The Best and Worst of Doctor Who: Series 2

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For previous installments:

The Best:

The Impossible Planet, and The Satan Pit

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This story is really no joke! It’s one of the most fantastic stories that has been produced in the series. The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit really are exceptional episodes, and the first appearance of the Ood, who would appear later on in Planet of the Ood, briefly in The Waters of Mars, and The End of Time.

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According to the IGN review of The Impossible Planet:

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The first thing that stands out in this episode is the fantastic set design. The look and feel of the claustrophobic and worn in station has a visual style reminiscent of some of the ship interiors from big budget sci-fi movies. This really adds a certain visual authenticity that is often lacking in other Doctor Who episodes. In addition, the metallic gritty feel of the station further adds to the plight of the Doctor and Rose, who have lost the Tardis and are trapped along with the other crew members. Of all the times that the Doctor’s been seemingly trapped in a timeline, this situation somehow feels the most bleak and hopeless.

The idea of a hellish creature being unearthed by scientists exploring some kind of mystery in the depths of the space isn’t particularly new. In fact, much of this episode felt a bit like watching a moderately entertaining B-movie like Event Horizon. Fortunately for Doctor Who fans, the interaction between Rose, The Doctor, and the crew is very tightly scripted and there are enough puzzle pieces that are strategically laid out by the writers that help elevate this episode way above the source material used for inspiration.

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Fans of the original run of Doctor Who would be interested to know that veteran actor Gabriel Woolf, who appeared in a Tom Baker episode in the mid 1970s, returns to provide the menacing voice of “The Beast.” In an extremely effective sequence, “The Beast” creeps up behind one of the scientists and eerily asks him not to turn around. “I’m behind you, Toby, I’m right behind you. Don’t look, don’t look at me. One look and you will die. I’m reaching out, Toby, I’m so close don’t turn around. Oh, I can touch you.”

Of course, Toby turns around and he realizes that something has happened to him. Strange hieroglyphics appear everywhere on his body and his eyes turn red. It’s a remarkably well directed scene and Gabriel Woolf’s incredibly eerie voice makes this the scariest Doctor Who scene of the season.

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Also interesting is the inclusion of a slave race known as the Ood. The Ood are these tentacle-mouthed beings whose primary function in life is to serve humans. They communicate telepathically with each other and use some kind of speech adapter when speaking to humans. Towards the end of the episode, the Ood are somehow overrun and possessed by the ancient beast that lives underneath the planet surface, and attack their former masters that run the station.

According to the IGN review of The Satan Pit:

Action sequences featuring masses of mindless zombies and their variants seem to a Doctor Who series stable. In this episode, a continuation of the previous “The Impossible Planet”, the fairly innocuous tentacle-lipped slave race known as the Ood are possessed by a satanic force, and are driven to destroy their human masters. In order to stop it from happening, Rose steps up and takes command of the likeable space station crew.

The only way to stop the Ood from overrunning the humans is to “flip the monitor, broadcast a flare, and disrupt their telepathy.” Meaningless technobabble aside, what this entails from a story standpoint is that the crew has to make their way to Ood Habitation via a network of cramped crawlspace tunnels that have no atmosphere. It’s up to the Captain, who’s stuck on the bridge, to provide moving packets of oxygen in the tunnel network as the crew makes their way. Sacrifices are made, the security officer dies, but they ultimately prevail and manage to bring down the Ood thanks to their camaraderie and teamwork.

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Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. There’s the matter of the possessed archaeologist who seems to be the new host for the satanic creature that inhabits the planet. The Devil’s mind wants to escape, and wants to use the crew to help him.

Meanwhile the Doctor and Ida disobey the Captain’s orders and pursue the devilish creature that supposedly lives down the large pit that opened up at the end of the previous episode. Once down there, the Doctor is confronted by the satanic monstrosity, which is brought to life with an impressive display of CGI graphic artistry.

In a series of profound realizations and logical leaps, the Doctor figures out the devil’s plan but is faced with a difficult decision. He can stop the devil’s mind from escaping in the rocket with the crew by destroying the gravity field, but in doing so he’d have to sacrifice Rose. The Doctor chooses to destroy the field, saying that if there’s one thing he believes in, it’s Rose. His faith in her is well placed, as Rose figures things out and sends the possessed Toby out into space and into the black hole.

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Back on the planet, in the ensuing destruction, the Doctor conveniently finds the missing TARDIS at the bottom of the pit. Once back in the TARDIS, he’s able to find the spiraling rocket, save the crew and bring the episode to a satisfactory conclusion.tumblr_mdv15w1XsS1qg1mbqo1_r1_500

Intentionally ambiguous about the creature’s origins, the TARDIS crew and the other humans part ways, but there was one ominous prediction that is emphasized at the end of the episode. During the devil’s preliminary monologue earlier in the episode, he had the following to say about Rose: “The valiant child who will die in battle so very soon”. Now we know that Billie Piper is leaving the show at the end of the year, so it’s going to be interesting to see how she ends up departing. The Doctor comforts Rose by saying that the creature was lying, but there was a slight air of uncertainty in his voice. In any event, with only a few episodes left to go, we’ll know Rose’s fate for sure by the end of this season.

The Worst:

New Earth

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New Earth

Overall, New Earth, even in rerun, didn’t have much to offer. It’s a relative bore actually intended to lead us to the secret of the Face of Boe, whose secret he will tell the Doctor in Gridlock.

According to the IGN review:

Rose’s first off-world adventure with the new Doctor brings them to the distant future on a planet called New Earth, at a luxury hospital in a city called “New New York”. Unfortunately, one of the inhabitants of the hospital is one of their first season adversaries, Cassandra.

Cassandra has developed a way of transferring her consciousness to another body, and decides that Rose would be a perfect host. With the help of her cloned human pet, Chip, she lures Rose to her lair in the underbelly of the hospital. After the requisite sinister exposition and explanation of her survival skills, the Lady Cassandra takes control of the Doctor’s companion. Cassandra wants to learn the secrets of the cat-people who run the hospital, and it seems that Rose’s body will help her discover them.

Meanwhile the Doctor is paying a visit to an old friend at the hospital; The Face of Boe. The oversized preserved face creature is the last of his kind, and it seems that he’s dying, but is being well tended to by the feline nurses. On the surface, it seems that the cat-people who run the hospital are well meaning. The hospital certainly has a reputation for curing illnesses, and the Doctor witnesses their advanced abilities firsthand when he sees the cat-people cure patients who have diseases for which there are no known cures.

The secret to their medical miracles is quite dark and unethical. It seems that the cat-people have harvested thousands of artificially grown human beings and have deliberately infected them with every known disease. They farm these infected humans for their cures. In an environment not unlike a Borg Cube from Star Trek, we see that there are thousands of pods containing these zombie-like humanoid creatures.

In addition to learning the hospital’s horrifying secret, the Doctor must also contend with the Cassandra-possessed Rose, who plots her way into releasing all of the diseased zombies from their pods.

The episode then turns into a zombie-fest, with the misunderstood diseased farmed humans wreaking havoc on the hospital, infecting everything they touch. In addition to avoiding the zombie attack, the Doctor has to deal with Cassandra/Rose. Of course, the Time Lord knows exactly what to do, and proceeds to cure the zombies by spraying them with the intravenous solution sacs that the cat-people use on the patients.

After exposing the cat-people’s treachery the police come and arrest the hospital staff. The only remaining problem was Cassandra, and the Doctor kindly returns her dying body to the past, where she could die in her own arms. Isn’t that supposed to be some kind of time-paradox thing? I guess the rules of the Back to the Future Universe don’t apply here.

Although this was an entertaining episode, it didn’t have the dramatic impact of the previous episode. Overall, “New Earth” featured more than a few interesting moments, such as the scenes with the Doctor and the Face of Boe, and Billie Piper’s performance as the Casandra-possessed Rose was hilarious; but the zombie attack felt quite out of place for a Doctor Who episode.

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On Cassandra-as-Rose: Much of this plot really takes it’s ideas from the stereotype that wealthy women (in this case, Cassandra) are extremely superficial.

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Next is the best and worst of Series 1.

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7 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Doctor Who: Series 2

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