Have you ever wondered what H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds would be like if it were an episode of Doctor Who? If so, then look no further. Big Finish’s ongoing celebration of Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, Once and Future, continues with Jonathan Barnes’ The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50. All at once a tense mystery and an action-packed romp, The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is a rip-roaringly fun time. Featuring electric performances from David Tennant and Michelle Gomez and a captivating take on a sci-fi classic, it’s easily one of the best episodes in the Once and Future range so far. The stakes are high, the action is tense, and it finally feels like the overarching mystery is starting to come together.
War of the Worlds Meets Doctor Who
In The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50, the Doctor (David Tennant) arrives on a desolate planetoid and finds himself in the middle of a war ripped straight from a storybook. For there he stands in what appears to be war-torn Victorian England, surrounded by strange Martian tripods, the only sign of life being a single human survivor – journalist Jessamy Moore (Hannah Genesius). Meanwhile, Missy (Michelle Gomez) is hiding away in an old cathedral, with Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) as her captives. But what exactly is the Doctor’s oldest enemy up to? Is she hiding from the Martian invaders? Or is she the mastermind behind their invasion? It’s up to the Doctor to unravel this mystery and save the planet before degenerating once again.
The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is an action-packed romp offering an unexpected twist on an old, familiar story. The plot itself isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. It’s very much War of the Worlds as you remember it but with a Doctor Who twist. There are giant Martian tripods, red weeds as far as the eye can see, and even a wandering journalist recording all of the devastation. The way Barnes takes all of those familiar elements and intertwines them with the world of Doctor Who is absolutely delightful. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (Dan Starkey) all fill various roles from the original book, with the Doctor and Missy being the only ones aware something fishy is happening. As far as what, exactly, is going on, that’s a surprise best left unspoiled. But needless to say, it delivers a very Doctor Who twist in the best way possible.
The biggest takeaway here, though, is just how fun The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is. It’s easy to forget how good Tennant is as the Doctor and his love for the role is on full display here. He immediately shows up, full of swagger and bravado, and simply steals the show. He spends about half of the story with Genesius’ Jessamy, and their rapport quickly slips into a very standard Doctor/companion vibe. But they play off of each other pretty well, even if the story doesn’t do a whole lot with Jessamy. Similarly, Tennant, McIntosh, Stewart, and Starkey bounce well off of each other. The Paternoster Gang is most associated with Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, but they easily fit in alongside Tennant’s. Again, the story doesn’t necessarily make great use of them, but they’re a fun addition here – especially McIntosh’s Vastra.
The real highlight, of course, is the Tenth Doctor meeting Michelle Gomez’s Missy. Not only do Tennant and Gomez’s chemistry rival that of Gomez and Capaldi’s, but their characters are even in similar narrative situations. To go any further would be a bit too spoilery, but let’s just say that it’s no mistake that this Doctor, who’s currently suffering a regeneration crisis so severe that he’s now cycling through future faces as well as past ones, is the one who meets this incarnation of the Master. Gomez brings her trademark sense of chaos, wit, whimsy, and menace to the role. And the way she so easily pushes the Tenth Doctor’s buttons is an absolute joy to behold. You can just tell how much fun Tennant and Gomez are having with each other, and their joy easily adds to the story’s excitement.
At the end of the day, Doctor Who: The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is easily the best entry in the Once and Future series so far. Led by electric performances from Tennant and Gomez and a very Doctor Who twist on a classic sci-fi story, it’s a rip-roaringly fun listen from start to finish. And best of all, it finally feels like the wheels underneath Once and Future are starting to spin. Like we’re finally getting closer to some real answers behind the Doctor’s regenerative crisis. That maybe, just maybe, there’s some kind of bigger picture behind all of these seemingly random adventures. Perhaps next month’s Time Lord Immemorial and The Union will bring everything to a satisfying close. But until then, The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 makes for a great addition to the Once and Future series and a great listen in its own right.
Doctor Who: Once and Future: The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50 is available now on the Big Finish website.
Big Finish Productions' celebration of "Doctor Who"'s 60'th anniversary continues with "The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50" - a rip-roaringly fun mashup of "Doctor Who" and H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds". It's action-packed, filled with great performances, and finally starts tying together the series' ongoing mysteries.
Part-time writer, part-time theatre nerd, full-time dork.