“Is The Wife on Mars?” Doctor Who and the Red Planet

If you’re at a pub and in, the TV round, you are faced with this carefully-crafted ambiguous question: ‘What alien species would the Doctor in the TV show Doctor Who encounter on the planet Mars?’, it is your duty as an obsessive Whovonium to take the quizmaster to task for only accepting the answer, ‘The Ice Warriors’.

Follow him to his Blue Ford Focus when the pub shuts and, as he anxiously packs his PA equipment and stationary away, drunkenly berate him by reading this list in a passive-aggressive tone:

The Fendahl in Image of the Fendahl

Not content with destroying their own ‘fifth’ planet (located between Mars and Jupiter), this gruesome gestalt organism proved to be the neighbours-from-hell to the Ice Warriors. Heading for planet Earth, the Fendahl stopped on the way to their most proximate planet, Mars. What we know about the unspeakable snakey creatures who went up their own evolutionary blind-alley (sounds painful), is that they had a penchant for wiping out all life on a planet (apart from one fortunate survivor, who – due to that lack of a mate – might not be much use as a future hope for a species).

However, these creatures of mass destruction are rather let down by the fact that the ickle Fendahleen look a bit like they are constantly blowing fringed squawkers. You know, fringed squawkers? That’s the technical name for those party horns with ribbons of thin paper that jiggle about when you blow them. The ones that used to be made of crepe paper and you’d have to clear up the spittle-sodden remains of at the end of a party. No?

We’ll here’s YouToobers Syd and Macky – two professional mountain bikers, who live in a van and travel the world – demonstrating how to use a fringed squawker (look, it’s the only clip I could find, people…).

Please don’t follow Syd’s example and blow four fringed squawkers at once while driving on the fast lane of the motorway, simultaneously filming yourself on your smartphone while your girlfriend fires party poppers at you – only professional mountain bikers are trained to do this:

The Flood in The Waters of Mars

We learn in The Waters of Mars that at around the 8th millennium BC, the last flowers on Mars died out. Which meant a furious Ice Lord had to take them back to the florist, who’d insisted they should be good until at least the following Wednesday.

A viral species, The Flood originated inside a glacier on Mars. Their natural state is in water and they have the power to infect other life forms, causing them to constantly gush with the liquid. And they can concentrate this stream to make high-pressure sprays.

In fact, it was the Ice Warriors that genetically engineered The Flood as a tool to jet-spray-clean the vast Patios of Mars. These had got all clogged up with spittle-soaked Fendahleen fringed squawker ribbons after a particularly genocidal Martian patio party.

The Osirans in Pyramids of Mars

The Osirans are a family music group with a long and varied career – singing barbershop music, becoming successful teen-music idols, starring in their own hit television show – who are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No, hang on, that’s the Osmonds…

The Osirans are a race of powerful, intelligent creatures – with expanded brain-cases, cerebrum-like spiral staircases, and a variety of advanced psychic powers – who are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (probably).

At around teatime in 5,000 BC, the Osirans reached Mars. Despite being unimpressed by the lack of floral adornment, they built pyramids with underground prisons on the planet. Which was a source of some annoyance to the Ice Warriors, who remarked, ‘Thanksss. Like we need more vassst sssstone sssstructures to jet wassssh. Sheesshhh.’

One Osiran, Sutekh – the great Destroyer, the Lord of Death, available for parties – was imprisoned in a tomb in Egypt and kept paralysed by an energy beam transmitted from the great pyramid of Mars. A warning message, ‘Beware Sutekh’, was broadcast on a continual loop by Osiran radio. Despite its monotonous schedule, Osiran Warning FM was voted only the third worst radio station on planet Earth, beating Smooth Radio Solent and 96.2 Touch FM Coventry.

Alien ambassadors in The Ambassadors of Death

For a cheeky 1.275 seconds of the opening titles, casual viewers would have thought they were about to watch a Doctor Who story entitled The Ambassadors – conjuring up images of sumptuous diplomatic parties with vast pyramids of Ferrero Rocher, and mouthfuls of gold-plated fringed squawkers. Until those little scamps at the BBC titling department remember to add ‘of Death’ at the end. You guys!

But despite the alarming title, these particular ambassadors-of-unknown-alien-origin are really rather nice chaps. It’s just unfortunate that they are packed with such high volumes of radiation that their very touch tends to explode other organic life. Which is a bit of a handicap for ambassadors whose main responsibility is to press alien flesh: shake a tentacle here, kiss a freshly hatched youngling there…

So, after leaving a trail of burnt-out Ice Warrior casings and charred Ice Warrior Pups, they headed once more to the stars in the hope that the more squidgy, fleshy folk on the planet Terra would be less susceptible to their radioactive touch. History has proven otherwise. ‘Monsieur, stay in your rocket or you will destroy us…’

In a strange bit of synchronicity, John Abineri who played the unhinged General Charles Carrington – who wants to blast the unfortunate alien ambassadors out of the sky in The Ambassadors of Death – also played the butler in the original Ferrero Rocher Ambassador’s reception advert. Or is it General Carrington, recently escaped from the asylum, giving out detonating choccies at the party, believing it is his moral duty to destroy all ambassadors just in case they are the explodey alien kind…?

Earth Humans in The Waters of Mars

Yes, not being from the planet Mars, these human visitors are in fact ‘aliens’ to the indigenous lifeforms. So when the Doctor met them on the Red Planet, he should have let all the humans turn into scaly-faced water fountains, unless he’s just a little bit, you know, speciesist…

So, next time you fancy a punch-in-the-teeth and a mouth-full-of-blood, try arguing ‘humans’ as the answer to the carefully-crafted ambiguous question that opened this article to the aforementioned imaginary pub quizmaster.

And, no, the wife isn’t on Mars. Unless you are Adelaide Brooke’s husband, Mike. In which case she is, or will be, or isn’t depending on where you are in her timeline. Go blow yourself a fringed squawker, Mike. You deserve it.

  • Mack59

    Thanks for this article Peter which raised a chuckle on an overcast Sunday morning.

    • Peter Shaw

      Thanks Mack

    • The Lazy Womble

      Overcast? Is the Flood on the move?

      • Mack59

        Could be or maybe some other stratagem ?

      • Robert Carnegie

        “Overcast” is when you can’t take an episode seriously because an actor is too famous from elsewhere. For me, David Mitchell and Robert Webb are too loveable to be deadly robots; your problem might be with Martin Jarvis, Alex Kingston, or Ken Dodd.

        • bar

          whereas the seriousness of Fenric is only enhanced by the unexpected excellence of straight acting from Nicholas Parsons. Kroll was overcast by the inestimable Philip Madoc, but his contribution is probably the best thing in it. You’re right about the less successful stunt-casting of nuwho; Bill Bailey springs to mind as another damp squib. But Ysanne Churchman in tEoM was an astonishingly uplifting sunset at the end of an unremarkable day.

          • Robert Carnegie

            On reflection, I decided that the show wasn’t being aimed at grown-ups (which I am) when “Voyage of the Damned” played straight the concept of the Doctor recruiting Kylie Minogue – playing Astrid Peth – as his new travelling companion, which I was fairly sure wouldn’t happen. She gave a perfectly good performance, but they couldn’t afford her every week! But I believe younger viewers wouldn’t think of that problem, and would just enjoy the story (with all the hideous deaths occurring) in a way that I couldn’t.

            Yes, this episode also had a cameo appearance of Queen Elizabeth II, but it was Kylie that tripped up my suspension of disbelief.