The episode also saw the return of two actors from classic Doctor Who: Ysanne Churchman, reprising the role of Alpha Centauri for the first time since the 1974 story The Monster of Peladon, and Anthony Calf, who last appeared on televised Doctor Who as Charles in the 1982 serial, The Visitation.
Narratively, this episode saw Missy out of her vault for the first time since her imprisonment. A large part of the series arc revolved around guarding the vault to make sure that she did not escape; in this story, Nardole allows Missy to pilot the TARDIS to Mars to save the Doctor and Bill.
When NASA discovers a message reading GOD SAVE THE QUEEN under the ice on Mars's surface, the Twelfth Doctor, Nardole, and Bill travel to the Red Planet to investigate. On arrival, they find Victorian soldiers embroiled in a conflict with one of Mars’s ancient species.
NASA, 2017, the new space probe Valkyrie is arriving at a pole on Mars. Equipped with a new camera capable of see through the ice, NASA hopes to get new pictures of the Martian landscape. To the crew's surprise, the Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole are in the control room with them. The Doctor tells them that it's a field trip for "the kids". Using the psychic paper, the Doctor convinces them that the chief gave them permission to go where they please. Bill sees a picture on the wall, asking if its Neil Armstrong - the first man on the moon. The Doctor tells her no; he was the first human male on the moon. An image from Valkyrie starts coming on the monitor, as the fuzzy image clears up, the Doctor cracks an ecstatic smile while the crew, Bill and Nardole are confused. The picture is a bunch of rocks spelling out the message "God save the Queen."
Having tracked the message's formation back to 1881, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to Mars to find out how it happened. Bill asks if there were humans on Mars in Victorian times, to which the Doctor says there isn't supposed to be. Nardole tracks life signs below the surface, so they park the TARDIS below ground.
Exiting in sleek black spacesuits, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole explore a cavern. Seeing a flickering light ahead, they follow it to find a campfire, Taking it as a sign they can breathe down there, Bill immediately concludes that there must be air, and prepares to remove her helmet. However, the Doctor stops her, wishing to be careful. They then turn to see Nardole has already taken off his helmet; "fire equals air" Nardole states. The Doctor snaps back that a lack of caution "equals basic death" in frustrated tone. The Doctor and Bill take off their helmets, with Bill wondering how there can be oxygen underground; the Doctor states Martians were clever.
As they explore, Bill wonders if the message is due to someone messing with time like in The Terminator; she tells the Doctor he'd like the film because it has killer robots. The Doctor tells her that he'll put it on his movie list. Bill additionally states spooky caverns remind her of The Thing, confusing the Doctor again; she tells him he'd like it, too, because everybody dies. Suddenly, she falls down a hole in the cavern into a lower area. The Doctor sends Nardole back to the TARDIS to find some rope and climbing equipment. However, right as Nardole passes the console to head down for supplies, the TARDIS brakes suddenly come undone and the TARDIS vanishes back to St Luke's University with a panicky Nardole inside. Hearing the TARDIS leave, the Doctor begins to worry.
Bill, in the meantime, is surprised by a strange, robot-like being that arrives out of a lift; however, its revealed a human is inside of it when he removes the helmet. It's a primitive spacesuit. The Doctor, elsewhere, is pondering on what to do. He is surprised by the appearance on an Ice Warrior, which proceeds to march quickly towards him. The Doctor raises his hand and orders it to halt; the warrior complies. Giving the ritual greeting to show his respect, the Doctor introduces himself, stating he was an honorary guardian of the Tythonian hive. A British soldier arrives from the lift, brandishing a rifle. The Doctor tells him not to fire on the Ice Warrior, only to have a shot fired at his feet; the soldier was talking to him.
Back at St Luke's University, Nardole tries getting the TARDIS to go back to Mars. However, it refuses to budge. Desperate, Nardole goes down to the Vault. He asks Missy over the intercom if she can tell him how to repair the TARDIS, so he can go retrieve the Doctor. Missy tells him that she's more than willing to, but it would be easier if she just showed him herself. Nardole gives a grim look.....
Back on Mars, the Doctor and Bill have been taken back to a camp further below. The Ice Warrior, Friday, and the human, Catchlove, serve tea to them. As they wait for their tea, Bill asks where Nardole is, to which the Doctor tells her that he's taken the TARDIS and temporarily stranded them 136 years in the past on another planet. The head officer Colonel Godsacre reveals that his men were stationed in South Africa and came across Friday's ship and him in suspended animation; they named him Friday from Robinson Crusoe. Thanks to the psychic paper, the soldiers think the Doctor and Bill were on Friday's ship in a hidden compartment.
The Doctor asks what happened afterwards as his "memory" is hazy. Friday asked for their help repairing his ship in exchange for riches back on Mars. Unfortunately the ship crashed and was beyond repair; however, they were able to salvage a laser from the ship and repurpose it into a mining tool called the Gargantua to blast through a wall in the cavern bit by bit to search for the promised treasure. However, their labour hasn't bore any fruit; their supplies and morale are low.
Suspicious of Friday's true motives, the Doctor tells Bill that Ice Warriors are Mars' indigenous species. "They could build a city under the sand, yet drench the snows of Mars with innocent blood. They could slaughter whole civilizations, yet weep at the crushing of a flower." Bill compares Ice Warriors to Vikings to which the Doctor agrees. The Doctor asks Friday why he truly has come back; Friday states he is old and wishes to die in peace, but quickly catches a plate that a rumble knocks over. Both the Doctor and Bill realise that if what Friday said was true, his reflexes would not be that good.
In the meantime, the mining crew is bickering with each other over spending months on a fruitless endeavour. However, the Gargantua finally break a through into a hidden chamber. The Doctor and Bill join them. In the centre of the room is a golden crypt with jewels on the side, with what appears to be a golden statue if a female Ice Warrior. A stunned Doctor reveals that they are in an Ice Queen tomb; it could also be the entrance to an Ice Warrior Hive, where more sleep. Catchlove smugly orders the Doctor and Bill detained, consumed by his greed; however, Godsacre reminds him that he's in charge and to post a guard so they can resolve this after a nights sleep.
Back at the camp, the Doctor warns Godsacre that Friday has been using them; he wants to find his queen. The Doctor simplifies things by stating that the soldiers don't belong on Mars and need to leave. However, Catchlove arrogantly states Mars is part of the British Empire now. The Doctor tells Bill that he's not taking sides, only trying to prevent deaths. He tells her that the humans are the invaders and that they are technologically inferior to the Ice Warriors; it's going to be a massacre if they don't intervene.
Back at the tomb, a soldier named Jackdaw drugs the sergeant and promises Vincey a generous cut of the jewels. Vincey keeps watch as Jackdaw takes a knife to a blue gem in the crypt. Pulling it out, he accidental activates the tomb; the gold on the statue melts away, revealing it's the real Ice Queen. Examining the gem in his hand, Jackdaw remains unaware of the danger his greed has awakened. However, right before he can do anything else, his head is grabbed by the Ice Queen...
Worried Jackdaw is taking too long, Vincey goes to check on him; he finds the tomb empty, with no sign of the Ice Queen or Jackdaw's body. Hearing someone approaching from the stairs, Vincey sees the Ice Queen. The queen demands he identify, causing Vincey to scream in terror. Another soldier enters and fires at the queen in vain; calling the action unwise, the queen fires a laser to compresses the solider in a folded mass. Friday arrived next, having been alerted to her awakening by his suit; Vincey flees. Friday reveals that they have slumbered too long and that Mars is dead.
The soldiers take arms and rush back into the tomb. The Doctor asks Godsacre to let him speak, but Catchlove rudely demands Friday reveal who the Queen is. Friday states she is Iraxxa, rightful ruler of Mars. Catchlove orders a call to arms, but Godsacre firmly reminds him of his place; he allows the Doctor to speak. Iraxxa is impressed with the Doctor's knowledge of Ice Warrior customs; he asks mercy for the primitives. The Doctor backs up Friday's claim that Mars is uninhabitable; he states that accepting help is the only way to survive. Iraxxa catches sight of Bill, asking her opinion; she values female opinions as men are more aggressive-minded. Bill backs up the Doctor's claim and states that Friday was saved by humans; this infuriates Iraxxa, who thinks Friday has been reduced to a pet. The Doctor gets her to fight for the future, not a dead past. A shot goes off by accident. Iraxxa states that she will grant mercy to the humans with swift deaths. Everyone leaves.
Catchlove takes command from Godsacre, using the Gargantua to seal the tomb again. However, Iraxxa begins waking up more Ice Warriors. Arrogantly, Catchlove reveals Godsacre suffers a failed execution for deserting. The Doctor tells him that it doesn't matter who's in charge of their expedition, they're no match for Ice Warriors. Catchlove thinks they can handle "upright crocodiles", ordering the Doctor and Bill imprisoned with Godsacre. Catchlove gives an arrogant smile.
In the brig, Bill asks the Doctor if he has a plan; the Doctor tells her that he's "made of plans." Godsacre inquires as to who the Doctor and Bill are as they speak of humans like they are a different species. Bill tells him that they are basically police, which the Doctor denies; Godsacre laughs, finding the idea of a woman officer amusing. Bill ignores the sexism, asking if what Catchlove said about him being a deserting was true. Godsacre reveals that Catchlove learned of the situation and blackmailed him for a very long time. Elsewhere, Catchlove has the men primed to shoot at the opening of the tomb. However, the Ice Warriors prove more clever than he gave them credit for; they are instead rising out of the ground from behind them. Finally seeing that he's in over his head, Catchlove uses Vincey as a shield to block a blast from an Ice Warrior as he flees in the chaos.
Friday rises out of the ground in the brig, asking the Doctor to bring an end to Iraxxa's madness. The Doctor promises to do so; Friday breaks down the door, allowing them out. The Doctor tells Bill to create a distraction while he implements his plan. Bill calls to Iraxxa, reminding her that she had valued her opinion before, offering to talk to her woman-to-woman. Iraxxa states that dialogue has no place in war, prompting Bill to ask why it has to be a war. Talking Friday's hand, Bill shows her that they can work together. Iraxxa is not convinced. The Doctor shouts from the Gargantua's controls, threatening to fire at the roof of the cavern and unleash the water of the polar ice cap upon them all. He notes that her civilization would be trapped in an eternal winter "like Frozen."
However, Catchlove takes Iraxxa hostage; as he has no clue how to operate Friday's ship, he's decided to take Iraxxa to pilot it. She doubles as a valuable hostage. As Catchlove backs up to the lift, Godsacre exits and shoots him dead. Iraxxa is surprised to see this, asking if Godsacre will now ask for his life to be spared. Bill attempts to intervene but is stopped by the Doctor. Godsacre states he was almost executed for cowardice but is willing to give his life to Iraxxa if she will spare everyone else. Iraxxa is impressed with Godsacre's valour, telling him that he will die... but in battle, as is the true way of the warrior. She tells Godsacre to swear loyalty to her, so that he may have the chance to regain his honour in battle; he does so, swearing to serve her until his death. Bill asks if the Doctor knew that was going to happen; he did, saying the problem with him is that he thinks too much like a soldier.
In the tomb, the Doctor hot-wires the communication relay to send a distress signal to the nearest civilized planet capable of space travel. Iraxxa thanks the Doctor for his help in saving her people. Someone responds to the distress signal and Iraxxa answers it; the caller is Alpha Centauri, who tells her that a fleet can be sent to assist with evacuating the Ice Warriors to a new planet. However, a beacon of some sort will be needed to guide the ships to their location. Bill wonders what will happen now, to which the Doctor guesses that they've just jump-started the Martian Golden Age. On the surface, the Doctor and Bill, along with Godsacre are moving rocks around. Godsacre thanks them for all the help, wondering if the ships will be able to see the beacon. Amused, the Doctor tells him that they will. It turns out THEY are the ones who spell out "God save the Queen" on the polar ice cap.
Later, the Doctor and Bill enter the TARDIS after it finally manages to return. Entering the TARDIS, the Doctor starts berating Nardole for taking so long to come back but freezes upon seeing Missy at the controls. The Doctor asks Nardole what Missy is doing out of the Vault, to which he says to thank her as they would be stuck on Mars without her help. Missy shows uncharacteristic concern, asking the Doctor if he's okay. The Doctor tells her that this can't happen and that she's going back to the Vault. Missy states that she will, surprising the Doctor as she's never been known to be so compliant. Seeing the Doctor in shock, Missy asks if he's alright once more. The Doctor gives stunned silence.....
- The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
- Bill - Pearl Mackie
- Nardole - Matt Lucas
- Missy - Michelle Gomez
- Godsacre - Anthony Calf
- Catchlove - Ferdinand Kingsley
- Friday - Richard Ashton
- Iraxxa - Adele Lynch
- Sergeant Major Peach - Glenn Speers
- Jackdaw - Ian Beattie
- Vincey - Bayo Gbadamosi
- Knibbs - Ian Hughes
- Coolidge - Lesley Ewen
- Voice of Alpha Centauri - Ysanne Churchman
to be added
- Bill mentions the film The Vikings, which stars Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, and has an amazing theme tune.
- The soldiers brought a Union Flag with them.
- Friday is named after Man Friday from Robinson Crusoe.
- Godsacre finds the notion of a woman in the police force laughable.
- The Doctor refers to this event as the beginning of a "Martian Golden Age".
Foods and beverages Edit
- Nardole is drinking a cup of tea at NASA.
- The Doctor, Bill, Catchlove and Godsacre drinks "afternoon tea" and eat cake.
- When Friday is serving tea, Catchlove questions as to whether Bill would like "Indian or China".
- Godsacre was stationed in South Africa and was a "hero of Isandlwana".
- Catchlove says Mars is now part of the British Empire.
- NASA is testing out the space probe Valkyrie on Mars. It has a new kind of camera which allows to see under the poles and beam back pictures due to using a different spectrum.
- The probe pictures needs to download before they show up.
- Friday offered his spaceship's artillery to build a mining machine.
- Friday helped the Victorian soldiers build the Gargantua, apparently for mining.
- The Ice Warriors have been sleeping in cryogenic cells.
- Catchlove plans to "dynamite the lifts".
- Bill points out a photograph of Neil Armstrong on the wall of NASA. The Doctor clarifies that Armstrong was not the "first man" on the Moon.
- The psychic paper tells NASA the TARDIS crew has been allowed everywhere at the company by the Chief.
- The British Army have a portrait of Queen Victoria. They aimed to claim Mars in her name.
- Friday and Iraxxa have been in hibernation for 5,000 years.
- Vincey is engaged to someone named Alice.
- Having travelled with the Doctor for some time now, Bill believes the Doctor would enjoy movies with killer robots and where everyone dies.
- Jobs at NASA were given as: PAYLOAD, TECHS, MOD, FDO, GC, GPO, PROP, EGIL, FLIGHT, FAO, DPS, and MMACS.
- The Doctor suggests the reason for the message on the surface of Mars could be state visit, patriotic fervour or rogue graffiti artist.
- "God Save The Queen" is written on the surface of Mars.
- Jackdaw uses the expression "Sweet Fanny Adams".
- Peach says RHIP, meaning "Rank has its privileges".
- Iraxxa refers to Vincey as "fleshy worm".
- Catchlove refers to the Colonel's hanging as "dancing the Newgate polka" and calls him a "paper tiger".
- Catchlove says the British Army is more than a match to "upright crocodiles".
- Catchlove tells Iraxxa to "call off her dogs".
- Vincey uses the phrase "in all my puff".
- The Doctor sends out a round-robin email.
- Godsacre says he can't go to battle due to "blue funk".
- Jackdaw sings "She Was Poor But She Was Honest" to himself.
Story notes Edit
- Actor Ysanne Churchman returns as the voice of Alpha Centauri at the age of 92, becoming the oldest actor to appear in the new television series of Doctor Who. To keep the reappearance of Alpha Centauri a surprise, Churchman was not credited in Radio Times, nor on the Doctor Who website.
- Mark Gatiss explained on The Aftershow that Empress of Mars began as a sequel to his 2015 series 9 episode Sleep No More, but later turned into an Ice Warrior story, and with the inclusion of Alpha Centauri was intended as a third Peladon-story, until the story was fully formed.
- Guest star Ferdinand Kingsley was currently co-starring with Jenna Coleman in the TV series Victoria. The image of Queen Victoria used for this episode, however, is a portrait of Pauline Collins from TV: Tooth and Claw.
- At one point Iraxxa tells her soldiers to "sleep no more!" This is a reference to Gatiss' previous episode for the programme, TV: Sleep No More.
- Ian McNeice was originally in talks to appear as Winston Churchill in the episode, but it was left on the scrapheap, as Mark and Steven couldn't fit a 20th century-individual into the 1881-set story.
- Missy's Theme plays during her reveal inside the TARDIS, for the first time since Series 8.
- Though this episode is the sixth on-screen appearance of the Ice Warriors, and the third TV story set on Mars, it is the first time the Ice Warriors are seen on the homeworld on-screen.
- 3.58 million (UK overnight figures)
- 5.02 million (UK final)
Filming locations Edit
to be added
Production errors Edit
to be added
- The Doctor told Friday that he was an Honorary Guardian of the Tythonian Hive. (TV: The Creature from the Pit)
- The Doctor again greets Ice Warriors with the "by the Moons, I honour thee." (TV: Cold War)
- Bill mentions Neil Armstrong and the 1969 moon landing. The Tenth Doctor was present for it with companion Martha Jones (TV: Blink) while his eleventh incarnation witnessed the broadcast of Armstrong live while interrupting the footage with the image of a Silent. (TV: Day of the Moon)
- Nardole knows how to pilot the TARDIS. (TV: The Return of Doctor Mysterio)
- The Doctor visits one of the Ice Warrior Hives, as he had intended to do with Clara Oswald. (TV: Robot of Sherwood)
- The Doctor previously dealt with another mission to Mars by British explorers. (TV: The Ambassadors of Death)
- The Doctor has visited the remains of the Ice Warrior civilisation before. (TV: The Waters of Mars)
- The Doctor complains that his sonic screwdriver still has no setting for wood. (TV: Silence in the Library, The Hungry Earth, Night Terrors, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, In the Forest of the Night)
- The Doctor sends a message to Alpha Centauri to start the new Ice Warriors' lives. (TV: The Curse of Peladon)
- The Doctor mentions that Neil Armstrong was not the first man on the moon. (PROSE: Moon Blink)
- The Doctor and Bill will meet the Ice Warriors again. (COMIC: The Wolves of Winter)
Home video releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
Blu-ray releases Edit
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Digital releases Edit
to be added