Monday, August 8, 2016

Origin Of The Ood Revealed On The "Planet Of The Ood!"

The Good: Good performances, Great themes, Decent plot development
The Bad: Ridiculous claw incident/special effects sequence
The Basics: One of the "sleeper hits" of Doctor Who, "Planet Of The Ood" develops one of the most intriguing aliens of the franchise while embodying the higher ethics of the franchise.

There are a number of iconic aliens from the Doctor Who franchise. Perhaps the most universally recognized in general culture are the Daleks and the Cybermen, but those are hardly the most distinct or intriguing of aliens created for the long-running science fiction franchise. In the modern production of Doctor Who, there are few races quite as original as the Ood. The Ood were introduced in the second season episode "The Impossible Planet" (reviewed here!) and they are fleshed out in "Planet Of The Ood."

"Planet Of The Ood" marks Donna Noble's departure from Earth. Until this point - she has only been in three episodes - she has been stuck on Modern and past Earth. In "Planet Of The Ood," Donna Noble and The Doctor journey to the 42nd Century and the distant planet known as the Ood Sphere, the planet from which Ood are harvested as a workforce for future humans. "Planet Of The Ood" alludes to "The Impossible Planet" and its sequel "The Satan Pit" (reviewed here!) by almost immediately presenting the Ood as victims of the same red-eye disease from that two-parter. The red eye seemed to be the influence of the force of ultimate evil in that episode, which makes its resurgence here somewhat unimaginative. That said, in many ways, "Planet Of The Ood" embodies some of the best aspects of Doctor Who.

The Doctor and Donna Noble arrive in the year 4126 on a frozen world. There, they encounter an Ood dying in the snow and The Doctor notices it has the red eye disease. Nearby, the pair finds an Ood showroom where they get into the facility by getting the eager saleswoman, Solana, to think they are members of a tour she is giving to potential buyers. The facility's administrator, Mr. Halpen, is concerned when his security forces discover the red eye infected Ood and he believes the Ood have gone rabid.

When The Doctor and Donna investigate the storage facility from which the Ood are being shipped, they accidentally activate the Ood there and their lives are put in jeopardy. Donna is horrified that human civilization is spreading through the galaxy, utilizing the Ood as slave labor. Her moralization comes into conflict with her survival instinct when she is thrown in with a batch of infected Ood. In fleeing for their lives, The Doctor and Donna figure out just how much the future humans have abused the Ood and they work to set the Ood free.

"Planet Of The Ood" is a fairly intimate episode that has a plot structure that is virtually identical to that of "Rose" (reviewed here!). The Doctor rescuing his Companion, the chases, the climax with a giant being, are strikingly similar to those of the prior Doctor's debut. The thing is, "Planet Of The Ood" feels nothing like "Rose" because the specifics are so drastically different and this episode takes the time to do what the series premiere could not; it explores the effects and ideas surrounding the alien. The Ood are presented as an unfortunate slave race and Donna belabors what it means that humans have enslaved the Ood. She is concerned for the Ood and for what it makes humans to "process" and sell the Ood.

"Planet Of The Ood" has The Doctor's Companion embodying an incredible morality that The Doctor often lacks and that sets Donna Noble apart. While The Doctor is often a hapless traveler, Donna reflects on ethics and morality. She wants to make changes and in "Planet Of The Ood," she lectures The Doctor on the importance of having a greater moral core. Sure, The Doctor hears the Oodsongs in his head, but it is Donna Noble who insists on acting when she experiences the sorrow the songs embody.

Midway through the episode, there is a special effects-driven sequence that is utterly ridiculous. To kill time, the Doctor is chased by a huge mechanical claw being manipulated by Mr. Halpen's security chief. The sequence does not fit most of the rest of the episode.

What is far more impressive in "Planet Of The Ood" is the acting. In addition to David Tennant and Catherine Tate interacting perfectly with virtual environments and objects, the guest performances are spot-on. Ayesha Dharker plays Solana and she is the perfect embodiment of a saleswoman in the episode.

It is Tim McInnerny who steals the show on the performance front. McInnerny played a buffoon in the popular comedy franchise Blackadder (reviewed here!) and it wasn't until I looked the episode up on the IMDB that I recognized McInnerny as Halpen in "Planet Of The Ood." McInnerny's Halpen is authoritative, corrupt and mean, which he is an entirely different performance set from his Percy and Darling characters in Blackadder. He is credible as Halpen and his is an astonishingly good role and performance in "Planet Of The Ood!"

The special effects in "Planet Of The Ood" are somewhat mixed. The computer generated effects for the claw and the Ood hive brain are pretty terrible. At the other end of the spectrum, the make-up effects in "Planet Of The Ood" are exceptional. The Ood look great and even Halpen's transformation is handled incredibly well!

Ultimately, "Planet Of The Ood" is a wonderful episode of Doctor Who that is one of the great episodes for anyone who loves science fiction to watch!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of David Tennant as The Doctor here!


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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