill & Nardole. Few standout character moments this episode. (Noisy males was, yep, trying too hard.)

    So far, this series seems unusually low on memorable side characters: the Landlord and Erica. We haven’t even seen a really strong group of brand new characters since (IMHO) Before The Flood.

    The “Empress Of Mars” episode did include a cast of characters all governed by their own motives, which is the type of storytelling I prefer (better than implausible drone-like mass agreement, which was necessary for the plot structure of Extremis). But the characters on Mars were based too heavily on over-the-top tropes of the British Empire. They went so far into parody that I couldn’t care less about most of them when they died. After the episode had aired, I googled up the latest episode reviews and, hurrah, found one from Digital Spy that expressed (mostly) what I thought. The Radio Times reviewer gave the story 5 stars out of 5. Oh, Radio Times, you.

    I’m placing Empress of Mars in my bottom 5 Capaldi for now. Will probably go up on re-watches. At the moment, it balances nicely with Sleep No More and Victory of the Daleks in my top 10s.

  8. Tedford Juachon said:

    I thought this episode was so much fun as a throwback to classic Who and the only thing that would have made it an even better homage would be if it were shot on two-camera video.

    Regarding the thought that the RHIP line was a clunker, I disagree as a person of color–it rang true to me. The awareness of class and rank was so predominant in British society and still continues to be today. From what I’ve been told, this is so ingrained that a black or Asian man in the army would be seen first by his rank, then by his race. Any racism within the organization would hinder him from rising to certain ranks in the first place, IMHO.

    Love the podcast and look forward to hearing all of you every week!

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