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Empress of Mars

They’re back! 50 years after their début, the Ice Warriors are set to do battle with the Doctor once more. And this time, we’re visiting them at home…

WARNING: Spoilers!

“Ice Warriors and Victorians in the same story is a sort of Venn diagram of me,” says Mark Gatiss with a laugh, when we point out that Empress of Mars is planted squarely in his wheelhouse. “I’ve also always wanted to do the Ice Warriors on Mars – it was just a world we’d never seen. When The Waters of Mars [2009] happened, I was so thrilled. I’d lobbied for years, saying, ‘Why can’t we go to Mars? It’s literally a red filter on a sandpit!’”

When this season arrived, with Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi set to leave the show, Mark decided to go for broke. “I feel in so many ways like I’m living inside the pages of [1972 book] The Making of Doctor Who, except it’s now happening to me and my friends! So I said to Steven, ‘Can I do what I’ve always wanted to do?’ And he said yes!”

The result is Mark’s second Ice Warrior story since he thawed out Grand Marshal Skaldak in 2013’s Cold War. It’s a powerful tale, set to lure in unsuspecting viewers with the crazy high concept of Victorians on Mars, only to sucker-punch them with the madness of war and humanity’s less appealing traits.

“Vaguely in my head, I wanted a ‘Tomb of the Ice Warriors’ kind of feel,” Mark says, referring of course to the classic 1967 serial The Tomb of the Cybermen. “And then I had this idea for a pre-titles sequence. I have a lot of pre-titles ideas: I could go into business selling pre-titles. The rest of it, I’m not so sure! I imagined NASA beaming back pictures the way they do, line by line, always canyons and dark streaks. And then under the ice cap, they see… something they didn’t expect. Steven said it was the best pre-titles idea he’d ever heard! I then got very excited about the idea of doing an HG Wells or Edgar Rice Burroughs kind of Martian story. The films At the Earth’s Core [1976] and Journey to the Center of the Earth [1959] are my favourite things, really.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • Exclusive previews of the next four episodes of the 2017 series of Doctor Who – The Lie of the Land, Empress of Mars, The Eaters of Light, and World Enough and Time. Plus, interviews writers Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Toby Whithouse and Rona Munro. • Showrunner Steven Moffat answers reader's questions. • A look into how one of the original Ice Warrior helmets from the1960s has survived to the present day. • An in-depth interview with Jamie Mathieson, who reveals the secrets behind the writing of episode 5, Oxygen. • Part Two of the new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill: The Soul Garden, by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty. • Reviews of the latest episodes, Knock Knock, Oxygen, Extremis and The Pyramid at the End of the World. • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 1967 story The Macra Terror. • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, the Watcher's column, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!