Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who
The Waters of Mars

(2023) Phil Ford, BBC Books, £9.99, pbk, 192pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94821-3


“Water is patient…water just waits. Water always wins!”

November 21st 2059, and Bowie Base One - the first human colony on Mars - is destined for destruction in a nuclear explosion. This tragedy is a fixed point in history. The Laws of Time dictate that it cannot - must never - be changed.

The Doctor arrives just as a viral life-form escapes from the Martian ice into the base's water supply. A single drop can transform a human into a terrifying monster with the power to infect others. History records that the threat is destroyed along with the base and every human in it. But as his darkest hour comes calling, the Doctor resolves to break the rules as he never has before...

This is a novelisation by Phil Ford of the television episode that he wrote with Russell T. Davies which was broadcast on 15 November 2009 as we approach the end days of the Doctor’s tenth regeneration. Ford is a seasoned scriptwriter, penning episodes from shows as diverse as Taggart, The Bill, Coronation Street, and even Footballer’s Wives and he knows his Whoverse, having scripted episodes of Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and co-wrote another Doctor episode –'Into the Dalek' - this time with show-runner Steven Moffat.

All in all, Ford is pretty faithful to the screened episode and extends a few scenes and adds in some dialogue to the mix, none of which harm the plot, and we even get a chapter involving the Ice Warriors and some back story involving Captain Adelaide Brooke, the commander of Bowie Base One, as she encounters a race very familiar to the Doctor. The story is told over 19 chapters and starts with a very short, creepy, prologue as The Flood await the arrival of The Flesh – or, rather, humans, to Mars, and their time will begin again.

Being the co-creator of the story, Ford does what so many of his fellow adaptors have done and takes the opportunity to flesh (ouch) out some of the supporting cast, give us some insight into the workings of The Flood, and also get inside the head of the Doctor which isn’t a happy place to be as he was warned in the previous episode – 'The Planet of the Dead' – that his own song is coming to an end. Something is coming out of the dark, and someone is going to – rather ominously – knock four times. But does it have to that way? After all, he is the last Time Lord standing, all time is his to control, and with it his own destiny. He is the Time Lord Victorious and even fixed points in time, which cannot normally be altered because of their effects on future events, could be changed if lives are to be saved. Who can stop him? But even the plans of an all-powerful Time Lord can’t take account of human decency, dignity and courage, which act as a wake-up call to the Doctor.

The Waters of Mars ends with Ford’s acknowledgements to Russell T. Davies and the cast and crew and a little insight into the creative process which started as an idea for a Christmas story and ended up being about water zombies all because NASA’s Mars Lander had found ice on Mars, and thus the creative touchpaper was lit. Recommended.

Ian Hunter


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