"Empress of Mars" is the ninth episode of the tenth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was written by Mark Gatiss and broadcast on 10 June 2017 on BBC One. "Empress of Mars" received generally positive reviews from television critics.

273 – "Empress of Mars"
Doctor Who episode
Directed byWayne Yip
Written byMark Gatiss
Produced byNikki Wilson
Executive producer(s)Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Music byMurray Gold
SeriesSeries 10
Running time44 minutes
First broadcast10 June 2017 (2017-06-10)
← Preceded by
"The Lie of the Land"
Followed by →
"The Eaters of Light"
List of episodes (2005–present)

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Nardole (Matt Lucas), and Bill (Pearl Mackie) travel to Mars, but upon arrival, they find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the Ice Warriors and Victorian soldiers. The episode marks the return of the Ice Warriors, last seen in "Cold War", an episode of the seventh series that was also written by Gatiss.



In the present, NASA finds the words "God save the Queen" made of rocks buried under the Mars ice cap. Witnessing this, the Twelfth Doctor, Bill, and Nardole venture to Mars in 1881 to investigate and discover that the planet is occupied by human soldiers from Victorian Britain. Nardole goes back into the TARDIS, but it departs for unexplained reasons, returning to the university in the present day. Nardole asks Missy for help getting back.

The humans have befriended an Ice Warrior they have named Friday. Captain Catchlove says they rescued Friday from his crashed spaceship while on patrol in Africa. In exchange, Friday allowed the soldiers to use his species' technology to travel to Mars, establish a small breathable atmosphere within a cavern, and mine the planet. The Doctor surmises that Friday is using them to access his hive. They soon unearth the tomb of the Ice Empress. Despite Colonel Godsacre's order to not approach it, one guard inadvertently revives the Ice Empress, Iraxxa.

Iraxxa, on display at a Doctor Who exhibition.

Iraxxa's awakening leads to a confrontation with the humans. Friday tells Iraxxa it has been 5,000 years, and Mars' surface is uninhabitable; the Doctor asks Iraxxa to show mercy and gain help from the humans. Dismissing the Doctor and the soldiers, she asks Bill for her opinion, as a fellow woman. She decides to relent based on Bill's word, but then a soldier suddenly fires his rifle, the shot harmlessly glancing off Iraxxa's helmet. Provoked, she returns fire. Catchlove takes command, traps Iraxxa and Friday within the tomb, and locks up the Doctor, Bill, and Godsacre. Inside the tomb, Iraxxa starts reviving more Ice Warriors.

As the Ice Warriors launch their attack, Friday allies himself with the Doctor and Bill after freeing them and helps the Doctor gain control of the mining device. The Doctor threatens to use it to bury them all under the ice cap. Catchlove holds Iraxxa at knifepoint and attempts to force her to help him pilot a spaceship back to Earth. Godsacre manages to surprise Catchlove and kill him, then begs Iraxxa to kill him. Iraxxa calls off the attack in exchange for Godsacre pledging himself to the Ice Warriors. To assist the Ice Warriors, the Doctor covertly contacts Alpha Centauri, a representative of the Galactic Federation he first met in his third incarnation.

The Doctor and Bill help Godsacre leave the message that NASA will discover. Nardole then re-appears with the TARDIS, with Missy piloting the ship. She expresses concern about the Doctor's well-being.



The Doctor's sonic screwdriver still has "no setting for wood", a defect first mentioned in "Silence in the Library". The displayed portrait of Queen Victoria resembles Pauline Collins, who played the role in "Tooth and Claw".[1] Chronologically, the episode partly sets up events of the Third Doctor story The Curse of Peladon (1972), showing the Doctor introducing the Ice Warriors to Alpha Centauri, a representative of the Galactic Federation, which the Ice Warriors have joined by the time of that serial.[2]

Outside references


The Ice Warrior is named by the soldiers after the character "Friday" from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.[1] One of the soldiers sings "She Was Poor But She Was Honest", an English music hall song recorded in 1930 by Billy Bennett.[1] Bill mentions the movies The Vikings, The Terminator, and The Thing, while the Doctor refers to the film Frozen.[3] Upon the discovery of the Ice Empress' tomb, the Doctor says "I've got a bad feeling about this," a recurring phrase in the Star Wars franchise.[4]


The Victorian spacesuit, on display at a Doctor Who exhibition

The read-through for "Empress of Mars" was on 11 January 2017. Filming with the previous episode "The Lie of the Land" started on 27 January, with principal shooting ending on 22 February.[4]



The story was originally to have been set on Peladon rather than Mars, hence the return of Alpha Centauri after 43 years.[1] It was also reported to have originally been planned as a sequel to the ninth series episode "Sleep No More", also by Mark Gatiss, referenced in the line delivered by the Ice Empress exhorting her warriors to "sleep no more".[5]

Cast notes


Alpha Centauri is voiced by Ysanne Churchman, who originally voiced the character in The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon.[4]

Broadcast and reception


The episode was watched by 3.58 million overnight.[6] The episode received 5.02 million views overall, and it received an Appreciation Index of 83.[7][8]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer)92%[9]
Rotten Tomatoes (Average Rating)7.9/10[9]
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB−[10]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[11]
SFX Magazine     [12]
TV Fanatic     [13]
New York Magazine     [15]
Radio Times     [16]
Daily Mirror     [17]

"Empress of Mars" was met with generally positive reviews from television critics.[18] The episode received positive reviews from 92% of 13 critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and the site consensus reads, "'The Empress of Mars' gives fans an entertaining standalone breather between major arcs that makes the most of its leads' considerable chemistry."[9]

Nivea Serrao of Entertainment Weekly awarded the episode a grade of B+, approving the story and comparing it to Hidden Figures. He commented how the episode addresses the issue where "no one side is truly right in the end", and gives the Ice Warriors a definition other than a "clear-cut villain" like the Daleks or Cybermen. He stated that Ferdinand Kingsley's character of Catchlove was an "effective villain" with his "fun-to-hate portrayal". Gatiss' combination of different themes within the episode was also commented upon in a positive light and the connection between Iraxxa and Bill with their shared gender.[11]

Zoe Delahunty-Light of SFX Magazine gave the episode three-and-a-half stars out of five. She described the episode as "stoic" and "dependable" overall, with an "awkward" beginning and one that "missed the chance to add an extra dimension to its characters". Delahunty-Light commented on how the Ice Warriors appeared to be a villain that appeared to want to destroy the soldiers with no solid reason given. She praised the return of Alpha Centauri in the episode, finding it a fun reference for long-standing fans of the programme.[12]

Ross Ruediger of New York Magazine gave the episode a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars, approving the return of the Ice Warriors after their previous appearance in the seventh series. He stated that the episode was an episode dedicated to "honor, loyalty, and redemption", and enjoyed Gatiss' script. He commented on how there appeared to be no reason why the TARDIS disappeared from Mars but also complimented how complicated Missy's arc appeared to be, on whether she had redeemed herself or if it was an elaborate plan. He stated that the best features of the episode were Adele Lynch's portrayal of Iraxxa, and also the classic movie references throughout the episode.[15]

Patrick Mulkern from the Radio Times also gave the episode a score of 5 stars out of 5, appreciating the story and stating that it was "well-crafted". He liked how Gatiss was able to give more depth to the characters of this episode than the characters that had appeared in previous episodes of the series, and also the complex nature of the Ice Warriors, and how they displayed their typical honour, strength, and loyalty, but were also able to be negotiated with.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Pete Dillon-Trenchard (10 June 2017). "Doctor Who series 10: Empress Of Mars nerdy spots and Easter eggs". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  2. ^ Whitbrook, James (10 June 2017). "Stay Frosty in the Spoiler-Packed Doctor Who Discussion Thread". io9. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Doctor Who: Empress of Mars, series 10 episode 9: Ice Warriors return with added Girl Power". Doctor Who News. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Empress of Mars, Series 10, Doctor Who – Empress of Mars: The Fact File – BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  5. ^ Fullerton, Huw (6 June 2017). "Mark Gatiss reveals the plot of the Doctor Who episode that never was". 'Radio Times. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Empress of Mars – Overnight Viewing Figures". Doctor Who News. 11 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  7. ^ Marcus (20 June 2017). "Empress of Mars – Official Ratings". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  8. ^ Marcus (12 June 2017). "Empress of Mars – Audience Appreciation:83". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "Doctor Who, Series 10, Episode 9, Empress of Mars". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 May 2024.
  10. ^ Wilkins, Alasdair (11 June 2017). "Doctor Who puts Victorians on Mars, which isn't quite as fun as it sounds". AV Club. Alasdair Wilkins. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  11. ^ a b Serrao, Nivea. "Doctor Who recap: 'Empress of Mars'". Entertainment Weekly. Nivea Serrao. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b Zoe Delahunty-Light (10 June 2017). "DOCTOR WHO SEASON 10 EPISODE 9: "A STOIC AND DEPENDABLE EPISODE"". GamesRadar. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  13. ^ Wiedel, Kathleen (11 June 2017). "Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 10 Review: The Empress of Mars". TV Fanatic. Kathleen Wiedel. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  14. ^ Collura, Scott (10 June 2017). "DOCTOR WHO: "EMPRESS OF MARS" REVIEW". IGN. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b Ruediger, Ross (10 June 2017). "Doctor Who Recap: God Save the Queen". New York Magazine. Ross Ruediger. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  16. ^ a b Patrick Mulkern (10 June 2017). "Doctor Who review: Empress of Mars "looks to the future while nodding at the past"". Radio Times. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  17. ^ Jackson, Daniel (10 June 2017). "Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 9 The Empress Of Mars review: Gatiss turns in a decent story in his second outing with The Ice Warriors". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Empress of Mars – Reaction". Doctor Who News. 11 June 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.