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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 528 > Empress of Mars

Empress of Mars

NASA discovers a message on the surface of Mars: “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole head to Mars in 1881 to investigate and find Victorian soldiers at war with the native Ice Warriors…

The Fact of Fiction

Exploring the hidden depths of Doctor Who’s most intriguing stories…

Iraxxa (Adele Lynch), the Ice Warrior Queen.

Begging forgiveness, but The Fact of Fiction has been watching loads of Star Trek lately: the 1960s series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery… the lot. So that’s why it suddenly dawned, partway through writing this feature: the Ice Warriors – they’re Doctor Who’s Klingons, aren’t they?

Both first appeared on television within months of each other, in 1967; both are proud warrior species with bloody martial traditions; both later became sometimes challenging members of an interplanetary Federation. Towards the end of Empress of Mars, the Ice Queen Iraxxa even refers to “the way of the warrior” – a phrase often used by Klingons, too (indeed, there’s a DS9 episode titled exactly that).

In one respect, however, Empress of Mars was long overdue. Whereas Trekkers got to see scenes set on the Klingon homeworld Qo’noS as far back as 1990, we had to wait 50 years to see the Ice Warriors in action on Mars itself. Spinoffs had long before sought to correct the oversight: the New Adventures novel GodEngine (1996) and the Big Finish audio Red Dawn (2000), among others. In the latter, Earthly astronauts broke into an Ice Warrior tomb…

No one’s yet published a dictionary of the Martian language, though – unlike with the Klingon tongue. But as with Empress’ Martian setting, it’s probably just a matter of time…

FIRST BROADCAST: 10 June 2017

NASA mission controllers Knibbs and Coolidge are receiving a transmission from mobile Mars probe Valkyrie when they find themselves in the company of three mysterious strangers…

00m 00s We open with a shot of NASA’s huge Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida – the largest single-storey building in the world, supposedly. But Kennedy is NASA’s principal construction and launch facility – so what’s Valkyrie mission control doing here? Mission control for the ongoing Mars Curiosity rover, for example, is situated at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California.

00m 54s Neil Armstrong was “not quite” the first man on the Moon, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) tells his companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). Contrary to Armstrong’s famous assertion of 21 July 1969, the first giant leap for mankind may well have been taken by Dr Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), who visited the Sea of Tranquility alongside the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) on the very same day: “Oh, the Moon landing’s brilliant,” she claimed in Blink (2007).

“We went four times…”

01m 04s The Doctor’s associate Nardole (Matt Lucas) confirms to Coolidge (Lesley Ewen) and Knibbs (Ian Hughes) that Bill is the only human among the three new arrivals: “It’s a bit embarrassing, really.” In the shooting script dated 19 January 2017, Nardole continued, explaining how “it’s like kids. Or dogs. You have to leave them with someone – or take them with you… And we couldn’t get a sitter so…”

Nardole (Matt Lucas) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) arrive on Mars.
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About Doctor Who Magazine

• In his Production Notes showrunner Chris Chibnall recalls recording the Thirteenth Doctor's special reveal scene last July • 40 years on from his Doctor Who debut, we pay tribute to Douglas Adams, “the greatest writer ever to have turned his genius to Doctor Who” • A look at Douglas Adams' notebooks reveal more about his creative process • Peter Purves answers questions from DWM's TARDIS tin • A blast from the past as DWM investigats the Sky Ray ice lollies which were enjoyed by Doctor Who fans in the summers of 1967 and 68 • The story of IDW's distinctive range of Doctor Who comics in America • DWM chats to graphic designer Lee Binding about the packaging for the Season 12 Blu-ray box set • Part Five of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Time Team tackles three of Doctor Who's most controversial and complained-about episodes • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2017 Twelfth Doctor story Empress of Mars • Seventh Doctor cosplay with Jamie Lenman • Previews, audio reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!