Who Let The Ood Out

Doctor Who Planet of the Ood

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Planet of the Ood was a very old fashioned episode of Doctor Who. In fact it was the sort of episode that would not have been out of place in the first season. If it had of been an episode in the first series of Doctor Who it probably would have been six episodes long and the Doctor, or the companion, would have been absent for a couple of episodes whilst the actor was off on their jollies! Thankfully in this day and age we don’t get such long draw-out stories and Planet of the Ood worked perfectly well as a single episode story.

The Ood are a fairly interesting alien race, being a little bit like The Sensorites (even coming from the same galaxy), but a little less boring and also appearing in a story that does not send viewers into a coma whilst watching it.

The episode was actually very moving and you really did feel sorry for the Ood for what the Halpern corporation were doing to them. Just like in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit they were being exploited but at least in that story they were treated a lot better than they were in this episode. It was more like Guantanemo Bay than the Ood-Sphere here and it was nice when they were all freed to sing their song.

It is very difficult to actually dislike the Ood because they aren’t an evil alien race, they have just been treated badly and herded like cattle by other races, or powerful beings, for their own nefarious ends, and not the peaceful race, who just want to be left alone to sing their song, that we meet locked up in the breeding centre on the Ood-Sphere.

As a result you do have to feel for them, even if they do look like monsters. The story was an allegory of the slave trade and wasn’t particularly subtle with its slavery is bad message, but having said that this is a programme watched mainly by families and not a hard-hitting BAFTA winning documentary about the slave trade so it can be as unsubtle or as subtle as its likes, you can take the message or leave it, and it won’t diminish your enjoyment of the story either way.

I liked the face that the Ood had their very own protest group, Friends of the Ood. This might have been mentioned in their previous appearance, but I have slept since then.

Security must have been pretty lax in the Halpern corporation the day that the scientist was employed by them. Didn’t they put on the application form have you ever, or would you consider, been a member of Friends of the Ood. That would have ferreted out undesirables from the company. I think that they should have sacked their head of human resources!

Catherine Tate was excellent, as always, as Donna and you had to laugh at her first reaction when walking out of the TARDIS onto a freezing planet, because it is the sort of thing that any of us would have done in her shoes.

Donna is much more grounded than possibly any other companion ever and will not be caught in unsuitable clothing if she can at all help it, so kudos to Donna for that.

You have to hand it to the Mill for some sterling work on making a realistic looking alien planet. The last time we had this much snow in an episode was Revelation of the Daleks, but this looks ten times better by comparrison than that alien planet did. They also have the same director. Coincidence?

Tim McInnerny was good in the role of Halpern, essaying the kind of the villain role that was popular in the Jon Pertween era. He even turned into an Ood at the end of the episode which neither I (nor my wife) saw coming. It was poetic justice what with the way he was treating the Ood, especially after he threatened to gas thousands of them just because he thought that they would ruin his business. He even likened it to the foot and mouth solution that we have nowadays.

We can only assume that he is completely turned into an Ood as we only saw the head of Ood in a pin-striped suit after his transformation. What is it with aliens and pin-stripes? First Dalek Sec and now the Ood. They are all at it!

No doubts there will be an Ood in a business suit figure released by character options very soon. Or perhaps there will be a Halpern figure with a peel back head revealing the Ood beneath!

There was one line of dialogue in the episode that will make people ruminate for weeks and weeks to come, and it wasn’t even anything to do with the episode itself. The line in question is when the Ood says to the Doctor that his song will end soon, that all songs must come to an end eventually. Now this got me thinking that perhaps there might be a regeneration at the end of the series. I mean why say to the Doctor that his song is going to end soon, when it will be somebody else who dies as it would not be his song that had ended would it? It would be the character that dies song that has ended, surely, not the Doctor’s?

I know that David Tennant is said to be definitely in the 2008 Xmas special, and in the 2009 special, but they could hardly say that he is without spoiling the ending, if he were to regenerate at the end of Journey’s End, would it?

The title certainly seems to suggest that it might happen, just as The Parting of the Ways did for the ninth Doctor. We will have to wait and see, really, but I will not be adverse to a new Doctor for the specials and series 5 onwards.

The episode as a whole was rather good, and was a fine first Doctor Who story by Keith Temple, and hopefully a last hurrah for the Ood, who, whilst an interesting alien race, have probably ran out of mileage after the three episode they have appeared in. I mean, what more can you really do with them? As a result I would say that this episode would be a nice way for them to bow out of the series for good, and it all bodes well for the rest of the series, especially if that line means what I think it means!

Volcano Day

Doctor Who The Fires of Pompeii

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The Fires of Pompeii is an old Doctor Who standby – the psuedo historical. Quite why it couldn’t have been a proper historical without alien involvement is not clear. Perhaps the story of Pompeii itself is not enough to keep an audience engaged for 45 minutes any more. So far all the stories set in the Earth’s past have always had some sort of alien involvement and really do I think that they missed something by not doing a pure historical adventure in this case.

Catherine Tate continues to impress as Donna with her impassioned plea to the Doctor at the end of the episode about not leaving all of the Pompeians to die, even if he could only say one or two, particularly the ones that they had got to know during the episode. It would have been very cruel of the Doctor to leave Caecillius and his family to die.

You could argue that they didn’t really know any of the other people so they might not have felt as guilty leaving them to die as if they just gone off and left Caecillius and family to die who they did actually know and quite liked. As it is known that there were survivors of Pompeii I am sure that the Doctor just saving four of them will not make that much of a difference and it wasn’t as if Donna wanted to save the whole populace of the city (which admittedly she did right at the beginning of the episode).

I know the Doctor said, way back in the The Azetcs, that you cannot rewrite a single line of history, but in this case history happened as it should have done – Pompeii was destroyed by Vesuvius, so nothing untoward happened really.

I also laughed when Donna stood up to the high priestess, when she was about to plunge a dagger into her. It sounds like just the sort of thing Donna would do because she doesn’t take any shit from anyone, not even a knife wielding maniac hell bent on killing her. I don’t think any other companion would have done that, but Donna would have done, and she did. I think that probably gave the Doctor the chance that he needed to rescue her, because it probably shocked the high priestess that someone had stood up to her, as it is unlikely that that happened very often.

Peter Capaldi was very good as family man, and marble specialist, Caecillus; Phil Davis was quite good (if a little shouty, and more than a little bit Steptoe) as the augor Lucius Dextrus, but Phil Cornwell was a bit silly in his role as a stall holder, but then again if you are going to cast Phil Cornwell in a role like this one then you will get exactly what you got here.

The effects work in this episode was excellent and the final shots of Mount Vesuvius erupting at the end of the episode and the money shot of the entire city being covered in molten lava were amongst the most accomplished effects shots seen in the series so far. It was better than those used in the Supervolcano docudrama they made a few years ago, and those were bloody good. The rock monsters weren’t that badly done either.

I had to cringe when the Doctor pulled out a waterpistol from his coat to threaten the rock monsters with, and not just because I thought that he was reaching for his sonic screwdriver, but a water pistol. I know that I have often likened the tenth Doctor to a schoolboy, but that was pretty ridiculous when you think about. I mean how old is the Doctor? Five! Having said that, though, it was worth it for Donna’s retort!

There was a quite a lot of humour in this episode (the Doctor introducing himself as Spartacus and Donna saying that she was called Spartacus as well; the line about TK Maximus; a scene virtually lifted from The City of Death where the TARDIS is viewed as a piece of modern art) as well as the drama about the impending doom of Pompeii, but I would say that the level of humour is about the same as in Partners in Crime and it does not all come from Catherine Tate at all, as a few people have said.

A friend of mine is really against Catherine Tate being in Doctor Who and has gone as far as saying that the show is being harmed by being bought down to her level, rather than her coming up to our level or something to that effect. Whatever our level is, of course.

James Moran did a good job with this, only his second television script, and like his episode of Torchwood (Sleeper) there were plenty of jokes mixed in with the drama of the piece, but not at the expense of it I would say.

What the hell was all that about at the end with a piercing blue light emanating from the TARDIS when it returned to save Caecillius and his family? I don’t remember that happening normally when the TARDIS door opens.

The episode certainly looked expensive and lavish (much like the HBO Rome series was), and they really used their filming in the Cinecitta studios to their best advantage as it really looked different to any other episode of the series. If you thought The Shakespeare Code looked like it was expensive then The Fires of Pompeii looks like a Hollywood blockbuster by comparison.

They also took a lead from that series in their portrayal of Roman life replete with modern sounding slang from the inhabitants of Rome, and the normal, everyday worries that the citizens have and where children are much like the children of today in particular in the scene at the end of the episode when Caecillius chides his daughter for going out in a short dress, or when he is telling his son off at the beginning for hanging out with the wrong sort of people. There was another link in the form of Francesca Fowler, who played Evellina in this episode, who also appeared in Rome.

I had to laugh when Donna asked an obvious question about the TARDIS translation circuits when she asked what they would hear when you used the actual language that they were speaking in the place they had landed, something not even the Doctor knew, although why would he, and, to be honest, why would he care?

Of course when the Doctor and Donna spoke any Latin it sounded Welsh for some unknown reason. Aside from Rose no-one has ever really commented on the fact that everyone seems to speak English whenever they travelled to a place where they obviously wouldn’t have spoken English, such as in The Masque of Mandragora and, of course, The Romans (another story referenced in this episode). Oh, yes, and for some odd reason the people of Pompeii had a variety of accents from Cockney (the stallholder, Dextrus) to Scottish (Caecillius), perhaps the TARDIS has an accent filter built into the translation circuits!

I wonder if the Doctor’s initial thought of getting the hell out of there was more motivated by the fact that he knew that he was also there in an earlier incarnation of a gurning Scottish dwarf with a screeching redheaded assistant, than the fact that they were soon to be covered in ash and volcanic rock?

The Fires of Pompeii was another triumph for the revamped Doctor Who, and was much more like an episode of early Doctor Who, than any episode of the current series have been. I must admit that I wasn’t all that impressed by it, after my first viewing, but I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more the second time around.

Prima Donna

Doctor Who: Partners in Crime
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I would like to thank Catherine Tate for making me look forward to a series of Doctor Who, which I can’t, in all honesty, say I that have since 2005. I enjoyed her first appearance in The Runaway Bride and I wasn’t disappointed with her turn in Partners in Crime either. After just two episodes she is fast becoming one of my favourite companions of all time!

I loved the mime sequence between the Doctor and Donna, which does seem to be an element that a lot of people can’t stand, but the wife and me were laughing our heads off at it! You can’t imagine that working between any other Doctor/Companion team really and I believe that it worked, and was a very memorable scene for the right reasons, not that many people would agree with me.

It was amusing that they kept missing each other at the start of the episode too. It was almost farce like with one of them walking past a door that the other one would walk through seconds later, which I personally don’t think is a bad thing at all. Others may disagree but that’s just me. I thought that they probably did get away with that a bit longer than they needed to but it was fun to watch so what the hell!

I also loved the fact that Donna didn’t fawn over the Doctor, and look all gooey eyed at him and tell him how brilliant he is, because he does that himself more than enough! It also made me laugh when she presented the Doctor with suitcases, hatboxes and more suitcases, only a woman would need to travel with so much luggage! I bet one of those suitcases was full of shoes. At least Donna is going to prepared and will not be in a situation where she doesn’t have the right outfit for any given situation, and will not have to wear totally inappropriate clothing like the majority of her female predecessors did.

I would have to say that Donna is quite the opposite to the previous two companions which is a breath of fresh air and gives the Doctor/Companion team a brand new dynamic that we haven’t seen in the last four series, that of a couple of good mates travelling and having adventures together. The moment when she thought that the Doctor wanted her for his mate, even though he meant that he was just wanted a friend, was hilarious.

Some people thought that Catherine Tate would shout her way through the series but here she only shouted on a couple of occasions: once was when she was hanging in the air scared out of her wits and once later when she thought that the Doctor was coming on to her. I wouldn’t call that shouting her way through the episode at all. Tennant often shouts more than that and people don’t have a problem with that and at least Catherine Tate isn’t shouting to make herself sound bigger and more important.

There was a lot of comedy in this episode but Tate also showed the other side of her acting talents in a couple of really well written, beautifully acted scenes between Donna and her granddad, Wilf (played by the excellent Bernard Cribbins) who she can confide in, unlike her mother, who just seems to think that she’s gets in the way and should be doing this or that and not whatever it is they are doing at the time although isn’t that just mothers in general?

The campfire scene between Donna and her granddad was the best of these scenes (which appeared in the cinema trailer that is currently on interactive via the red button). It is small intimate scenes like that one that the new series are so good at and are also the scenes that a lot of Doctor who fans don’t seem to like very much, which I just don’t understand.

The episode was a lot of fun though, but it does have to be said, that there wasn’t really much a plot involved but that just didn’t matter as Tennant and Tate bounced off each other so well, that you forgot that there wasn’t much going on. Well, I did anyway.

The basic plot was very similar to one of the Torchwood novels (Slow Decay) but it was done in a much less graphic way than in that novel. I mean in that one, the people taking the so called wonder diet pill, ended up eating other humans, and then eat away at their own flesh, whereas in this one their unwanted fat turns into cute little blobby creatures called The Adipose, which in retrospect is far more appealing than the former.

The Adipose were very cute and if they don’t release a stress busting toy, or even just a cuddly version, then they are really missing something. My wife would buy one and I would quite like one for my desk.

Sarah Lancashire was quite good in the role of the main villain of the piece, Miss Foster even though she wasn’t actually that bad in the end, rather, as they said in the episode a sort of galactic Supernanny. Now I didn’t really notice, until it was mentioned in the confidential after the episode that Miss Foster actually dresses the same way that the Supernanny on telly does: smart black suit with matching glasses. Having said that I don’t watch Supernanny so I think I can forgive myself for failing to notice that.

I guess you could say that the fact that there was no seemingly real threat in the episode was a bad thing but I do have to say, that that fact did not diminish my enjoyment of the episode; in fact I paid it little attention at all.

Partners In Crime was a good start to what looks like it will be a highly enjoyable series, it won’t come top in any season polls and be remembered as a classic Doctor Who episode, but I enjoyed it immensely!

War Wounds

Torchwood: Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds was certainly a shocking season finale. It provided me with a number of shocks, most of them not very nice at all. Well, I certainly didn’t see the events in this episode happening and for almost half of the episode I was convinced that it was someone other than the real culprit responsible for the dastardly deeds that happened and was sure that it was Captain John who was solely responsible for nearly blowing up half of Cardiff (as well as trying to blow up Team Torchwood), despite his protestations of innocence, but it turns out that it wasn’t him at all, but was in fact Jack’s missing brother, Gray, who had gone totally mad and wanted to destroy everything that Jack held dear.

You had no reason to expect that it was anyone other than Captain John because it just seemed so obvious that it was just him being a spurned lover, but boy did they have me fooled and I was genuinely shocked when the revelation that it was Gray who was behind it all. We then found out what had happened to Gray from the time that Jack accidentally left him behind, when their father was killed, to the time that Captain John found him, and it was obvious that he had gone totally and utterly insane and, boy, from that point on wasn’t Grey really nasty? I did like that they cast someone who does look a little bit like him as his brother, or at least more like him as he is now, than when they were little when they looked nothing like each other at all.

Some quite nasty things happened in this episode such as Jack being buried alive for 1874 years. I mean how old is Jack now? He is a lot older than the Doctor that’s for sure when you consider that he has been on Earth for a hundred and so years before this episode and then spend that amount of time buried alive and then another 107 years in suspended animation. By my reckoning that makes him at least 2000 years old! He certainly doesn’t look bad on it though. He must moisturise.

The last 100 odd years in suspended animation wouldn’t have been that bad, because at least he wouldn’t be aware of the passage of time, but he didn’t have that luxury when he was buried beneath Cardiff for nearly two millennia. He didn’t seem that pissed off when he was rescued by members of Torchwood in 1901 either (with one of them being one of the women who had recruited him into Torchwood in the first place) he was more bothered about not running into himself and crossing his own time stream. Well I suppose travelling with the Doctor had rubbed off on him a bit.

He even forgave his brother when he saw him again, which is a bit much when you consider what he had done to him and what he had been through. It must have been ten times worse than what Gray experienced, but Jack is a forgiving sort of guy and had a hell of a long time to think about things, unlike his ungrateful little brother who wasn’t the slightest bit sorry for what he had done and told Jack that he would never, ever forgive him for what happened when they were children.

I must admit I actually thought that Jack might have killed his brother when he came back but at the end he still couldn’t bring himself to actually kill him but decided to put him into suspended animation instead. Like Captain John said however he won’t all of a sudden be sorry for what he had done when he wakes up and will probably try do exactly the same thing again but I guess Jack thought it was worth the risk.

I certainly wouldn’t have forgiven him because he killed Toshiko, the bastard. I must admit I cried when Toshiko died, I just couldn’t keep it in. She had always been my favourite character in Torchwood and it was just so, so sad. She didn’t deserve to die like that but at least she managed it with a little dignity. Naoki Mori gave a fantastic performance in her last scenes and it is a real shame that she is not going to be in Torchwood any longer.

I had a strange feeling that something would happen to Tosh in this episode, I am not sure entirely why I felt this but there was some niggling doubt that she would not make it out of this series alive and sadly I was proved right. It was still bloody shocking though!

The scenes between the dying Tosh and Owen before the radiation flooded the room he was in were superb and the moment when she told Owen not to scream because he was breaking her heart was the moment that I almost lost control and burst into tears.

That was a brilliant scene, superbly written and beautifully acted. Both Burn Gorman and Naoki Mori were great in this episode and in their last scenes in particular. I laughed at the revelation that Tosh had to cover for Owen in only his second day in the job and that was the first time we ever saw Tosh, in Aliens of London. It was nice that they finally put a reference in that Tosh had also met the Doctor before, even if they didn’t manage to do until just before the character died. Still better late than never I suppose!

I thought that Exit Wounds was a fine ending to an excellent series, and I hope that Torchwood returns sometime soon, even if will be bereft of Tosh.