Monday, April 21, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episode 3: "Planet of the Ood"

Well, that was a bit of a mess, wasn't it?

First off, I'm not sure why Russell T. Davies seems to find the Ood design so fascinating - they're basically the cantina band members from Star Wars with mini-Chtulus busting out of their chins. Yeah, they made for interesting wallpaper 2 seasons ago in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit," but was anyone besides Big Russ begging for a return visit? Even though I wasn't particularly yearning for more Ood, I went into this episode with an open mind; the preview looked intriquing and I was looking forward to seeing The Doctor and Donna's relationship continue to grow. Unfortunately, the best thing about the Ood was taken away from them this episode. That is, when they were first introduced, we were told they were a race that lived only to serve; without orders they would die. Now that's an interesting idea! Perhaps they evolved on a planet where there was another, dominant form of life and the Ood, as a survival strategy, became a "helper" species. Kind of cool, that. Well, guess what? Now we're being told that the Ood really aren't a "basic slave race." They're yet another alien race being used and abused by humans. Yawn. To add insult to injury, The Doctor even says that there is no way a race could have evolved to be helpers and that he should have known better when he first ecountered the Ood. Excuse me, Doc, but I think I've just explained how such a race could have come into existence! Not too difficult to comprehend, really. So, instead of being a slave race, the Ood now appear to be a race of peaceful aliens who carry their brains around in their hands. Yes, in the their hands. Because that would be a real evolutionary advantage and is in no way freakin' stupid. Talk about taking an interesting initial concept for an alien race and completely throwing it away to make a hackneyed social comment like, well, slavery is bad. Thanks, Doctor - I never realized that before.

The episode was set on an ice planet. Why? No reason. The cheap CGI and fake snow did very little to convince me that it was actually cold, so the "ice" was more of a distraction than anything else. I always have to laugh when actors are running around on bits of chopped-up paper spouting lines about how cold it is while sweat runs down their faces. Not to mention that you never once see anyone's breath. Have the makers of this episode actually ever been to cold a place? Wales gets cold enough to have visible breath, right? And what kind of sense does it even make to have the Ood originate on a frozen wasteland? They have no hair/fur and they all seem to wear nothing more that thin jumpsuits. But, I guess a species that evolved to include a brain that they have to carry around in their hands at all times (in the freezing cold, we now know) doesn't have to make any kind of sense whatsoever. Honestly, the setting just seemed like some mandate from the producers. "I know! Let's have an ice planet thrown in there!" And, having now watched the Confidential, I can confirm that that is exactly what happened. Russel T. Davies admits that he gave a list of "ideas" to the writer and asked him to incoporate them. What was on that list? Ood, slavery, ice planet. So, it sounds like we have Big Russ himself to blame for the crappiness of this episode.

So, the overriding concept and the setting both sucked. Was there anything good about the episode? I still like Donna. I thought the scene where she cried over the "native Ood" was nice. (Although why all of the native Ood wear black gloves just like all of the captive Ood makes little sense. I guess the budget didn't include any money for prosthetic Ood hands....) Even the cheesy bad guy - whose name I forget and I don't care enough to look it up - was wearing gloves before he turned into a Ood, which was a ridiculously stupid concept on its own. I was a little creeped out by the actual transformation sequence, though, so good on the special effects people! Oh, and there was a tacked-on chase sequence in the middle of the episode where a giant claw that was being controlled by a way-over-the-top "actor" tried to grab The Doc. What kind of factory would be so inefficient that they'd move all of their crates with one giant claw, anyway? Still, the sequence was kind of fun, if you could overlook the stupidity of the whole thing. It was also fun to see Ayesha Dharker (Queen Jamillia, Queen Amidala's replacement, from Attack of the Clones) pop up in Doctor Who. I'm a geek, I know.

Let's just move on. Maybe next week will be better. Although, I must admit, I am very surprised to see that they're bringing Martha back already. I would prefer more time to develop The Doctor/Donna relationship before throwing other companions in. And, although I did like Martha during her season of Doctor Who, her pointless and boring three-episode stint on Torchwood went a long way toward ruining that good will. At this point, I'd prefer a longer Martha break. Still, we'll see how the Sontaran two-parter works! I'm hoping for the best. At least Martha's bringing UNIT with her, after all, which could be fun. Incidentally, UNIT now appears to stand for "Unified Intelligence Taskforce" instead of "United Nations Intelligence Taskforce" (because the United Nations wasn't keen on having their name used in a sci-fi program, apparently). That's fine, I supposed, but couldn't the producers think of an "N" word to stick in there? "Unified National Intelligence Taskforce" or something?

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

I just watched this episode on BBC America and it SUCKED. God, I hate NuWho and this episode further strengthens my hatred for RTD's writing and David Tennant's acting.