Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Story 192 - Planet of the Ood

In which the Doctor takes Donna to her first alien world. The planet they land on is the icy Ood-Sphere, which the Doctor recognises as being in the same region of space as the Sense-Sphere. As they head across the snowy landscape they come upon an injured Ood. It has been shot. It tells them that "the circle must be broken" before becoming rabid, its eyes glowing red. The creature dies, and the Doctor and Donna make their way to an industrial complex where a spaceship has just landed. This has brought Klineman Halpen to the planet. He is the Managing Director of Ood Operations. He has come to personally supervise investigations into a number of unexplained deaths, as well as a blight which is affecting some of the Ood - "Red-Eye". Halpen has brought with him his personal Ood servant - Ood Sigma. It regularly feeds him a hair restorative, as he feels stress is making him lose his hair. The Doctor and Donna manage to join a tour of the complex, and discover that Ood are sold across three galaxies, forming the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. The creatures claim to be natural servants, knowing no other way how to live, but the Doctor doubts that such a race could ever evolve.

Halpen is told that the deaths were caused by Ood becoming infected with Red-Eye. He discusses the problem with Dr Ryder, who asks to see inside Warehouse 15, where the source of the malady might lie. This contains a secret hidden by Halpen's ancestors. The Doctor and Donna decide to explore away from the organised tour. They find warehouses full of containers packed with Ood, ready to be transported to slavery across the Empire. They also tell of the circle that must be broken. Donna finds herself trapped in a container with Ood who are exhibiting Red-Eye, whilst the Doctor is captured by Ood Operations' sadistic security chief Kess. They escape when all of the captive Ood suddenly begin to show the glowing red eyes. Halpen orders Kess to use toxic gas to destroy them all. The Doctor can hear a strange singing, which leads him to a bunker in which he and Donna find natural Ood. They see that the creatures should have a small secondary brain which they hold in their hands. Ood Operations surgically remove these and replace them with the translator spheres. The Doctor allows Donna to hear their plaintive song of captivity.

They are recaptured as an Ood rebellion breaks out. Kess is overpowered and killed by the gas he was gong to use on the creatures. Halpen plans to destroy the whole complex - starting with the secret of Warehouse 15. The Doctor and Donna manage to convince the Ood that they are their friends. Ood Sigma points the Doctor and Donna towards the Warehouse where Halpen has rigged up explosives. The Doctor and Donna enter, and find that the secret is a gigantic brain, discovered 200 years ago under a glacier - the third component of the Oods' complex physiology. The brain binds the Ood telepathically, but an electrical force-field has cut them off from it. This is the circle which must be broken. Dr Ryder admits that he is an agent for "Friends of the Ood", and has reduced the level of the forcefield - leading to the Red-Eye phenomenon as the brain manages to exert some influence over the Ood. Halpen kills him. He is going to kill the Doctor and Donna next when he starts to feel ill. Ood Sigma reveals that the hair tonic has really been an Ood-graft solution. Halpen is turned into an Ood. The Doctor turns off the force-field and the Ood are reunited telepathically across the stars. Their slavery is at an end. Ood Sigma bids the Doctor and Donna farewell and tells them that songs will be sung about them, but it has an ominous message for the Doctor when it tells him that his song must end soon...

Planet of the Ood was written by Keith Temple, and was first broadcast on 19th April, 2008. This has been Temple's only Doctor Who story, though he did write an illustrated piece for the BBC's website later in the year. He was known to Russell T Davies through them both having worked on Children's Ward in the 1990's.
The Ood hadn't originally meant to feature in the Series 2 story The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, but once they had been created they proved to be very popular, especially amongst younger viewers. Davies had been dissatisfied at the way they were treated in that story. They were clearly a slave race, yet the Doctor hadn't questioned this or done anything about it - which he really ought to have done. He hadn't even saved them at the conclusion. Davies asked for a story which showcased the creatures, and tackled some of these unresolved issues. The slavery aspect would be highlighted, and this is what the Doctor would fight against.
This episode was originally slated to be the second story of the season, but was swapped with The Fires of Pompeii. Watching the opening TARDIS scene, it does appear that this is Donna's first trip in the ship, and the trauma of seeing thousands of men, women and children perish seems to have been quickly forgotten.

The principle guest artist is Tim McInnerny, who plays Halpen. At the time he was trying to avoid guest star roles, but made an exception for this as it was Doctor Who, and he was getting to play an out and out villain. He had first come to prominence for his various nice-but-dim roles in the Blackadder series.
Ood Sigma is regular alien performer Paul Kasey. Kess is played by Roger Griffiths. Dr Ryder is Adrian Rawlins - Harry Potter's dad, though also remembered for the TV adaptation of The Woman In Black. Ood Operations' PR person, Solana Mercurio, is played by Ayesha Dharker. She had played the Queen of Naboo in the second of the Star Wars prequels - Attack of the Clones.
Story Arc:
  • The Doctor and Donna are once more assumed to be a married couple.
  • First mention of the phrase "Doctor-Donna".
  • The fact that bees are going missing is mentioned for the second time.
  • Ood Sigma.
  • The Doctor is told that his song will soon be ending.

Overall, a good story, but not quite a great one. As it is directed by Graeme Harper, it naturally rattles along at a fair pace. Catherine Tate continues to shine when she is given the more emotional scenes to play.
Things you might like to know:
  • Russell T Davies had wanted the look of the Sensorites to be used as an inspiration for the Ood for their first appearance, and this connection led to the Doctor's reference to the Sense-Sphere in this story.
  • The Doctor is delighted to see real snow - a reference to the Christmas Specials' running joke about the snow never being the real thing.
  • The snowscape scenes were actually filmed on a very hot August day.
  • Donna is revealed to be a West Ham supporter - an East London football team - despite being a resident of Chiswick, which is in West London. Fulham or Queens Park Rangers would be her local teams.
  • Halpen's transformation into an Ood was much more graphic, but was cut back due to the early evening broadcast. It still caused the DVD release to be given a "12" certificate, as opposed to the usual PG (Parental Guidance). Some of the transformation scene had to be reshot later, but McInnerny was unavailable, so one of the production team stepped in - despite being camera shy.
  • One continuity error is Solana stating that no alcohol is allowed in the complex - yet we later see the buyers clearly intoxicated and mentioning the free bar.
  • There has been some discussion amongst fans about the chronology of this story and the Impossible Planet one. Pre-publicity stated that this would show how the Ood came to be enslaved - making people think it would be a prequel. That would mean that Ood are still enslaved after events shown here. This story does tell us how they came to be enslaved, as well as showing how that slavery ended.
  • At the end of the story, the Doctor does not seem to have really deserved songs being sung about him. He doesn't actually contribute that much to the Oods' freedom, save for being the one who switched off the force-field - which he simply asked if he could do once the Ood had freed themselves. Dr Ryder deserves more of a song - and Ood Sigma himself of course.
  • Interviewed about the notion of a subservient race - one that naturally wishes to serve others - David Tennant referenced the work of Richard Dawkins, who was married to Lalla (Romana II) Ward for a number of years, and who has a cameo spot at the end of this season.
  • One of the Ood actors - Peter Symonds - once played a Zygon in Terror of the Zygons.

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