Since the Ice Warriors were going to make their latest Big Finish appearance in Cold Vengeance as part of The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 2, I thought why not edit their second television appearance in the New Series. Having already done Cold War some time ago, editing Empress was the only option if I wanted to do something to tie in with Ten’s latest audio outing. Hopefully there will be many more, and Twelvy can’t join Big Finish’s Doctor roster soon enough for my liking…
Zulu On Mars, to give the episode its proper title, is Old Skool Doctor Who, and if it’s meant to evoke memories of the Peladon stories of the Classic Series it certainly succeeds. Whopix is quite partial to a bit of Steampunk but this is about as close as the New Series ever came to it, which is a shame. For my money all that pseudo-Victoriana seems to suit the show a lot better than space opera. Not all the time, obv, but a bit more wouldn’t have hurt any. And the you can tell the production team were aware of the stylistic possibilities as the operator of the Gargantua wears the obligatory steampunker’s goggles…
Apart from the appeal of the tie-in idea, another reason for tackling this story was to fix the TARDIS problem. Why does the Ship suddenly bugger off and leave Twelvy and Potts stranded? Because the writer needs an excuse for Missy to do something nice and rescue them. But hold on, Nardole was piloting the Ship perfectly well in The Return of Doctor Mysterio, so what’s that all about? Did River Song really not give him lessons on how to do short hops?
Whatever the reason for Nardole needing to call on Missy, it always struck me as contrived and contradictory to what’s already been established. Honestly, you’d think these professional fanboys would know how to write Who by now. And does Twelvy really need Missy to play nice for him to think about letting her out to play, with the disastrous consequences we all know will ensue in the finale? No, he doesn’t. He’s already pre-disposed to give her a second chance and the benefit of the doubt, so her playing nice and rescuing him never worked for me. That was always going to get the chop.
The first thing to do was to insert the deleted scene from the episode, and then to have the squaddies only fire the Gargantua once to break into the Empress’s tomb that bit quicker, for reasons of pace. Next I moved the pre-credits sequence at NASA to make it a coda at the end of the episode.
I think having the reveal of the message at the end instead of the beginning is better, as now you don’t spend the whole episode wondering how it got there. Having it at the start is a hint that someone survived to put it there in the first place, which undermines the drama of the situation the characters find themselves in, one where they could all very well snuff it, bar Twelvy and Potts of course. Yes, they could have done it when they first arrived but not having it as a throw forward, which makes the entire episode a flashback, still makes for a better reveal.
Besides, if Twelvy only goes to Mars to find out who wrote the message, what was he doing at NASA in the first place? How does he know that the Yanks’ probe is going to find anything of interest bar the usual rocks and sand? It’s just another contrivance to make a needless pre-credits, something the show has been overusing a lot since it came back.
After that it was on to the trickiest bit, getting rid of Nardole and that troublesome TARDIS departure. And troublesome it proved, with the only way to work around the footage I wanted to lose being for Twelvy and Potts to turn up and get caught by Friday the minute they find the camp fire. I also had to lose the start of the scene where the info dump takes place, along with the psychic paper.
Getting the Doctor into the story as quickly as possible is always a good idea and in order to make the scene work that bit better, and cover the cuts, I used an additional music cue from The Waters of Mars, which seemed entirely appropriate. Having watched the edit through before exporting the file, I felt we could do without Jackdaw drugging the Sergeant in order to get to the tomb. The scene still works if you start it afterwards, as now Jackdaw simply pressures his mate who’s on guard to let him in. And we don’t really need the Sarge quoting from Day of the Daleks either…
Even with the inclusion of the deleted scene, this fan edit still runs about eight minutes shorter than the tx version.