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Sunday, April 20, 2008

New DOCTOR WHO this week voyages to the "Planet of the Ood"

"The file is irrelevant, sir. Have a nice day."

"Now that's what I call a spaceship. You've got a box and he's got a Ferrari!"

"We're so not married. Never ever."


"Who do you think made your clothes?"

"I spent all that time looking for you Doctor, because I thought it was so wonderful out here. I want to go home."

"It's a revolution."

"Please have a drink, sir."

"Being with you, I can't tell what's right and what's wrong anymore."

"Every song must end."

Friday night on the Sci-Fi Channel saw the start of Season 4 (or Season 30 depending on how one chooses to reckon it) of Doctor Who here in the States, beginning with 2007's Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned". This was my first time seeing it and to be honest, I didn't care too much for that one. Even by Doctor Who standards, "Voyage of the Damned" was incessantly hokey. I mean: the Titanic in space? It was certainly no "Love & Monsters" (will I ever be able to cleanse my mind of that atrocity?) but it was nowhere as good as "The Christmas Invasion" in 2005 or even the subsequent season's "The Runaway Bride", either.

But this coming week most American viewers will get to see the first regular episode of the season, "Partners in Crime" (read here for my original review), which is a far better episode, and perhaps the strongest season premiere of the revived series to date.

Meanwhile over the weekend "Planet of the Ood", the third episode of the new season, was transmitted by BBC One. It was then bootlegged by many among our Brittish brethren (I'm still waiting for someone to catch that joke) onto the Internet, for downloading by impatient Doctor Who fans around the world. Speaking of which: I do not advocate piracy, and I happen to own Seasons 1 and 2 of the new Doctor Who run on DVD. Why? Because it's honest, it shows sincere support for the franchise especially from across the pond, and because I like being able to enjoy this show on my 42-inch high-def LCS television. And it's also going to be a fun thing to watch with my children someday.

(By the way, Geoff and Phillip and a few other people: I really can't wait to see what you think of "Partners in Crime", especially the last few minutes of it :-)

Anyways, "Planet of the Ood" marks the first time that the Doctor brings new companion Donna to a world other than Earth, after setting the TARDIS for a random destination. It delivers them to a frozen, seemingly dead planet very unlike anything that Donna was expecting. Her disappointment is quickly mollified as a luxury spaceliner soars above them. Then the Doctor hears a mournful song... which Donna strangely doesn't notice. It leads them to an Ood that lies dying in the snow.

Yes folks those lovable Ood – last seen in 2006's intense "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" two-part story – are back. And true to the title there is now a whole planet of them! If you were left wondering why the Ood were such a willingly servile race to humans, this new episode will provide the answers. Even though you may not like those answers but hey, that's why the Doctor is here!

"Planet of the Ood" continues the hot streak – which some will claim is very unusual this early in the season – that Doctor Who is on right now. I thought this episode has some terrific "hide behind the sofa" moments, but also good humor and even some social commentary that never goes so far with confronting the viewer as to beat them over the head with a message (which is the best way to handle social commentary in any show that's primarily concerned with entertaining people). It also has amazing use of make-up and special effects: the scene where the Doctor is trying to escape the industrial claw-lift is especially cool. David Tennant continues to shine as the tenth Doctor. And Catherine Tate is doing something with Donna that hasn't been done nearly enough in the history of Doctor Who: using a companion to illuminate and explore the many myriad facets of the Doctor's existence. It's a trend that the new show's producers became very good at doing with Rose in Season 1, and time has proven that they're getting even better at it.

If I've one complaint about "Planet of the Ood", it's that this "evil corporation/industrialist" as the Antagonist Of The Week™ shtick is starting to wear thin. Even if it was as a dummy front company like in "Partners in Crime", I'm starting to feel as if too many episodes I'm watching some variation of Weyland-Yutani from the Alien franchise. In fairness though, the context of "Planet of the Ood" made that appropriate for this story, but it's still something I'd like to see a respite from for awhile.

Look for Tim McInnerny from Blackadder as Halpen, the ruthless CEO of Ood Operations: a role to which McInnerny brings much of the humor that he was known for in his earlier series. Fans of the Star Wars series might also recognize Ayesha Dharker, the Indian actress who played Queen Jamillia in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. And another familiar face... even if we never actually see him... from that saga shows up in "Planet of the Ood" as Silas Carson – who played Ki-Adi Mundi and Nute Gunray in the Star Wars prequels – returns as the voice of the Ood.

"Planet of the Ood" gets 4 Sonic Screwdrivers out of 5.

Next week: everybody's favorite alien race of evil Mr. Potato Heads returns after being gone for 30 years in "The Sontaran Stratagem"!


Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should send a load of doggy de-wormer to the Ood...looks like they could use it.

Anonymous said...

23 years since the Sontarans last appeared. They were the enemy in The Two Doctors, first aired 1985. You didn't know that?

Chris Knight said...

anonymous, that's not nice! The Ood are a terrific new addition to the series, and you'll probably feel very sorry for them after watching this episode.

Nathan, I did not know that! I knew *of* The Two Doctors story and that it involved Patrick Troughton's Doctor meeting with Colin Baker's, but I've never had the chance to see it before. Though the fact that it was a Colin Baker-era story no doubt figures into why that is :-P

Personally I've always *loved* the Sontarans! They've never received the proper respect that's due them. They're perfectly designed for military conquest: that vent on the back of their necks is their weak spot but instead of a liability they smartly turned it into a strength by ensuring that they always meet their enemies face-first without EVER turning to run. And I really like their redesign for the new series: it's completely faithful to the original look while updating it for a modern audience. Can't wait to see them back in action this coming week :-)