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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doctor Who - "Planet of the Ood"

WHOSCALE: 6.7 out of 10

The fourth season of the revived series follows the format of the first episode being Earth-based and the next two consisting of one set in the past, and one in the future.

In this case, the second episode was set in the past with "The Fires of Pompeii," so it was time to zip back to the future with "Planet of the Ood," written by Keith Temple.

Temple seemed to be greatly partial to the original series, and it shows with numerous elements in this episode. Temple references the Hartnell story "The Sensorites" in this episode by indicating that the Oodsphere is a sister planet to the Sensphere. Temple also sets up the Doctor and Donna's arrival on the Oodsphere in classic form, where they arrive on the outskirts of where the bulk of the story will take place, and The Doctor and Donna follow a kind of proverbial "trail of bread crumbs," starting with the discovery of an injured Ood left for dead in the snow. The setting used for the episode was a cement factory, so it tremendously echoed how the classic series cut costs on set design by improvising with nearby industrial facilities. The storyline was excellent, and it unfolded at a relatively decent pace, although executive producer Davies had to inject a substantial amount of 21st century society into the episode before it hit the broadcast waves.

One of the things I disliked about the opening and closing scenes with this episode was the over-use of CGI to create exotic backgrounds, for the sole purpose of indicating that "this is an alien planet." The classic series illustrated on a regular basis that you can set a story on an alien planet and make it believeable without having to have a quick "distance shot" showing an exotic landscape. ("Genesis of the Daleks" & "Destiny of the Daleks" both showed us the surface of Skaro with no mattes!) Granted, there are times when the use of CGI is simply unavoidable, such as the fly over of the rocket.

In spite of the story being set 2000 years into our future, Davies insisted that in order for the "idiot masses" to grasp the concept that the Oodsphere was in fact being visited by businessmen and buyers, they all had to be wearing 21st century businessmen suits.

Unfortunately, I feel like what we see onscreen is rarely what some of the writers had in mind after Davies gets through butchering them. An article on Wikipedia even states that Davies turned down Temple's first draft of this episode because it was "too much like classic Doctor Who," and "seemed more like a six-part serial." That in itself shows that Davies wasn't aiming for the revived series to be like Doctor Who, but more like as many fans put it, "Eastenders in Space"

After Davies nip and tucked Temple's script, the walking scenes are changed to running scenes and the action scenes are hyped up and accompanied with orchestral music. The tear jerker for this episode is a chorus piece used for the Ood's "Song of Captivity," which then makes Donna shed a few tears for us.

The story was relatively good, and the execution of the episode was OK, but I would have loved to see how the episode would have done if say, Steven Moffat would have edited Temple's draft.