planet of the oods

Birth as a theme in Doctor Who S4

Obviously, one of the major themes of S4 is the coming metacrisis. It’s foreshadowed most strongly perhaps in Planet of the Ood, when the Ood refer call the Doctor and Donna, “The DoctorDonna,” but it comes up in other ways, too, especially with the constant camera shots of the hand bubbling away. 

But as I work on my S4 rewrite, I’m realising that birth in general, and especially unusual births, are a major theme in the series. 

  • Partners in Crime–seeding the planet to grow Adipose from fat
  • Fires of Pompeii–seers becoming Pyrovillian as they breath in the rock dust
  • Planet of the Ood–Mr. Halpen becoming an Ood after drinking the Ood graft.
  • The Sontaran two-parter–the Sontarans tried to turn Earth into a clone planet so they could create more warriors. Oh, and the Martha clone.
  • The Doctor’s Daughter–Jenny is created by progeneration when the humans forcibly take a sample of the Doctor’s tissue.
  • The Unicorn and the Wasp–The reverend is a hybrid child, which is unusual in itself. The way the genetic lock broke and he realised his full identity is also unusual, as is his connection with his mother’s necklace.
  • The library two-parther–The Vashta Nerada hatched from eggs that were laid in the trees that became the books that were sent to the Library. 
  • Midnight–The whole concept of the entity is shrouded in mystery. How can it exist when the planet is irradiated with lethal radiation? And why did it select Sky? It has no origin story.
  • Turn Left–a new life is created for Donna when she is convinced to turn right.
  • Stolen Earth/Journey’s End–finally, the metacrisis. 

I hadn’t realised how much of a theme RTD had made this. And it’s so obvious and recurring once you know to look for it that there is no way this was accidental. 

I don’t have any great insights based on this, largely because I think the point of it was pretty obvious–to draw one more series-long arrow pointing to the eventual creation of Tentoo. Really, by the time we watch him form out of that hand, we’ve seen so many bizarre births that this seems almost normal. I mean… at least it’s not little blobs of fat crawling out of your shirt, right?


Behind the scenes of The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (Part 3)

From the Impossible Planet DVD commentary with visual effects producer Will Cohen, Shaun Parkes (who played captain Zachary Cross Flane), and David Tennant

Will Cohen: Now I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who Confidential after this where you were stroking the Ood

David Tennant: Those heads were so squeezable!  They were so soft and kind of…

Will: Stress relieving

David: They are!  They are.

Shaun Parkes: They’re like a stress ball.

David: I don’t know how that feels for the guys inside them, obviously.  And the tendrils are very… You wanna bite the tendrils!  You really do. You want to gnaw on them.

Shaun: That’s… that’s not something…

David: Did that not work for you? You didn’t?  You didn’t have that?

Shaun: [laughs] I didn’t have that, no.

David: Well…

Shaun: The stroking I can understand, because you had to feel it to believe it.

David: Yeah.  One of the softest things you’ve ever…

Shaun: You’ve ever touched, exactly. It was made really well.  The tentacles were like these sausages - they’re like thin sausages.

David: Yeah.  You just want to grind them within your back teeth.  Really rubbery and kind of… like a big bit of squid.

Shaun: Yeah - beef jerky or something.

David: Yeah!  I like a bit of that.

Shaun: No.

David: Gnawing on an Ood’s tentacle.

Shaun: I don’t get down with that.

David: Well… [laughs] Billie was obsessed with it.

Shaun: She was obsessed with it. I remember that.

Other parts of this set: [ one ] [ two ] [ four ] [ five ]
[ List of Behind-the-Sceness PhotoSets ]

…and because it goes with the commentary:
[ David’s obsession with Ood Heads and Cat-Nun faces ]


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The Impossible Planet

Series: 2

Episode: 8

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Plot Summary: The Doctor and Rose land on a space base on a distant planet where a crew of humans served by the Ood are drilling down while orbiting a black hole. They lose the TARDIS and end up trapped there, all while the Beast is rising up.

Review: This episode opens with the TARDIS landing but making an unfamiliar noise as it does, which serves to set the uneasy tone for the rest of the story. However, the Doctor and Rose soon undercut this by bursting into laughter when Rose suggests they go back in the TARDIS and travel elsewhere if he thinks there might be trouble. I love that the writers have gotten self-aware at this point by making fun of their own recurring plot devices, as it shows that New Who has become well-established as a show, and also that the writers are not taking their show too seriously. 

After a bit of exposition involving the Doctor pointing out some ancient writing which the TARDIS cannot translate, he and Rose sure enough find themselves in trouble as they bump into the Ood, who begin repeating the phrase “we must feed” while advancing, trapping the duo in a corner. It turns out their speech system had malfunctioned and they actually meant to say “we must feed you if you are hungry”, which is a brilliant joke that also links to the theme of comedy being intermingled with horror.

Throughout this episode, the Ood are presented as kind, humble creatures, whereas the humans are rather brash and selfish. During the quake at the start, all the crew are freaking out and yelling, and one of the Ood says “Your kindness in this emergency is much appreciated”, showing how they naturally bow down to humans even when the crew isn’t being completely patient or kind. Danny mentions that the Ood do all the drilling and maintenance because “they’re born for it”, which is his way of justifying their oppression; in addition, when Rose asks one of the Ood for their name, they reply, “We have no titles, we are as one”, which reflects how their lack of individualism strips them of any kind of personal autonomy or freedom. The Ood are simply willing to serve humanity, regardless of whether they are strangers or not, as shown when they immediately offer Rose and the Doctor food despite never having met them before.

In contrast, the crew members are not as indiscriminate and welcoming to the Doctor and Rose, as Jefferson’s first reaction to seeing them is “what the hell”. However, the crew aren’t being purposely hostile, as they are only astounded that anyone could infiltrate their base. Even so, during the quake the crew are more focused on their own well-being and don’t pay much attention to the Doctor and Rose, to the point where the Captain completely ignores them despite asking everyone else if they’re okay. Ida is much more accepting of the Doctor and Rose, as she is the main person to explain everything to them. As a result, we soon find out that the crew visited the planet to re-discover a buried civilisation which is apparently “calling out” to them, though Jefferson also mentions that they are drilling down for something that could “fuel the empire”. Therefore, the humans are motivated by selfish curiosity and perhaps a colonial and patriotic attitude. Despite their motives, the crew are generally friendly, especially as they show more sympathy and compassion towards the Doctor and Rose as the episode continues.

Something I particularly enjoy about this kind of Doctor Who episode is that the side characters are usually strongly written which provides a nice backbone for the setting and plot. Each of the crew members have a distinct personality which really brings them to life and allows the audience to gain sympathy for them as they progress through their adventure. Zach, the Acting Captain, is a typical stoic, commanding, logical-minded authority figure, although he breaks many rules due to his trust in the Doctor, and his awareness of this causes him to believe he’s not very good at being a Captain. Ida, the Science Officer, is the most welcoming and generous to the Doctor and Rose as she makes all the introductions and explains everything to them; she also makes most of the commands, and is a highly competent and confident crew member. Toby, the Archaeologist, is clearly out of his depth working on the base and is nervous when the Captain sends him outside his own department; the Beast likely preys on him and possessed him due to his fear and vulnerability, and his curiosity of the Beast is what causes his downfall. Jefferson, the Head of Security, initially appeared hostile, though when the Beast preys on his insecurities concerning his wife, we get a glimpse into his backstory which makes him seem more human and easier to sympathise with; he is also clearly deeply affected by Scooti’s death, and quotes Thomas Babington Macauley, a poet who wrote Lays of Ancient Rome about heroic historical events. Danny, of the Ethics Committee, appears friendly and perhaps even a little flirty with Rose, although this is ironic considering he treats the Ood worse than anyone, calling them “stupid”. Scooti, Trainee Maintenance, seems genuinely friendly too, as she doesn’t exploit the Ood to the extent that Danny does; she is also intelligent and quick-thinking, as she figures out that the airlock being opened is odd and goes to ask questions on the intercom when Beast!Toby leaves. Because these characters are so well-established, an emotional reaction is then evoked when Scooti is killed off near the end of the episode, and we feel the pain of the other characters more strongly.

Of course, there is further development in the Doctor and Rose’s relationship during this episode. At the start they laugh together and are clearly more comfortable with leaping into the action with both feet, especially Rose; as mentioned in the previous review of ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’, she is gaining more autonomy and is quick at picking up on when things are out of the ordinary (e.g. she points out that the TARDIS should translate the ancient writing at the start of the episode). Despite this, Rose does appear to be having more fun than is appropriate, as she smiles chirpily and makes jokes a lot in spite of the dark and scary situation they’re in. However, her compassion still shines through, as she is disgusted when she finds out the Ood are being kept as slaves, and directly asks one of them if they like their position as a slave; she sides with the oppressed and wants to learn about their experience from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. 

Later, when the Doctor and Rose find out that the TARDIS has gone and they’re trapped there, they are clearly both lost and worried, though the Doctor prioritises Rose as always (“I’ve trapped you here”). He is more concerned about her, even though she proves more capable of coping with settling on a new planet and starting a new life; ironically, the Doctor freaks out about the idea of settling down, as he struggles to adapt to simple situations. Although Rose initially puts on a brave face, she soon admits she’s scared and the Doctor pulls her in for a hug without a word – this shows how they know each other well enough to cater to each other’s needs now. They do separate towards the end of the episode, as the Doctor goes down to the planet and Rose stays on board. She kisses his helmet when saying goodbye, and insists she stay on the comms as he is travelling down, which only consolidates their close relationship.

Finally, the episode ending is the ultimate plot climax, as possessed Ood pursue the crew, the Captain yells that they’re being pulled into the black hole, and the trapdoor on the planet opens with the ominous sound of the Beast’s voice.

Quote: “The Beast and his Armies shall rise from the Pit to make war against God.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Apologies. I said, I hope you enjoy your meal.”

- Rose Tyler and an Ood