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27 June 2017 @ 09:06 pm
Empress of Mars  
People compare Mark Gatiss who stories to the Pertwee era surprisingly often to my mind. I think he's on record as saying it's his favourite era of the show and it's true his stories tend to have a straight up monster or villain but the Pertwee era is typified, I would say, by the presence of overtly political themes (absent from Gatiss') work and a fairly sparse and functional approach to setting where Gatiss' (possibly because of his interest in Victoriana) tends towards the Gothic. In fact, apart from the fact Gatiss doesn't borrow from Horror tropes, I would have said that the Hinchcliffe era was a better point of comparison.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that, no matter what the rest of the Internet might think, I can't really imagine Empress of Mars in the Pertwee era.

People are going to point to the Peladon stories at this point, but while they do feature Ice Warriors and attempt to provide moderately complex societies for the various factions, they frankly lack the whimsy of Jules Verne style Victorians in space.

I liked this. I thought the premise was a lot of fun and I'm surprised that Doctor Who hasn't tackled this sort of Victorian Scientific Romance setting before because it is the sort of thing that ought to play to its strengths (amusing, high concept, the costume people will be good at it). I loved the incongruity of the Ice Warrior as Man Friday, and liked the idea that the Ice Warrior was playing into the human's prejudices while using them for its own ends.

I'll confess I was a little confused by the ending and may need to watch it a second time to see how the parts all fit together. I can follow the general idea of how matters are resolved, but didn't really understand why the Empress was suddenly brought around by Godsacre's request for death. I also didn't quite feel they joined the dots between Godsacre's flight proclaiming cowardice and his sudden reappearance at the pivotal moment at the end.

The reappearance of Alpha Centauri was fun. I know there are some people out there who disagree with me but they're clearly wrong. I thought it was handled just right - we didn't see enough of the costume to realise how ridiculous it was and while it was a lovely nod to the original series it wasn't so heavy-handed that it would confuse new viewers.

This is, I get the impression, the episode that Gatiss has always wanted to write and I think it shows. It is having a lot of fun, telling a ripping yarn, and manages to feel both like a Doctor Who story and like a Scientific Romance.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/454609.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 27th, 2017 08:56 pm (UTC)
it was so heavy-handed that it would confuse new viewers.

Should that be "wasn't"?

Gatiss is indeed on record saying this is the Pertwee era is his favourite, although you're right that Gatiss' writing is largely apolitical. I think there are some horror tropes in there, though. I guess what Gatiss' writing has is a general sense of 'trad-ness' (using the critical vocabulary of 90s fandom, when Gatiss started writing for the spin-offs). Of course the Pertwee era didn't feel trad at the time, it felt like a radical departure in some ways, but in retrospect it is often used as the epitome of trad (for better or for worse) and that's something Gatiss uses. Doing exactly what you expect the script to do at any given time. His only really "rad" script is Sleep No More which is actually fairly traditional once you get part the found footage gimmickry.

I found this a great concept, but I don't think it did enough with it. I felt like after the first fifteen or twenty minutes it ran out of steam. I also wondered how Godsacre went from nearly being hanged to having command of men again (I assume that the officers who court martialled him were all killed before they could report back to HQ or something, but it would have been nice to have a few more details).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 27th, 2017 09:34 pm (UTC)
Oops! yes, that should be wasn't - have fixed.

Yes, I think "like Pertwee" is a lazy shorthand for "trad" with an overtone of disapproval (for a lot of people Pertwee seems to be the least liked Doctor).

You are correct about Godsacre's command being strange. I think my assumption was that the officers in question were killed and Catchlove agreed to cover it up if Godsacre essentially did as he was told - but it wasn't made very clear.
liadtbunny: DW Jo and Dr Cuteliadtbunny on June 28th, 2017 02:11 pm (UTC)
I agree that it did play more to Gatiss' love of Victoriana. He did a series of novels with an Adam Adamant type character, but I guess the military element and the ice warriors did on the surface say Pertwee. I thought the glimpse of Alpha Cetauri was just enough too: Casual viewer was confused by this strange being but wasn't questioning AC's physical appearance.
louisedennislouisedennis on July 1st, 2017 11:04 am (UTC)
I think I read the first of Gatiss' novels but I don't recall much about it. I seem to remember thinking it was trying to be vaguely Wildean...

I assume you have now seen pictures of AC in full costume glorly...
liadtbunny: DW Jo and Dr Cuteliadtbunny on July 1st, 2017 02:31 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, which is why I didn't describe to casual viewer;p