DW: Lords of the Red Planet Review

DW Lords of the Red Planet

So we had a bad 2nd Doctor Lost Story, then a good one, then a bad one, so sure enough the next (and final) one is a good one again! “Lords of the Red Planet” is an Ice Warriors origin story of sorts and was originally written by Brian Hayles, the man who created the Martian species, but it was eventually dropped in favour of a more traditional “base under siege” Ice Warriors story instead (“The Seeds of Death”) It has a larger cast than most of these earlier Lost Stories and generally is great fun, so let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

The TARDIS crew land on Mars, home of the Ice Warriors, far back in its history. The Doctor is convinced it’s much too early for them to meet their frozen foes.. but the Doctor is wrong.

Far below the surface of the planet an evil scheme is in motion. A scientist works night and day at the command of an insane despot. A despot intent on creating a terrifyingly familiar army.

What exactly does Zaadur plan? What dark secret lies at the heart of the Gandoran mines? How far will the Doctor go to save his friends? In the deepest caves, the true Lords of the Red Planet are ready to emerge… Can anyone possibly survive their birth?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

So this is a strange sort of “origin” story, as there is every chance it isn’t an origin story. It’s early days for Mars and an earlier race inhabits the planet: the Gandorans, who live underground and are reliant on a cocktail of minerals called “The Lifedrink”. Quendril (Michael Troughton) is a Gandoran scientist and he’s been experimenting with changing his own species via forced evolution so they’re not reliant on the drink, and he succeeded… sort of. His first daughter whom he experimented on was Veltreena (Charlie Hayes), and she looked more refined and beautiful, but still needed the Lifedrink, where as his second daughter Zaadur (Abigail Thaw) is able to live without it… but turned into a power-mad despot. Zaadur tasked Quendril with using forced evolution on the dinosaur-like creatures living on the surface called Saurians, turning them into humanoid lizard warriors, a.k.a. the future Ice Warriors!

So it’s implied that this isn’t so much an origin story as a story of people on Mars accidentally peering into their planet’s future. It’s good though! Quendril was a good scientist forced to do unspeakable things, but at the same time he did similar unspeakable things to his own daughters, so there some weird grey area there… well, now I’ve written that, not really, but whatever. He has an Igor-style assistant named Aslor, who was the first evolved Saurian that ended up short and of low intelligence (I like to think this is foreshadowing the weird short Ice Warrior you always got in the early stories!) and he was good too as he was in love with Veltreena, who humoured him in a rare example of her not being a stuck up Princess-type.

As you can see given I’ve talked about the story-only aspects and characters, this six parter does a great job of world building, and it also has a larger cast than normal, with the three already mentioned characters having their own voices, Nicholas Briggs doing all the Ice Warriors, Fraser Hines doing his Doctor as well as Jamie and Wendy Padbury continuing to be Zoe, there were plenty of times where it felt like an Audio Drama rather than the normal “advanced Audio Book” like the other 1st and 2nd Doctor Lost Stories.

DW Lords of the Red Planet Cover

Can’t say I imagined Ice Warriors being born from eggs, but they are lizard-like, so… makes sense, I guess?

The Doctor ends up kind of liking Quendril, while obviously wagging his finger at his experiments, even if they’re at the behest of Zaadur. Meanwhile Zoe ends up befriending both Aslor and Risor, who is the first Ice Lord created by advanced experiments, and Jamie… sort of gets to know Veltreena, but mostly is around to be by The Doctor and Zoe’s side at various points. By the end of the story it becomes clear that the experiments sent Zaadur completely crazy and she wishes to destroy her entire race and head over to Earth and colonise it with her new Ice Warriors (which she names thanks to the Doctor letting the name slip). Ice Lord Risor helps our lead trio with some battles against Ice Warriors in some really fun scenes but eventually Zaadur kills Veltreena by overdosing her on Lifedrink and then takes off in her rocket, happily destroying a good chunk of Gandor at the same time. Sadly for her however, Aslor, who is heartbroken over the death of Veltreena, had snuck on board her ship and destroys it from within.

Similarly Risor sacrifices himself by turning up the temperature to kill the other Ice Warriors who stayed behind to slaughter the population, meaning by the end of the story there are no Ice Warriors left. Well, some dialogue implies there might have been some “eggs” left in a warehouse, but it also ends with a (mentally produced via narration) shot of a Saurian watching the TARDIS dematerialise in a clear nod to what they’ll become in the future, so… either the leftover Ice Warriors are born, wipe out the Gandorans and start the first Ice Warrior city, or they’re left undiscovered and eventually the Gandorans go extinct and the Saurians later evolve into Ice Warriors naturally. So it’s either their origin, or a story about an old race getting to see their future, it’s up to you!

The Bad:

Not much, if I’m honest! At six parts it manages to keep up the pace and has enough interesting characters and settings that I never found my attention dropping. As good as a Second Doctor Lost Story gets!

The Continuity:

Obviously the Ice Warriors would go on to appear many times, including retroactively in their first appearance, the Second Doctor TV story “The Ice Warriors”, as well as in “The Seeds of Death”, the Second Doctor TV story that replaced this one (but given Zoe’s familiarity with them, presumably happened before this one, in-universe timeline-wise)

Overall Thoughts:

Lords of the Red Planet finally gave us a Second Doctor Lost Story that genuinely feels like a shame it was passed, especially for the more generic “Seeds of Death”. Still, thanks to a great script (which isn’t a surprise as it was reworked by John Dorney, the Big Finish writer that has the highest hit-rate with me) and fine performances. If you only want one Second Doctor Lost Story in your collection, this is it!

5 Star Listen

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