Doctor Who #733: The Impossible Planet

"I'm behind you, Toby. I'm right behind you. Don't look. Don't look at me. One look and you will die. I'm reaching out, Toby. I'm so close. Don't turn around. Oh, I can touch you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.3 2006.

IN THIS ONE... First appearance of the Ood on a planet impossibly [He is awake] orbiting a black hole.

REVIEW: This is the first time Rose has been taken to an alien planet that ISN'T called Earth anyway and though we're still on a human base, the world itself is pretty spectacular when we're not in interior sets. There's a savage beauty in the poetically licensed black hole, and the underground civilization has incredible scale, not unlike its single denizen (shhh, spoilers). The sanctuary base is obviously less interesting, but it has the right "space race" feel, makeshift and industrial, and is well complemented by bright color accents and cool lights and computer graphics. And though they aren't natives, the Ood are a pretty fantastic race, perhaps New Who's first truly successful new aliens, a polite, slightly telepathic slave race with faces out of one of Lovecraft's nightmares. The way Danny of the "Ethics Committee" talks about them, you just know it's all going to go wrong, and they've got the perfect kind of voice to be creepy even when they're being nice. The ability to use their translators as weapons is just a touch silly, as is the way they're used in the teaser, as an accidentally threatening skipping record, but otherwise, a strong and iconic new monster. All that to say, it's a good-looking episode. (And great-sounding, Murray Gold's doing something different, using some melancholic Celtic melodies.)

And a creepy one as well. The Beast that possesses Toby and then the Ood is clearly the Devil (but that's impossible! words you hear over and over again). It gives people red-eye, looks into your soul and attacks your psychological Achilles' heel, causes creepy spontaneous tattoos and pronouncements, and besides has other names, like Abaddon (so there's a link between this creature and the one in the first Torchwood finale). The episode's highlight is the bit where Toby is told by Sutekh's voice (no relation except they have the same actor, Gabriel Woolf, which makes me want to nickname him the Bad Woolf) not to turn around. I don't think there's been this repeatable since "Are you my mummy?". "He is awake" is pretty good too, and there's a lovely Satanic moment where the Ood are triggered by those words and do their own version of Catholic mass' call and response. You did note the amazingly large number of sixes in the episode, didn't you? All we really needed was three of them, of course.

Stranded on an impossible planet, the TARDIS having fallen in its bowels and Rose and the Doctor having to contemplate getting a house and settling down (why? couldn't they just do the space travel thing instead? and don't they already "live together"? why the awkwardness at the thought?), it just might make Rose's Series 2 smugness crack. Not yet though. It's actually interesting to see her smile away and make jokes as the Doctor, actually able to understand in just how much danger they are, can't quite reciprocate. She's like a Silver Age Superman supporting cast member, convinced the hero will always be there to save them, doing foolish things and not taking life-threatening danger seriously. As usual, she shows some empathy towards the help, in this case the Ood, but no one's listening, not even the Doctor. Still, she holds her own, which is a marvel given the large guest cast, each member of which manages to make an impression (more on them in Part 2's review). So right now, a creepfest with desperate odds may be just the thing to shake the leads up. They're having way too much fun, and too few chills.

VERSIONS: A deleted scene on the DVD shows a much longer and more amusing conversation between the Doctor and Rose when they meet the Ood.

In a TARDISode that looks rather fan-made, Captain Walker is given a briefing on the impossible planet and an Odd makes a strange pronouncement.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A gorgeous looking sci-fi/horror epic begins, and fear's on the menu.



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