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The first man on Mars? - Nit-pick

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

I’ve a question about a couple of recent episodes of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures - why has everyone forgotten about the British missions to Mars in The Ambassadors of Death?

The Christmas Invasion implies that the British space programme is a lot farther behind than it was in the Pertwee era. The Sarah Jane two-parter Warriors of Kudlak suggests that no human has yet walked on Mars. Sarah says: “Well, after today, he might want to be an astronaut, be the first man on Mars - first human man on Mars, that is.”

Did none of the Mars Probes actually land on Mars (like the early Apollo flights to the moon)? It doesn’t seem likely. Let’s not forget Guy Crayford in The Android Invasion (much as I’d like to) - the first man to pilot a manned mission to Jupiter in the 1970s, whom Sarah interviewed, I think.

Is this another anomaly to chalk up to historical changes brought about by the Time War...?

Nick Hall


Johnny Fanboy replies:

Human astronauts certainly did touch down on the surface of Mars prior to the events of The Ambassadors of Death. The reporter John Wakefield refers to Mars Probe Seven’s “difficult landing” and blast off from the red planet. Later in the story, General Carrington, who was on a previous Mars Probe mission, says that the alien ambassadors “were on Mars before we were”, which also implies a landing.

Furthermore (not that this can be relied upon as canon), the final Doctor Who: The New Adventures novel, The Dying Days, featuring the Eighth Doctor and Bernice Summerfield, states that a landing was certainly made during the final Mars Probe mission in the 1970s and that a sample of Martian soil was brought back to Earth.

However, the programme was then shut down after one of the astronauts slaughtered his fellow crewmembers in a psychotic rage - or at least, that’s the official story. In fact, the unfortunate astronauts were killed by Ice Warriors when the expedition stumbled upon a Martian civil war. The British government covered up the truth and held the surviving astronaut prisoner in order to keep him quiet.

Two decades later, in 1997, the Mars Probe programme is resumed, and official contact is made with the Ice Warriors. However, a high-level political scandal erupts, the Provisional Government is disbanded, and the existence of Martians is quickly dismissed as a hoax invented as a distraction to enable the Provisional Government to retain control of the country.

It is therefore possible that, by the time of The Christmas Invasion, all the manned missions to Mars and beyond have been discredited, are widely regarded as having been faked, and the secrets of the technology that enabled those missions (according to the novel Who Killed Kennedy, this was Cyber-technology recovered from International Electromatics after The Invasion) shrouded in mystery. As the Doctor says in Remembrance of the Daleks: “Your species has the most amazing capacity for self-deception, matched only by its ingenuity when trying to destroy itself.”

Alternatively... yes, it could all be a big change wrought by the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey Time War!