Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood

Solana: 'And the comedy classic... Ood, you've dropped something.'
Ood 3: 'D'oh!'

I just knew there'd be some insidious plot behind the Ood's subservience. Voluntary slavery is a tough concept to grasp—especially when you're being treated like crap. That's not to say it's impossible, it just seems to go against all that's natural. So tonight's reveal gave rhyme and reason to our tentacled friends' lack of resistance. They were being exploited, after all. Surprise, motherfuckers!

On the one hand, the revelation came as a relief, as the Ood's benign acceptance of their predicament suddenly began to made sense. With their hind brains removed, servitude became their only means of survival. Unfortunately, it also undermined the one thing which made the Ood so intriguing. Their voluntary slavery sat uncomfortably with me, so I was initially worried that, by excising this facet of their personality, it'd diminish them somehow—and to some extent, I think it did. 'Planet of the Ood' was a decent effort at giving the Ood some back story, but I think I preferred being the dark. I love a good mystery.

The Ood have been one of Nu-Who's moderate successes. In a show where aliens are ten a penny, it's rare to find a returning alien that actually adds something to the show. For every successful alien, there's been a dozen duffers (the Tritovores, the Slitheen, Abzorbaloff, the Adipose etc), but the Ood have that certain something which sets them apart. Their appearance in 'The Impossible Planet', despite almost never happening (the Ood were a late replacement for the ever farting Raxacoricofallapatorians), raised some serious and disturbing questions. Why would the Ood agree to a life of slavery? Would they really die if neglected, and if so—why and how? What was the true purpose of the Ood?

This was Keith Temple's chance to answer some of those questions, and generally, I think he did a good job. The removal of the hind brain was a cruel, yet bizarrely logical explanation for the Ood's placid nature, and I enjoyed Tim McInnerny's portrayal of the Klineman Halpen. His transformation into an Ood was both bizarre and gruesome, yet was a fitting end to his reign of abuse. (A true case of, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em). Kudos, too, to Sigma Ood for promising to look after the tentaclified Halpen. I'm not sure I'd have been so kind.

I was less inspired by the episode's supporting characters. Solana seemed like something of a wasted opportunity. It made no sense to me that, despite knowing the full horror of what was going on at Ood Operations, she still chose to turn on the Doctor without at single hint of moral conflict. This kind of shifting morality for the sake of creating drama really pisses me off, mainly because it's so easy to avoid. Just create a character with a discernible moral outlook, then forbid them to deviate from it unless (a) it's part of the character's development, or (b) there's a sound narrative reason to do so. Don't just have your characters do any old shit because it provides an exciting set-piece for your story.

Mr Kess was also a waste of time. He came across a little too comic book—from his insane cackling as he tried to kill the Doctor, to his glee at the thought of gassing the Ood. Clearly he was an utter shit of an individual. All things considered, I think I'd have preferred to see Keith Temple do something completely unexpected with the Ood. Still, if the rumours are to be believed, Ood Sigma may be returning in this autumn's 'The Waters Of Mars.' Maybe they'll do something satisfying with them then.

Other Thoughts:

—Why wasn't Ood Sigma troubled by red eye? Did they say? If they did, I missed it.

—I enjoyed Donna's everyman reaction to the Ood that killed Bartle. Initially, see seemed disgusted by its appearance, yet as the story progressed she gradually came to empathise with the Ood.


Doctor: “His eyes turned red.”
Donna: “What's that mean?”
Doctor: “Trouble.”

Ood: “All Ood are born to serve. Otherwise we would die.”

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