Wed, 23 April 2008
Planet of the Ood" is the third episode of the fourth series of British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 19 April 2008.
The episode features the return of the Ood, last seen in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit". In the narrative, the Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) investigate why the Ood are happy to serve. They become horrified at the alterations humans perform on the Ood, and resolve to free them. The episode received several positive reviews for its central theme of slavery.
The Doctor uses the TARDIS to land at a random point in time and space. On leaving the TARDIS, he and Donna find a dying Ood, a species the Doctor previously encountered in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit".Before dying, the Ood's eyes turn red and it attacks the Doctor. The Doctor muses that the last time he met them, they were being influenced by the Devil, so their docility is being influenced by a different and closer being. The Doctor and Donna find an industrial complex controlled by Ood Operations, who are selling the Ood as a servant race. The Doctor locates their position: the Ood-Sphere in the 42nd century.
The "Red Eye" phenomenon is affecting other Ood on the planet: several people have been killed in the weeks prior to the narrative. During the outbreak, the Ood state that "the circle must be broken". Ood Operations noted an increase in the phenomenon, and considered it to be similar to foot-and-mouth disease; CEO Klineman Halpen (Tim McInnerny) tells the Doctor the method of killing is identical.
Throughout the episode, Donna becomes sympathetic to the Ood and is horrified by their status as slaves. The Doctor also takes an interest in the Ood noting that no species could naturally evolve to serve. He also feels he had overlooked them on their previous encounter. He and Donna travel through the complex and finds a batch of uncultivated Ood. Instead of a translation sphere, they hold a "hind brain" that gives them individuality; the Doctor derides Halpen for lobotomising them.
The Doctor and Donna are captured by Ood Operations' security force. Shortly after, the Ood begin a mass revolution, and the complex is evacuated. The Doctor follows Halpen to a locked warehouse. The warehouse contains a large brain, which completes the Ood's collective conciousness. The brain's control of the Ood is limited by a circle of pylons emitting a forcefield. Halpen plans to kill the brain, and by extension, all of the Ood, but is stopped by a joint effort between the Doctor, Donna, Dr Ryder (Adrian Rawlins), and Halpen's personal Ood, Ood Sigma(Paul Kasey); Ryder lowered the telepathic field gradually over ten years, while Ood Sigma used Halpen's hair-loss medication to slowly convert Halpen into an Ood.
The Doctor shuts down the circle, freeing the Ood and allowing them to all rejoin in a telepathic collective. Before leaving, Ood Sigma promises to include the Doctor and Donna in the Ood's song and honour their names forever, but comments that the Doctor's song may soon end.
The "red eye" phenomenon is present in all three "Ood" episodes, as an effect of being possessed; in the former, they were under the Beast's control. In "Planet of the Ood", the Doctor gives a time frame for all three episodes: the 42nd century, during the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire; the fourth incarnation was mentioned in "The Long Game" and "Bad Wolf". The Ood-Sphere is in the same solar system as the Sense-Sphere, the location for the 1964 serial The Sensorites;[ the Sensorites and Ood are visually similar.
The episode was written by Keith Temple and directed by Graeme Harper. Executive producer Russell T Davies had envisioned the Ood's return because their previous appearance, the 2006 two-part story "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", had been overshadowed by the appearance of the Devil. Davies subsequently provided Temple with a brief for the episode which included the terms "ice planet" and the storyline of a business selling the Ood as a commodity] Temple's drafts of the episode were described as "too dark" and "too old Doctor Who"; Temple stated on the episode's commentary that he "wrote a six-part [serial] in 45 minutes".
Temple and Davies thought that the episode was not a "fun reappearance" of an old monster; instead, they felt that there was "an actual story to tell". Temple emphasised in his script that the Doctor overlooked the Ood in lieu of the Devil, and the character had to see his shortcomings. Temple's script also emphasised the Ood's slavery; both Temple and lead actor David Tennant commented that the existence of a species born to serve was complicated, the latter stating complications with Richard Dawkins' "selfish gene" theory. Donna's role in the episode was to further humanise the Doctor, and her opinion changing from visual disgust to empathy was deliberately important. Susie Liggat cited the writing as part of Doctor Who's importance—she thought the story about "liberating oppressed people" could be applied domestically or globally.
The episode's antagonist, Klineman Halpen, is portrayed by Tim McInnerny. Davies considered his character—"a middle manager who's out of his depth"—a perfect villain. Temple described him as "narcissistic", "preening" and "ruthless ... without sentiment". McInnerny said "It's always nice to play a bastard... I'm glad Halpen's a three-dimensional bastard! That makes him interesting!" Temple epitomised Halpen in a scene where he kills an operative for the activist group "Friends of the Ood"; Davies and Tennant felt that his "disgusting" and "gothic" Edgar Allen Poe-esque fate would not be deserved otherwise.
Filming for the episode took place in August 2007. The opening and closing outdoor scenes were filmed in Trefil Quarry in the Brecon Beacons, the external scenes of the complex in a caramel factory, and the scenes in the "battery farm" were filmed in a hangar at RAF Saint Athan. Very little CGI was used in the episode; the snow was paper snow adhered by water, and the Ood heads contained complex animatronics. McInnerny wore a prosthetic head with removable flaps for the shot where Halpen transforms into an Ood. Instead of McInnerny, the production team's best boy provided motion capture for the computer-generated profile of the appendages coming out of his mouth.
Overnight figures estimated Planet of the Ood was the most watched programme in its timeslot, with 6.9 million viewers (33.4% of the total audience). The episode was the second most-watched programme of the day, beaten by Britain's Got Talent, and was the fifteenth most watched programme of the week. The episode's Appreciation Index was 87 (considered Excellent).
Scott Matthewman, writing for The Stage, gaved a mixed review of the episode. He thought that "pretty much the only surprise in the way the humans who made up the Ood Corporation were presented came as PR girl Solana (Ayesha Dharker) escaped with the Doctor and Donna, only to betray their position by calling for the guards," and "the revelation that Ryder (Adrian Rawlins) has been working to infiltrate the Corporation is thrown away... as quickly as it is revealed." However, he thought Donna was becoming "fast ... one of the strongest and most well-rounded companions in the series’ history", and "there were some nice interpretations of the Ood’s natural development". Caitlin Moran of The Times thought the episode was "really really good ... – one that will have you staring at your screen and asking, once again, 'How can something so good be happening so early on a Saturday night, in my own front room?'". She enjoyed the scene where the Doctor and Donna talk about slaves in contemporary culture, saying that Tate "really, really isn’t that bad when she says ["We don't have slaves"]". Ben Rawson-Jones of Digital Spy gave the episode five stars out of five. Rawson-Jones opened his review by saying "Doctor Who can occasionally transcend the properties of a mere family television show to reach out and give viewers a poignant, beautiful epiphany and greater sense of the world they inhabit.", citing Donna's reaction on seeing the uncultivated Ood as the moving part of the episode. He thought the episode as a whole "exemplifies just how powerful and emotive Doctor Who can be when writing, direction and performance are all harmonious and complete their own Ood-like circle", and was appreciative of the acting. The episode's only flaw was when Donna said "Why do you say 'Miss'? Do I look single?", but was otherwise "an extremely impressive, contemplative examination of the abhorrent nature of humanity".