The British Empire is expanding upwards! Tea and crumpets for every planet that bends the knee to Her Majesty. But when space-faring soldiers uncover an Ice Warrior hive, they’ll learn that Victoria isn’t the only Queen in this solar system.

With a premise this bonkers, it could only have come from the mind of Mark Gatiss. Adding the alien into history has always been Gatiss’ bread and butter. Here, however, he’s added the history into sci-fi. The Martian setting is effective in making the characters feel isolated while the costume design sells the time period. A well-rounded set of guest characters allows the tension to build naturally and for the frantic resolution to feel earned.

Like the previous Ice Warrior outing (also penned by Gatiss), this is very much a base-under-siege story. Though the format naturally fits the Martian monsters, it inevitably feels very reminiscent of ‘Cold War’. But by the mid-point it’s distinguished itself and avoids feeling like a rehash. In particular, the Ice Warriors method of killing is surprisingly unsettling.

‘Empress of Mars’ is a refreshing change of tone coming out of the grim and complicated Monk trilogy. The story is simple but an engaging pace, characters you care about and some razor-sharp wit makes this one of Gatiss’ best stories to date.

Trivia

  • Anthony Calf plays Godsacre. He previous appeared in ‘The Visitation’ way back in 1982.
  • You may recognise Jackdaw (Ian Beattie) as Meryn Trant from ‘Game of Thrones’.
  • Sneaky name-drop of Mark Gatiss’ last Doctor Who story.
  • Watch out for the ‘Tooth and Claw’ reference.
  • Anyone else getting serious ‘Predator’ vibes from the Empress?

Quotes

“We’re british. mars is part of the empire now!”

“trapped in an eternal winter…like ‘frozen’. It’s a movie!”

“we are both surrounded by noisy males. I would value your opinion.”

Videos

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