Doctor Who – Planet of the Ood Review (or “It’s Good To Have A Happy Ending”)

Well, it looks as though the bookies favourite won through and Peter Capaldi has become the 12th Doctor.

Brilliant.

Of all the candidates, he was by far and away the one I wanted the most, so I’m glad he got the gig.

What’s more, it really has made my review of Fires of Pompeii a bit of a time capsule piece. Life does have its ways of dishing up coincidences.

Anyway, in spite of all the Capaldi furore, I didn’t think Fires of Pompeii was up to much; it was a thin on the ground disappointment.

Hopefully things improve in Planet of the Ood

Doctor Who – Planet of the Ood Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor & Donna witness the end of 200 years of Ood oppression by humankind on their home planet.

And they celebrate with a nice song

Thoughts – Another Pleasant Surprise

Back in my review of 42, I said that for the most part, I have a general idea of how much or how little I’ll like a story before I watch it again to review it. After all, I’ve seen all of these episodes before.

I Can't Stress Enough How Highly I Rate The Ood Costumes

I Can’t Stress Enough How Highly I Rate The Ood Masks

But sometimes – as was the case with 42 – I find myself pleasantly surprised.

Planet of the Ood is another such example.

This is an excellent episode of Doctor Who.

While some struggle to come up with 45 minutes of material and others perhaps rush to the finish, this is one story that works at a steady rate, with a story that logically builds up to a well written and satisfying conclusion.

And it’s got an engaging plot too, helped by a cast full of competent actors playing characters that all have a purpose within it.

The Ood

Central to what makes The Planet of the Ood a quality story is, funnily enough, The Ood.

The last time we saw them – in the Impossible Planet/Satan Put two parter – they were little more than background characters; fodder to be used as a means of showing the mind control capabilities of the Devil. They were considered so valueless that the Doctor decided it was worth saving the life of one human as opposed to over one hundred Ood.

Here though, their story is told, and it’s an interesting one.

Yes, we already knew that they are treated as servants-come-slaves but to see their home planet, hear about their song of captivity, their second brain and the reason for said captivity is far better than doing another story where they have turned against the humans again.

I’d go as far as to say that this is the best followup story a Doctor Who Alien has ever had.

Proper thought has gone into giving the Ood depth. Perhaps it’s easier to do that for returning villains who aren’t just up for a second round of “Conquer the Galaxy” against the Doctor.

Here’s another bold statement to make as well; The Ood are the best looking Doctor Who Aliens there have ever been. Those masks are just amazing.

I was recently having a debate with some guys who were peddling the tired old argument that Doctor Who looks cheap compared to Star Wars.

But does it really?

The Ood masks are as good as anything I’ve seen in any TV show. It’s the tendrils that hang out of their mouths, and more specifically, the realistic moisture that the makeup department have put on them that looks superb. More than that though, the Ood are able to show expression in a subtle way. The look of surprise in Ood Sigma’s eyes at some of the stuff Halpen comes out with is better than you’d get from any Dalek, Cyberman or Ice Warrior.

I was just really impressed by them.

Donna

But I was even more impressed by Donna.

Similarly, for people who moan about Doctor Who looking cheap, just check out that scene. Beautiful.

Similarly, for people who moan about Doctor Who looking cheap, just check out that scene. Beautiful.

Catherine Tate is astonishingly good in Planet of the Ood (hey, that rhymes)

She brings some good humour to the episode , such as the way she loses focus when an Ood calls her “Miss”. “Why did you call me Miss; do I look single?” is an inspired line to add, because it makes her seem so much more like a proper person than a “Doctor Who Assistant”. Her line towards the end about being unable to tell what’s right or wrong anymore is not only amusing, but a point well made considering what she’s just seen.

What I really like about Tate’s performance though is the way she handles drama and emotion.

There’s nothing over the top; she takes it all seriously, and she shows genuine emotion. I touched on it last time and I’ll say it again here; you would not think Catherine “Am I Bovvered” Tate of the sketch show would have it in her to do drama so well. But she does; she really does.

Her delicate approach to the dying Ood at the start and her reaction to hearing the Ood song is better than anything from either Billie Piper or Freema Agyeman, and I say that taking an episode like Father’s Day into account.

I mean, as much as I liked Martha, you’ve only got to watch her line delivery in the next time trailer to see what I mean.

But do you know what I like best about Donna here? It’s her relationship with the Doctor. Without any of this unconvincing romance or unrequited love stuff, we have two adults who are presented as equals. Rather than a girl with a crush, Donna is a well-rounded character who the viewer and the Doctor can respect.

I can’t stress enough how good I think she is in this.

At this rate she’ll be the best companion since Ian & Barbara.

Murray Gold, Take A Bow

And while I continue to heap praise upon people, I will take time to commend the Incidental Music composer, Murray Gold.

If looks could kill...

If looks could kill…

Sure, Gold has his faults, with his music often being too repetitive or trying too hard to sell what the director feels should be the emotion in the scene, and he can get it wrong sometimes.

But I can think of five occasions where he gets it absolutely bang on, and this is the first of those.

All throughout, the incidental music works, but the Ood’s Song of Freedom is beautiful. I really mean that.

Take a bow, son, you deserve it.

It’s Ok To Have A Happy Ending

I think blokes like to “like” bloke-ish things.

You know what I mean; it’s manly to say that you like action, fights and drama, but it’s less so to admit to enjoying moments that could be described as Heartwarming.

I’ve got no such problems.

I loved the ending to Planet of the Ood. I’ve already said the Song of Freedom was beautiful, but it was helped by what we saw on screen.

Planet of the Ood has a nice, happy ending. The Ood, who you felt for throughout, were freed from servitude and everyone came together to rejoice in their song.

Mushy? A bit, but what’s wrong with that?

It was to the point and it was the best possible outcome.

There’s nothing wrong with a happy ending, or admitting to liking it (and please don’t find any smut in that).

Random Observations

  • As much as you’d think that I’d be keen to see the Ood return, since I enjoyed this episode so much, I absolutely wouldn’t. I know they have a couple more cameos to come, but that should be it for them; their story arc is complete. Don’t ruin it by going back for more.
  • I love the clarity and politeness in Ood Sigma’s voice.
  • And I also thought the episode long relationship between him and his “owner” Halpen was nicely done.
  • Yes, the reveal that the hair tonic was actually turning him into an Ood was smart, but the bit I enjoyed the most was the way Halpen – who is anti-Ood throughout – gave Sigma his blessing to go and be with his people. It’s good depth.

    Nodawa!!!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!!

    Nodawa!!!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!!

  • Tim McInnerny did a grand job as Halpen, but it’s difficult to take him seriously because of Blackadder.
  • The Doctor’s rebuttal to Donna’s line about how they don’t have slaves where she comes from is very “Right on” and trying to put across the feelings of the writer more than the character.
  • Criticisms? Well the bits where the Doctor and Donna are chased in the warehouse is a bit “Action for the sake of Action”, and is kinda reminiscent of the start of the fourth Indiana Jones film, more’s the pity.
  • And the way Donna being locked in a crate with the Red-eyed Ood was resolved by her calmly walking out again was a bit crap.
  • Oh, and the revelation that the scientist guy had been working undercover for Friends of the Ood just seemed thrown in to make everything fall into place. A little bit more could have gone into making that fit better.
  • Halpen’s a strong man though, being able to chokeslam him over that rail with one hand.
  • The actual Planet of the Ood looks amazing, and I liked the setting for the location filming too.
  • Here’s another Donna moment I thought was great; the bit where she has a right go at Halpen about how the Ood have to be peaceful because of their external brain.
  • Oh, and one more – the casual reference to the Ood’s voice box as “that Persil ball”.
  • This review could not pass without me bringing up the reference to the Sense-Sphere. Up the Sensorites!!
  • The Simpsons is referenced here too. The sad thing is, it’ll probably still be getting made 2000 years from now.
  • The Doctor’s calm mentioning of The Devil was amusing.
  • Was I the only one who cheered when both the businessman and the PR women were killed? Probably not.
  • Planet of the Ood also does a good job setting up David Tennant’s departure with the off the cuff “Your song is ending soon, mate” line.
  • I’ve not mentioned David Tennant much in my recent reviews and I feel that does him a disservice. At a time when there’s a new Doctor just been cast, it’s natural to take a moment to look back at the old ones and think of how they did. Tennant is so consistent and so comfortable in the role that I don’t feel the need to comment on him too often. He’s pretty much always superb, and deserves all the credit he gets. I think in the years to come, people will remember him with a lot more fondness than Matt Smith. But that’s a story for another day…
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking:  #79, which is just incredibly daft.

Doctor Who – Planet of the Ood Review: Final Thoughts

In my Human Nature review, I came up with 8 key components that make a good Doctor Who story.

I missed one out.

Planet of the Ood isn’t the most dramatic, clever or authentic story there is, but it’s emotional. Blink, for all that it’s amazing, isn’t particularly emotional.

But that’s the flexibility that Doctor Who allows. Two stories that are about as far away from each other in tone and style as it gets, but both superb in their own ways. You won’t find too many shows that can manage that.

Planet of the Ood is a well told story that builds up to as satisfying and as happy an ending as a Doctor Who story can do.

The music is brilliant, the acting – especially from Donna – is different class and the costume design of the Ood is as good as it gets.

I look at the rating it gets – #79 – and don’t know whether to laugh or despair. I just cannot see how anyone who is being honest with themselves could say “You know what? The Fires of Pompeii, The Visitation and Tooth & Claw are a lot better than this”.

It’s all about opinions of course but come on, eh?

Give yourselves a shake, lads, it’s Ok to like the emotional stuff.

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3 Responses to Doctor Who – Planet of the Ood Review (or “It’s Good To Have A Happy Ending”)

  1. Bill Hiers says:

    Regarding Dr. Tyler (or “the scientist guy” who is a Friend of the Ood), am I the only one who found his fate disturbing and unfair…? It isn’t that he died. It’s *HOW* he died. Halpen just straight-up shooting him, I could’ve taken. But to have him die being sucked into the Ood Brain (the very thing he was trying to help) and “devoured” by it, without anyone, especially the Ood, seeming to care at all, seemed ridiculously cruel of the episode, and mars the otherwise perfectly happy ending. To this day I don’t get why the writers made this decision.

    • Sam Millard says:

      I believe from what I’ve read, he was give that fate not because his character deserved it but because it made Tim McInnerny’s character’s fate apt and fair. It was described by Tennant I think ‘as gothic, a bit Edgar Allen Poe,’ and he specifically said that his treatment of the friend of the Ood protester was the main reason.

  2. Rob says:

    Great review. I love this episode and I can’t understand it being ranked at number 79. It should be a hell of a lot higher.

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