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Nov 19, 2009

The Waters of Mars is the second of the 2009 Specials leading up to the end of the David Tennant era. It aired on 15th November 2009 on BBC One.




Mars. 2059. Bowie Base One. Last recorded message: "Don't drink the water. Don't even touch it. Not one drop."


The TARDIS arrives on Mars and the Doctor steps out in his spacesuit, seemingly just to relax and enjoy the landscape. Stumbling across a base inhabited by a team from Earth, the Doctor is detained by a remote-controlled robot called "GADGET" and brought inside. The base commander, Adelaide Brooke, is at first suspicious of the Doctor, but after a tense interrogation, decides to trust him. The Doctor learns that the date is 21st November 2059, and that this is in fact Bowie Base One, the first human outpost on Mars. History has it that on this date the base was destroyed in a mysterious explosion and Brooke and her crew were all killed. Unwilling to break the laws of time and interfere with fixed points in history, the Doctor decides to leave. However, at the very same moment a crisis is developing: two crewmembers, Andy Stone and Maggie Cain, have been infected by a mysterious life form which takes over their bodies and causes them to gush copious amounts of water. Adelaide confiscates the Doctor's spacesuit, reasoning that he could be responsible for the infection in some way, and orders him to come with her and another crewmember, Tarak Ital, to investigate.

The infection spreads, with Andy passing on the condition to Tarak. The two men are contained in the base's "bio-sphere" section while Maggie is secured in the medical wing. In a conversation with colleague Yuri Kerenski, the organism occupying Maggie's body reveals its desire to reach Earth, a planet rich in water. The crew plan to evacuate in an escape shuttle, and the Doctor breaks the news to Adelaide that she must die today, on Mars, if events are to unfold as they should. However, he also tells her that her death will inspire her descendants to travel further into space and establish peaceful relations with numerous extraterrestrial species. Unwillingly, Adelaide lets him leave. As the Doctor is making his way back to the TARDIS, Maggie breaks out of confinement, infiltrates the shuttle and infects pilot Ed Gold, Adelaide's deputy. Before the condition takes a hold over him, Ed manages to trigger the shuttle's self-destruct mechanism, which traps the infection on Mars but also leaves the surviving crew with no means of escape. The destruction of the shuttle is witnessed by the Doctor who, overcome by defiance against time itself, returns to the base to save the others.

Realising that there is no way to change the course of history, Adelaide activates Bowie Base's self-destruct sequence. The infected personnel mount the roof of the control centre and exude more water, which pours into the room and claims GADGET's operator, Roman Groom, and Steffie Ehrlich. However, the Doctor uses GADGET to access the TARDIS, operate its controls remotely and transport the time and space machine into the base, rescuing Adelaide, Yuri and Mia Bennett from the resulting nuclear explosion.

The TARDIS materialises outside Adelaide's house on Earth. Mia and Yuri are shocked by their experiences on Mars and Doctor's power and depart, bewildered. In a conversation with Adelaide, the Doctor reflects on why he ultimately decided to save her and the others. He argues that the Time Lords' rules were only valid while their civilisation existed, and that since he is the last of his race he has total authority over time. He proudly declares himself the "Time Lord Victorious" and remarks that with this power he will now be able to save influential figures such as Adelaide as well as "little people" the likes of Yuri and Mia. Scolding the Doctor for his new found arrogance, Adelaide returns home and commits suicide, reverting the changes that the Doctor has made to the timeline.

Only now understanding the full impact of his actions, the Doctor is overcome with horror and realises that there will be a price to pay for his interference. Ood Sigma appears in the street, prompting the Doctor to ask him whether he has finally gone too far — whether the time has come for him to die. Unresponsive, Sigma vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS to the ominous sound of the Cloister Bell. With a defiant "No!", he begins to work the machine's controls.




Earth history

  • Adelaide Brooke says that the last forty years on Earth have been chaos, with massive climate change, ozone degredation, and "the oil apocalypse"; humanity "almost reached extinction" during this period. Andy's obituary mentions "appalling storm conditions" in 2040, and climate change affecting agriculture in 2045.
  • Maggie believes the Doctor may be a Philippino or Spanish astronaut, as the Philippines are rumoured to be building a Mars rocket and Spain have a "space link" that they managed to keep secret. Andy Stone's sister worked for the Spanish space programme. Ed Gold believes the Doctor is from a non-state independent group, referring to the Branson Inheritance.
  • Various lunar missions have been carried out, including ten German missions and Project Pit Stop, establishing a refueling station on the moon. Mars was landed on in 2041, with Adelaide Brooke as part of the crew. Thirty years after 2059, Brooke's granddaughter Susan will pilot the first lightspeed ship.
  • At least one of the webpages -- the one showing Brooke's granddaughter -- dates from the 2080s or later, suggesting the Internet still exists in some form in the late 21st century.


  • "Bowie Base One" is a reference to the David Bowie song "Life on Mars", which is also the name of a BBC TV series set in 1972 starring John Simm, who currently plays The Master.

Races and Species


  • The Doctor said that he hates "funny robots" but notes that he'd be okay with a robot dog.
  • Gadget was built by Roman Groom using parts from the drones that constructed Bowie Base One.

Story Notes

  • This story was initially envisaged as a Christmas special, several festive references remain, such as the crew on Mars preparing for Christmas dinner, and it snowing when the Doctor arrives back on Earth as he exclaims how he likes snow.
  • This story was originally entitled; Red Christmas.
  • As Lindsay Duncan has been cast as a companion, she is the oldest actor to play a companion on television since the beginning of the series, although this title will be taken away from her in the next episode when Bernard Cribbins becomes the Doctor's companion.


  • 9.1m
  • 33.9% of TV share

Filming Locations

  • Victoria Place, Newport
  • National Botanic Gardens of Wales, Carmarthenshire
  • Taff's Well quarry, Cardiff, Wales

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • If no Human had ever heard of the Ice Warriors then how can the events of NA: The Dying Days not be known by the Humans? The novels may not be considered canon, by the current production team, also that event may have been in flux. It is never explicitly stated that Humans have never heard of the Ice Warriors. When the Doctor mentions them, Adelaide simply states, "I haven't got time for stories."
  • After the explosion of the shuttle, several fires are burning all around the site. Taking into account the initial explosion was fueled by the base's oxygen, and given that Mars has no appreciable atmosphere, how can these smaller fires burn in the vacuum? Because Mars does have an atmosphere, albeit one with a pressure roughly equivalent to one hundredth that of Earth's atmosphere.
  • Given that Mars's thin atmosphere consists primarily of carbon dioxide, with a very small concentration of oxygen (which is required for combustion), how can the smaller fires after the explosion burn? There is a lot we don't know about Bowie Base One. We don't know what sort of fuel they're using, we don't know how the self-destruct mechanism on the rocket works.
  • In Father's Day The Reapers turned up due to Rose saving her father when somebody who was dead is now alive - surely this should be the case now for Yuri and Mia as they should have died but are now alive. The Reapers only showed up in Fathers Day due to Rose saving her father's life, as then, that altered the timeline meaning that in the future Rose wouldn't have travelled to the past to save her father, causing a paradox, the Doctor only changed the future when he saved Adelaide's life. Had Adelaide's granddaughter travelled back in time to save her grandmother, for instance, that would more likely have caught the Reapers' attention. Also, as Adelaide almost immediately kills herself, thereby maintaining the timeline, there was no need for the Reapers to appear.
  • The news article on Adelaide claims that she was born in 1999 and yet was also 10 when her parents died in 2008. (There was clearly a typo in the article in regards to either the year or her age.)
  • The news article identifies The Stolen Earth as occuring in 2008, instead of 2009 (as the show's been a year ahead since Aliens of London). The production team have deliberately stated that Series Three occurs within a space of a few days to rectify the year-off discrepancy that Aliens of London introduced, so the Whoniverse timeline is in sync with ours again. (Two explanations: either the article we were "seeing" had some sort of typo, or the events of The Stolen Earth actually did happen in 2008.)
  • The news article on the mission refers to "Dr Tarak Ital MD." It would be correct to write either the "Dr" or the "MD," but both at once is redundant and grammatically incorrect. Ital's obituary also misspells "Havana". It is correct if the person has both an MD and a PhD.
  • The article on Susie Fontana Brooke's first "Faster then Light" flight lists Adelaide's team at the end as hers.
  • Why would the Doctor comment on Mia's age when Roman is two years younger than her?
  • When it is revealed that Maggie is one of the creatures, the outer shot shows her hair back while in the closer shot, it is around her face.


International broadcasts