This past weekend, The Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) landed on a planet destined for doom – the evil in question? A black hole. Not so bad actually, just pop in the TARDIS and go, right? Well, not really. The TARDIS, The Doctor’s only other friend, was gone. Did I mention that there was a satanic evil waiting deep below the earth’s surface?
All of this danger should have made for a great start to this two-parter from Matt Jones, but instead gets weighed down by erratic tones in the script and too many supporting characters.
The start of the episode, like some of them this season, began with a bad attempt at humor by Rose (“If you think there’s gonna be trouble, we could just go back in and go somewhere else”), followed by The Doctor babbling about “Space Base, Moonbase.” Of course, they discover ancient writing with the heading overstating the obvious (“Welcome to Hell”), which is followed up by the introduction to the Ood, a race of people who communicate through small strobe-lights that could have been stolen from Studio 54. The Ood also carry the same dialogue as the Daleks (“Exterminate!”) and The Cybermen (“Delete!”). In their case it’s “We Must Feed”, which suggests that by the end of the opening sequence credits, they will be running from cannibals. Instead, they are shown as slaves who wanted to “feed” The Doctor and Rose. WTF?
After that misfire of tension, we meet the crew who run the base that sat on top of the planet. Of course, as a cliché, they are explorers who mine various planets so that they can claim their resources (a la “The Pirate Planet”). Most of the members of the crew seemed one-dimensional given the dumb-founded “people” dialogue (“I can’t believe they are real people.” “Wow! Real people!”). One word of the title of the episode also got a mention ad nasuem (“Impossible”), which by the end of the episode really took all the mystery out of it.
And then there’s the satanic evil lurking around.
Toby (played with great slyness by Will Throp) wasn’t given a lot of character development and was mostly used to discover the meaning behind the writings. He does, however, get one of the greatest “Don’t look back” scenes in TV history; the writer also did the right thing of not showing whatever was there behind him at the last moment. When he became taken over, he inhabited the very writings he was researching on his skin, which could have been exploited more. Instead, the Ood are given the same job of carrying out the plan of the spirit inside the planet, which seems the easy way of carrying suspense in sci-fi. If John Carpenter could pull that off with The Thing, they could have easily pulled that off in Doctor Who.