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The Waters of Mars was the 2009 Autumn Special of Doctor Who.

Mostly a character piece, it showed the extremes to which the Doctor would go when unregulated by either other Time Lords or companions, specifically by trying to change a fixed point in time. It continued the "He will knock four times" story arc begun in the previous episode.

It won a 2010 Hugo Award for writers Russell T Davies and Phil Ford. After years of stability at the producer's office, The Waters of Mars was the fourth episode in a row to be produced by a different person.

Just prior to his regeneration a significant change in the Tenth Doctor's character was presented, showing a much darker and callous side. Up to this point he had viewed himself as a survivor of the Time War, but now he started to believe that he was the "Time Lord Victorious" and that the Laws of Time were his to command, allowing him to break them because there were no other Time Lords around to stop him. After saving Adelaide Brooke even though he knew her death was fixed, he realised that he had gone too far and that he should not influence history and the future on such a large scale.

Adelaide's flashback also indicates that the Daleks are aware of people and events important to the universe's history. The consequences of altering such important events was displayed in The Wedding of River Song [+]Steven Moffat, Doctor Who series 6 (BBC One, 2011)., when the Silence create an event that appears to be the Eleventh Doctor's assassination; if the event is prevented, it will stop time and cause all of history to happen at once at the epicentre. In time, the effects will spread to the rest of reality and the universe would simply collapse.

This is the first time since 1980's Logopolis [+]Christopher H. Bidmead, Doctor Who season 18 (BBC1, 1981)., that the Cloister Bells have rung to signal to the Doctor that he will regenerate soon. However, unlike the previous time, where the Fourth Doctor was willing to wait for his time to come, the Tenth Doctor was greatly fearful of having to regenerate. Unknown to the audience at this time, the Doctor had only one regeneration left; he had aborted one in Journey's End [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who series 4 (BBC One, 2008)., and kept one secretly buried in his memory.

While The End of Time [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2009 and New Year Special 2010 (BBC One, 2009-2010)., is the next aired episode featuring the Tenth Doctor, the events of The Day of the Doctor [+]Steven Moffat, 50th Anniversary Specials (BBC One, 2013). follow The Waters of Mars in the Tenth Doctor's timeline.

The episode would later be retroactively incorporated as a part of the multi-medium Time Lord Victorious storyline, with the officially promoted exploration paths placing it somewhere after Defender of the Daleks from the Tenth Doctor's perspective.


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 Tenth Doctor steps out in his spacesuit from Sanctuary Base 6, seemingly just to relax and enjoy the landscape. Stumbling across a base inhabited by a team from Earth, he is detained by a remote-controlled robot called "Gadget" and taken inside.

The base commander, Adelaide Brooke, holds the Doctor at gunpoint, demanding to know his name, rank and intentions; he responds "the Doctor; doctor; fun." The crew wonder if he's from a rival space agency, to which the Doctor decides to agree to; he then asks who they are. Adelaide scoffs at him saying that everyone on Earth should know who they are as they are the first colonists on Mars.

The Doctor realises that the date is 21 November 2059, and this is Bowie Base One. History has it that on this date, the base was destroyed in a mysterious explosion and Brooke and her crew were all killed as a result. Unwilling to break the laws of time and interfere with a "fixed point" in history, the Doctor states that he is sorry with all his hearts, but he needs to leave.

However, a crisis is developing: a crew member, Andy Stone, has been infected by a mysterious life form which takes over his body and causes him to gush copious amounts of water. Maggie Cain, another crew member, screams as Andy growls and attacks her, leaving her unconscious in the biodome corridor. After second-in-command, Ed Gold, attempts to establish contact with Andy and Maggie over the comlink and they hear Andy's guttural snarls over the comlink, Adelaide confiscates the Doctor's spacesuit, thinking he may be responsible for the infection in some way, and orders him to come with her and physician, Tarak Ital, MD, to investigate.

As the Doctor, Adelaide and Tarak walk down the corridor with Gadget, operated by Junior Technician Roman Groom from the central dome, the Doctor finds it annoying that the robot repeats its name. The Doctor asks the famous Adelaide Brooke if the Bowie Base One mission was worth everything she sacrificed, to which the Captain replied that Earth was reaching the point of uninhabitability with all the smog and pollution, all of which pushed humanity to the brink of extinction, and that to walk on another planet without any smoke but just infinite sky... yes, it's worth it. The Doctor is greatly impressed and tells Adelaide that she was the woman with starlight in her soul. Adelaide says nothing, but her expression is thoughtful.

As they walk down the corridor, Adelaide's torch picks out Maggie's unconscious form, and they race to her. She is still alive and breathing, but has a nasty gash on her head. Tarak calls Nurse Yuri Kerenski over the comlink, who arrives with a medi-pack for Maggie and a stretcher. Ed also arrives, after realising that only one other person was in the biodome — officer Andrew Stone. Ed tells Maggie that the only way this couldn't have been an accident was that Andy has gone berserk. Adelaide dismisses him using rank and citing security protocol.

Meanwhile, Senior Technician Steffi Ehrlich checks the growling noise on the diagnostics unit of the computer, and is shocked to discover that the growling was the voice of Andy Stone. She calls Adelaide on the comlink to warn her that it seems Andy has gone wild. Adelaide, Tarak and the Doctor step into the dormant biodome, and, using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor restores the lights, all of which had been shorted out by the infected Andy. Tarak goes to the left to check the biodome airlock doors, while Adelaide and the Doctor go to the right. Maggie awakens as they walk down the biodome, unwittingly carrying the mysterious virus which is hiding in her body, but she has amnesia of the previous occurrences. Slightly groggy, she tries to get Yuri to open the door for her to come out, but Yuri refuses, saying a little rest won't hurt. As he turns his back, however, Maggie's features crease into a disapproving frown, indicating that she is not herself anymore...

Tarak is the first to find Andy, who swings around onto him and infects him with the virus by pouring water over his head, causing Tarak to acquire the same zombie-like characteristics that Andy has. At that point, in a conversation with Yuri, Maggie's virus finally becomes active. The organism occupying her body reveals its desire to reach Earth, a planet rich in water. Yuri is first alerted to her transformation when she speaks in a deep voice distorted by the internal fission, "We should like that world", while gazing at planet Earth on a monitor, and Yuri, stammering in horror, briefly describes what has happened to their comrade: the skin around her mouth has become horrifically cracked and broken, her teeth have blackened and she is emitting water in an overwhelming torrent from her mouth, as if she is drowning.

Adelaide, realising the biodome is unsafe, tries and fails to establish contact with Tarak over the comlink, and then she and the Doctor run back through the dome in time to see Tarak transform. While Adelaide points her gun at her infected crew member, the Doctor tries to encourage Andy to take his dripping hand away from Tarak's head. Amazingly, Andy seems to obey and yanks his hand away from Tarak, who collapses as his mutation is completed. The Doctor then acts friendly and introduces himself to the infected man, but then Tarak flicks his head up and turns to face them, and they are horrified to see that Tarak now looks just like Andy — the skin of his mouth has cracked, his eyes are a dead, white-blue, his teeth have gone black and copious water pours from his mouth. The Doctor, realising they have to get away, runs with Adelaide hot on his heels, but then Andy and Tarak run after them back through the dome to the door, whose seals are set at maximum, just as Andy fires a thick stream of viral water from his hand onto the door. Not a single drop gets inside, but Andy then steps closer to the door and slams himself against it.

Ed reaches the medical dome to see Maggie for himself. He is shocked by her appearance, and his face shows his fear. Steffi, geologist Mia Bennett and Roman look through the medical dome camera at Maggie, and Steffi wonders what she has become. She calls Adelaide over the comlink, begging her to come back, but Adelaide orders Ed to make sure that Maggie is contained. Ed confirms it, then Adelaide orders all the water supplies to be closed down, and also orders the others: "Don't drink the water, don't even touch it, not one drop". The Doctor examines Andy, who looks at him with his dead white eyes and suddenly grins. The Doctor fails to get a response from the zombie or his friend standing behind him. Andy then starts examining the door, and the Doctor realises that humans are 60% water, so they are the perfect host for something like a mutating water virus. The Doctor says he has to go, and that he can't stay to see what happens, leaving Adelaide confused.

Suddenly, Andy slams his whole body against the door, making both the Doctor and Adelaide jump. Andy growls at Tarak, who then attacks the door by firing water from his mouth into the side, fusing the systems and causing the tortured door to open. The Doctor and Adelaide escape and start running down the corridor back to the central dome, but Andy and Tarak then break out of the biodome doors and race after them. Realising that the infected men can run faster than them, the Doctor sonics Gadget, making him able to move considerably faster, and he and Adelaide hitch a ride on the robot, which causes agony to Roman Groom, the robot's operator. The Doctor notes the crew should have had collapsible bikes brought along.

Andy and Tarak, still infected, chase the Doctor, Adelaide and Gadget back to the central dome, but are unable to pursue them any further due to the Hardinger seals in the central dome airlocks and are contained in the base's "bio-sphere" section while Maggie is secured in the medical wing. The Doctor, however, is worried about the doors and whether they can protect them from creatures with such power, making a chilling statement, "Water is patient, Adelaide, water just waits. It wears down the clifftops, the mountains, the whole of the world. Water always wins!"

In the medical dome, the Doctor and Adelaide meet the infected Maggie, who just stares at them all, but she suddenly takes an interest in the Doctor when he speaks ancient North Martian to her, Maggie appearing to understand it. The Doctor realises that, looking at Maggie's blackened mouth and cracked skin, that whatever the infection is, it doesn't just live as water, it can produce immense amounts of it. The crew plan to evacuate in an escape shuttle, and the Doctor grimly tells the news to Adelaide that they could be carrying the infection, as they discovered, from Maggie's transformation, that the infection could hide in a human and mutate it at any moment. Adelaide goes to inspect the ice field to validate the Doctor's suspicions, offering him his suit back to him and allowing him to leave. Contemplating leaving, the Doctor stands still for a few seconds before racing off after her.

Yuri evacuates the Medical Dome and heads for the Central. After he leaves, Maggie breaks out of confinement by seeping water into the door and alerts Andy and Tarak in the biodome corridor to the humans' plans by emitting a terrifying alien scream that is heard by the two men over a hundred metres away. The infected men slowly lower their heads and then look towards the medical dome from which the scream is coming from, then they slowly walk away.


Close Encounter With a Dalek - Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars - BBC

The Doctor tells Adelaide about time's certain moments.

In the dome containing the glacier, the Doctor hypothesises that the virus may have been preserved and imprisoned in the glacier by the Ice Warriors to prevent its spread. However, before they can get to work, Adelaide queries the Doctor on how he knows so much about them. Reluctantly, the Doctor comments that she may have a story to tell, and Adelaide agrees. She says that when she was 10 years old, the sky had changed, as it was the moment when the Earth was snatched by the Daleks, and Adelaide says that she saw a Dalek float down to her window, and it saw her and just stared at her, then flew away.

Adelaide says that she knew, someday, she would follow it into the stars. The Doctor tells Adelaide that by doing so, she has created history and reveals some information; Adelaide's infant granddaughter Susie Fontana Brooke will grow up and, inspired by her grandmother, become the pilot of Earth's first lightspeed ship. This will pave the way for generations of her descendants to explore the galaxy, with one even falling in love with an alien prince and creating a whole new species. Adelaide, amazed at what a lasting legacy her and her family will have on the galaxy, asks the Doctor why he's telling her all this. The Doctor sadly replies that he's telling her as a consolation.

The Doctor and Adelaide work out, through the last message that Andy had recorded, that the water was fine to drink until the filter broke and the virus could get into the water supplies. Since the water won't yet have been drunk by the rest of the crew, they are free to leave. 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. Adelaide begs him to help but the Doctor insists he cannot interfere as her death is a fixed point in time, something even the Dalek knew which is why it didn't kill her as a child. Adelaide allows him to leave, saying two last words: "Damn you".


Roman is infected by the water.

However, as the crew prepare to leave, Andy and Tarak climb the maintenance shafts in the main dome, walk to the centre of the roof of the control centre, fall to their knees and exude more water from their hands and mouths through the girders in the roof. The water quickly pours into the room and claims a distraught Steffi Ehrlich as she watches a tape left by her two daughters. Shortly afterwards, Roman is infected when a single drop of viral water falls on his cheek. However, he warns the others to run just before he changes. Mia screams and sobs as he is infected, but Yuri restrains her, and so they all make for the shuttle.

As Ed prepares the shuttle for take-off, Maggie infiltrates the shuttle and blasts water up the shaft into the pilot room, which cascades over Ed's arm, infecting him with the virus. However, just as the infection consumes him, and his eyes turn white-blue, Ed bids Adelaide, Yuri and Mia a final farewell, "See you later", and triggers the shuttle's self-destruct system, which traps the Flood on Mars but leaves the rest of the crew stranded with no means of escape. The Doctor narrowly avoids being caught in the blast but nevertheless can hear the cries of the doomed and their desperation as escape seems hopeless. Tortured by their suffering, he thinks about how the Time Lords used to enforce the laws of time, but they are all dead and gone now. He is the last Time Lord; he can make his own rules. With fierce determination on his face, he returns to the base to save the crew.

Finding the base falling apart, the Doctor rallies Adelaide, Mia and Yuri, and tries to assess the situation. Adelaide insists that the Flood cannot be stopped and the Doctor should save himself, but the Doctor tells of the prophecy that four knocks precede his death and states, "It doesn't mean right here, right now, 'cause I don't hear anyone knocking, do you?!". In response, the infected Andy slams his fist against the door three times; the Doctor shouts back, "Three knocks is all you're getting!" and electrifies the door, causing Andy to conduct the electricity, scream with pain, and let go of the door. The Doctor realises that coming from Mars, the Flood creatures would be very sensitive to heat. He reasons that if heat worked against the Ice Warriors, it would work against the Flood. He plans to activate the environmental controls and boil them. Adelaide reminds him of his assertion that they must die to ensure history unfolds correctly, but the Doctor replies that as the last of the Time Lords, "The laws of time are mine, and they will obey me!"

Suddenly, an explosion rocks the base, destroying its environmental controls. The Doctor states he will reactivate them from outside, only to find his spacesuit damaged as the glass in the helmet has cracked. Refusing to admit defeat, he plans to get a spacesuit from the storage section of Bowie Base, only to find the entire section flooded. At the same time, Maggie heads to the glacier and lets out a deafening shriek that begins to crack the very ice. As the glacier cracks under Maggie's screams, the base's stability begins to collapse; sensing that history will follow its inevitable course, Adelaide activates Action 5 — a nuclear device placed at the heart of the base. It will destroy the Flood, but also kill everyone else, infected or not.


Gadget to the rescue (HD) - Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars - BBC

"Who needs atom clamps? I've got a funny robot!"

The Doctor, realising they have one chance, uses Gadget to roll across the Mars landscape and bring the TARDIS to the base. As time runs out, Maggie continues to wail at the glacier, causing even more ice to crack, and the other infected personnel, Andy, Tarak, Roman and Steffi begin to scream as well, adding their efforts to the Flood's release. Just as the Flood begins to escape the glacier, the TARDIS materialises in the control room, and the survivors get inside. The nuclear device explodes, destroying the base and wiping out all the Flood creatures, the explosion unnoticeable from Mars' atmosphere.

The TARDIS materialises outside Adelaide's house on Earth. The Doctor exits followed by Adelaide, Mia and Yuri who can't believe that they're back on Earth. Gadget also exits, but immediately shuts down as he loses his control signal. Mia and Yuri are shocked by their experiences on Mars and by the Doctor's power, with Mia running away in fear. Yuri promises to take care of her and also departs. Adelaide asks what happens now in regards to her granddaughter's future, and the Doctor tells Adelaide that she can still inspire Susie but now can do it face-to-face. Some of the details will be different, but history will still follow its proper course. Adelaide, beginning to realise the full implications of her survival and how it could change her granddaughter's future and that of the whole human race, warns the Doctor that he has no way of knowing that and tells him she should have been left on Mars.

The Doctor argues that the rules of the Time Lords were only valid while their civilisation existed and that since he is the last of his race he has total authority over time. He states that he no longer considers himself to have survived the Time War, but to have won it and 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. Horrified and disgusted by the Doctor's newfound arrogance, Adelaide declares: "I don't care who you are, the Time Lord Victorious is wrong!".

After that, an adamant Adelaide returns home. The Doctor begins to walk away from her door, thinking all is well. He is grievously wrong. The windows of her house erupt with blue light as a single laser blast rings out. Adelaide has committed suicide, reverting the changes that the Doctor has made to the timeline. The Doctor feels the course of history being re-written. The people of Earth are made aware of the horrific events that occurred on Bowie Base One when Yuri and Mia eventually come forward. Captain Adelaide Brooke is now recorded as having died on Earth, with the circumstances of her suicide never found; however, Adelaide's granddaughter will still travel into space and pave the way for her future generations, inspired by Mia and Yuri's stories of her grandmother's heroism.

Ood Sigma Apparition Vision

Ood Sigma appears in a foreboding vision. Has the Doctor's time come?

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. A vision of 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. The fear and remorse in his voice is incredibly potent. Unresponsive, Sigma vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS.

The Doctor is greeted by the ominous sound of the Cloister Bell warning the Doctor that the time for him to regenerate is near. Solemnly tossing off his coat, the Doctor contemplates this. With a defiant "No!", he begins to work the machine's controls in a desperate plight to delay his impending death as long as he possibly can.


Uncredited Cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



Earth history[]

  • Adelaide Brooke says that the last forty years on Earth have been chaos, with massive climate change, ozone degradation, 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 Filipino 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", likely a reference to Richard Branson, a British industrialist who uses his vast wealth to fund commercial space flight.
  • Various lunar missions have been carried out, including ten German missions and Project Pit Stop, establishing a refuelling 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.
  • On Adelaide's web page, there is a line of text at the top that states the page was updated on Thursday, 22 November 2059.
  • In 2059, flares emanating from the Sun are preventing clear communications between Earth and Mars.
  • One of the web pages indicates that the name of the spacecraft that brought Brooke's crew to Mars, and that of the vessel Ed Gold is forced to destroy, is Apollo 34.
  • NASA sent the space probe Phoenix to Mars, where it discovered liquid water.




  • 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.


  • Whilst on Earth, the Cloister Bell is audible while the Doctor stands alone in the TARDIS.


  • This story was initially envisaged as a Christmas special. In fact, the Doctor was originally supposed to use the base's metal Christmas tree as a transmitter to contact the TARDIS. Several festive references remain, such as the crew on Mars preparing for Christmas dinner, and the snowing when the Doctor arrives back on Earth as he exclaims how he likes snow. In this phase of development, the episode had the working titles of Red Christmas and Christmas on Mars.[1]
  • Another working title was Red Planet.
  • Lindsay Duncan became the oldest actress, and briefly the oldest individual, to be cast in the companion role (although like several before her, her official status as a companion will remain debatable). As Bernard Cribbins took on the companion role in The End of Time, he became the oldest male actor and oldest individual in this role.
  • The episode ends with a dedication to Barry Letts. The former Doctor Who producer and writer had died several weeks before the broadcast.
  • Phil Ford had a different idea for the special, which was originally meant to be the 2008 Christmas Special, but was replaced with The Next Doctor [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2008 (BBC One, 2008)..It would have featured the Doctor in an eerie hotel while alien activity caused the Earth to be frozen in time. However, Russell T Davies was concerned about a key element of the narrative, which would have seen the Doctor exploring a deserted London. It was abandoned due to budgetary and logistical concerns. Ford then pitched a swords-and-sorcery story called A Midwinter's Tale, emphasising the fantastical elements much more than he had envisaged. It also felt out of place as a Christmas special, appearing more suited to Halloween. Two elements were retained - the Ood cameo and the Doctor pairing up with a mature woman.[1]
  • When initially sketching out the story, Russell T Davies considered Helen Mirren as a potential actress to play the character that eventually became Adelaide. In an early draft, the character that became Adelaide was a Russian named Valentina Kerenski, but this was changed when, still thinking of Mirren as a potential guest star, Davies felt it would have been too close to the character played by Mirren in the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Her original Russian surname would ultimately be reassigned to Yuri. (REF: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - The Final Chapter)
  • In a deleted scene, the Doctor suggested that the Ice Warriors were unable to fully defeat the Flood and fled the planet as a result, explaining their absence.
  • This story won the 2010 Hugo Award in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[2]
  • This was the last Doctor Who story released on DVD to include a "Next Time..." trail for a following episode, and one of only two Blu-ray releases, along with Planet of the Dead [+]Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts, Doctor Who Easter Special 2009 (BBC One, 2009)., to include a "Next Time..." trailer. The End of Time [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2009 and New Year Special 2010 (BBC One, 2009-2010). did not include such trailers even at broadcast, and while most episodes from series 5 were broadcast with a "Next Time..." trail, they were excised from the DVD and Blu-ray release.
  • Chronologically, this was the last live-action story to feature David Tennant dressed in the Tenth Doctor's blue suit. Dreamland [+]Phil Ford, Doctor Who Animated Special 2009 (BBC Red Button, 2009). would be the last of the Tenth Doctor's broadcast stories to depict him in the blue suit. He would appear in his more commonly worn brown suit for his final serial.
  • This story was intended to be transmitted on 21 November 2009, exactly 50 years before the events of this story, but had to be moved back. As such, it was the only episode of the modern run of the series that is not a Christmas special transmitted on a Sunday until the broadcast of The Woman Who Fell to Earth [+]Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who series 11 (BBC One, BBCA, Space and Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2018). in 2018.
  • The original draft of this script had Adelaide surviving, with the Doctor realising upon seeing Ood Sigma, who arrived straight after he'd declared himself the "Time Lord Victorious", that he had gone too far. Russell T Davies later decided that Adelaide would need to commit suicide in order to stop the Doctor from going down a destructive path, a decision Julie Gardner agreed with. (REF: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - The Final Chapter)
  • Concerning the discovery of liquid water detailed in this story, on 28 September 2015, NASA made an announcement that there was proof of liquid water actually flowing on Mars.
  • This story is the only one of the David Tennant specials to feature the normal end credits music, with the rest using the same music from the opening credits.
  • This is the fifteenth, and as of 2021, the most recent Doctor Who story to be directed by Graeme Harper.
  • Andy Stone's namesake was a Venusian character in Terry Nation's The Dalek Book.
  • Phil Ford envisaged Mars in the adventure as a terraformed planet, with the Bowie base personnel flying great distances to various installations. Russell T Davies encouraged him to take a much more low-tech approach to the story, with Bowie Base as the rugged first outpost on the untamed Martian frontier.
  • Russell T Davies originally had an idea in which the Earth is frozen in time due to an alien presence. Much of the action would be based around a hotel, which would suddenly be empty except for one human who would become the Doctor's temporary companion. Originally, Davies had envisaged this as a father who would be driven to assist the Doctor by his desire to be reunited with his missing family. However, he was eager that one of the surrogate companions be a strong older woman - who might be played by an actress of the calibre of Judi Dench or Helen Mirren - and so this character instead became a grandmother.
  • Some significant edits were required to bring the episode to a suitable length. Amongst the cuts were several sequences dealing with the romantic relationship between Yuri and Mia, as well as any references to the waterborne intelligence as “the Flood”.
  • The story was inspired by the announcement that NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander had discovered water on Mars.
  • Russell T Davies was enthusiastic about the idea that the narrative could be set within the lifetime of younger viewers, and so he was keen to take a realistic approach to the depiction of the human outpost.
  • Russell T Davies and Phil Ford wanted the base personnel to be a distinctly multinational cohort, as in serials from the late 1960s such as The Moonbase and The Wheel in Space. In particular, it was suggested that the base commander might be Russian.
  • Adelaide was originally named Grace. This was changed when Russell T Davies pointed out that it was similar to Grace Holloway.
  • Russell T Davies' main contributions to the script were the service robot and the Bowie Base crew being renowned throughout human history as Mars' lost pioneers.
  • Russell T Davies had previously been opposed to the idea of the Doctor dealing with a problem by summoning the TARDIS via remote control. Now, he thought that such a solution would help establish the Doctor's emerging propensity to disregard the rules he used to follow.
  • The special was nearly abandoned due to the 2008 financial crisis, as it was seen as the least essential of the specials. Fortunately, Julie Gardner was able to secure the necessary funds.
  • Planet of the Dead [+]Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts, Doctor Who Easter Special 2009 (BBC One, 2009). was supposed to mark the series' transition to High Definition recording. However, confusion within the BBC resulted in the abrupt loss of the funds which had been earmarked to facilitate the change of format. The only solution was to use some of this special's budget to make up the shortfall. As a result, Phil Ford's vision of enormous, computer-generated water monsters attacking Bowie Base had to be abandoned.
  • Russell T Davies was aware that the suicide of a major character would be a controversial way to end a family programme, and so he was very careful to construct the revised scene in a manner which concentrated upon the Doctor's reaction, rather than the act of Adelaide's demise.
  • Nikki Wilson served as producer, as Tracie Simpson was busy overseeing the chaotic post-production of Planet of the Dead [+]Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts, Doctor Who Easter Special 2009 (BBC One, 2009)..
  • The Bio-Dome was actually the Great Glasshouse, part of the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthney; Russell T Davies had scripted the scenes in the Bio-Dome with this location in mind.
  • One unexpected complication of recording in the Great Glasshouse was the loud and persistent birdsong, provoked by the bright lights set up by the crew. Russell T Davies duly amended the script to indicate that birds were housed in the Bio-Dome to control the insect population.
  • After watching the rushes, Russell T Davies became concerned that the appearance of the infected crewmembers was too scary for younger viewers. He found that the eerie contact lenses given to Chook Sibtain and Alan Ruscoe were particularly dehumanising. It was agreed that Sharon Duncan-Brewster would not wear them when playing the infected Maggie Cain, given the character's considerable screen time, and appropriate changes were made to the dialogue. In some shots, the infected personnel would also now be filmed with their eyes closed.
  • Russell T Davies insisted that the Doctor's pivotal exchange via intercom with Adelaide should be performed in a single take. This was a departure from the normal practice, which would have involved filming David Tennant and Lindsay Duncan's dialogue separately, and then editing the conversation together in post-production.
  • The Central Dome's Section A was erected in the space previously occupied by the Hub, which had been destroyed in the first episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth.
  • While an existing Dalek casing appeared in extreme close-ups, a computer-generated model was primarily used.
  • The last scene to be filmed was a remount of the Doctor outside the TARDIS at the end of the story. It was recorded during work on The End of Time [+]Russell T Davies, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2009 and New Year Special 2010 (BBC One, 2009-2010)..
  • The original plan for the Flood was that their hosts would erupt water from the top of their heads, which was scrapped due to the difficulties of getting that practical effect to work. The solution was to have water pour out of the host's mouth instead, which the special effects team agreed both looks more plausible and is creepier as a result.
  • The final scene was filmed on a city street, which the production team covered with artificial snow.
  • Nikki Wilson described Captain Adelaide Brooke as "the Doctor's cleverest and most strong-minded companion yet." David Tennant said, "Well, she's not really a companion like the others have been... She's very wary of the Doctor; she's not the sort of person you could imagine hooking up with him and riding off into the sunset... she's kind of the alpha male in the room, really. So, the Doctor has to learn to assume a slightly different role when he's around her."


  • 15th November 2009 - 10.32 million (UK final)[3]
  • 33.9% of TV share

Filming locations[]

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

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The first of the web pages brought up in the episode claims that Adelaide had a seven-strong crew with her, though there were 9 people on-site not counting the Doctor.
  • In Yuri Kerenski's profile near the beginning of the episode, Tarak Ital's name is incorrectly spelt as "Tarek". Secondly, by pausing the image of his profile, it becomes apparent that the first paragraph is repeated at the bottom simply to fill what would be white space, in hopes it went unnoticed in general broadcast.
  • Steffi Erlich's profile lacks a full stop between two sentences, causing it to read "After finishing secondary school there and two years in the Bundeswehr, she studied physics at the RWTH Aachen University In 2042, she was awarded a diploma..."
  • When the news story about the survivors of Bowie Base One is shown, it reads "Nurse Yuri Kerenski and Geologist, Mia Bennett...". There should be no comma after "Geologist".
  • Mia's obituary stated that she was born in America, however Gemma Chan portrays her with an English accent.
  • 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.
  • When the Doctor opens Adelaide's door, the door unlocks and is opened till it is ajar. When Adelaide approaches the door, however, it is closed over.
  • While Yuri is watching a video of his brother, during the close up of Yuri, in the background, Maggie's mouth seems to be grey and cracked the same as the Flood. When the scene returns to a shot of Maggie, her mouth is normal. This is repeated twice until it shows Maggie throwing her head back.
  • When Susie Fontana Brooke's website is brought up, it shows her crew as identical as that of Bowie Base One. This is likely a typographical error, saying "Brooke's team consists of" when it should have read "Brooke's team consisted of", meaning the article referred to Adelaide's team, not Susan's.
  • Adelaide's obituary gives the mathematical impossibility of Adelaide being born on 12 May 1999, her parents being pronounced dead in the aftermath of the Dalek invasion when she was 10, and said invasion taking place in 2008, when she would have been at most nine years old.
  • The landscape that the TARDIS lands on at the beginning of the episode looks nothing like the CGI landscape which Gadget races across to bring it back to the base.


  • Bowie Base One has a layout similar to the Moonbase from Gerry Anderson's TV series UFO.
  • "What the hell is that noise?" The sound is a proximity alarm, used in 2001, a Space Odyssey.
  • Bowie Base One is a reference to David Bowie's song "Life on Mars". Another reference was made to one of Bowie's songs when Adelaide said the Doctor would be the last new human they would see in five years, a reference to "Five Years".
  • The service robot was inspired by WALL·E. The original plan was for the robot would initially be clunky yet lovable, but might later go mad and become a threat to the Doctor. This aspect of the character ultimately went unused.
  • Phil Ford cited the animated water from The Abyss as an influence on the monsters.


International broadcasts[]

Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

  • The Waters of Mars was released with The End of Time in a 'Winter Specials' DVD boxset in the United Kingdom on 11 January 2010.
  • The episode was released as a standalone DVD and Blu-ray in the US on 4 February 2010, and Australia on 2 February 2010.
  • This was released as part of the Complete Specials in the UK on both DVD and Blu-ray in a box set on 11 January 2010, with a North American release scheduled for 2 February 2010.[2] In Australia, the Blu-ray was released 29 June 2010 and the DVD on 1 July 2010.
  • The Waters of Mars was also one of seven stories to be included in the Time Lord Victorious: Road to the Dark Times Blu-ray in 2020.

Digital releases[]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer as part of Series 4.

External links[]