The Ice Warriors Return To Doctor Who In “Empress Of Mars”

Credit: Simon Ridgway/BBC

After three weeks spent with the Monks, a journey to Mars is just what series 10 of Doctor Who needed. We haven’t encountered an Ice Warrior since “Cold War” and this time we meet them on their home planet.

The Doctor crashes NASA’s would-be celebration about landing a probe on Mars. The scientists are a bit befuddled because they find “God Save the Queen” spelled out in stones on the planet. Someone obviously got there before them. Back in the Victorian era, a troop of soldiers  “rescued” an Ice Warrior after his ship crash landed. “Friday” then led the soldiers back to Mars where he helped them build a blasting gun to be used when mining and promised them riches just for getting him home again.

At least, that’s how Captain Catchlove, the smarmy man who orders Friday around, tells the tale. The Doctor and Bill arrive just in time to see the soldiers make their first discovery of treasure. It’s actually a large chamber, somewhat like an Egyptian tomb, where a golden creature lays atop a jewel encrusted sarcophagus. The Doctor warns that this creature is probably the hibernating Ice Queen and they could very well be in an Ice Warrior hive. But no one listens. They all just want their payday and a good story to tell the grandkids.

In no time at all, a soldier has pried a jewel off and woken the Ice Queen. He’s killed immediately and the soldiers are soon alerted that they are under attack. Friday shows his true purpose was always to wake the Queen, but she’s irritated he chose to be the humans’ servant in order to get back to her. She’s also not thrilled to find out she’s been asleep 5,000 years, Mars is basically lifeless, and they have no atmosphere. In short, there’s nothing for her to rule. All this the Doctor and Bill use as negotiation tactics to avoid an all out fight. Catchlove does the opposite. A soldier fires on the Queen and she declares war.

The Colonel, the actual man in charge, fails to prevent Catchlove from taking control or from revealing he’d deserted the Army and was unsuccessfully hung. He, the Doctor, and Bill are thrown in the brig as Catchlove prepares to fight. But he mistakenly thinks there are only two Ice Warriors. He should’ve listened when the Doctor said it was a hive because now more warriors are springing up out of the ground and killing men left and right. In case we didn’t know he was a total coward and detestable little jerk, Catchlove even shoves one of his men in front of him to die while he runs away.

Thankfully, Friday has some sense. He doesn’t want the fighting or the dying to continue. He frees the Doctor, Bill, and the Colonel. Bill provides a distraction by talking to the Queen woman to woman and the Doctor aims the blasting gun at the ceiling. If he fired, it would likely kill everyone. Catchlove sneaks up behind the Queen and takes her hostage, hoping he can fly away from the planet and leave his troubles and men behind. Except the Colonel has finally had enough and shoots the other man.

Impressed by his sacrifice, the Queen is prepared to accept the Colonel’s life in place of his men. But she decides to spare him, in the end, and asks him to pledge his allegiance to the Ice Warriors instead. He happily does so, thrilled at the prospect of helping another race build a civilization again. After the Doctor helps them send a transmission asking for help and Alpha Centauri answers, he, Bill, and the Colonel spell out “God Save the Queen” on Mars’ surface.

And where has Nardole been in all this? He’d been sent back to the TARDIS earlier and the time machine had malfunctioned. He ended up back at the university and was forced to ask Missy for help in returning to Mars. The Doctor is stunned to see the Time Lady out of the vault. It’s apparently against the rules they both agreed to. Missy only seems concerned for the Doctor’s well being which has never been her only motive ever for anything.

Doctor’s Notes

  • The Ice Queen asking for Bill’s opinion because they were two women surrounded by men was A+.
  • After last season’s confusing and strange episode, “Sleep No More,” Mark Gatiss has at least brought himself back to even with this episode.
  • I’ll say it as many times as it continues to be relevant, Nardole serves almost no purpose and the show would be better off with Missy as the third companion.
  • Who else thought Missy was going to run off with the TARDIS at the end?
  • Because I firmly believe Clara Oswald will be back before the Twelfth Doctor’s run comes to an end, it’s worth noting that even though Twelve can’t remember Clara completely, he did say in “Hell Bent” that he remembered they had an adventure with an Ice Warrior on a submarine.
Follow me

Stephanie Coats

Stephanie Coats is the Lead Events Editor at 4 Your Excitement. She has a B.A. from Hope International University and an undying passion for all things geeky. In addition to 4YE, she also writes for, and works full-time as a communications coordinator.

You can follow her on Twitter for nerdy posts about Doctor Who, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Harry Potter and more.
Stephanie Coats
Follow me