Just a quick note before this review to let people know I’m overseas for a month so will a) miss the first female Doctor’s debut and won’t be able to live blog my reaction and b) The series two re-watch stops till I get back (obviously). Anyway, onwards to this two-parter. Back in the day I loved this one. Luckily, I still do. So what happens? Rose and The Tenth Doctor have their first ‘stuck on a spaceship with everyone bumped off one by one’ episode and face off the devil.
Ben: So many two parters this season! This one opened with Rose being funny, ominous ancient writing the TARDIS can’t translate, and then creepy betentacled aliens repeating ‘we must feed’ over and over. Creepy!
Maureen: I found it pretty terrifying when Rose said ‘welcome to hell’ and The Doctor doesn’t laugh. What an odd, yet fascinating two-parter this was.
Ben: Rose doesn’t do a whole lot in The Impossible Planet, except to be occasionally funny and stand up for the Ood. Oh, and get mysterious messages from an unknown spooky person. She did have some romantic moments with The Doctor though which was nice. The kissing of The Doctor’s helmet before he went down into the pit was a new evolution of their relationship, one the Doctor continues when he asks Ida to pass a message onto Rose before falling into the pit.
Maureen: I did enjoy Rose’s Ood puns! Also, I liked the return of Rose giving a shit about the under-trodden again. When a crew member says Rose should be part of an Ood freedom movement, my response was, HA SHE WOULD.
The Ood: There is nothing.
Rose: Yeah. I used to think that way.
Good old Rose comparing her chip-serving boredom to the Ood serving her slop.
What I liked a lot about this two-parter was the amount of quiet talky scenes that played out. Rose and Ten and Ten and Ida get the lion’s share of them (but more on Ida later). It’s ominously sad when Rose reveals that her phone has no signal and the dialogue below leading into the idea of Rose/Ten living together is one of the only times I’ve bought Ten/Rose.
Ten: Me? Living in a house?
Rose: You’d have to get a mortgage.
Ten: No. Me? Getting a mortgage? Now that’s terrifying.
Ten: I’ll catch ya later.
Rose: Not if I catch you later.
Ben: We at least get more good Rose scenes in The Satan Pit though. For starters, she stands up to Jefferson when he goes to kill Toby, then gets a gutload of foreshadowing – the thing in the pit thinks she’s going to die in battle and soon! She recovers from that pretty quickly though, taking charge of the team and getting them to think through the problems at hand. This is the kind of Rose action that I love: she’s away from The Doctor, thinking on her feet, and trying her very best to save the day. And save the day she does! Not only was she essential in getting the team to stop the Ood, she saves the survivors from The Beast possessed Toby. What a badass! And she gets her Doctor in the end, who she was so determined to wait for. Careful Rose, or you’ll end up waiting for a long time, just like Sarah Jane did. Still, all’s well that ends well, hey?
Maureen: Rose shows her idealism in a big way in The Satan Pit. She says if any crew member is shot, she has to be too. And I too love that she begs her fellow crew members to think for themselves and that she shows real bravery when she enters the Ood complex knowing the air supply is shot. We also got equal opportunity butt jokes! Also the below:
The Devil: I shall never die. Nothing shall ever defeat me.
Rose: Go to hell! (And she shoots).
Ben: I also liked how each of the team members gets a proper introduction and each gets a good chunk of screen time. Plus, good storylines! Toby gets a good horror storyline and is featured in some seriously scary scenes. The ‘don’t turn around’ scene, for starters. It’s typical possession stuff, but done well. The scene at the end of The Impossible Planet reminded me a lot of the séance scene from Penny Dreadful. Being able to spout intensely personal secrets about people is never going to end well, but it sure makes for a tense, dramatic scene. Poor Scooti died early on, but on the bright side it wasn’t because she was a dumb blonde in a horror movie.
Maureen: Yes, and I thought the scene where we see her floating through space was strangely beautiful cinematography. It’s also one of the first times I’ve really noticed just how perfect Murry Gold’s score can be for New Who.
Ben: Ida got the best scenes of the team, but that’s mostly because she spent a lot of time with the Doctor. The actress did an excellent job and I’d love to see her come back for another adventure one day.
Maureen: Yes, I had my fingers crossed for most of the two-parter that Ida wouldn’t die. I couldn’t figure out where I’d seen Ida before, but it turns out she played an older prostitute in Ashes to Ashes in another great part. Ida reminded me a bit of a proto-type River Song and I loved her intelligence, heart and leadership qualities, even in the face of extreme fear.
Ben: The Captain, Zach, was cool, calm, and collected initially, but does fall apart a bit when the going gets tough. The main thing is, he rises to the occasion, working together with the rest of the team to make an escape in The Satan Pit. Plus, it was refreshing to see a capable black man in a position of power.
Maureen: Yay for black representation and the black guy not being hated on by the story! *cough* Mickey *cough*
Ben: Danny, the Ood keeper doesn’t do a great deal except panic, but he does figure out a way to stop the Ood in The Satan Pit. The actor maybe committed a bit of overacting at times, but that could also be seen as the incredible panic he was experiencing. I did find Mr Jefferson to be a bit of a ridiculous character, but that could be because of the weird special effects they used for gunfire. Plus what kind of head of security can only kill one Ood after unloading a whole magazine of bullets? He is stormtrooper levels of bad at shooting.
Maureen: I liked the ambiguity of the Mr Jefferson character. The way The Devil played on his insecurities about his wife was bitterly sad. I cared, really cared, about every single crew member. I’m not sure any other New Who episode involving a big crew has ever managed to make me care for the crew so deeply.
Ben: Yes, overall, every one of the named characters was able to contribute substantially to the episode in one way or another, which was pleasing. I was invested in these characters and their fight to survive.
The Beast: The captain, so scared of command.
The Beast: The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife.
The Beast: The scientist, still running from Daddy.
The Beast: The little boy who lied.
The Beast: The virgin.
Ben: The Doctor takes a while to get down to business in The Impossible Planet, performing general doctoring until discovering the TARDIS is gone in the section collapse. We get a cool tidbit about the TARDIS though. They’re grown not built. Although, in The Doctor’s Wife he does build a franken-tardis, but I guess that was out of old TARDIS bits. The Doctor realising he’ll have to go and live a normal life was kinda cute, plus him and Rose got to be awkwardly romantic for a few seconds. It was a nice scene. But the good stuff doesn’t really start happening until he gets to the centre of the planet, point zero.
Maureen: I’m with Ben on this one too. Ida/Ten is where things are really at. Also, a lot of the speeches and stand-alone lines are gorgeous. In some ways this is a classic horror two-parter. We are afraid because the protagonist, who is normally unflappable, is scared too.
Ida Scott: We should go down. I’d go. What about you?
The Doctor: Oh, oh in a second! But then again… That’s so human. Where angels fear to tread… Even now, standing on the edge, it’s that feeling you get, yea? Right at the back of your head. That impulse… That strange little impulse… That mad little voice saying, “Go on! Go on! Go on!… Go over! Go on!…” Maybe it’s relying on that… For once in my life, Officer Scott, I’m going to say… retreat. Ugh, now I know I’m getting old.
Watching The Doctor descend into an entirely black, silent pit was even scarier!
Ben: The Doctor’s first confrontation with the Beast goes fairly well. After it gets into the minds of Rose and the gang he’s able to bring them back to sanity. The scenes of him discovering the mind games the Beast and his jailers have set up for him were actually kinda funny, to be honest. Him shouting “oh!” repeatedly and giving the same speech from different angles was some unexpected comedic relief.
The Doctor: [the Doctor has realized that, if he releases the Beast and destroys it, both he and Rose will die] So that’s the trap, the great test, the final judgement, I dunno. But if I kill you, I kill her. But that implies, in this big grand scheme of gods and devils, that she’s just a victim. Well, I’ve seen a lot of this universe. I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods. I’ve had the whole pantheon. But if I believe in one thing… just one thing… I believe in her!
And of course the TARDIS had to reappear by means of some form of deus ex machina, meaning the Doctor could rescue Rose and the rest of the team and save the day. Although I was a bit annoyed at him not saving the Ood. Not enough time? You’re in a time machine!
The Alien of the Week
Ben: The Impossible Planet doesn’t feature much of the main baddie, focusing on the Ood being weird and Toby’s possession storyline. It’s horror 101, but it’s done quite well. The foreshadowing set up with the computer system and the Ood delivering ominous lines was unnerving, and while I didn’t know what was going on with the telepathic field getting stronger, I knew it meant Bad Things. Then comes the Beast and tell you what though, that guy sure knows how to give a good baddie speech. Although if he was chained there before time, before this universe was created, did the black hole even exist yet? It’s a big grand gesture to say you’ve been trapped there since before the beginning of, well, everything, but practically I dunno how it holds up.
Maureen: I didn’t think too hard about the how and the why of the Beast. I think the story is meant to be an ambiguous philosophical experiment. Because the Beast exists and has become an idea the devil exists across all of time and space in every culture, the Devil exists.
The Beast: [in the possesed body of Toby Zed] I am the rage and the vile and the voracity. I am the Prince and the Fallen. I am the Enemy, I am the Sin and the fear and darkness. I shall never die. The thought of me is forever; in the bleeding hearts of men, in their vanity and obsecrate and lust.
The Doctor: You get representations of the horned Beast right across the universe in myths and legends of a million worlds. Earth, Draconia, Vel Consadine, Daemos… The Kaled god of war, the same image, over and over again. Maybe, that idea came from somewhere. Bleeding through, a thought of every sentient mind…
Ida Scott: Originating from here?
The Doctor: Could be.
Ida Scott: But if this is the original, does that make it real? Does that make it the actual Devil?
The Doctor: Well, if that’s what you want to believe. Maybe that’s what the Devil is, in the end. An idea.
Ben: Be that as it may, I found the possessed Ood and Toby to be scarier than the Beast as it was unveiled, but that could be because the Beast was almost beyond the scope of human comprehension. The Beast is the truth behind the ultimate evil of every religion ever? And has existed since before things could exist? I prefer my Doctor Who baddies to be a bit smaller scale, but this story did well by having both the small scale and big scale, with Toby and the Ood paired with the Beast to make a formidable horror offering. I did feel like the method of defeat was a bit of a cop out, but I’m not quite sure how else you’re supposed to defeat an enemy that’s basically on the Lovecraftian scale of elder ones.
Maureen: Look Ben, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I loved the Beast as a representation of an idea. It was all very Pratchett. I think the point of this two-parter is that there are some things that are beyond comprehension, some things that we shouldn’t try to understand. Somethings, even for The Doctor, aren’t worth the knowledge or the adventure. Sure, the Beast’s CGI was dodgy, but it was the early 2000s so I can forgive the production team that.
Ben: Okay, so I have some issues with the science around the black hole in these episodes. For starters, it’s not impossible to have a planet orbiting a black hole. Sure, it’s unlikely, but if you replaced the Sun with a black hole of equal mass Earth would be just fine. Well, we’d all die because of the no sunlight deal, but it’s not getting sucked into the black hole or anything. Yes, everything gets pulled in once you pass the event horizon, but beyond that a stable orbit is achievable. So, unless the planet is orbiting within the event horizon, which they don’t specify, there’s some bad science going on. Plus, the whole gravity field thing? I dunno. I don’t mind sciency technobabble, but when they reference established science is it too much to ask for some research? I dunno how big this black hole is, but to pull in whole solar systems from who knows where and consume them in a matter of seconds. It’s just not realistic. Anywho, other than a few science-based critiques, I actually really enjoyed these two episodes. I did struggle to review it because I found it to be a unique Doctor Who adventure, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of these episodes. I’m going to give it an 8/10
Maureen: Science scmience. I am one of those annoying viewers who doesn’t give a shit about science logic if I care about the characters and the themes of a Who episode. I loved this two-parter to bits. I loved the spaceship crew and how they all developed, especially Ida, I loved the cinematography and the score, I loved The Doctor facing off an idea personified, I loved the ambiguity of the ending. Sure, there was some weird plot mcguffins, like the black hole and the TARDIS magically re-materializing and the hand wave for why The Doctor couldn’t save The Ood but he could save Ida, BUT I DIDN’T CARE. These episodes are odd and beautiful with the ephemeral lunacy of a dream. I’m giving this one 10/10 inky stars.