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20 April 2008 @ 08:51 am
Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood  

I only noticed this afterwards when I started thinking about it, but the Doctor doesn't actually do anything to advance the plot here except right at the very end when he defuses the bombs (and even that I suspect the Ood could have managed, though they might have had trouble getting into Warehouse 15). It is interesting therefore to contrast it to the season 1 NuWho stories in which the Doctor is also largely an observer to the plot. A common theme there was that, although passive, the Doctor inspired action in others. If a deliberate reference back was intended here then it is notable that he ultimately fails to inspire Solona Mercurio (the PR woman) to act.

I've been trying to avoid reading other reviews before posting this but even so I've noticed a lot of titles, and lj-cut text, in which the words "nonsense" and "evolution" figure heavily. Again, on viewing, I didn't really notice this bit except for a slight "Srsly?" moment when the big brain was revealed. Having just jumped through a few hoops saying that a species couldn't evolve as a servitor race, and a species couldn't evolve with its hindbrain separate, my mind immediately jumped to "so how exactly does a big brain evolve all on its own like that?". Drawing attention to a need for less-than-preposterous evolutionary science and then dumping a big does not make sense moment on us was perhaps the least elegant moment in what I otherwise thought was a rather stylish slice of Doctor Who. The brain itself looked fairly silly as well.

I loved this episode on first viewing, though I suspect some of that was continued delight at the way Donna is shaping up as a companion. I liked the imagery of the telepathic song, I liked the gradual reveal of the horrors of Ood production and treatment. It was fairly obvious where this was going from the outset but early on there was a doubt especially since I recalled that Danny Bartock, the character from The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit who was in charge of the Ood, was designated the "Ethics Officer" - raising an interesting ambiguity over whether this was a euphemism for slave-master or an indication that there was a genuine desire to treat the Ood well. I thought the acting was uniformly good, making this one of the strongest supporting casts for a while. The plot itself actually held together and made sense, even if the science didn't and the Doctor and Donna were largely observers of events. I suspect it might not stand up so well on repeated viewing when the stylistic flourishes are forced to compete more heavily with the comparatively light-weight plot and the moral message may begin to appear rather facile and heavy-handed.

One last thing that occurred to me is that so far this season we've seen a thematic chaining from episode to episode. Partners in Crime and Fires of Pompeii are both about races who no longer have a home. Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood both feature prophesy and a form of deification of the Doctor and Donna. It would be really interesting if they continue this, but I suspect it is a coincidence and, in fact, the season is actually going to be about vanishing bees, the Shadow Proclamation and whatever cataclysmic event is being foretold by all those prophesies (which will presumably involve the reappearance of Rose) and none of it will have any real development or pay-off until the last two to three episodes.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on April 20th, 2008 11:49 am (UTC)
I'd missed both the significance of the Doctor not doing anything to advance the plot, and have acknowledged it in an appendix to my post.

As for deification, I think in this case the 'DoctorDonna' is becoming a folk hero of the Ood rather than godhood as such, though I suppose there is a rough parallel, and it could be a way of making something more of the Doctor's/RTD's 'god complex' than has previously been developed.
louisedennis: doctor wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
The emphasis is different, yes. I was using deification as a shorthand. But clealry the Doctor and Donna are to be remembered as mythical figures, even if not as divine ones, in both stories.
bunnbunn on April 20th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
I like the title 'Planet of the Ood'. I should have some chance of remembering which one that actually is. Unlike many of them where I find they all fade together after a bit and I can't work out from just the title which one it is.

Re the big brain, we didn't see the underneath of it. I was thinking it was perhaps like some sort of sea urchin type thing with the important doings underneath. Which doesn't explain how the top of it eats people, of course...