Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x03: "Planet Of The Ood"

Written by Keith Temple
Directed by Graeme Harper

Keeping with the tradition of last season, the first two episodes consisted of a contemporary earth based saga and a period piece but instead of the look into a dystopian future, we get treated to past antics on a planet to contend with.

One of the first few things we knew about Season Four, besides Donna’s return as a full time companion was that we were going to get a second helping of the Ood. As someone who enjoyed their debut in “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit”, I was all for seeing this lot again.

Putting aside the trauma of Pompeii’s destruction, Donna’s in full happy mode to see her first planet. I mean getting to see the past last week did impress but stepping foot on an alien planet is apparently a bigger draw to her of all things. The Doctor is also suitably happy to oblige in this as well.

As planets goes, Ood-Sphere (hardly original but it does the trick) is a sight to behold. Mostly made of mountains and vast amounts of snow, Donna goes from listening to The Doctor philosophically ranting on to grabbing one of her coats. Well the woman did bring a lot of suitcases so witnessing Donna’s practicality in the cold weather conditions is smart of her.

We don’t exactly have to wait that long into seeing the Ood either. There was one of them who killed that guy at the start of the episode and The Doctor and Donna stumble upon him dying in the snow. Donna’s reaction to the Ood’s physical features is an example of the writers constant stressing that she’s like one of us.

The good thing is that Donna doesn’t focus on it too long and instead devotes her energies into comforting the dying Ood. The Doctor manages to get the fact that a circle must be broken before the poor thing dies. Given that every episode is supposed to feeding us clues about the Big Bad looming around the corner, is it safe to assume that this along with the Ood’s song are worth noting?

With a dead Ood and a curious TARDIS team, The Doctor and Donna then head to the Ood-Sphere to get some more information. If the start of this episode amused you with the way the Ood were being promoted as slaves, then guaranteed the rest of the promotion won’t.

You’ve got a PR named Solona hyping the Ood up to being the best house servants you have. For 50 credits, the poor things can do all the menial chores you command it to do and it doesn’t take Donna very long to figure out that there’s something not quite right with using another race as a servant.

As much as the writers might like to go on about Donna reacting like us, it should be stressed out that back in Season Two when Rose encountered the Ood, she had similar feelings of disgust about the race being used as slaves. In that regards, Donna is far from unique but that doesn’t stop her from being a hell of a lot more vocal in her overall disapproval of the Ood’s fate.

Maybe it’s the events of her previous aliens’ encounters that stop Donna from being taken in by the PR angle that Solona uses to lure customers into buying the Ood but either way, she and The Doctor don’t waste time in trying to get some decent answers off their own bat. They know Solona isn’t going to tell them what they need to know after all.

There’s also a fun little moment as Donna tries to connect with an Ood by asking it questions about its origins. While the Ood might not grasp the concept of freedom, it still manages to ruffle Donna’s feathers by suggesting that she may be single. Donna’s indignation is a little hilarious, especially given that earlier she stressed that her and The Doctor would never ever be together.

Unfortunately there are more problems with the Ood than just slavery. Well first off all, the red that we’ve seen in their previous adventure is going off more and more, which means people are winding up dead and some of the Ood are even becoming rabid as well.

It also doesn’t help that CEO of Ood Corporation Mr Halpin is an absolutely vicious piece of work. Played brilliantly by Tim McInnerny, Halpin not only cares for profit by selling the Ood but he’s more than happy to kill those who are causing trouble and he also has a few tricks of his own to keep them in line.

As for The Doctor and Donna, heading to Warehouse 15 is good for getting those answers but even better for landing them in trouble. With plenty of Ood chiming that the circle must be broken, Donna’s comment about things being creepy is a little too spot on.

It’s also not that long before Donna finds herself locked in with a load of Ood in a container and The Doctor gets menaced with a giant claw. If there’s a person viler than Halpin in this episode, then it has to Commander Kess. His utter pleasure in killing Ood and trying to kill The Doctor is quite surprising but at least when the Ood start making with attacks, The Doctor and Donna are able to escape momentarily.

There are a lot of attacks in this episode and midway through, the Ood do seem to have a hell of a time killing as many humans as they possibly can muster. Unlike some episodes, the human body doesn’t consist of sympathetic people. I can’t say I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness in seeing an arrogant salesman, Solona or Commander Kess being killed by the Ood. In fact there was something rather sweet in the way Kess happened to be killed.

So the big question is why are the Ood the way they are? It’s pointed out a few times (mainly by The Doctor) that a race as submissive as the Ood could never have evolved but yet they have and even now, the company is doing something to keep them in line?

Finding a bunch of confined Ood in a prison cell was a good way of showing viewers just how surprising this race is. Seeing a secondary brain in the palm of the unprocessed Ood was unexpected. I mean, I knew something had to be in those balls they carried but I didn’t think it was a brain.

Because the episode seemingly is in need of an emotional moment, The Doctor then tunes Donna into their song of captivity. Naturally Donna isn’t all that pleased to hear such distress and there’s a moment where she begins to question whether or not she made the right decision in travelling with The Doctor. We’ve seen both Rose and Martha have similar qualms so it makes sense that Donna would too.

Sadly though, Halpin is a lot faster on his feet and manages to have The Doctor and Donna tied up while he goes on about his grand plan. Donna, who more or less told a bunch of scary priestesses in the previous episode to bleep off, is even faster with her tongue in pointing out how much of an idiot Halpin is. I like the principals of her rant but the word “sadist” would’ve been a more apt description of Halpin.

Bondage jokes aside, at least The Doctor and Donna are smart enough to get the Ood onside. David Tennant and Catherine Tate really go for the comedy when constantly repeating why exactly the Ood shouldn’t kill them. Hey if I were an Ood, The Doctor would be living on the account that he’s brainy and sexy and Donna because her unbridled sarcasm is a joy to listen to.

As for the secret weapon of Halpin, two brains are enough but a third big one connecting the Ood in song? If anything this episode was brain overload, visually rather than intellectually. Then again if Time Lords can have two hearts, I suppose there’s no reason why the Ood can’t have three brains.

It also brings to the circle itself. The big brain is surrounded by a circle and it seems that while Halpin may be an evil little turd, he’s also got the misfortune of having two traitors in his mist. The least interesting one is Ryder but his reveal about being a Friend Of The Ood is a nice little reveal. Just a pity he gets killed before he gets to lord it over Halpin.

The second traitor is that nice Ood Sigma. Now there are many ways to get revenge of a cruel man like Halpin but the one thing about Ood Sigma is that he is really innovative. Killing him is clearly too cliché for this Ood’s taste so it’s a fantastic moment when Halpin realises that the hair tonic he’s been taking is something else.

Because Ood Sigma doesn’t seem to be into murder, seeing Halpin turn into an Ood is rather twisted, given his brutal treatment of the Ood. It’s also interested that Sigma seems to be more interested in rehabilitating the Ood version of Halpin. I will credit Keith Temple for not only adding more intrigue to the race but also for his solution in dealing with Halpin.

This then leads to the end of the episode. With the Ood free from slavery and then singing their little hearts out, the interesting moment is when they tell The Doctor his song might come to an end. Okay I’ve known about that little bit for days and some people have speculated that this means a regeneration of sorts.

I won’t dismiss the idea because on this show literally anything can happen but I also think it could signal something else too. Possible theories include a major death (Donna perhaps?), the return of Davros, other Time Lords – just about anything really. Either way, things keep on getting interesting.

Also in “Planet Of The Ood”

If you look at some of the posters for the Ood in that office, wouldn’t they remind you of the cover of U2’s “Pop” album?

The Doctor: “Are you alright?”
Donna: “Terrified. History’s one thing but an alien planet is another.”
The Doctor: “I can always take you home.”

The Ood had darker suits in this episode than they did in “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit”.

Donna (re Ood): “He sang as he was dying.”
The Doctor: “His eyes turned red.”
Donna: “What does that mean?”
The Doctor: “Trouble.”

The Doctor (to Solona): “We’re not married.”
Donna: “We’re so not married.”
The Doctor: “Never.”
Donna: “Never ever.”

Donna came up with the pseudo name Noble Enterprises instead of relying on The Doctor to lie. Nice seeing her take the lead.

Ood: “I do not understand Miss.”
Donna: “Why’d you say ‘Miss’? Do I look single?”

Ood Sigma: “I have no opinion.”
Mr Halpin: “Well, say hello to Daddy.”

Solona showed that the Ood can be activated with different voice responses including “D’oh” from The Simpsons.

The Doctor: “There we go, safe and sound.”
Donna (re Ood): “Never mind about me, what about them?”

The Doctor: “That’s their song.”
Donna: “I can’t hear it.”
The Doctor: “Do you want to?”
Donna: “Yeah.”

There was a mention of the Sensorites in this episode, who are a race that have some similarities to the Ood.

Donna (to The Doctor): “I spent all that time looking for you Doctor because I thought it was so wonderful out there. I wanna go home.”
Donna: “Well do something. You’re the one with all the tricks. You must have met Houdini.”
The Doctor: “These are really good handcuffs.”
Donna: “Well I’m glad of that. I mean, at least we’ve got quality.”

In terms of arc stuff so far, we’ve had Rose’s brief appearance, Medusa Cascade mention, something on Donna’s back, planets disappearing, Gallifrey mentioned again, The Doctor’s song coming to an end and bees disappearing. What the heck is this going to add up to?

Donna: “It’s weird. Being with you I can’t tell what’s right and what’s wrong anymore.”
The Doctor: “It’s better that way.”

Chronology: This episode takes place before the events of “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit.”

As returns went, “Planet Of The Ood” certainly was able to deliver the goods. A lot of the stuff regarding the Ood took me by surprise, the humans were genuinely nasty in this episode, there are more intriguing hints about upcoming events and Donna continues to be awesome. I won’t lie in saying that I love the stroppy big sister/show off younger brother dynamic that Donna and The Doctor have.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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