Press reaction to this week's Doctor Who, Empress Of Mars, is generally favorable, with most reviewers enjoying the episode.
Radio Times appreciated a well-crafted story "Gatiss provides a cast of guest characters with more than a smidgeon of depth – hard to pull off in the 45min format and lacking this year. The Ice Warriors aren’t just stock monsters. They are, as they’ve always been, since Bernard Bresslaw played Varga in 1967, relatively complex beings; warriors that act with honour, strength and loyalty but open to reason and negotiation."
The Mirror felt it was a good story with a decent threat. "At the heart of the story is The Doctor trying to pull off a balancing act between reckless humans and an alien race. Yes, it’s been done before with stories like Silurian two parter Hungry Earth/Cold Blood but here The Doctor is placed more on the side of the resident Martians. It is, after all, their planet the humans are bumbling around on. It's almost as if Doctor Who met the film Zulu on Mars."
The Telegraph enjoyed the realisation of the Ice Warriors. "The biggest new addition, though, was the queen of the species and titular Empress Iraxxa (played with over-the-top relish by Adele Lynch). It’s been a week of female leaders hogging the headlines but at least Iraxxa didn't try to consolidate her icy power by calling a cold snap election. "
IGN also liked the look of the Ice Warriors. "The fact that the episode fully embraces the plastic lizard look of the aliens’ exoskeletons brings a certain nostalgic air to this segment which tracks nicely with the overall feel of the one-shot story. At the same time, there are some modern sensibilities pushing through here if you care to take notice, as when the Empress asks to speak to fellow gal Bill because they’re “surrounded by noisy males.” She has a point."
Digital Spy felt the Ice Warriors worked but had doubts about the human element of the story. "It's a wonderful set-up – Redcoats on the Red Planet, going up against green Martians. A strong visual, and so delightfully Doctor Who. Unfortunately, Gatiss has got a little carried away. His passion for the period, or rather films like Zulu that evoked it, is a double-edged sword. He's clearly working hard to replicate that Bank Holiday Monday movie feel, and while that enthusiasm is infectious, an unfortunate side effect is that the stiff-upper-lipped British soldiers are all a bit… well, stiff."
AV Club felt the episode had interesting ideas which didn't quite come together. "Some of the problem could be that one theoretical strength of the episode cancels the other out. The stated dilemma of the Doctor being forced to side with the aliens against the invading humans isn’t really compelling if the latter present no threat, and a bunch of 19th century soldiers aren’t about to pose much danger to a bunch of cybernetic reptiles. "
Den of Geek paid tribute to the supporting cast. "It’s hard in a 45 minute episode to make a supporting guest character really strike home, but credit to Gatiss and Anthony Calf for making Godsacre stand out. A man who was supposed to have been killed for an earlier act of cowardice, coming to terms with his desertion, and ultimately making amends. A little arc that just gave the episode an extra something."
Ars Technica felt the story was a great improvement on the Mok's trilogy. "I do think this is one of Gatiss' more successful scripts, mostly because his love for the Ice Warriors shines through. The nerdy attention to detail on these Martians' motivations makes the Monks look even more misplaced in the Doctor Who canon. It's also a lovely touch to have a cameo appearance from Galactic Federation Ambassador, Alpha Centauri, voiced by original actor Ysanne Churchman. "
Finally, Games Radar called the episode stoic and dependable. "As the episode descends into the predictable fight between humans and extraterrestrials, the fellow in charge, Godsacre (Anthony Calf), ends it with a shining performance. Throughout the episode he and his deputy Catchglove (Ferdinand Kingsley) have been convincing, patriotic soldiers without descending into pantomime accents, with Kingsley doing an excellent job at turning from a charming officer into a slimily-ambitious cad"
Link to Doctor Who News Review