Old Red Eye Is Back

4x03 ice

4×03: Planet of the Ood 

The previous Ood appearance in Doctor Who, back in Series 2’s Impossible Planet/Satan Pit double bill, essentially served as a plot device for a race of passive creatures who could easily be possessed by the Beast who was the ultimate villain of the piece.  In fact, I seem to recall that the early plans were to have the Slitheen appearing instead of the Ood… thank heavens for small mercies when we were spared that particular fate.  However, the inclusion of a passive, servile race of monsters did not exactly leave me begging for further exploration of their backstory.  So, when the Planet of the Ood was announced, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

What we were treated to was an allegorical, anti-slavery tale that had some echoes of the Nazi death camps.  It was all very noble, of course but the trouble with allegory is that it only really works when the audience is left to do a lot of thinking for themselves (see Battlestar Galactica for the perfect example).  So, what we get here is good enough story with the Ood being quickly and conveniently emancipated from the shackles of a particularly nasty sounding process, which enslaves them by cutting off their second brain.  The bottom line (which probably should be somewhere towards the bottom line of this review… but isn’t) is that it just felt a little empty.

4x03 ood

Having said all that, it would be most disingenuous to say that this was a poor story.  The Ood are a visually great monster and in my most humble of opinions, one of the best creations that Who has ever produced (any resemblence to Doctor Zoidberg is purely coincidental) and I am sure that there will be an opportunity to meet up with them one more time to see how they are handling their new found freedom.  The bad guys of the episode were, of course, the humans (I almost used the term “Big Bad” there, before stopping myself.  God, how I dislike that phrase).  The humans were the slave traders and every one of them met with a sticky end before the show was done… some more sticky than others.  Again, this was where it was all a little too black and white.  I prefer my sci-fi to have some shades of grey but here the bad people died, the Ood were freed and everyone went home singing.

4x03 claw

Mr Halpen played by the wonderful Tim Mcinnery, was a delightful baddie, delivering his dialogue with relish before Ood Sigma’s patient revenge was finally delivered.  Commander Kess was a fairly one-dimensional prison goon who met his maker after being gassed with a good dose of karma.  However, this was not before he rather unnecessarily chased the Doctor down a series of corriders with a giant fairground claw in a scene which added precisely zero to the plot.  Solana, who had not taken the opportunity for redemption that our heroes had given her, soon met with the business end of the Ood translation ball (or the Persil ball as Donna would have it).  Even the particularly unpleasant clients in the marketing suite got their comeupance.  All the deaths were duly dished out then.

4x03 close

Catherine Tate continues to impress and must be proving all the lingering doubters wrong by now.  Her comedy background has given her a great sense of timing but the transitions from excitement (on seeing her first alien planet) to heartbreak (on hearing the Ood’s song) to her fearless determination in the face of danger is performed with a seemingly effortless believability.  Donna seems to have been having quite a hard time since joining the TARDIS crew and it was no great surprise to hear her ask to go home when it all started getting a bit much but by the end of proceedings she could see the positivite nature of the outcome and looks set to grow in to one of the better companions that the series has enjoyed.

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