Empress of Mars: The Fact File

The read through for Empress of Mars took place on Wednesday, 11 January, 2017. Shooting began on Friday, 27 January with the main shoot wrapping on Wednesday, 22 February.

An Ice Warrior from the Second Doctor story The Ice Warriors

2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Ice Warriors who first appeared in a Second Doctor adventure called (funnily enough) The Ice Warriors. An immediate hit, they returned 13 months later in The Seeds of Death. When they next encountered the Doctor, in 1972’s The Curse of Peladon, we learnt the race had become peaceful and intent on seeing justice done throughout the cosmos. Two years later, however, we saw a faction of the Martian race had returned to their old, evil ways in The Monster of Peladon. After a gap of almost four decades the Ice Warriors returned in the 2013 adventure, Cold War, by Mark Gatiss.

Empress of Mars was written by Mark Gatiss. Aside from starring in The Lazarus Experiment and The Wedding of River Song, he’s one of the few people to have written for the Ninth Doctor (The Unquiet Dead), the Tenth Doctor (The Idiot’s Lantern), the Eleventh (Victory of the Daleks, etc) and the current Doctor (Robot of Sherwood and Sleep No More). Despite having penned so many fantastic adventures in the past he’s on record as saying Empress of Mars is the story he always wanted to write!

“By the moons I honour thee…” The Doctor uses the same formal salutation to ‘Friday’ as Clara used for Skaldak in Cold War, when he instructed her how to great the Martian Marshall.

Bill mentions several films by name in Empress of Mars, but the Doctor references one of the most popular franchises in movie history when he muses, ‘I’ve a bad feeling about this…’ The line and variations of it have featured in Star Wars stories – films, games, books and more – since A New Hope back in 1977.

‘RHIP, son…’ Empress of Mars reveals what these four letters stand for, but long-time fans of the show would already have known. In Day of the Daleks, Jo Grant sneaks some night-time provisions to a ‘famished’ Sergeant Benton. Before he can tuck into them, Captain Mike Yates arrives, reprimands Benton and tells him to go and check on a patrol. When the sergeant has disappeared, Yates thanks Jo for the food and tells her, ‘RHIP, Jo.’ She replies, ‘Pardon?’ and he explains, ‘Rank has its privileges…’

Alpha Centauri in The Curse of Peladon

‘I never want to see red again in all my puff…’ The expression ‘in all my puff’ means ‘in all my life’ with the word puff doubling for ‘life’ due to its connection with ‘breath’. The word has been used informally in this sense by writers as varied as PG Wodehouse and James Joyce. The phrase was also heard in The Talons of Weng-Chiang… When a corpse was pulled from the Thames in episode one of the adventure, a horrified old woman watching the scene comments, ‘Never seen anything like it in all my puff!’ before colourfully adding, ‘Make an ’orse sick, that would!’

The sonic screwdriver’s ineffectiveness against wood is long established and during In the Forest of the Night, the Doctor tells Maebh, ‘It [the sonic] interacts with any form of communication you care to mention. Sadly, trees have no moving parts and don’t communicate…’ And in Night Terrors, written by Mark Gatiss, the Time Lord tells Alex, ‘I’ve got to invent a setting for wood. It’s embarrassing…’

This isn’t the first adventure to take place in 1881. Back on Earth in that year, the First Doctor was brushing shoulders with legends like Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday in The Gunfighters.

Alpha Centauri is back! Previously seen in 1972 and 1974 in the The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon, the Doctor’s old friend returns to our screens for the first time in 43 years! The character is again voiced by Ysanne Churchman who played the role back in the 70s. So it’s a warm welcome back to both Alpha Centauri and Ysanne!