Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Impossible Planet"

Around about this time last season, Doctor Who kicked it up a notch with “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances,” two of the show’s creepiest installments. It’s safe to say the show if following the same pattern. “The Impossible Planet” was about as tense and scary as Doctor Who gets. I was impressed that the episode managed to combine a cinematic scope with a sense of claustrophobia that gave you just the right uncomfortable feeling.

The TARDIS lands in a storage room. The Doctor and Rose find their way out and come to a wall spray painted “Welcome to Hell.” Below the graffiti is hieroglyphs that the TARDIS did not automatically translate as it should have. The Doctor remarks the writing is impossibly old if it is beyond the TARDIS’ knowledge. Suddenly, our heroes are surrounded by squid like aliens who apparently intend to eat them. Several humans come through a door to their rescue and are astonished to find humans on this Sanctuary Base. The Doctor and Rose are astonished to learn those aliens, the Ood, are near mindless servants who only wanted to feed them.

Our heroes are shown the central control room and an “impossible” sight: the planet is in orbit around a black hole. The humans are here to drill to the planet’s core and find the source of power holding the planet safely out of the black hole’s reach. They plan to harness the power for the good of the Human Empire. (No indication which Human Empire they are referring to.) An earthquake strikes on the unstable planet, destroying part of the Sanctuary Base. Unfortunately, the TARDIS was in that section. I suspect the quake was not natural and getting rid of the TARDIS was deliberate, but that is just a guess at this point. The Base leader refuses to divert resources to dig for the TARDIS under all the rubble. The Doctor and Rose are marooned.

Strange communications begin happening all over the base. Toby, the archeologist, is examining an artifact with the ancient writing on it when he hears a mysterious voice behind him. He thinks it is a prank, but he is quickly possessed by whoever I speaking and finds his body tattooed with the ancient writing. The Ood also begin acting strangely. One running a cafeteria tells Rose, “The Beast is risen and will make war with God” before shifting back to normal. Reminds me of the cafeteria at Regent University: “And he shall cast the unbelievers into the fiery pits of Hell. You want ketchup with that?” The crew monitors their telepathic network in order to know when they are sick or in need. Now it tells them the Ood are screaming in their minds because of a nightmare.

A female member of the crew investigates an unauthorized departure to the planet’s surface and discovers Toby possessed outside th window with no spacesuit. Toby breaks the glass and the woman is sent hurtling out into space. Everything returns to normal as the Doctor and the command staff arrive. Toby, sans the writing, remembers nothing. They soon discover the woman’s corpse floating in space hurtling towards the black hole.

On top of all this, the drilling stops, which means they have reached the power source. The science officer and the Doctor opt to go down and investigate. At the botton, they find the ruins of the ancient civilization and a large circular crypt in the center of it all. There is no visible way to open it. On the station, the Ood begin chanting about being the Legion of the Beast” who goes by many names--including Satan. They begin to march on the crew, killing any that gwt in their way all the while demanding people worship the Beast. Below the planet’s surface, the crypt slowly opens as the protective gravity field around the planet ceases and it begins a descent into the black hole. To be continued.

I liked this episode a lot. I enjoy two part episodes in which the first part is not just set up for the second. We had some interesting, genuinely scary moments here. For the umpteenth time the Doctor and Rose almost profess love for each other when talking about the prospect of being stranded in the far future and having to play house on some new planet. I can tolerate that since it is done as a school girl crush on Rose’s part rather than some of the sexual tension bits that plagued the last season with the Ninth Doctor. I also like the possible connection to my favorite original series serial, “Pyramids of Mars.” Could the Beast be Sutehk? The Fourth doctor remarked that he had gone by many names, including Satan, a term the Ood referred to him by. We’ll see next week, but somehow I think this is a new villain instead.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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