Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Reviews


List:
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Mark Hain
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Billy Higgins
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Paul Greaves
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Joe Ford
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Geoff Wessel
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Mike Eveleigh
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Alan McDonald
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Adam Leslie
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Frank Collins
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Jon Beeching
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Steve Ferry
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Eddy Wolverson
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Ali Ryland
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Paul Berry
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Ian Larkin
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Angus Gulliver
04 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet, by Jonathan Crossfield
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Jonathan Crossfield
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Billy Higgins
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Frank Collins
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Steve Ferry
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Mark Hain
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Richard Walter
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Mike Eveleigh
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Eddy Wolverson
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Geoff Wessel
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Angus Gulliver
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Alan McDonald
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Phill Cordero
11 Jun 2006The Satan Pit, by Dene Bebbington
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by James Tricker
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Mark McBride
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by James McLean
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Paul Clarke
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Paul Hayes
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Richard White
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by A.D. Morrison
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Michael Kay
12 Jun 2006The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Steve Manfred

I wish I could put my finger on what makes this episode so brilliant. I think David Tennant's run so far has been phenomenal and I really love him as the Doctor. This episode however was just incredible. I think it has to do with it being off planet for just about the first time in the entire series. Not Earth, not New New New New New Earth, not a space station revolving around Earth in the year 5,000,000,000, an entirely new planet! I love the Pertwee era of Doctor Who but since he was mostly stuck on Earth for his run, as a kid I fell in love with Doctor Who mainly because Tom Baker was my Doctor. Not just because he was such an awesome Doctor, but the worlds he visited and the adventures he had. It's been said many times before but you never knew where he would land next week. With the ninth and tenth so far you didn't know when you would show up and it was always an adventure but you had a pretty good idea it would involve Earth in some way. Granted there are Earthlings in this story but this episode takes from some very excellent previous Doctor stories most notably Ark in Space and The Daemons.

If anyone I knew was about to start watching the new series of Doctor Who this would easily be the story I would want them to see. The effects are so incredibly top notch, the actors playing the support roles all have a personality and work as they really are a crew and the story pulls you in almost from the first minute. As several Doctor Who's this season have done, this episode seamlessly blends top notch Sci-Fi (which alone is awesome because without Battlestar, TV is SORELY lacking in quality SF shows), a little mix of Horror and a bit of drama into one of the most satisfying hours of TV I have seen in a long time. I dare people to find faults with this episode if they are truly SciFi and Doctor fans. As always I'm sure there are plot points you could find fault with but in terms of acting, SFX and musical score, this one was a slam dunk!

If I had to find any fault with this episode, I would say that the whole "losing the Tardis" bit is bad. We all know he will get it back and I point out like I have in previous reviews that it's like when the first few minutes of Star Trek Voyager would show a possibility of getting to Earth or in any popular show really when a main character would randomly die. As well established television watchers in the year 2006 we're a little past this I believe. However, I will gladly put both my feet in my mouth if the writers take advantage of this to possibly have a non-Tardis story arc. That would actually be way cool. But I'm not holding my breath. Also, I find myself thinking that some of Billie Piper's acting has been a little off this season. The scenes with her and the Doctor flirting just seem weird. It's not because I don;t think they should, the scene where they talk about "settling down" possibly together I thought was really touching. It's her acting plain and simple. She is very good but some laughing and flirting scenes seem just a little forced.

A very very small gripe though about a really stellar episode. If you love science fiction you really deserve this type of show. I can't wait for next Saturday and the whole rest of the season for that matter.

What's with no previews for next week?! That was a first!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

WOW.

That would do, actually, but the Reviews section stipulates more than one word, so I’ll waffle on for a while! This is one for a multitude of superlatives, a terrific example of Doctor Who – old and new – at its best. I’d even go as far as to say it was an example of TV sci-fi at its best.

I’m convinced that the two-part format is preferable (personally, I would run with five two-parters and just three single-parters in a season) as 45 minutes is just too short to build up a story properly, particularly in a show which likes (to its great credit) to add plenty of meat to the bones of its supporting cast. Sometimes, you just can’t fit it all in.

The Impossible Planet (and what a great title that is) did fit it all in. The story was great – as great as it sounded in the précis. Having been separated from the TARDIS, Rose and The Doctor are trapped with a group of pioneers (people after The Doctor’s hearts, as underlined by his man hug with Captain Zack) with mysterious monster slaves, the Ood (another great name). They’re on a planet on the edge of a black hole. There’s a malevolent force in another hole deep below the surface, which has killed one member of the crew and possessed another. Oh, and the aforementioned force is The Devil – and he ain’t in disguise . . .

I don’t often comment on direction but, visually, this was like a film (and a good one) on a TV budget. OK, it was a lot like Alien but, if you’re going to “borrow” ideas, borrow good ones – and, whatever director James Strong’s influences, he created a wonderfully-atmospheric setting for this tale aided, of course, by the design and effects team, who really surpassed themselves.

Just when you think the special effects can’t get any better . . . there were some wonderfully-iconic images, and genuinely scary, too. The old writing covering Toby’s skin as part of his possession was one of those edge-of-the-seat (or, if you must) behind-the-sofa moments. And the dead crew member seen floating in space was superbly done – we’ve come a long way since Four To Doomsday! Plus the planet itself was stunning – right up there with the work on The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. And then there was the Ood. Yet another model-making triumph – and (unlike the Cybermen) totally-audible voices! Great idea using the lightened ball as a vocal device.

Another good idea was to get rid of the TARDIS early in the episode, thus establishing that Rose and The Doctor didn’t have the option of just nipping back into it and being away – they really are stuck, and in danger. As a subtext to the main plot, I did detect more of a closeness between the two lead characters, and David Tennant and Billie Piper were, in the main, in good form. Lovely scene when they talked awkwardly about “getting a house together” – much more reminiscent of some of the stuff we’d have seen in Series One, but which has never really materialised since regeneration. It was always likely that their relationship would deepen once Mickey had left, and there is strong evidence that this is the case.

I did think this story would meet with diehard Doctor Who fans’ approval, but wondered if taking the show away from Earth (in past, present and future) might put off the mainstream audience. However, it wasn’t hard sci-fi, it was a good adventure in such an eye-taking setting that I really can’t imagine there will be much naysaying which can’t be swatted away.

Another Doctor Who debutant, Matt Jones (with, no doubt, some significant input from Russell T Davies) could hardly have had made a better start to his Who writing career. Great score from Murray Gold, too. The whole thing just fused together so well.

If there was a minor criticism, it would be the fact that the seemingly-obligatory “comedy” one-liners threatened to distract from the excellent drama the episode was building when Rose and The Doctor first encountered Captain Zack and his band. The guest cast played the whole episode totally straight, and were terrific – Tennant and Piper were given the feeble one-liners, and those added nothing to proceedings. Yes, it’s a tradition of Doctor Who, it’s the “would you like a jelly baby?” factor. But there is a fine line to tread with the flippancy, and I would hate such a strong episode to be devalued by just one daft line too many. I can appreciate the need to offer a little light to contrast the (wonderfully) dark feel of the episode, but giving lines such as “wot, like a rollercoaster” to Rose adds nothing to a scene, and rather trivialises the character.

I wouldn’t mark the episode down for that, though. I didn’t think this season’s previous two-parter (Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel) improved in the second half but, if The Satan Pit even matches The Impossible Planet, we have a serious contender for Story Of The Season here, and we may even be moving into all-time classic territory.

Frankly, though, even if The Satan Pit proves to be a clunker, I could quite happily recommend The Impossible Planet on its own as a fabulous slice of entertainment.

As I said at the outset, wow.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Last night I sat down to watch an episode of Doctor Who I knew very little about. Not much pre-publicity by the Beeb (oddly), but I did know that there were no returning monsters or companions and it was going to be our first proper visit to an alien planet (don't count New Earth as we didn't see any of it). And it was superb.

I watched it again this morning and 45 minutes just flew by. Danger, excitement, scares - this episode had them in abundance. In fact, I only have one niggle and its so tiny I'm not sure I want to mention it. Oh, alright then: the hug between the Doctor and Acting-Captain Zach seemed forced and unecessary. Apart from that I think it was pretty much flawless. Even if the second episode lets it down, for me this was the best episode of the new Who since The Empty Child.

The guest cast were superb. Danny Webb (Jefferson), Claire Rushbrook (Ida) and Shaun Parkes (Acting-Captain Zach) gave superb performances, perfectly pitched and not OTT. I've loved Claire Rushbrook since her appearance in Spaced (rather than the Godawful Carrie and Barry) and Shaun Parkes has been a favourite since Human Traffic (and his scene stealing role in The Mummy Returns). But the surprise performance for me was Will Thorp as Toby. I know he's been in Casualty (or Holby City - its all the same old nonsense to me), so I had already marked him down as dodgy casting, but I'll eat my hat right now as he was superb. Flitting from slightly twitchy, nervous academic Toby, to scary-tattooed-demon-nutjob, he was fabulous.

The Ood were an interesting idea. Pre-title sequence they're a threat, post-title sequence they're not, half way through and they are a threat again. Nicely judged so we're not quite sure where we stand. Although the whole 'happy slaves, human race dependent on them, turned evil by sinister voice' idea is very Robots of Death.

Scooti suffered the fate of Lynda-with-a-Y, sucked into space through a shattered window, but it was probably the scariest scene in the episode. The computer's "He bathes in the black sun", followed by Toby standing outside with no suit was edge of the seat stuff.

And while I'm at it, the music was top notch this week as well. Murray Gold always falls between brilliant and average for me but the obvious inclusion of an orchestra just moved things up a level. Which could equally be said of the direction. Newcomer James Strong seems to have this sort of thing pitched perfectly in his mind. Lots of ground level and overhead shots, tons of smoke and plenty of atmosphere.

This is where I come to the script. Matt Jones has provided this year's best (so far). The dialogue was realistic, the relationship between the Doctor and Rose stayed just the right side of irritating and the pacing was perfect. Is it Satan? I doubt it (just as I don't expect it to be Sutekh - even with Gabriel Woolf doing the Voice of the Beast). Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to its confrontation with the Doctor.

The Mill excelled themselves with the effects, particularly the cave scenes and the transparent roof looking at the black hole. It all felt very 'real' for CG, which is a testament to how hard they must work on this show. The set design must also get a mention, the Sanctuary base looking very tough and grim (very Alien - but that's no bad thing).

So is the TARDIS dying? RTD has said there's a couple of big shocks in store before the end of the season and the TARDIS playing up hints towards something there. Rumours of a =n exploding time-machine have been bandied around, although frankly I think that would be a bit crap. The Doctor has to have the TARDIS or there's no show. Its also an integral part of what the series is. Knowing he'd have to get it back eventually would kill any suspense. On top of that, its already died once this season, so it would be no great shock.

The blurb for The Satan Pit says that the Doctor has to face up to everything he believes in being questioned. Does this mean the Beast will tell him he isn't the last of the Time-Lords. Will it tell him that Rose is a manipulative little cow, attempting to use the new UK divorce laws to get half of the TARDIS?

Who knows? I'm really looking forward to next week though. This is what Doctor Who is all about! For the first time this season (and only the second since the new Who started in 2005) 5/5

Things I Loved: everything (except the hug)

Things I Didn't Love: the hug

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

I did not have high hopes for this story. Whilst I loved Matt Jones’ Bad Therapy, a very sweet character piece in the final third of the New Adventures but I couldn’t stand Beyond the Sun, his Bernice Summerfield novel and I regularly found his column in DWM the most annoying thing about the magazine. Add to that the fact that this episode has the least ‘WOW’ factor in this series to date (One had Zoe Wanamaker, Two had Queen Victoria and warewolves, Three had Sarah Jane, Giles and K.9, Four had Sophia Myles and Mickey as a companion, Five and Six had Cybermen and Seven had Maureen Limpman) and that last weeks teaser was hardly an appetite whetter and the best thing you could say is that ‘that bloke from Casualty is in it’. Hmm…

Oh what a stupid, stupid fool I am. Hype is one thing (come on I think we were all a little disappointed by New Earth) but a show firing on all cylinders and proving what it can do in every department is another and that is exactly what The Impossible Planet does. Technically this episode is flawless and I genuinely feel it has the strongest cast yet assembled for the new series. This is an episode that might restore faith in the series of some of those who preferred series one (so Simon’s mother then) and remind the rest of us why we should be so proud of supporting this show.

It is a funny old business, I do like it when there is a third companion mostly because John Barrowman and Noel Clarke are such good performers and bring much to the show but when the TARDIS is enjoying threesome we see the weaker aspects of the Doctor and Rose’s relationship, namely their ignorance of how much they are hurting the third member and involved in themselves. Take away that selfishness of their intimacy and their relationship is adorably sweet, as proven last week in The Idiot’s Lantern and here. David Tennant and Billie Piper have enjoyed a strong chemistry this season but their carefree existence lacks the unity of Piper and Eccleston’s relationship. This where things shift up a gear and they share some wonderful moments in this episode, which exposes the richness in their partnership, both the characters and the actors. The Doctor’s quiet despair at being trapped is rectified slightly by the sweet moment where he and Rose talk about settling down, both of them shy to admit they would choose to live together. Rose’s admission that ‘everybody has to leave home’ and that being trapped in this situation is not so bad because she is with him are possibly the most mature scenes the character has ever had and all the better because they are understated and impeccably performed. Bravo. Also Rose’s gentle kiss of the Doctor’s helmet (behave yourselves!) suggests an intimacy between them that surpasses anything we have seen before without stripping them of their dignity and getting all sweaty.

Matt Jones has written a damn good script, on a par with the best of either year. The story is packed with great ideas and they are dramatized beautifully. This is a textbook case in how to effectively build up tension, spend the first fifteen minutes setting the scene and introducing the mystery, then mid episode introduce some major problems for the characters to react to before your big reveal in the last third which gets everybody on the edge of their seat screaming “Oh shit!” (or was it just me?). Jones had also written an extremely strong cast of characters, so successfully thought through that the death of somebody we have only known for twenty minutes has a major impact. Whilst the cast are responsible for bringing these people to life, they really don’t have anything to work with if the script is naff.

Imagination soars as with all the best Doctor Who stories. The Ood are a marvellous idea, a slave race that only reaps pleasure from serving others but with such a stomach churning appearance. Loads of scope to be damn creepy and yet sympathetic at the same time, slaves of the humans or the Beast. The big reveal that the base is affixed to a lump of rock orbiting a Black Hole is well presented to make the viewer gasp and gawp, helped no end that it is visually spectacular as well (but bonus points for holding this off for ten minutes, had this been a regular one off episode this would have been tossed in the air before the opening theme). It is a terrifying thought being sucked into a black hole and the episode wastes no time in demonstrating the power of this phenomenon, Murray Gold’s effective strings accompanying an entire star system being consumed by the Black Hole. Where the episode lacks in originality is its horror undertones, something nasty under the ground waiting to be unleashed but come on…name two instances where that cliché hasn’t worked out? It’s a fabulous conceit, which is why it has been used over and over and implanted into a story which is already as gritty as this one turns a dark episode into a terrorizing one.

I am not easily scared. I think Doctor Who has managed to give me the shivers maybe three or four times in its entire run but there was one scene in this episode which terrified me more than any other that I have seen in TV or film for years. It is beautifully filmed to get under your skin. Toby stands outside the base in the airless vacuum without a spacesuit before the black hole and turns on his friend staring at him through the window. His eyes are blood red, his face is stained with alien scrawl and he is grinning at her. A beautiful smile of pure evil, beckoning him towards her. Oh my God I was hiding behind a pillow…and as the glass cracked and she was sucked out towards his grinning face…there must have been loads of kids shitting themselves tonight! Also scary but not as much was the climax, featuring the Beast speaking through Toby and telling the security office that his wife never forgave him.

Two performances stood out although there was not a single one that didn’t impress me. I want to apologise to Will Thorp who I had written off as a soap actor (or dancer) who delivered a spot on piece of acting of a man fighting against a terrible infection. His early scenes suggest a shy, dedicated but likable man and his transformation into a pawn of the Beast is truly shocking, his stunning smile is put to great, scary effect. I have to say a word for David Tennant’s old sparring partner Shaun Parkes who made such a sparkling partnership in Russell T Davies’ Casanova. Standing in as acting Captain, Parkes delivers a great, tired performance of a man doing a job who was not built for but still pulling it off well. As expected his scenes with Tennant shine, the scene where the Doctor hugs him should be vomit inducing and yet (thanks to the actors) they make it work.

Lovely to see some grit in the new series, I remember Russell T Davies saying how much he channel hops and stops on the show with the prettiest picture regardless of how good the show is. Doctor Who this year has perhaps been a bit too pretty, New Earth, Tooth and Claw, The Girl in the Fireplace and The Idiot’s Latern all feature gorgeous, sumptuous productions but it all looks a bit NICE. Here we’ve got all the style but jumping down below decks with the ‘workers’. The sets are divine, dirty, unsteady, filled with dirty smoke…it really helps to put across the sense of clinging on to this rock for dear life. I like the contrast of the futuristic setting with the modern-ish costumes, nothing to flashy but casual and comfortable just how you would want to be in that environment. Lighting is exceptional throughout, especially during Toby’s murder scene and the Doctor and Rose’s settling down conversation.

Real edge of the seat drama and an attempt to be scary that succeeds on every level, here is a great example of Doctor Who doing its best to give you nightmares before you go to sleep. It’s almost a shame it is broadcast in the daylight. Do yourself a favour and tape it and watch it later in the dark on your own.

Ten out of ten chaps.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Forget the fact it's on an actual alien world. Forget the Cthulhoid monsters in the Ood. No, what makes this episode all the more amazing is that it was written by Matt Jones, and it didn't make me want to claw my eyes out with a garden tool.

Yeah, I said it. Matt Jones' New Adventures (Bad Therapy and Beyond the Sun for those playing at home)? Overly snarky garbage with way too many fanfic agendas put into print. His TV work? Well, there I claim ignorance. But this? THIS was more like it. And of course I mean that in respect to the reason of Season 2 thus far -- only 3 episodes actually made me have a reaction one way or another. The rest so far have been, well, mediocre at best. Add a 4th now, because I enjoyed "The Impossible Planet" quite a bit, even if it did move a bit slower than I would have liked.

And yes, there were CORRIDORS, lots and lots of CORRIDORS, but it added to the claustrophobic, Alien/Outland/DOOM feel of the episode. And yes, finding Satan out in space is always going to bring comparisons to Event Horizon as well. But fuggit. Here it worked.

I LOVE THE OOD! Not just for their Cthulhu looks and matching Zoidberg demeanor. They were just...different. I liked the voice used for their translators. But what I found the most interesting about the Ood? Was the fact that the so-called "ethics" officer was the most denigrating, prejudicial, and xenophobic about the Ood.

And I also noticed how the majority of the crew on the planet were young hotties in the primes of their lives. How just like a slasher flick.

The Doctor and Rose pondering mortgages?! THE HELL?! It was a good moment tho, especially in the awkwardness of it all. I'm sure the shippers will be swooning over that bit. But I will note that the Doctor nailed it when he lost the TARDIS -- it really IS all he has left. Without it he's...what? No really, what?

And of course, cue the fanboy squees about the voice of Sutekh, Gabriel Woolf, being cast as the Beast. Sorry, but for some influence, I don't think there's any real link between this and "Pyramids of Mars." Woolf is merely performing a job of Voice Acting. There may have been fannish reasons to cast Woolf, but saying on that evidence that the Beast is Sutekh is likening Starscream to Cobra Commander just because they too shared voice actors.

Of course, "The Satan Pit" could prove me all sorts of wrong...

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Such a shame. Ratings slump. Smugness abounding. A distinct drop in quality compared to last season. I'm afraid the BBC might well ignore the critical claim, awards, overseas sales, DVD sales etc. and start planning a surefire hit for Saturday evenings. Never mind the audience appreciation figures, feel the ratings. Panic has probably ensued and already something like 'X Brother Strictly Big Celebrity Factor On Ice...in a Jungle' is no doubt being mooted to enliven our Saturday evening viewing. After all, reality television is popular...and cheap.

Disengage 'sarcasm-mode'. Sorry about that. Yes, it is a shame that the viewing figures are dropping as I believe this season deserves a big audience, but the BBC are not stupid and I think that they know they are making something rather special and are well aware of the circumstances. This isn't like the late-80's when those in charge didn't give a damn about the show. (Yet? Oh no! Paranoia!!)

Seriously, I guess 'Doctor Who beats ITV1 in the ratings for the 22nd time in a row shock!' isn't quite as attention-grabbing...

Right. Now that I've got that off my chest, what of 'The Impossible Planet'? Well, as we're only halfway here I will try to keep this brief.

The 'base under siege' story has, of course, been done before, but seldom has it been done better. The format was particularly prevalent during the latter half of the Sixties Troughton era, so a few 'Alien'/'Event Horizon' rip-off comments that I have heard have just made me raise my eyebrows and sigh. Actually, the fact that that the threat is 'down below' and the TARDIS has been lost forever (well, y'know...) brought to my mind 'Frontios' more than anything else...that's meant as a compliment, by the way! It's still a format that can work when well done, and....

Personally, I thought that this episode was sheer, unadulterated, gripping, well written, very well acted and expertly directed *class*. The Ood are memorable creations, and the cast as a whole were great. I would particularly pick out Will Thorpe's creepy performance as the 'possessed' Toby and Shaun Parkes' charming turn as the stressed out captain...I particularly liked the lovely scene where the Doctor feels compelled to hug Zac as representative of curious, brave, "mad" humanity. The chemistry the two actors had in 'Casanova' is completely intact here. A great moment that envoked the 4th Doctor's "homosapiens" speech from 'The Ark in Space'....although clearly Doctor Ten is more tactile!

Speaking of whom...I've had nothing but praise for David Tennant and he is right up to standard here. The Doctor's chat with Rose about carpets and mortgages was well-handled with some lovely directorial touches from James Strong, who makes a very strong 'debut' here. And the Doctor's panic when he thinks he might've lost the TARDIS is utterly convincing. (Although his refering to his promise to Jackie that we would keep Rose safe reminded me of the part of the otherwise excellent 'Girl in the Fireplace' that didn't work for me; I mean, it was just her and Mickey stranded then! I can kind of rationalise this by thinking that when you're completely smitten..you ain't thinking straight!!)

So...the Doctor and Rose are laughing at danger at the beginning...but they're not laughing now. This was an exceptional piece of television, and if 'The Satan Pit' delivers, this could well be an instant classic that'll sweep the end of season polls...and boy was it great to hear Gabriel Woolf's sinister tones in a 'Doctor Who' story again.

I eagerly await the second part...

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Wow.

I didn't even bother to submit a review last week, so underwhelmed I was by The Idiot's Lantern (not bad as such, just blah). The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit two-parter has had me intrigued since I first heard the premise, however, so I tuned in hoping to have my faith reaffirmed.

And how.

This is how you do the first part of a double-episode story. Where Aliens of London, Rise of the Cybermen and even, to some extent, Bad Wolf plodded a little around the story while clearly saving all the real meat for later, The Impossible Planet was chock-full of interesting stuff. The mysterious planet stuck beneath a black hole, the loss of the TARDIS, the mysterious Ood and their menacing messages, bizarre possession of a crew member, a touching death, a frank discussion of the possibility of the Doctor and Rose starting a life together ... there was more here than in many single-parters, all of it excellent. In many ways, it had a real New Adventures feel to it (Lucifer Rising, anyone?)

The story is the first since The Parting of the Ways to truly have an epic feel to it (as much as enjoyed The Christmas Invasion, it never felt to me like it really left a corner of London). The archeological station had a genuinely lonely, run-down feel to it, like we really were on the frontier of the universe. My only real criticism is that, like much of this season, everything was just a bit too bright and studio-looking. The effects were excellent, however, from the brooding, voracious black hole to the first truly successful use of matte backgrounds (my personal pet-peeve) in the vast core the Doctor explores towards the end of the episode.

With the right balance of suspense, character work (a welcome move forward for the Doctor/Rose dynamic which has felt a little static recently) and, wonder of wonders, genuine mystery, this was great entertainment. I really have no idea how next week's episode will pan out (I could see the events of The Age of Steel coming a mile away after the first part) and I'm desperate to find out.

Above all, though, the feeling I took away from this episode was that I couldn't believe they put this out in the timeslot. Monsters quoting verse about the DEVIL?! At 7 o'clock on a Saturday night?

A massively welcome dark change of tone for the season which will hopefully give the Tenth Doctor some much needed gravitas to play with. Tennant is wonderful, but nothing since School Reunion has given him much of a chance to play genuinely unsettled (I am still trying to blank out the ANGRY SHOUTING IN SEVERAL SCENES of The Idiot's Lantern - Mark, David, why?!!?)

After a slight downturn in quality, I'm delighted to see things back on track. If next week's conclusion is of the same quality as this episode, I could find myself with a new favourite story since the relaunch (Father's Day and Dalek are battling it out at the moment). Tennant could well have his Caves of Androzani here.

Let's see what comes out of that pit.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

The Doctor and Rose step from the TARDIS, apparently drunk and giggly, for the new series’ first proper deep space adventure.

It’s a big budget blockbustery cross between… well, everything really. The Alien series, Robots Of Death, Event Horizon, The Sphere, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Serenity... But why not? After last week’s rather forgettable little snack, The Idiot Box, it’s nice to have a bit of blood-and-thunder portentous high jinx, and great to see some serious black hole action.

The effects are marvellous – this really does feel like a mid-range Hollywood movie. Can it be the same series that brought us The Web Planet, The Arc In Space, Underworld or Delta And The Bannermen? Some might say that the Hollywood feel has no place in this quaint, parochial British TV show (like giving The Beatles state of the art synthesisers), and they might have a point. It doesn’t really feel like Doctor Who. But it’s bold, brash, and lovely to see Satan evoked on BBC1 on a Saturday teatime.

The supporting cast don’t have much room to breathe amongst the chaos – and feel less clearly defined than their Robots Of Death or Alien counterparts – but the Ood are rather sweet, and I’m sure will work well as marauding Satanists next week. The first twenty minutes seemed maybe a little aimless, with nothing much for anyone to do but wait for bad stuff to happen, but I’m looking forward to next week’s handily spoilt (by the trailer) installment.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

The series continues to surprise us. After an atmosphere drenched period piece set in the 1950’s we are plunged into a tough, gritty, dirty SF ‘base under siege’ epic. If the Cybermen two parter was popcorn cinema Who this is horror SF Ridley Scott style for the small screen.

OK. Let's get the name-dropping out of the way first. Yep, it’s a riot of references - of ‘Alien’, ‘Outland’, ‘Event Horizon’, ‘The Omen’ and reminds us of ‘Robots Of Death’ and ‘The Ark’...and...wait a minute. Pinch me but did all of that glorious work on The Impossible Planet really get made for British television? To go out on a sunny Saturday evening at 7pm?

This was one of the most visually stunning pieces of British telefantasy in years. The production design alone should be applauded. If ever there was an episode to demonstrate that the show is no longer peddling naff sets, costumes and visual effects, then this is the one. Top marks to Ed Thomas and his crew, Neil Gorton and his crew and The Mill. Thanks to Murray Gold for a swirling, malevolent score. All the departments were really raising their game on this.

And to answer that vexed question, can the new series do alien environments and planets? Yes, big time, judging by the sterling efforts here. The location work combined with The Mill’s effects really did justice to the look of the pit with it’s Harryhausen/Giger-like hidden ancient civilisation. Stunning images.

Anyway. Thematically, this is the Doctor and Rose plunging into the abyss (another film reference too), not just getting to journey into the centre of a planet but also their own search in the abyss for new wisdom, for the fountain of knowledge to douse their inflated pride. By entering it, they challenge their own rigid and fixed attitudes. Witness the way the episode opens with them giggling like a pair of schoolgirls and how that is completely turned on its head by the conclusion. Like the black hole they have been refusing to swallow their pills. The Bitter Pill is not just the planet's mythological name but also the Doctor and Rose facing up to the redundancy of their charm offensive. On this world, the chirpy references to Walford go down like a lead balloon. They are awkward gate-crashers at a party in hell. Suffering the loss of the TARDIS, they both are forced to contemplate an 'ordinary' life with 'mortgages'. The look of horror on the Doctor's face says it all.

'Everone leaves home in the end' is a pointer to this and perhaps an affirmation of the paths the Doctor and Rose originally took. That said, the Doctor/Rose dynamic works so much better here than in some earlier episodes and you do get much more of a sense of genuine affection between them once they realise that no one is paying attention to their mutual smugness. When Rose suggests they might live together, we also get an indication that the Doctor isn’t entirely sold on this idea because after all Rose is not Reinette.

The Impossible Planet is chiefly the flip side of the Doctor/Rose obsession with hubris. They seem to have been grounded here almost as deposed gods. The Doctor's descent into the pit is the age old confrontation of God with Mephistopheles - the light and dark of the masculine psyche. It is yet another striking example of the journey from above to below in search of the unconscious world and this has permeated the current series as a whole. The crossing into the unconscious is also linked with the sexual symbolism of the drill penetrating the planet. It's almost like the fertilising of an egg, the stirring of new/old life and the opening of Pandora's Box. The horror film conceits used in the episode are also very much about the stirring up of the unconscious and making it manifest in the conscious world.

Toby's possession by the Beast complete with the branding and marking of his flesh that sets him apart from the rest of the group is the literal representation of the Beast crossing the threshold between its world and the reality of the base. He is an unwilling and weak partner in a dark Faustian pact that brings together the three worlds of mind, flesh and unconscious. The Beast is a trickster figure that reinforces the boundaries between the conscious world (the base) and the unconscious world (the pit). By awakening the Beast the crew have also themselves been forced to emerge from a sleeping state, their lives now depending on much more than their hum-drum routine. This again is a lovely reference to ‘Alien’ with the lives of those on board Nostromo experiencing this abrupt wake up call in a similar fashion.

The Ood, beautifully designed, are transformed from their willing slave status into fiery eyed soldiers for the Beast. They are a personification of the Beast’s Ego, a conjuring trick that uses their herd instinct to erupt onto the surface in the form of totalitarianism, the tyranny of one mind over the masses of his army. Slaves turning against their original masters, the Ood are unable to articulate themselves in their dead-end service industry mentality. They are cut off from thought and sensation. Their Egos have truly been extinguished. An army of the dead.

The lighting and colour palette of red and yellows in the base provided a suitable contrast to the almost monochrome and baroque chiaroscuro of the planet. The skull like lighting of the EVA suit helmets, with the wearers pale deaths heads in the darkness of the pit underline this dramatic use of light and dark. There was also some nifty editing and directing. James Strong might possibly have the talent to join the ranks of Euros Lyn and Joe Ahearne. He racked up the tension nice and slowly, with a final nerve-shredding ten minutes that hopefully will pay off in the second part. There was a huge amount of exposition in the first fifteen minutes and that didn’t help the pacing to begin with but this did feel like the first two parts of a ‘classic’ Who story with considered pacing and character development.

On the acting side we were blessed with cleverly sketched performances from Will Thorp, Shaun Parkes and Danny Webb. As for our regular cast, Billie Piper is still doing superb work. Many have started to find her irritating but she still has the ability to be very subtle in the way she plays certain scenes and that’s a quality much to be admired. David Tennant still hasn’t quite got there yet and there were some amazingly good scenes, his tenderness with Rose when they realise they’re stuck on the base was particularly good, but there is still a little too much ‘forced zaniness’ in the performance for me. He’s excellent but for me hasn’t quite reached some of the heights of Eccleston achieved in the last half of the first series.

The stand out performance has to be Gabriel Woolf. A chilling voice that dominated the episode and evocative in that this was a threat not seen on screen (yet) but all the more powerful because of that.

A waking nightmare of an episode, then, with cast and crew firing on all guns. A narrative that genuinely forced you to keep thinking and wondering what the resolution to this would be. Part two will, I hope, provide some suitably intriguing answers.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

After convincing many of my friends that the new Doctor Who is well worth viewing (both Ecclestone and Tennant) the one criticism that I keep hearing is "They never seem to go anywhere other than Earth". Well personally I have no problem with the Earthbound episodes as long as the story is a good one, which by and large they have been in my opinion, but now with The Impossible Planet maybe there is something to satisfy those who want to see more space and alien planets in Doctor Who.

This one grabbed me right from the outset, a very wheezy and "sick" sounding TARDIS slowly materialising with the Police Box sign lights flickering on and off, gets the attention straight away. Rose and the Doctor emerge into what is described as "a cupboard" and begin to explore. On a wall is sprayed the friendly greeting "Welcome to hell" (a clue of what's to come?) under which is some mysterious alien writing that the Doctor states is "impossibly old" as even he and the TARDIS are unable to translate it. It's not long before they come face to face with the Ood, the new alien creatures for this story, humanoid...ish but with squid like faces and a multitude of red tentacles where their mouths should be. The prosthetics department have really gone to town here and made these creatures look real and believable, a far cry from the bubble wrap monster. And so with the Doctor and Rose surrounded by the Ood all proclaiming "We must feed, we must feed" we go to the opening credits in true Doctor Who cliff-hanger style. So far so good.

Okay so we have some pieces already in place, all is obviously not well with the TARDIS, a strange alien script, the reference to Hell and some new "monsters". I'm not going to go through the story minute by minute as most people reading this will have already watched the episode or be planning to and this is a review not a synopsis. I'll just pick out certain important aspects.

The main thought that springs to mind is the whole darkness of this episode and how close to the wind the Doctor Who production team seem to be sailing these days especially when you consider that this is shown at 7pm on a Saturday evening and is aimed at both adults and children alike. This is a story about evil, we're not talking nasty evil Daleks from Skaro or humans turned into emotionless Cybermen here, we're talking real evil. The references used provide little doubt to adult viewers as to what is lurking deep beneath the planets surface. The Doctor works out how much power is needed to keep the planet in it's orbit above an all consuming black hole and Rose mentions that his answer is "all the sixes". An Ood serving Rose her dinner announces that "The beast will rise from the pit and do battle with God". The archaeologist member of the base crew asks who it is talking to him and the reply is "I have many names". So there can be little doubt that this is the ultimate evil that the Doctor must deal with, the Devil himself. At one point the possessed Ood even mention Satan by name.

Now I watch Doctor Who with my son aged 6 and my two daughters aged 7 and 12, we all love it and despite what I have written in the previous paragraph I really did not have any problem or reservations about them watching this, after all many of the references they probably didn't get anyway, as far as they're concerned it's probably typical Doctor Who, something nasty is lurking somewhere, someone will meet a sticky end and the Doctor will (probably) save the day. But the religious aspect is most definitely there, this along with the whole darkness of the story may give some parents cause for concern.

I gauge the scariness of an episode by my youngest daughters reaction, this tends to be a pointer as to whether the Doctor Who "behind the sofa" thing has actually worked. During the episode "Dalek" she was actually in tears at one point and was torn between running upstairs to avoid it altogether or carrying on watching to see what happened, in the end curling up on Daddy under a quilt and peeking out every so often won the day.I'm not cruel, she didn't have to watch it honest, but I must confess that I was somewhat impressed that the Daleks still had the same effect on her that they had on me many, many moons ago. That was her first real taste of what Doctor Who can really be about. Other obvious episodes that come to mind that had a similar reaction from her were "The Empty Child" and "Tooth and Claw".

So how did my little Leah fair with "The Impossible Planet", well she did turn round and say "ooo, I don't like them much" when she first saw the Ood, but she was still quite happy to sit away from me on her own. The voice behind Toby whispering "I can see you, don't turn around" had her hurrying over to sit with me. "If you turn round you will die" had her hugging me rather tightly, the clincher was "I'm reaching out, I can touch you", that was the quilt over the head and "I don't think I want to watch this anymore" moment and I have to admit that there's something about disembodied, threatening voices that still works even for me. The imagination works overtime and it's not what you can see but what you can't see that can be truly scary. Even my other two children were sitting a lot closer together and staring wide eyed at the screen at this point and usually nothing in Doctor Who phases them at all.

But does it all work as a whole, I would say most certainly it does. The boundaries have been pushed just a little further and the team have come up with a real cracker here. The raised production values of the "new" Doctor Who have never been more obvious. This has had some real work and money pumped into it and it shows big time. Okay the base interior could have been taken straight from the Alien film but it has been built as a set and it looks the part, perfect. No white walls, shiny new computer consoles or sliding doors here, this is a dirty, noisy mining operation in the most inhospitable environment possible and it looks like it! The Ood are completely convincing. The CGI is terrific without overwhelming everything else, the black hole looks like you'd imagine the universes ultimate destructive force to look like, not scientifically what it SHOULD look like but how the imagination says it should look.

Doctor Who Confidential afterwards proved how much effort went into this one, a view of a poor hapless base member floating off into space being drawn in by the black hole that was on screen for all of about 10 seconds (if that) was meticulously filmed in the underwater studio at Pinewood Studios just to get the weightless effect right. I would say that to date this is the closest any Doctor Who episode has come to the cinematic experience on the small screen. And to top it all, the underground sequence was filmed in a quarry, Who finally returns to the quarries (although unlike previous quarry visits unless you were told you would never guess that it was filmed in one of these places)

My summary: Stunning production, great effects, very scary (especially for younger viewers). Completely engrossing, I only hope that the concluding episode of this particular story doesn't let it down.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Marvellous. Planet of Evil, The Daemons, The Robots of Death, Alien, Event Horizon, Solaris say what you like about similarities with past episodes and other things but this was marvellous. I was disappointed with last weks ep but this brought us back on track with a vengeance. I liked the way that they stretched the boundaries of the usual base under siege story. Instead of the usual, 'you're strangers you must be responsible for this', it's subverted by the doc just saying to the base commander, 'you trust me don't you?' and the commander basically saying, 'yeah OK'.

The design of the Ood was great, very HP LOvecraft. Despite the comparisons made with other things I think that Lovecraft is a huge influence on this. If you haven't read 'At the Mountains of Madness' then read it because it's a great story but it's very like this. The scientists in that story found impossibly old creatures and writing in the Antarctic (which means 'without bears' incidentally so there) just like the Doctor realises that the writing is impossibly old.

The doc is left without the TARDIS in this ep and is apparently stranded, this is dramatically necessary because it adds to the claustrophobia and means he has no choice but to throw his lot in with the crew. It asn't been explained yet why an immortal entity at the edge of the cosmos would use judeo christian imagery but I suppose that we are coming up on the 6/6/6. By the way if 666 is the number of the beast then is 665.99 the recommended retail price of the beast?

I still remember watching The Planet of Evil for the first time and the cliffhanger when the monster rises out of the pit as a child and seeing the seal open in this episode reminded me of it. Oh yeah, another reference, the seal of Danthazar which the ubervamps come out of in Buffy. There's nothing wrong with borrowing from other things, it's only plaigarism if it isn't any good. Next episode please and a knighthood for Russell if Margaret Thatcher comes out of the pit.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

“We’re on a planet that shouldn’t exist underneath a black hole. Yeah… start worrying about me.”

What an episode! “The Impossible Planet” is definitely the creepiest episode of Doctor since its rebirth last year. More than that, it’s just… well, brilliant. The pre-title sequence sums it all up beautifully – the Doctor finds some writing even the TARDIS cannot translate, for they have gone beyond the reach of the TARDIS’ knowledge. Until now, I didn’t know the TARDIS’ knowledge even had limits! This wonderful notion of ‘impossibility’ that runs throughout the episode really heightens the nightmarish scenario. Welcome to Hell.

“The Beast and his armies shall rise from the Pit to make war against God,” says the Dinner Lady-Ood very matter of factly.

In the Ood, the production team have found a race that are really shit scary. They just look absolutely monstrous; they are the pole opposite of human beings’ idea of beauty. Worse, the way they act as willing slaves to humanity; those creepily pleasant, uniform voices – they’re unsettling even before they are taken over by the ‘Beast.’ However, I found the most terrifying aspect of “The Impossible Planet” to be the psychological horror, as opposed to the physical. It is no secret that next week’s episode is called “The Satan Pit,” and with hints like 666 littered throughout the episode, combined with the Ood’s almost biblical quotations - “He is awake. He bathes in the black sun...” – the writer Matt Jones is playing on very primal, human fears. The Devil. Hell. Satan.

On top of this, there is absolutely no way out. These people are trapped inside a black hole. Not just Zack and his crew, but the Doctor and Rose. In classic Hartnell style, the TARDIS crew lose the ship in the first few minutes of the episode, and it this time it really seems like there is no getting it back. Even if they escaped the ‘Beast’, his legion of brainwashed Ood and the black hole that contains them, the Doctor and Rose would still be stranded in the far future (43k 2.1, I believe they said), forced to lead linear lives. I love that little scene between the two of them, where Rose playfully skirts around the idea of them sharing a house. I love the Doctor’s babbling about jobs, mortgages, doors and carpets. In all my reviews this season I don’t think I’ve adequately praised what a fantastic Doctor he is. He has a certain childlike quality a bit like Pat Troughton; I love the way he babbles endlessly and almost ends up stammering when he’s excited… yet he’s still essentially the same man as the ninth Doctor. In fact, I don’t think two contiguous Doctors have ever been so similar before, though I think that has more to do with Russell T. Davies’ vision of the character than the men who have worn his shoes.

“It’s funny ‘cos people back home think space travel is gonna be all whizzing about… teleports… anti-gravity, but it’s not is it? It’s tough.”

Damn right, Rose. In fact, Matt Jones bleak Sanctuary Base makes stuff like the Alien movies look like luxury. This harsh backdrop really emphasises just how grim the situation is, and by the time we first hear Gabriel Woolf’s voice creeping up on Toby, it seems that the situation couldn’t get any scarier. Woolf, of course, famously played the Osirian Sutekh in the classic Tom Baker story “Pyramids of Mars” back in 1976 and here he lends that some sense of malevolence to the ‘Beast,’ who could turn out to be another fallen deity. Having the ‘Beast’ manifest itself in Toby really pushes the fear factor through the roof. The red eyes, the tattoos of that untranslatable language… its all traditional, textbook stuff – but it works, and works brilliantly.

The look of the episode, as well as the soundtrack, is also immensely impressive. The black hole may not be technically realistic, but I doubt your average Joe knows what one looks like and I think this is one of those cases where you just have to go for what looks good… and it does. It’s absolutely beautiful. The score is another triumph for Murray Gold; it ranges from very gentle Celtic strings to very big, very epic ‘event’ music which helps build up probably the second-best cliff-hanger ever in Doctor Who. The pit opens. The Legion of the Beast begins to March, chanting all the Beast’s many names including Satan. The planet starts to fall into the black hole. The Doctor and Ida open the “Trap-Door” and stare down into the Satan Pit…

So is there anything about “The Impossible Planet” that I didn’t like? Yeah, two things. First and foremost, why did they have to kill Scooti, the fit one? And secondly, where did all the random extras come from at the end, only to be killed by the Ood? I thought it was just a skeleton crew! Ah well, you can’t have it all.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

First off- The impossible Planet. Wow. It’s at the top of my list; along with the Parting of the ways and the Doctor dances. For some reason I always prefer the follow on, whether it’s a 2 parter tv episode or a sequel to a book. So I have high hopes for the Satan Pit!

I noticed the Impossible planet received a 6/5 for fear factor, which was a bit extreme. I’d actually prefer it scarier, with more of those turn-around-and-scream moments with the dramatic, jumpy music. And more blood and gore. The possessed Toby was quite freaky, however, similar to the empty child. I loved his creepy, manic smile- it was somewhat entrancing, as were his red eyes and the ancient script covering him.

Yes, moving swiftly on to Will Thorp. He was fantastic! When I first heard he was going to be in Doctor Who I had my doubts (didn’t we all?). But he was the star of the show (apart from David and Billie who are always on top form). So many different personalities! My favourite is his possession of course. The voice really added to it as well- well done Gabriel Woolf!

The other characters were brilliantly played also. I wasn’t too sure about Danny though. His acting wasn’t the best and he got on my nerves a bit. But I’m like that- I hate all characters trying to flirt with Rose or the Doctor, i.e. Mme de Pompadour (I hated Girl in the fireplace. Monsters I can believe but the Doctor falling in love with someone else after meeting them twice? Give me a break.), Mickey (the idiot), Lynda with a y and Adam. But not Captain Jack; funny, seeing as he was flirting with both of them! But I’m just a stubborn romantic- it’s Rose and the Doctor or nothing!

Talking of Rose and the Doctor, that old chemistry between them has revived itself and the impossible planet was filled with sexual tension. I’d almost given up hope of it ever appearing again, having to be content with watching the end of the Parting of the ways again and again- though all of the 1st series was packed with it. Funny that the Doctor regenerates, comes back funnier and better looking (no offence Chris) and nothing happens- excluding the parts in the Christmas invasion when the Doctor wasn’t lying in bed…er…yes. But now the tenth doctor is demonstrating that he’s just as good at secretly loving Rose as the 9th!

Moving onto the actual plot, it was flawless as usual. I like the idea that there’s something the Doctor can’t explain; he was getting a bit cocky and big-headed! The music was great as per usual, with a new tune that I particularly liked, though I still wish sometimes that they would bring back the bad wolf music. You know, the one that played whenever there was a bad wolf mention, and during the Parting of the ways kiss. All in all, a fantastic episode!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Being a Doctor Who fan can sometimes be likened to being in a long term relationship. The first introduction to the world of fandom is that rush of intoxication,

an infatuation where everything is fresh and new, over time this peters out into a sense of cosy familiarity, then one day comes a sense of stagnation which causes one to question the very foundation on which that love was built. At this point one can either jump ship and abandon that love for pastures new, or stay and hope the spark which caused that first rush, can one day be rekindled.

Well for me The Impossible Planet was just that spark, a sharp reminder that every so often Doctor Who can reproduce those very feelings which gave it such allure in the first place. Only two weeks earlier Age of Steel had caused me to hang my head in despair and wonder whether I had finally outgrown Doctor who once and for all.

In a nutshell The Impossible Planet was a combination of everything Doctor Who used to do so well, but for all its technical wizardry and characterisation, the new series has often been lacking. Doctor Who for me has always been about a journey into danger and the unknown, and for once Matt Jones script left us in no doubt that this time the Doctor and Rose really were up shit creek. From the opening teaser the episode flowed almost flawlessly: balancing drama, intrigue and exposition perfectly, never rushing into plot developments or drifting off at tangents as some writers are want to do. I must admit to not having experienced any of Matt Jones writing before, but possibly of all the new series writers, he seems the most in tune with the dramatic structure of the show, able to effortlessly create that sense of creeping tension, without it ever feeling forced or hackneyed.

This was of course Doctor Who’s much lauded first journey onto an alien planet and in lesser hands could have been a hamfisted hopelessly studiobound effort, but James Strong’s taut and cinematic direction left us in no doubt that we were really in the farthest flung reaches of the universe. It has to be said that after years of the likes of Star trek portraying a rather homogenous universe where all planets are remarkably hospitable and earth like and and space travel seems the intergalactic equivalent of a smooth bus ride, it is good to see the status quo being shook up. The success of the new Battlestar Galactica owes much to this nuts and bolts approach to sci fi, and it is good to see that Doctor Who is portraying man’s first steps to the stars as a dirty and rather hazardous enterprise.

The new series continues to amaze me with its technical leaps and bounds, and this story moved up a notch further, the fact that on a weekly basis the production team are turning out these episodes which visually are on a level with a lot of modern cinema is frankly astounding. It can be said without doubt that the first new alien planet is a bone fide success, and was not as one may have feared; a CGI nightmare with a funny coloured sky.

This second series has proved much stronger on its monsters and aliens than the first and the Ood once again made a memorable creation, it wasn’t too surprising to find that they weren’t as benign as we may have initially assumed. With a touch of the service droids in the Robots of Death in the voice treatment, it will be interesting to see how they fare as out and out nasties in the second episode.

We are now in the position of being half way through David Tennant’s first series and perhaps now more than ever is time to reflect on how his Doctor has scored. Tennant certainly makes it easy to forget that there ever was such a person as Christopher Eccleston in the lead, he has made it so much his own and continues to have a sense of enthusiasm which seemed to vanish altogether from Eccleston mid run. But to be honest, for me at least Tennant is a good Doctor, but by no means the best, he lacks the sheer physical presence some of his predecessors had, and a bit like Sylvester McCoy used to do, his displays of anger don’t always come across terribly well. One also sometimes gets the impression of the doctor being a bit up himself and a bit of a clever git. Nevertheless the fact that Tennant will be continuing into series 3, will hopefully allow some of the less appealing aspects of his characterisation to be ironed out. Billie Piper’s Rose has also been somewhat less impressive of late and again has suffered from some similarly unappealing traits, it hasn’t helped that in some episodes the charcter has been desperately underwritten, thankfully however this episode marked a return to form. Certainly the scene where both characters believed they had lost the Tardis and may have to settle down to a normal mundane existence reintroduced some strong character dynamics which have often took a back seat this series. The supporting cast provided some strong solid support with thoroughly believable performances.

For once this story was a case where the good far outweighed the bad and any complaints are only minor niggles. Firstly why does Russell T Davies seem to think 21st century earth will be the template for humanity’s future, here once again as in last years future earth stories we have people adorned in modern fashions. I know Russell T Davies shies away from flowing cloaks and jumpsuits, but given some of the liberties he has taken with realism so far, I don’t think it would be too much of a crime to have a stab at futuristic fashions. Also am I the only viewer who is becoming increasingly annoyed with the Doctor’s over familiarity with modern day popular culture. Last week we had him referencing Kylie, this week we are faced with the rather uncomfortable notion that the Doctor sits down for a thrice weekly dose of Eastenders.

Overall though The Impossible Planet gave the new Doctor Who a much needed shot in the arm, introducing a sense of danger and peril which was much needed. This new season has been a lot better than last years, but has at times felt a little comfortable and safe. This was of course only part 1 and for all we know they could screw it up next week, but for me this was the sort of thing the new series should be doing a lot more. As the tension was ramped up till almost breaking point and the new series delivered its finest cliffhanger yet, for possibly the first time since it returned last year 7 days seems much to long to wait.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

After some fairly cosy fun with 'The Idiot's Lantern' last week, Doctor Who takes a decidedly dark turn in its eighth episode. And it's surprising just how dark things get. Similarities to the 'Alien' movies, 'Event Horizon' and even 'The Omen' have already been mentioned, but hang on a moment, aren't those all 18-certificate scare-fests designed to turn cinema goers into quivering wrecks? Well they're certainly not family friendly tales for seven o'clock of a Saturday evening, sandwiched between 'Strictly Dance Fever' and 'The National Lottery'...

Call me a big girl's blouse, but I can't recall Doctor Who ever being quite this scary. It's difficult to put in perspective, but I think that if I were nearer 10 than, ahem, well a fair bit older than 10, then I might still be suffering from sleepless nights. Maybe it's just me, but the psychological scares provided by Gabriel Woolf's disembodied voice and a man's skin suddenly being covered with arcane symbols are far more terrifying than any number of ranting daleks.

So, what happens then? Well, the Doctor and Rose, as jovial as ever, step out of the TARDIS into a ramshackle space station inhabited by a small group of humans and their willing slaves, the tentacle-faced Ood. They soon discover that the space station is on a small, inhospitable rock which orbits a black hole, thus breaking several laws of physics, apparently, hence the episode's title. How does it do this? It turns out there's a mysterious power source at the core of the planet, and that's why the humans are there - to drill down, discover and hopefully exploit this power source. But it seems the inhospitable rock may not be quite as dead as everyone thinks...

Which brings us onto the villain of the piece. And, well, it's the Devil, isn't it? No beating around the bush with this one, it's pretty definitely the Satanic one. A little bold for that 7pm slot, but there you go. Nice coincidence (or is it?) that 6/6/06 is the Tuesday between episodes... Anyway, the Devil's presence seeps into the space station's technology. Rose's mobile phone impossibly rings to chillingly announce that 'He is awake'. An Ood's translation device states that, 'The beast and his armies shall rise from the pit to make war against God', a moment made all the more scary by the fact that the line is delivered in the Ood's usual pleasant sing-song tones. The Devil's face briefly flickers in the station's holographic imager and, most terrifying of all, science officer Toby gets possessed, his skin covered with strange symbols.

The tension builds wonderfully, helped by strong performances and Murray Gold's best and most cinematic score to date. In fact, the whole episode has a very cinematic feel, with vast images of space and underground caverns, stunning set pieces (Scooti's death being both powerfully emotive and brilliantly realised) and a really gritty, detailed story.

Any negatives? The pre-credit teaser is a cop-out that reeks of someone forgetting to write one until the last minute. And the Doctor's hug seemed like an attempt at quirky and alien but unfortunately just comes across as a bit embarrassing. Still, these minor quibbles can't dent what's been one of my favourite episodes of the new series so far. Here's hoping that whatever was rising out of the pit (and how masterful was it not to show it just yet?) provides a suitably epic conclusion to the story next week.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

I've now seen this twice. My first viewing was in the games room of a camp site, where the wife and I were joined by four children. Second viewing was at home for the BBC3 repeat.

Quite simply, the best episode of Doctor Who since the show came back. Yes, even better than "The Empty Child", and if "The Satan Pit" is as good...then this will be one of the all time greats adventures. As a single episode, this will rank already as one of the best.

I knew nothing of Matt Jones' previous writing so went in with an open mind...save that the synopsis I read suggested this might be one to look forward to.

My goodness, if ever there were one episode to show people and say "This is Doctor Who"....then it is this one. It has it all. OK, so the 'base under siege' theme is not new, and the visuals are reminiscent of Alien/Aliens but there is something fresh and new about this.

We have an apparently impossible situation, a planet in orbit around a black hole - kept there by some unknown energy source buried deep beneath the planet's surface. The Doctor and Rose arrive (in a cupboard, brilliant!) and things go further wrong, an earthquake destroys the section of the base where the TARDIS materialised.

On board the base we have a pretty normal bunch of people, who have elected to drill a shaft to investigate the power source. As usual this year, the supporting cast are excellent. And they are aided by the Ood, apparently a slave/heard race who communicate via low level telepathy.

Things go wrong in a sinister way when The Beast, whcih we surmise must be at the bottom of the shaft, awakens and starts sending message to the Ood...and posesses one of the people. This culminates in perhaps one of the most scary scenes ever committed to videotape. And it's so simple..."Toby, I am right behind you"....yet so chilling!

Finally the drill shaft is complete, so the Doctor and one of the workers from the base descend to investigate. They find a 30 foot diameter trap door, which opens revealing......

Cue end credits, a sigh of relief and genuine anticipation as to what comes next Saturday!

Really top notch stuff. 10/10 for all concerned.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

After the joys of "The Girl In the Fireplace" I didn't expect the series to throw up something else so superb so soon. Yet this episode seems to have slipped under everyone's radar.

Not promoted as a tentpole episode for the season like the Cybermen or K9 episodes I think it's fair to say no one knew what to expect from the new writer director team.

What we got was flawless Doctor Who. From this day on, Star Trek and Stargate fans are on notice - they can no longer ridicule our show as the lesser force in television sci-fi. Quite frankly, the good Doctor kicked the bum of every and all other television sci-fi. In fact, it kicked the bum of quite a few sci-fi movies as well.

The whole episode definitely had a big screen movie feel to it - from the best special effects design the series has ever seen to the gravitas contained in every performance. This ensemble cast was not playing the episode with their tongue in cheek, this was played dead straight and the effects were chilling.

The script moved continually in new and fresh directions - nothing seemed predictable (expect that something is coming out of the pit but that sort of is the point!) and the 45 minutes just seemed to keep twisting and turning with new spectacle. I couldn't look away from the screen and continually felt as if the episode was about to end because so much had been packed in, only for another set piece to begin.

If the second episode disappoints it will be a huge let down but nothing can take away the fact that this episode was amongst the finest the series has ever produced.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

My expectations were high for The Satan Pit after the cliff-hanger ending to last week's excellent episode. Would Rose and the crew of the Sanctuary Base be zapped by the possessed Ood? Would the planet be sucked into the black hole? And just what was rising out of the pit to confront the Doctor and Ida?

These tricky situations were all, more or less, resolved with startling speed. The planet's orbit settled back down and locking the doors (temporarily) dealt with Ood. And as for what was emerging from the pit... well, it turned out that nothing was emerging from the pit. It was just a naughty point-of-view camera trick. Unfortunately, this did slightly deflate the episode for a moment. I felt it needed a more explosive beginning. Things righted themselves to an extent with the Beast speaking through the Ood on the video screen before giving them a brief glimpse of his demonic visage. The panicked crew talking over one another, only to be silenced, and then calmed, by the Doctor's interruption was a great scene, though the Beast's sepulchral tones were less impressive when mixed with the voices of the Ood.

With the lift cable broken, the story went in two directions: the Doctor and Ida contemplating the pit while the others crawled through access ducts to defeat the pursuing Ood. These latter scenes were as tense and claustrophobic as they needed to be, but reminiscent of similar scenes at the end of the film Aliens. The final door rising up to reveal waiting Ood provided a nice jolt, but choosing this moment to also reveal that Toby was still possessed by the Beast was a mistake. How much more of a shock would it have been if the audience discovered the Beast's escape plan along with the Doctor and Rose? As it was, we were waiting for them to play catch-up.

Ida and the Doctor's scenes in the cavern provided an interesting juxtaposition, quiet and thoughtful, and a chance to see a greater depth to the Doctor's character. The sometimes irritating banter and over-confidence vanished, to be replaced by introspection, doubt, even fear. Despite pressure from Ida, he initially decides against investigating the pit - maybe curiosity has been his downfall once too often. He dismisses the Beast's statement that it came from 'before time', but still seems shaken by the possibility. And he has a couple of magical, heart-in-the-mouth moments. Firstly, his 'No, it's not the urge to jump; it's the urge to fall', followed by his backward tumble over the edge of the pit. Secondly, when he unclips his caribenas and plummets into the void. With no idea of what's below him, it's almost as if he doesn't care what happens to him, whether he lives or dies. The simplicity of the visuals - the Doctor's flailing form against inky blackness, shrinking to nothing as he falls - makes for a stunning scene, especially as I thought, as the topside crew were about to re-establish radio contact, that he might be talked out of it.

The following scene, as Rose breaks down and then refuses to leave on the rocket with the others, ups the emotional ante. In fact, generally, the emotional moments in this episode work well - Jefferson's final scene and Ida's radio farewell to Zack being also worthy of mention.

So then the plot gets resolved. It's neatly done, if a little straightforward. The Doctor meets the visually highly impressive Beast and deduces that its intelligence has escaped on the rocket; Rose, strapped in on the rocket, comes to the same conclusion. As mentioned above, the audience is already one step ahead here, more's the pity. The Doctor, realising the trap, proclaims his faith in Rose and destroys the gravity field, apparently dooming everyone to end up in the black hole. The Beast speaks through a tattooed Toby once more - still shocking, despite it being about the third time it happens - and Rose despatches it and him, using that blatantly signposted bolt gun with one remaining bolt. The Doctor, using the rather-too-easily recovered TARDIS rescues Ida and saves the rocket from the black hole. Job done. It was the Ood I felt sorry for though, used and abused by both humans and Beast, and left cowering in the base corridors as they plummeted to certain death in the black hole.

In the end then, an enjoyable episode, but not the classic I was hoping for. I realise my expectations were perhaps unfeasibly high after The Impossible Planet last week, but it seemed that the best bits were used in that first episode, and not enough was held back for the story's conclusion. I thought I might end up with a new Doctor Who 'favourite two-parter', but I think that must remain The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances from last year. For the moment, at least.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

A high-quality denouement to last week’s excellent opening episode of this two-parter gives The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit top spot in my pecking order of this season’s stories thus far – and the last four episodes are going to have to be spectacular to dethrone this one.

The Satan Pit picked up where The Impossible Planet left off (as one might expect from a second part!) in terms of excitement. I really enjoyed the contrast in pacing between Rose and “her” crew’s high-octane battle to reach safety above the surface while, below, The Doctor was involved in much gentler-paced scenes as he deliberated on whether he should risk his life to fall to the bottom of the pit.

Rose has always been a strong character, but she has progressed so far since that eponymous first episode, she is now literally the leader of men, as she took control of the crew’s bid to escape from the Ood. This was quite traditional Doctor Who – a chase down a ventilator shaft rather than a corridor, but it was good drama, and a touching death scene for Security Chief Jefferson. And Billie Piper was great – full of vitality and life, and really responded to the action scenes, as she always does, of course.

Meanwhile, The Doctor’s musings as he dropped down the pit were the slowest scenes of the series – there wouldn’t have been time for such scenes in a single-parter, but they worked beautifully here. David Tennant excelled here, and the sight of his drop into eternal blackness was a memorable image.

Not THE image of the episode, of course. Even had the rest of The Satan Pit sucked like the gravitational pull from the black hole, it would have been worth it for the fabulous encounter between The Doctor and the body of The Beast at the bottom of the pit. That would have been sensational on the big screen, but what a treat to have it made for TV. For “our” Doctor Who. The Beast had to be the CGI team’s finest moment, and Tennant (considering he was acting against green screen) was terrific in his confrontation with the creature.

There were shades of Doctor Who past – notably Jon Pertwee’s confrontation with the Daemon Azal – but it was an interesting idea NOT to have The Beast talk, as its mind had escaped (in the body of the possessed and ultimately doomed Toby). The husk left behind simply dripped menace, and was a monster which will linger long in the memory.

One slight negative for me was that Gabriel Woolf’s excellent voice of The Beast sounded too similar to the voice of The Emperor Dalek, which I didn’t notice last week, and I wonder if many viewers would have connected the two, and expected The Emperor to turn up. Probably not, except people – like me – with far too much time on their hands . . .

And was it THE Devil? Well, it was A devil. And that was good enough for me. I didn’t mind the lack of a definitive explanation of the precise nature of the creature. Certainly didn’t affect the story.

Rose’s expulsion of the possessed Toby through the rocket window was another Alien-esque moment, in an episode which looked much more like a film than a TV programme. Visually, this was a quite-stunning piece, but was matched by the script and the performances of all of the cast, but especially the show’s stars.

For the first time since Tennant took over as The Doctor, I really BELIEVED in the relationship between the two main characters again. It’s taken until the ninth episode, but I’m convinced there is depth between Rose and the tenth Doctor. All through the episode, each’s primary concern was how the other was faring – both were prepared to give their life willingly for the other. And the reunion between the two had real meaning.

Tennant’s “tell Rose I love her” moment (OK, he didn’t use the words, but it was there!) was another high point in an episode of peaks and no troughs. Plus we had the additional teaser of The Devil’s assertion that Rose was going to die in battle – could have meant THIS battle, I suppose, but I’m sure the implication is that “the battle” is one to come . . .

Summing-up, wonderful entertainment, best of the season so far, possibly the best since the series returned and definitely a contender for the “classic” moniker. I look forward to many rewatchings of both episodes of this superb two-parter together.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

The pit is open and I am free..'

The conclusion to ‘The Impossible Planet’ does not disappoint. The production team are again giving all they’ve got for ‘The Satan Pit’ and it really does show on screen. If there is one thing to note about the series so far is that it has managed to be both cinematic and epic storytelling whilst also serving the characters well. Here we have impressive production values, a very intriguing script that is about genuinely interesting ideas and a re-affirmation of the central Doctor/Rose relationship. Their bond is strengthened in time for audiences to understand the trajectory of the characters when we hit the epic conclusion of this series.

Top marks once again to the crew, especially the production designers, all those at The Mill and Murray Gold for a great score – probably his best yet – and one in which he managed to re-use key musical motifs without the sentimental over saturation that he can be prone to.

Tennant and Piper were very good as ever with Billie somewhat eclipsing David again. I keep coming back to this but I do find that Tennant can be wonderful in most scenes and then he unsettles the performance with a ‘forced zaniness’. His quieter scenes as he was being lowered into the pit were spot on but I found the acting in the confrontation with the Beast was often over-wrought and clumsy. I become too conscious that he is ‘acting’ and this often pulls me out of the moment. However, it’s a minor niggle and one which I hope will sort itself out. For the most part, he’s really very good. Apart from ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’, this is probably his best work of the series so far.

I loved the counterpoint between Rose taking charge and her role almost Doctor-like as she motivates the crew of the base whilst the Doctor and Ida discuss faith, belief and religion in the darkness of the pit.

Shaun Parkes should also be applauded for his convincing turn as Captain Zach. He managed to give the character a much needed vulnerability to prevent it from ending up as that terrible old SF cliché of the ‘brave Captain’.

So what was all that about…? The philosophical trappings of the episode were very welcome indeed and added some real meat on the bones of the story. For a start we are presented with a Doctor whose rationalism is thrown into question. Many would argue that the Doctor has always maintained the need for rational and scientific explanations for particular phenomena (The Daemons being a prime example of this). What this story was trying to argue was that when confronted with an evil that ‘doesn’t fit my rules’ then he’s actually willing to be proved wrong. He is open to other interpretations when he doesn’t have the knowledge – ‘for once in my life…retreat’. He takes a symbolic view because it is a view that embraces the old cosmology and it is just as relevant to understanding life’s experiences as rational thought is. He still maintain his belief in the rising and setting of the sun as something that can be explained scientifically but he also now sees it as a phenomena that can have a symbolic reference in reality. Hence, evil is discussed as an idea, as a symbol of the unconscious that can be passed on from mind to mind.

Equally there is much discourse on personal belief systems, on your own faith and your own religion. For me, the Doctor and Ida are actually asking each other about how they need to rely on great trust as well as great scepticism when they try to reach out into the unknown. The entire story is basically how humanity searches out for the unknown with huge leaps of faith. The Doctor’s 'Where angels fear to tread'

leap of faith when he realises all he has left is a fall into the pit is the most pronounced outcome of this debate. Counter this faith with Rose’s very real fear of a Satan or the Devil as traditionally described throughout the centuries and perpetuated through myth and story. It is a primal fear and a heritage that the Beast exploits in all of us.

And it is fascinating that the ‘lonely God’ cites human achievement as an exemplar. Is the Doctor, fearing a tendency to alien aloofness, using the blind faith of humanity as a benchmark to keep his own ego in check? We have a Doctor who refreshingly does not know the answers when he finally wakes the Beast and it is his faith in Rose that transcends his doubts and enables him to act. In parallel to this, Rose also realises that a leap of faith - to do something there and then and worry about the outcome later –is the only thing she can do in the spectacular despatch of Toby from the ship’s cockpit. (Yes, the science was all wrong but this is an episode about rationalism versus superstition!) The pit and the Beast are both symbolic of the Doctor’s reduction of ego. The abyss is a source of wisdom and his fall a return to the cradle of civilisation.

The stunning Balrog-like sequences of the Beast in the pit and the Doctor’s fall are welcome nods to the Khazad’dum/Z’ha’dum scenes in Lord Of The Rings and Babylon 5. The mindless creature, a denizen of Dante’s Inferno, is a former God from an impossible place ‘beyond time’ with a slippery truth, 'the devil's work', that seemingly the Doctor’s rational ego is unable distinguish as lies or prophecy.

I loved the way the Beast singled out each of the main characters, with Toby’s fate as the sacrificial virgin symbolically highlighted and a very doom laden foretelling of Rose’s death in battle.

The sequence in the ventilation shaft, an ‘Aliens’ like chase through the labyrinth, turns on the Beast’s trickster nature when Toby is revealed to be still possessed. It’s a neat narrative side track that reinvigorates the tense and frantic direction of the last ten minutes of the episode. Again, visually there is lot of movement from above to below and across the screen, increasing the dramatic pacing. James Strong’s direction was particularly good in the chase sequences.

I didn’t really understand why a few found the ending a cop-out. Surely, we all knew that the TARDIS had fallen into the pit? I was expecting it to turn up and it did with a triumphant flourish that made my heart swoon. The Doctor probably didn’t know the answers but at least he had his trusty ship to save the crew and Rose from the black hole. In the end the black hole was made to swallow its bitter pill just as the Beast’s captors had desired. Rose and the Doctor are reunited but have they also taken their own medicine?

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Whoopee!

A tour de force. This episode was at least as good as the first part of the story. The CGI was fantastic, the script was excellent, the acting was superb.

In more detail there were plenty of references to previous episodes. Particularly the Daemons and also of course the movie Alien and a Red Dwarf episode where the crew were trapped in the ventialtion shafts. Torchwood got a shout again and there was a fairly big hint that Rose is going to snuff it before the end of the series.

What about the script? Fantastic, David Tennant had some great lines and so did Billie. He put the universe on the line by trusting Rose to do the right thing and all of Rose's heroics were done to save the doc. This was easily her strongest episode this series, she really went for it. This was definetely the TARDIS twosomes strongest episode their relationship was absolutely pivotal to the plot and the resolution of the crisis at the end.

What a shame that none of the Doctor Zoidberg lookalikes survived, Why not get an ood as the next companion, every TARDIS should have one. Apart from a tendency to demonic possession they seem to be pretty fun. OK the horned god isn't universally viewed as evil it was only classed at that when Christianity clamped down on its' rivals but for the purposes of the show I can live with it.l

These two episodes are what Doctor Who should be. They give you the same thrill that a story like Planet of Evil or The Brain of Morbius gave you when you saw them for the first time. This series has been a wee bit up and down so far but these stories and 'The Girl in the Fireplace' really raise the bar. It won't be long before it's over now and we'll be watching old episodes to fill the void. You really have to ask yourself how may of them would be as good as this. Not many is the answer.

After this dollop of hard sci fi we're going to get another odd episode next week but variety is the spice of life so roll on Peter Kay.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Most people reviewing "The Impossible Planet" said that it was written so well (surprisingly so considering Matt Jones' books were not some of the best) that even if "The Satan Pit" tanked, it would still be a great two-part episode.

Well no point in worrying because this part was as good if not better than the first, and that's saying something for Sci-Fi! I can't begin to write down all the Science Fiction two parters that just simply fell apart or just weren't all that interesting somewhere during part two.

In case I didn't mention it before, this two parter is not only awesome because they FINALLY leave the planet Earth, it's also incredible acting by every single member of the cast. If I was English, I might recognize some of these people (I believe someone said that 'Toby' was from a UK version of "Dancing With the Stars" or something). Still, every single cast member had a personality, passion and strength rarely seen in side characters. When they sacrifice themselves or are simply killed, you actually feel for them. David Tennant is brilliant as well. he really loves the humans again, something I had missed in the ninth's incarnation. His "sacrifice" of dropping to the bottom of the pit is a tiny bit lame only because A) You know he's not going to die and B) If he did he would just regenerate (although we are getting up there in "allowed" regenerations aren't we?). I'm also not sure if this crew, no matter how much they like and trus t The Doctor and Rose, would allow themselves to be ordered around by a young blond girl in overalls but hey, it's not called suspension of disbelief for nothin'!

Of course all the effects were absolutely top-notch. I don't know what they have planned for the finale but it sure seems like they spent a year's budget on a single episode. I love the rocket they escape in, the up close shots of the Black Hole, the Tardis hauling the rocket out of the Black Hole and hmmm....am I forgetting something? Oh yeah... "Satan" was AWESOME!!!! I can't help but think back to The Daemons. What a comparison. This guy looked, in a word, fantastic!!!!!! What an awesome looking demon.

The score in this entire two-parter was very similar to Firefly. I hope they keep it up. The slight violins and such work very well to the atmosphere of this episode. As with every episode there's a few holes like why would Toby/Satan need to tell an Ood he's controlling to shush about his presence and let him escape. Still, didn't affect my love for this two parter even one small bit. As I said in last week's review:

If you're a fan of Science Fiction, you deserve a show like this. Go find this two-parter and watch it ASAP!!!!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

Oh dear oh dear oh dear - after last week's cracking episode full of tension and excitement and almost reminiscent of the Sandminer crew in Robots of Death, the Satin Pit quickly sank into the most of cliche of SF plots - a chained up monster on a planet trying to escape with inhabitants of space base being chased around corridors by monsters (in this case the Oods which had shown great potential last week). For the majority of the episode the Doctor dangles on a rope, eventually crashes to the bottom and has pointless dialogue with a growling devil like creature whilst faithful Rose is left to deal with the creature's intelligence in the space rocket fleeing the black hole. Then bingo the Doctor finds the Tardis at the foot of the pit and saves the remaining humans - hoorah!!

To be fair the acting was of the same high standard as part one and the special effects were terrific. But the concept has been done in Doctor Who many times before - The Daemons, Pyramids of Mars, Battlefield to name a few. Despite the references to the Doctor and Rose questioning their beliefs about a creature that may have existed before the creation of the universe, there was nothing new here. Break a couple of flower pots and the creature remains prisoned for ever more - oh come on - pleasssssssssssssse!!!

So my first thumbs down for this season - maybe I just expected too much and episode one was really quite superb. This was a wasted opportunity to bring a really good space adventure to the season - it ultimately failed in my eyes - what a shame!!! And poor Oods - all wiped out - another race sent to oblivion!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

The Devil rides out...on a rocket ship. Or *a* devil, anyway. A Beast of some sort, certainly.

Possessed creatures marauding. Humans fleeing. Courage, fear, sacrifice, death. Oh, the humanity. Plenty of action/adventure here..superbly done. (Come back anytime, Mr Strong.) And who didn't smile at the mention of 'ventilation shafts'?

Way down below, the Doctor dangles. ('The Doctor Dangles'? Hmmm. No, no, no...'The Satan Pit' is a good title!) His belief system is being challenged and he discusses faith with his only contact, Ida. (A lovely performance from Claire Rushbrook); then he falls...

The Beast has been playing on "basic fears" but the Doctor's words have a galvanising effect on the unnerved humans (a common theme these days) and Rose is stirred into action, in effect taking on the Doctor's role. Brave, smart, incredibly loyal Rose. Others have commented upon the characters development this season (or lack of it, thus far?) and I can see where they're coming from, but thankfully this script gives her a number of great moment and, typically, Billie Piper rises to the occasion, giving what I believe to be one of her best performances to date. Favourite moments include "..could've said, you stupid *******" (fill in the blank, although I think it began with a 'B'. It definately wasn't 'timelord' !) ; her passionate refusal to leave the base, even though it looks like the Doctor is a goner; and the moment where she justifies, again, the Doctor's belief in her. ("Go to hell!!") Whether the character dies soon in battle or not, I'm personally gonna miss Billie Piper when she moves on.

I've already mentioned Shaun Parkes and Will Thorp, and they were great again this week. Zac becomes increasingly confident as a leader over these 45 minutes, and I think Thorp's brilliantly edgy performance as Toby, whether possessed or not, must surely figure strongly in the 'end of season' polls. I hope so. His pre-death rant saw an actor really going for it big-time. Respect.

So, does the Doctor meet the Devil? Or a devil? Or just a nasty alien Beast? He doesn't seem to know, or indeed *want* to know. Whatever, the Beast was a brilliant creation, and I wonder how the kids might've reacted. I'm no youngster, but when It was first revealed, I thought, appropriately, "Bl**dy Hell!" Ah, that'll be your standard saturday evening television with a big, red, fire-breathing Beastie, then...

As for David Tennant...brilliant. Whether conversing with the Beast with insensity, intelligence and skill, or being quietly relective whilst hanging by a thread...he nails it completely. Fantastic.

Well, I got a bit sarky and defensive last week after the Media Guardian story and some comments directed my way by "non fans" who had dismissed 'The Impossible Planet" as a rip-off of (Fill in blank)...silly, really. Getting so protective about a T.V. Show...but what the hey! It's a special programme.

When 'Doctor Who' is good, it is very very good. And when it is great...it is wonderful.

This was wonderful....10/10.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

“Doctor, tell me there’s no such thing.”

This has to be one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who ever. In forty-five minutes it showcases everything that is good about Doctor Who today, everything that was good about classic Doctor Who, and gives us a fleeting glimpse of what Doctor Who may be like in the future. It is fast – so very fast – as the Ood rampage throughout the Sanctuary Base on their crazed killing spree. It is scary – proper scary – how on Earth the kids on the BBC website voted this episode a mere ‘Fear Factor 5’ after last week’s episode broke the ‘Fear Factor’ barrier I don’t know. Perhaps it’s that old chestnut about what you don’t see being scarier than what you do see. I do think there is some truth in that, but when we finally get to see the Beast, then well…

“The Satan Pit” picks up where “The Impossible Planet” left off. The pit is open, and apparently Satan is free, but there is no sign of him. The Ood chase Rose and the surviving members of the Sanctuary Base’s crew through the jeffries tubes in a scene that could have been cut and pasted straight out of one of the studio bound classic series stories – it is simply thrilling. In classic Doctor Who style, Danny uses some techno babble method to knock out the Ood, but it is too late. There is a fleeting moment that is performed, shot and edited absolutely sublimely where Toby just turns to the Ood and says “Shh” – the Devil is still in him. Will Thorp gives an absolutely superb performance as the poor soul infested with the consciousness of the Beast. Thorp manages to portray Toby as a likeable but soft character, a bit of a doormat, and then suddenly the eyes go red, the tattoos appear out of nowhere and he’s the Devil. The force and the power that comes out of him is just shocking.

The rest of the crew are almost as impressive. Shaun Parkes as Zack, the makeshift captain, also gives an impressive performance. His character comes across as very down to Earth and very likeable, just a normal bloke thrown into a mad situation. Danny Webb’s Mr. Jefferson very nearly steals the show at times; his death scene is particularly moving. Ida (Claire Rushbrook), who spends much of this episode trapped in the Pit, and Danny (Ronny Jhutti) also come across as very real people with their own hopes and fears, making the Beast’s little précis of them all the more disturbing. Last week, much of the fear came from the hype surrounding this Beast. This week it is loose, and again the fear is mainly psychological as it plays on their “basic fears”, revealing their darkest secrets, and hinting at their possible futures. Whether this is the Devil or not – the original, if you like – is anybody’s guess, but for one thing it certainly can see through our heroes here. “The little boy who lied… the virgin…” and most disturbingly, “the valiant child who will die in battle so very soon.”

“For once in my life… I’m going to say retreat.”

When even the Doctor approaches the Pit with trepidation, the viewer knows something is up. “The Satan Pit” is something of a rarity in that it focuses on our lead man; it’s not a story where he shows up and saves the world, or teaches his young companion some lesson about the universe… it is a story about him directly, and his having to come to turns with the fact that there are things out there that even he doesn’t understand. The Beast claims to come from “…before time and light and space and matter… before this universe was created” which the Doctor just cannot accept. It contradicts all his core beliefs -“Science, not sorcery Miss Hawthorne” – as his faith is science. So what does he do? He jumps into the Pit. Bring it on! There is twenty foot of rock (filmed in a good old fashioned quarry, I might add) and then nothing. Literally. As he abseils down into the nothingness he puts a smile on a lot of fans faces with a few well-chosen words about Draconians, Dæmons, Kaleds… all these ‘classic series’ races have a Devil. The Devil is just an idea, surely? One way to find out, he reckons. He unfastens his harness.

“Just tell her… tell her… oh, she knows,” and with that the tenth Doctor falls silently, gracefully into the Pit.

When he wakes up his space helmet is smashed but guess what - he’s still breathing! Impossible! The Satan consciousness may have fled to Toby, but the Doctor finds himself looking up at the gigantic figure of the Devil. Whoever designed and animated the Beast needs some sort of award – to come up with a piece of C.G.I. that good on a television budget is absolutely phenomenal. Without exaggeration, you wouldn’t see a better realisation of the Devil even in a megabucks Hollywood picture. In fact, of anything I’ve ever seen in cinema, I think the Beast looks most like the Balrog from The Fellowship of the Ring… only better. Much better. It’s amazing.

The ending is an absolute thriller; Rose is trapped with Zack, Danny and Toby/Satan on board a very small rocket trying to escape the pull of the black hole… talk about tense. At the same time, the Doctor has to face the old “I could save the world but lose you” moment of truth again, only this time there is no Harriet Jones to bail him out. It’s gripping stuff; absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant – without doubt, “the stuff of legend.”

The only question that remains, now that we know Billie Piper will be leaving the show at the end of the series, is how will “the valiant child” depart? Surely they wouldn’t do an Adric…

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

So, um, "The Satan Pit," then.

Well, it wasn't exactly the ultimate battle of Good v. Evil that one would think would come from "The Lonely God" facing off against "The Darkness." Matter of fact, when you get down to it, most of The Beast's dialogue seemed to be a lot of bluster. I mean, come on, he had to disembody his mind in order to make any sort of impact, as his physical form was very securely chained up in a very deep pit, set against a very large trap that, when sprung, would have thrown the entire planet into the black hole. Which kinda begs the question why that civilization didn't just do that in the first place but, you know, whatever works.

And Rose. Ah, poor, possibly doomed Rose. Yeah, it figures that just as I was getting ready to write this, about the Beast's portent that Rose would "die in battle," I see the news item on BBC and Outpost Gallifrey that Billie Piper is, in fact, leaving at the end of the season. So, er, yeah, in some form or fashion the Beast will be right. Whether or not she dies is now the question, as to her leaving is now, seemingly, answered. And wasn't it nice of BBC to keep that under wraps for most of the season? I mean, they couldn't help but scream to the world that Christopher Eccleston was leaving after "Rose" aired, and thereby blowing the shock surprise of THAT season finale, but HEY, we gotta keep BILLIE'S DEPARTURE under wraps as long as possible! Oh, whoops, guess we've kinda blown that finale too! Thanks, Auntie Beeb. No, really.

The Doctor, meanwhile, doesn't discuss his faith and beliefs. Much. Yes, we KNOW his faith is with his companion(s), we've known that since reciting their names repelled a legion of haemovores when a crucifix with no faith behind its bearer wouldn't, back in "Curse of Fenric." Honestly, the idea that I've seen from some fans that suddenly "Rose is a goddess figure" is... bah. Not even worth getting into. He's always believed in his companions. And as for his stuttering last message...well. Back to "School Reunion," then, where he couldn't admit anything to Sarah Jane either. Just can't quite seem to get the words out, can he?

But you know, other than yet another gratuitous Torchwood riff, this episode was pretty damn enjoyable. The scenes in the ducts with demonomaniacal Ood chasing Rose and the crew had a very nice claustrophobic feel that added to the DOOM(ed) atmosphere of the story. I mean, we "knew" that the Doctor and Rose would come out OK, but there were certain moments where you had to wonder, even briefly... Overall, Matt Jones has, well, improved quite a bit since his New Adventures about a decade ago, and I think this season especially has benefitted from it. There's hope for this thing to be turned around yet.

And hey, look at that! Not a Sutekh to be found!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

This second and concluding episode had a lot to live up to. Perhaps it ended up not being quite as good as last weeks “The Impossible Planet” but ‘Pit’ did not disappoint. If I have two criticisms they would be that the Tardis appears somewhat miraculously when it needs to, this could perhaps have been handled more imaginatively. And the line where the Doctor claims that the Time Lords invented black holes should have been removed, if for no other reason than it seems implausible that the Doctor would find initial situation so impossible if his people invented and understood black holes.

Otherwise, we had an atypical situation with the Doctor and Ida discussing belief systems, which lead to the Doctor having trouble recognising the existence of a devil. That was different and well written. “Tell Rose…..ah she knows”, was touching and said what needed to be said without bashing the viewer over the head. Altogether an intelligent script for a sophisticated television show.

I very much have the feeling that if there were to be a Doctor Who film, something like the Planet/Pit two parter would be a great starting point, as the two episodes together are very cinematic. The scale is vast, even though the setting is quite small in scale.

As usual for 2006, supporting cast are excellent. Direction was good, suspense built dramatically until the final few minutes and everybody had a chance to be heroic. This is what Doctor Who should be.

9/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

As I'm sure my review of 'The Impossible Planet' demonstrated, I loved last week's episode. I was slightly concerned, however, that this week's resolution would not live up to the potential of part one's setup.

I needn't have worried, since 'The Satan Pit' was possibly even better than its predecessor.

With the Doctor and Rose separated for the episode, the danger of repeating events from part one was bypassed and the danger of last week's cliffhanger was averted in a nice, action-packed opening ten minutes where the Ood were overcome by the crew of Sanctuary Base 6 and Miss Tyler. What then followed was, if anything, even darker than what had come before.

The biggest surprise this episode threw up was that the baddie was, indeed, the devil. Maybe an alien creature responsible for the origin of the story, but certainly not anything posing as the Beast (my biggest worry about the possible resolution of the story). The Doctor was forced to accept the fact that such a being could, in fact, exist. The explanation for the black hole and Satan's prison were clever, and wonderfully tied-in to a re-establishing of the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. To send the Beast into the black hole, the Doctor has to be prepared to let Rose die. In a lovely twist, however, we see that the Doctor has learned since The Parting of the Ways that Rose is nobody's victim, trusting in her to look after herself.

There was just so much to love about this episode.

The Beast CGI was excellent and I was easily able to forgive the slight shakiness of superimposing David Tennant over a matte background for the sense of scale the image gave us.

Once again, the depth of the supporting characters in the two-parter was shown in the nice nod to Danny's claustrophobia, Ida's family background, Zach's pained sense of responsibility and Jefferson's touching death.

What really makes this episode so special, though, is that it is all payoff - not only for part one, but for everything which has happened so far since the show relaunched. My biggest complaint about the episodes after 'The Girl in the Fireplace' was that they felt a little static in terms of character development. Here, though, we see how the Doctor is not as all-wise and infallible as he can appear, and how the honeymoon is over for Rose's travels, with the danger surrounding her growing massively. Will she 'die in battle'? Well, I thought Mickey would and got that wrong, but leaving us unsure whether she is alive or dead would certainly fit the suggestion that this season ends on a cliffhanger ...

With season 3 looming, the moment when the Doctor questions all he believes and falls into the pit bodes well for a tenth Doctor who could be set to lose some of his chipperness and have some real darkness to deal with for the first time since he took off that leather jacket.

This is the season 2 I wanted - bigger, more epic but keeping the underlying sense of something sinister which served season 1 so well.

Next week? Well, I'm a little unconvinced, but if we get a character piece in the mould of last year's pleasantly surprising 'Boom Town', I'll be happy.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode 'en masse'. The crew and Rose being trapped on the space-station being hunted down by 'Legion' and the fantastic Ood changing from gentile, essentially stupid creatures into these possessed, almost 'demons'. The sight of one on all fours charging through the ventilation shaft was quite disturbing. Indeed, just before they escape the shaft the scene with Toby/Satan telling the Ood to be quiet; the knowing grin coupled with the fact that if he was actually the devil why would he need to tell his minions to hush made it very dark.

As the action was going on above we had a nice contrast with the Doctor and Ida trapped in the cave near the Pit, the Doctor discussing beliefs with her and having to look at his own ideas about the situation and, despite having less than an hour (although by this point, perhaps far less than that) to live he still insists on playing the hero and ventures into the Pit. It's here that we discover one of the failings of a few of the classic episodes in which somehow, everything makes sense. I found this quite hard to grasp as the Doctor couldn't read the writings nor did we see any suggestion of the mechanism in which upon release of the 'Beast' the planet falls into the black hole.

Another failing of this episode, in my opinion, was the Doctor's refusal to believe in the Devil. This is a man who has travelled time and space which has presented him with many adventures where he has seen and overcome many different things. He has fought with Fenrir and Sutekh, both of which are the devils in different pantheons and yet he completely denies the existence of this devil and then, upon seeing he seems to believe in its existence. Did he suffer complete memory loss when he woke up after the fall? Did he completely forget not everything is as it seems in his world and of course, did he forget about his past exploits with demons and 'evil' gods?

This episode was, on the whole, very good and very well done but I felt it was more a chance to show what Rose can do and all the emphasis on character scripting went on her; the Doctor secondary. Perhaps I may be proved wrong in the future. Perhaps we may see Rose doing something on her own which will prove to be her finest hour and this was just a taste but last I checked the programme was called "Doctor Who" and not Rose Tyler.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

To avoid redundancy I won't do a precis of the story as other reviewers have already done it. What I want to say is that about 30 years too late the BBC have finally put into Doctor Who the money it deserves. The "Satan Pit" has set the bar for the visual look of any Doctor Who story so far with a definite cinematic feel to rival or beat American TV Sci-Fi. For anyone but the casual viewer the influences of Robots of Death/Quatermass/Alien/Event Horizon etc may have been a little too obvious though. Thankfully the corridors are also getting better.

I don't know if this was the first Doctor Who story to bring in the (supposed?) devil. Even if it wasn't, this was done excellently with a surprising intensity for 7pm on a saturday night. The story and its execution shows that if the BBC wanted to they could probably make a really good adult Sci-Fi show, at least if they discard the silly jokes and only use humour that fits. Saying that, there's something about the writing on BBC dramas that often has a kind of "clever" world weary knowingness about it that I personally find off-putting in the context of something like DW. Same with the references to things like EastEnders - it may be "clever" but it's not necessary.

The two-parter "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" is surely the highlight of this series which has had other strong contenders. It's comparable to, or better than, last year's "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" in terms of visuals and execution, if not imagination. Sadly the thing that spoils it for me is the irritating relationship between the Doctor and Rose. At times it's like watching a Sci-Fi/Fantasy equivalent of a pair of twenty-somethings who haven't outgrown their teenage years going travelling around the world in a camper van and patronising the foreigners they meet. Plus, the "Humans are so fantastic" thing was done to death in the old Doctor Who - there's no need to resurrect it here in such a cack-handed manner.

Rating: 8/10. Great, albeit derivative, story. Fantastic special effects and creatures. Good supporting cast.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor
 

What a disappointment that a story as fantastic as the Impossible Planet/ the Satan Pit should attract a comparatively paltry audience of under six million. There was a feeling or maybe a hope that the Impossible Planet’s audience of 5.9 million represented something of the hardcore of the programme’s current viewing audience and that the figures were unlikely to dip further but my high of yesterday has become my concern of today now that the overnights have been revealed.

It isn’t RTD’s, David Tennant’s or anyone else’s fault that there’s a World Cup on at the moment, or that the weather is uncharacteristically glorious, that these are the longest days of the year and there may be lots of people away, or that we live in an age where there’s ample opportunity to see an episode another time if you miss the first transmission. The trailer for next week doesn’t inspire me to believe that things will improve statistically, so how far can the figures slide? To five million? Four and a half? Lower? I don’t have the stats for season 26 in front of me for comparison purposes but one thing I do know is that audience viewing figures for initial programme transmissions are still considered very important and someone, somewhere will have noted that in the space of a mere few weeks not thousands but millions have for one reason or another not seen the initial transmission. Temporary blip? Hope so. First sign that the honeymoon period is over in the eyes of the viewing public? Maybe. People at large loved Chris but are more lukewarm towards David’s energetic but at times too energetic and “loud” portrayal? Who knows.

It’s easier said than done I know, but serious consideration will surely have to be given to airing season three earlier next year, if possible, otherwise there might not be a season four to look forward to at all. Anyway, stories like this are best viewed when it’s dark outside for maximum effect! Hey, maybe that was one reason some didn’t watch….too scary. Because at times this one really did do what the old ones used to do more often (or is it just that I’m older?) and make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

The outstanding success of Matt Jones’s effort was largely due to the coming together of all the show’s finest elements into one brilliant whole. The story is of sufficient length to enable a fuller exploration of the various characters of the Sanctuary Base and this it does very well, aided it must be said by commentary from the Beast, and everyone turns in believable performances. This story, despite its subject matter of the possible existence of an impossibly old evil from before the dawn of the universe itself, was as gritty as they come and whilst the Beast proves himself to be the father of lies in his forecast of total wipeout for all those on the Base, it is nevertheless only three members, aside from the Doctor and Rose, who make it out alive, and the hapless Ood are totally destroyed. Even Rose blasts the possessed Toby out of the rocket and to his (apparent) doom.

And then there were the visuals –absolutely stunning. Was I watching a film or a TV programme? Hard to tell. Am I getting carried away because this was the first, and it would seem only time this series that our travellers visit an alien world? And the haunting music, particularly in the Impossible Planet- wonderful. This was a perfect compliment to some stand out sequences, for example the truly chilling moment when the possessed Toby turns to look at Scooti Manista (what a lovely name) and beckons her towards him. Thought for a moment he might start floating towards her and scratch the window as in Salem’s Lot… And then there was the shocking image of poor Scooti floating lifelessly in space. In the Satan Pit, the Doctor’s “ act of faith” jump in to the abyss is also eerily well done, shades of Planet of Evil possibly but I’m not complaining. Just prior to that, during his controlled initial descent, the Doctor’s calm discourse with Ida as to the possible reason for the numerous myths and legends surrounding the devil is refreshingly restrained, (on Tennant’s part) and not didactic, and perhaps the icing on the cake of Matt Jones’s excellent script is that it leaves open the question of the Beast’s ultimate identity and origin. And why not? We live in an age where there’s an increasing tendency for some to dismiss and ridicule anything that doesn’t have an immediate physical explanation. The Doctor’s point is to say that one of the joys of travelling is that there is always the possibility of discovering something that might force you to alter your world, or should I say, universe view of things.

Listen, I’m basking in the enjoyment of this at the moment. In a few weeks I’ll watch it again and it might unravel before my very eyes. All I can say is that for the here and now this has overtaken Tooth and Claw as my favourite story of the season, and it just may well rank as one of my all time favourites. If I may join the ranks of those reviewers who like to give a mark: 9/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

"Tell Rose... awwhhh.. She knows."
*click, then a silent fall into the unknown*

While I watched the episodes on the transmitted dates, I recently had to catch my roomate up to speed on the last two episodes today, and had the expierence of taking in the entire story at one go. Hence my reflections on the entire thing.

I may have to rate this as my favorite story of the new series, and as well, put in my all time faves for all of DW as whole as well. And Im not saying this lightly. Story construction wise, I thought it worked in a way that, was a bit unexpected and thusly succesful; and very fulfilling. Case in point, the first half built up to this great suspenseful.. and then the second half slowed down a bit and was more reflectful in places. And why does this work in an overall context? Well..

You are dealing with Untimate Concepts here. The worst of the worst, the root of all evil. Its a great primise, but how do you pull it off, and it not seem to be impossible to top for all the remaining episodes? You pull back a bit. The story teetered on the edge of The Ultimate Bad, but never fully gave you that. Even explaination-wise, as it was left to to the characters to determin what it was all about, so it was with the viewers. And that is how it should be. If you deal with Ultimate Concepts, then hand you everything.. you walk away later feeling all has been done. The Doctor has worked it all out. And where is there to go after that?

The quiet, haunting, still moments for me, are the key for me, why this worked. Sure explosions and chases and death are all good fun and games in a Ultimate Exciting Adventure.. but its not the meat.

Fot me, the meat of this story was, quiet, and almost unspoken, and abstract. Toby standing in the vaccume. Scooti's body floating. The passing of the Scarlett System. The 'mundane' talk of the Doc and Rose while the hauntingly beautiful black hole is suspended above them. Rose's Refusal to leave the Doctor, even if he's dead. Ida's "I dont want to die alone" bit. And above all.. what may become the single greatest iconic moment for me in the character of the Doctor overall of all series... The Doctor, hanging by a cable above nothingness.. talking to Ida about beliefs and then telling her to "Tell Rose.. awwhh... she knows..." and then silently letting go and falling in to the black nothingness on nothing but faith. Faith in that he hasnt see it all yet.

As I write this, I get chills just thining back to that image.. the Doctor hanging above the unknown.. the dark. And in turn, facing the unknown, the dark. In life, in death, in existance. Awwh, she knows. And that dank and unknown is "why he keeps traveling".

The other characters have it well served as well. When you habd the audience everything, it may all click the first time, but unless there is something left, the mystery, then unknown, then there is nothing to come back to. We are left with glimpses of each character.. but so much is unsaid. The 'running from her father'. The virgin. The unforgiving wife. The unwilling captian. The boy who lied. They are just bits and fragments.

And an interesting unspoken point to Toby 'the virgin' continualy checking his hands for the writing, much as the myth that masterbation leads to hairy palms.. and the checking for hairy palms is the first sign of maddness.. not finding the hair, but the checking. After his first possession, watch him, impulsively looking again and again, like a tounge instinctualy returning to a broken tooth.. If he is the innocent, symbolicly, then why him? Whats his fear and guilt.. that hes a bad person? And he checks, and he checks. It eats into him, quietly in the background. The question he must be facing now, as he did in his life with his 'virginity'.. "Whats wrong with me???"

Doctor Who. Doctor Who? The show is about mystery, the unknown, and the exploration of all that is out there, and in here, and unsanswered. It is the central question, poised by the unwritten exclaimation point in the very title of the show. The "?" itself. And the "?" drives the show, the main character, and the need to explore. The more we learn about the Doctor, the more the "?" becomes deeper.. more doors opened.

And even when the Doctor in the pit, meets the beast, the beast is silent. He cannot talk. We dont get the anticipated answeres.. we get the Doctor, thinking outloud with his throries. He faces the great unknown, and all he can take back with him, or even face, is what he brought with him in his mind. No great relevelation made. The beast is silent.

This story is as a whole, amazing. And its quite moments, its refelctive moments.. that will remain eternal, long after all the chases have been made dull through repetition.

For at the end, we still have the central "?" that drives the characters, the situation, tha show... And our very lives everyday. That is what is eternal. That is what is impossibley old. The "?"

Thank you, Matt Jones and the production team, for not handing us everything. Thank you for the mystery. Thank you for delivering something that will remain.

For all those that loved this story, watch it as I did, back to back. The whole thing in one go. You will see something very epic in its duration. And its the epicness that comes from the unknown.

Of staring into the dark, and having the dark stare back at you. And you facing that. And not with words, or solutions, or answers. Just you and the dark, alone. Just you and the "?".

Like the Doctor, hanging by the cable against the abyss. Then letting go. Which is now for me, the single most iconic, and simple representation of all that is WHO.

The Doctor and the "?". Then falling.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

Deep in space, an impossible planet orbits a black hole in an impossible way. It emanates an impossible cone of gravity while beknown to the human explorers on its surface, the impossible planet has an impossible, devilish secret.

Impossible, is the theme to “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” two parter. Not just its concept, but its philosophy. This episode is as much about how the Doctor deals with the inexplicable - or should I say, the impossible - as it is an adventure trapped in a scientific absurdity.

The setting for this adventure, the impossible and unnamed planet, is crafted with an eye for detail. The base itself brings back images of all sorts of dirty science fiction TV and film shows. Visually, the story has very intentional ties to Ripley Scott’s “Alien”. As a story, it shifts slightly closer towards the science fiction horror, “Event Horizon”. There is a little of Space:1999 in the base’s external design and I thought the adjoining spacecraft had a little bit of the retro rocket ship from the likes of Buster Crabbe’s “Flash Gordon”. By taking a little from various places in the genre it gives this story its own identity playing homage to the best without mimicking or feeling like a second rate copy.

As with the New Series as a whole, the acting is hard to fault, which in a claustrophobic nightmare as in “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”, is vital. There are few minor characters to draw attention away from the main cast and being a very science fiction orientated story, you HAVE to believe in those actors. There is no question about believability which is testament to the acting and direction.

Helping them along is a wonderful script by Matthew Jones, a veteran writer from the Virgin New Adventure’s era. It has to be said that “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” certainly has a taste of those seventh Doctor novels. However, it also feesl quite “traditional Who” at the same time. This story takes from the classic show in a way I felt “Rise of the Cybermen” failed to suceed. The story doesn’t just take old formulaic ideas and integrate them (my concern with “Rise Of The Cybermen”), it takes classic devices from the old series and uses them in a contemporary context. For instance, the TARDIS is lost within a few minutes. Very traditional Who, but actually there is no specific need to do this with the tenth Doctor. The tradition is there, but upated for the requirements of the story. Iin the sixties, Doctor Who had to find a practical reason as to why the TARDIS team didn’t run away - which often lead to being severed from their route back to the TARDIS - “The Impossible Planet” actually knocks this possibility aside with its teaser - Rose and the Doctor laughing at the very prospect of leaving. Yet, losing the TARDIS early on helps create that helpless environment that is required for the episode.

Furthermore, we also have some death scenes in “The Satan’s Pit” which are very old school Who. Security controller Jefferson stays behind to fight the enemy off and thereby sacrificing his life. Very typical Doctor Who, yet, in “The Satan’s Pit”, the scene uses this formula to focus on the emotional drama. No simple scream to announce the death of the straggler - we see the man and his friends dealing with his choice.

“The Impossible Planet” is a joyous piece of writing. The idea of being caught by a black hole was a premise set up in a similar vein by the aptly titled Disney film “The Black Hole”, however the focus on this story is less on the collapsed star above, but what’s going on below. Rather than simply become a “monster vs human” affair, “The Impossible Planet” rapidly changes direction from science fiction to mythological horror. This movement from one genre to the other is seamless. The “Ood”, a willing slave race, provide the obligatory monster to keep the tension up, but the real monster is the devil in the pit. The scene in which Tobey the archeologist is “infected” by the devil is probably the scariest moment in Doctor Who. What makes it even more impressive is it relies on nothing but the actor and the production crew to create the suspense. No effects, no monsters. It’s just good acting, direction and a deft piece of editing.

The climax to “The Impossible Pit” is one of the best ones of the New Series. As with “Aliens Of London” it’s a multi cliff-hanger, which really does build the tension to impossible levels. It’s only weakness is the resolution is wrapped up rather fast and a little too neatly in “The Satan Pit”

“The Satan Pit” doesn’t start off as strong as “The Impossible Planet” ended, but it makes up for any such weakness by the final act. This episode is Doctor Who at it’s best. We have tension, we action, we have drama. The New Series Doctor Who knows when to lay off the comedy and British eccentricities and there is little of either in “The Satan Pit”. What we do have is a wonderful fusion of drama and character scenes. While Rose has the drama and action, the Doctor has the character moments and the two arcs compliment themselves beautifully.

Rose’s role in “The Satan’s Pit” is probably the best use of the character this series. She gets to work on her own story arc rather than just tagging onto the Doctor’s. Giving both Rose and the Doctor space from each other really helped the characters to breathe. It’s only when they are pulled apart as in this story does one realise how their natural dynamic just suffocates the pair when they are together. My only silly quibble with Rose in this episode was during the finale where she dispatches the monster by blowing out the window with a bolt gun. It’s a nice idea and a lot of fun, but when the villain is strapped next to you, you’d think your instinctive reaction would be to fire it into the villain’s chest not blow open the cabin and undo his belt. Far more dramatic - and I appreciate there is only so much cold blood you can dish out to a companion, but this sort of reaction seems a little out of character for anyone in Rose’s situation! Oh, and while we’re on minor quibbles, a superficial suggestion is for makeup to lighten up on the eyeliner. Rose has black eyes that a panda would envy.

The finale is a great piece of television full of suspence and growing tension. The whole plot resolution was a relief as I was beginning to question some of the episode’s plausibility (if there is any in a story set on an impossible planet to begin with).

The devil is established as such a powerful omnipotent villain, yet when the crew fight back, he goes strangely impotent. Now this happens a lot when shows pit a mighty power against lesser powered heroes; the writer has to de-power or empower one of the two in order to create a victory for the underdog. With the characters successfully fighting back from the might of the Ood, it suddenly feels as if we’ve seen the devil suffer some power withdrawal. Thankfully, the end makes it clear this was never the intention.

With a whole story so steeped in mystery, the audience are kept one step behind which really serves the storyline. This is after all, unusual territory for Doctor Who; no blasé explanation of godly powers, no affirmation that this is an advanced alien.. the details are kept to a minimum all the way to the end. The story, in essense, makes a battle against formula and leaves the audience wondering in which direction it’s going to go: Will it expose the enemy as a powerful alien? Or is this the first unholy terror we’ve seen in Doctor Who?

The story has a great balance between dark and light. It is a tense watch, but the ending has a joyous lift which feels appropriate for the show. I suppose one could see it as a metaphor; escaping the dire gravity of the situation is almost like escaping the Black Hole’s pull.

Throughout, the music is wonderful. A collection of the standard Murray Gold motifs, with a natural earthy mix of strings akin to “Firefly” and Chris Carter’s “Millennium”.

Any grumbles? A couple. The Rose and Doctor relationship explored in “The Impossible Planet” still feels naff. While “The Satan’s Pit” gives us a little glimpse into what the Doctor sees in Rose, she still seems very childish. Her dreams of settling down with the Doctor in this story, the selfish possessiveness of the Time Lord she’s exhibited throughout the season - she doesn’t feel like a character you’d imagine someone as old and well travelled like the Doctor falling for. I suppose one could argue he has so much respect for the instinctive drive for mankind - as referenced a great deal in this story - someone who is so honest to their whims - to the point they are discourteous to others, may be strangely attractive to him. Either way, it’s still not something I’m personally keen on the series exploring. Madame De Pompedeau seemed a more realistic pairing. The romance isn’t the issue - it’s the subject of the romance I question.

One grumble we’re sure to hear is how conveniently the Doctor finds the TARDIS after his wonderfully dramatic test of faith in front of the demon. To me, it was a perfect resolution. This story is about the nature of the inexplicable; that there are some things that we can’t explain. Finding the TARDIS shows that same inexplicable circumstances that brings us the devil in this story - only in a more positive form. For me it made the episode, but considering how certain sections of fandom found the lack of science in having a “Impossible Planet” hard to get by, such solutions in “The Satan Pit” are bound to agitate.

An excellent story from start to finish. Best two parter I’ve seen. Yes, I believe it’s better than “The Empty Child”. Tennant is great, Piper does a wonderful job in part two and the whole performance shines. This is truly an ensemble story and no one let’s the side down.

”The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” is some scary Doctor Who that mixes wonderful homage and classic Who concepts into a story which feels fresh exciting and brimming with drama. Comparing individual episodes in such a diverse series as Doctor Who is hard, but, this has to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who - period. Honestly dear fans, we’ve never had it so good.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

And so to ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’, much vaunted when it was first announced as the new series first on-screen foray to an alien world. In fact that was ‘New Earth’, which didn’t feel at all like a new planet, and thus ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’ represents the first truly alien, hostile environment seen in the series albeit it one with that is uninhabited by anything or anyone except the ultimate personification of evil. As such, what we get is less ‘The Web Planet’ and more ‘The Dæmons’ on another planet with a bit of Aliens thrown in for good measure. Regardless of this however, it’s unlike anything seen thus far in the new series, and that is its great strength.

What is most striking about ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’ is its use of the regulars, and this is something of a mixed bag. I’ve long since grown sick of the relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose; her constant looks of longing in his direction just about worked with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor as it was portrayed as unrequited love. By this point it looks like almost-requited lust, and manifests itself as adolescent flirting and some of the most crushingly intrusive dialogue the series has ever seen. If the production team must insist on romance in Doctor Who, do it like ‘The Girl in Fireplace’ did it and have an end to this juvenile crush dynamic. Mercifully, writer Matt Jones, new to the series but having previously written New Adventures ‘Bad Therapy’ and the Doctor-less ‘Beyond the Sun’ manages to exploit this increasingly irritating relationship in ways that just about make it work. So although on the one hand we have the utterly facile exchange in which the Doctor gloomily muses, “I’d have to settle down… now that, that is terrifying” and Rose starts blithering about getting a house together, this arises out of the fact that, for the first time in series two, the Doctor is forcibly separated from his TARDIS rather than simply parking it somewhere and then unable to get back to it because he’s wandered into trouble, or unable to escape in it because it’s recharging. Tennant conveys some of the sense of loss and, as result of being trapped in a single time and space, claustrophobia that the Doctor must be feeling, and despite the hideous dialogue she’s given, Rose’s function here is to keep his spirits up until a mysterious menace comes along to keep him occupied. The ghastly smugness of the opening scene in which they leave the TARDIS and Rose suggests, “If you think there’s going to trouble we could always get back inside and go somewhere else” followed by badly acted hysterical laughter comes back to haunt them when they find that they really can’t just get back inside, and even though the audience knows that the Doctor’s going to find the TARDIS at the bottom of the Pit after it vanishes into an abyss, it adds a sense of urgency to the story because for a while the pair seem just as isolated as the humans on the planet.

Jones also makes some progress with the story as the Doctor confronts the body of the Beast in the Pit and realizes that in order to destroy it, he will have to sacrifice not only himself but also Rose. This suggestion that the Doctor thinks she’s the most important thing in the universe has blighted the new series ever since ‘Aliens of London’/‘World War Three’, but here at least he does decide to sacrifice her and open the prison, dooming the planet. So their relationship here is still overwrought slop and frequently annoys me, especially when the Doctor solemnly announces, “If I believe in one thing, I believe in her” but the story demonstrates progress. It probably won’t last, and it’s a bad sign that when the Beast tells Rose that she’ll die in battle I desperately hope he’s telling the truth, but it is at least a step in the right direction.

Interestingly however, ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’ also made me realize that it is purely this relationship, rather than Rose herself, of which I am wearying. True, she’s slow on the uptake when the Doctor (and the audience) realizes that the TARDIS has gone, but once the Doctor has descended into the Pit, it is Rose who takes charge, focusing the surviving humans into formulating and executing a plan, leading them through the maintenance ducts, and thus allowing them to disable the Ood. She has to be sedated to leave the Doctor behind, and threatens Zack with a bolt gun until he asks if this is how the Doctor would want her to behave, which takes us back into overwrought territory, but for the most part she works very well. But of the pair, it is the Doctor who is really great here. The hug may be cringe worthy (although Zach’s nonchalant “’spose so” when the Doctor asks him if he may hug him is rather amusing), but once the Doctor goes into the Pit the character shines in a way that, in retrospect, he hasn’t done for several episodes. Jones achieves this by challenging the character’s beliefs and making him face his fears; even the Doctor is wary of going into the pit, and only does so once the cable snaps and he has nothing to lose, quietly telling Ida, “For once in my life Officer Scott, I’m going to say retreat.” Tennant is especially good when the Doctor dangles over the pit, musing on the true nature of the Beast and wondering if everything he believed about the Universe is wrong (and on this occasion, the script leaves little doubt that he is), before finally taking a very literal leap of faith and falling into the void.

Which brings me to the villain. The Beast is the first god-like foe that the Doctor has faced in the television series since ‘The Curse of Fenric’, and although this sort of thing isn’t new in the series as a whole, it is a first for the new series. The wise decision to cast voice of Sutekh Gabriel Woolf as the Beast pays dividends; ‘The Impossible Planet’ is very creepy and Woolf’s malevolent tones significantly contribute to this, with Toby’s possession proving chilling. The episode builds tension wonderfully, with the Ood casually announcing, “The Beast and his armies will rise from the Pit and make war against God”, and the computer and Rose’s phone chillingly stating, “He is awake”. Scooti’s death is memorably nasty. Woolf’s best scene comes when the Beast communicates with the base personnel, plus the Doctor and Rose, near the start of ‘The Satan Pit’, and answers the Doctor’s question, “If you are the Beast, which one?” with the almost gleeful, “All of them.” He sounds suitably devilish when he says of the Doctor, “This one knows me, as I know him, the killer of his own kind.” All of which leads the viewer to expect the story to follow the obvious route, with the Doctor confronting and defeating the Beast in the Pit, but Jones subverts this: the Doctor finds its body, but the expected confrontation never really takes place; much of the Beast’s function is to make the Doctor confront his fears and challenge his beliefs, as he descends into the pit, confronts it, and realizes that he has to sacrifice Rose as well as himself, or at least so he thinks, in order to overcome this ultimate evil. This is genuinely unusually for the series; we don’t get the Beast explaining some grand scheme to the Doctor, it simply wants to escape and the Doctor has to work this out more or less on his own. This is a commendably brave decision, even if it does result in the slightly ridiculous scene in which Rose gives it a lesson in the importance of wearing seat-belts. Who would have thought the Devil could have been brought down by a chav with a bolt gun?

‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’ also works because of the supporting characters and a largely great cast. Jones makes every named character sympathetic, so that whenever one of them dies it has an impact. Jefferson’s in particular manages to be very moving, despite toying with cliché. Interestingly, the Beast plays on their fears, and we learn that some past incident between Jefferson and his wife still haunts him, but Jones doesn’t bother belaboring us with the details, which means that these snippets of information feel like genuine character background rather than plot points. Ronny Jhutti’s performance as Danny is rather shrill and forced for much of the story, but when the character starts panicking in the ducts, it’s very believable. All of them, despite being, really, barely sketched, feel real, especially Shaun Parkes’ thoroughly likeable Zach and Will Thorp’s unfortunate Toby, and the Doctor’s rescue of Ida at the end makes for a partially happy ending that avoids feeling twee.

And it all looks fantastic. I don’t normally bang on about effects in Doctor Who, but the Beast, the black hole, and the caverns in the bowels of the planet look superb. The sets mesh perfectly with the effects, creating a convincing world, and the obvious Aliens influence results in a frontier base that looks functional and dirty. The Ood look great, their interfaces giving them a bizarre pipe-smoking appearance, and their pursuit of Rose, Toby, Danny and Mr. Jefferson through the ducts is very tense. Director James Strong maintains atmosphere throughout, and as a result ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’ is one of the most visually impressive stories of the new series to date.

Despite this praise, I do have criticisms besides the relationship between the regulars. The Doctor and Rose are introduced to the crew when they first arrive, but when Danny tells the Ood to remain where they are he is accompanied by a hither-to unseen guard. Guess what happens to him? And to the unknown female crewmember who similarly appears at the start of ‘The Satan Pit’? Given Jones’ grasp of his other characters, this jarring insertion of nameless cannon fodder feels terribly lazy and borders on parody. There are other convenient contrivances on display too; the lack of air in the maintenance tunnels isn’t terribly convincing, given the abundance of mesh grills leading into and out of them, and the fact that the Ood, which apparently need air, creep up unexpectedly through different stretches of duct. It’s also terribly fortunate that the Ood cut through the door protecting Rose et al very quickly, but take ages to get to the Captain. The “We must feed” teaser is a bit silly, although I suppose it does makes the Ood sinister initially before they become friendly and helpful, and then, erm, sinister again, and the ending is also a bit daft, as we see the TARDIS with a tow-rope. Why didn’t it just materialize around the ship? Then we have the Torchwood reference; these are really starting to grate, and I’m actually looking forward to the series. Rumour has it that the references are building to something within this series of Doctor Who and are not just plugs for the spin-off, although given the Bad Wolf farce in series one, this doesn’t inspire confidence.

Overall then, despite some misgivings, I enjoyed ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’, although the admirable fact that it didn’t actually do what I expected left me rather cold on the first viewing. But Rose’s infatuation with the Doctor grates more than ever and I need it to stop, one way or another. One last note: the story would probably work much better without Murray Gold’s tepid aural effluence smeared all over it. But then, that goes for the whole series.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

I have to put my hands up and admit that I wasn’t expecting much from this one. Yes, I was very keen to see what the new series made of its first out-and-out alien world – even though New Earth was in a whole different galaxy, the very fact that it was ‘new Earth’ didn’t make it feel all that alien, did it?

But somewhere along the line this kept getting compared by Russell T Davies to the western genre – pioneers making their brave new way in hostile territory, that sort of thing. I think I probably took his comments a little more literally than they were intended, but neither the idea of this bleak, miserable planet nor comparisons to westerns – a genre that usually bores me to tears – did anything for me. So I had this chalked down as ‘one not to get too excited about’, although of course it’s all relative – an episode of Doctor Who is never anything less than very watchable, even when the show is at its worst.

Of course, I was completely wrong about the whole thing anyway – this two-parter is absolutely wonderful, and easily my favourite story of the second series bar the perfect Girl in the Fireplace. It’s very different in style to Moffat’s effort, however – whereas that excelled because of the emotional resonance and the cleverness of the story, The Satan Pit (as I shall refer to the two-parter) gets by more on action-adventure and oodles of atmosphere.

In fact, there were only a few bits and pieces across the two episodes that I really didn’t like, so let’s get them out of the way first before they spoil things. The opening of the first episode – now this is a debatable one. Is the false threat of the Ood funny and clever because it takes advantage of our expectations that they should be a threat and then subverts them (for now), poking fun at the show’s format? Or is it a pretty poor excuse for a forced cliffhanger, as if the production team realised they needed a bit of excitement to crash into the opening titles on rather unsubtly crow-bared this one into the plot?

I lean towards the latter myself, and I didn’t like it, but mercifully it’s out of the way quickly enough, and from here on in there’s little to dislike. The Doctor hugging Zach, the similarity between the deaths of Scooti and Lynda-with-a-Y from last year with the cracking glass and the nasty death in space… Personal reactions that are probably more down to your own individual opinion than anything wrong with the episode as such.

There’s little that writer Matt Jones or director James Strong can be said to have done wrong here, and both make very favourable impressions on their first outings for the series. Given that this was shot last and thus had the shortest timescale between production and transmission, it’s perhaps impressive that the episodes look as good as they do. There’s only one real visual weakness that springs to mind – again, Scooti’s death, as her lifeless body floats through space. Shooting this underwater was a clever idea and probably worth a go, but the overall effect looks a bit cheap and sadly just doesn’t come off. But if Doctor Who is nothing else it’s a show where new production techniques and ideas have been tried out, so I applaud them for having given it a go.

The look of the sets and the whole design elsewhere is pretty gorgeous. The Sanctuary Base looks a bit familiar perhaps from a million and one Hollywood sci-fi movies, but it more than competes and stands up to such comparisons. The whole thing looks like a big budget version of the industrial zone from The Crystal Maze, and it’s a look that suits the edge-of-the-universe desperation of the situation very well indeed.

David Tennant’s Doctor seems a tad brought down in terms of his usual manic persona for much of this story, which suits the situation well given that he’s supposed to believe he’s trapped on this lump of rock with no TARDIS to give him a way out – not that you suspect deep down the Doctor would ever believe that, and we as the audience know it would never be the case. Nonetheless, the Doctor’s reaction to the apparent loss of his space and time ship is handled much better here than it was back in Rise of the Cybermen, although the fact that such a similar event happens twice in comparatively rapid succession could be regarded as a little unfortunate in terms of the overall planning of the series.

Tennant is particularly good in the scenes in which the Doctor ponders just what this deep, dark menace at the bottom of the pit might be, and his appreciation of and admiration for the humans’ spirit of adventure and desire to seek out and discover new things is also conveyed very well by the Scot. Similarly, Piper rises to the occasion when Rose is left basically marshalling the demoralised survivors of the expedition into some sort of action against the approaching Ood. Although both Piper and her character are good at this, the fact that Rose herself doesn’t have anything constructive to offer does highlight the fact that she can at times seem a little bit useless when it comes to practically doing anything about the situation, although she doubtless has good leadership skills.

It pretty much goes without saying these days that any Doctor Who story is going to assemble a first-rate supporting cast, such is the draw and prestige of the show, but I have to bring special attention here to the cast, especially Danny Webb. Anybody who was in the awesome Our Friends in the North has long-since attained God-like status in my eyes, and it was good to see Webb appearing in the show and putting in a fine appearance as Mr Jefferson. Also worthy of mention is Shaun Parkes as Zach, who was of course David Tennant’s co-star in Casanova and thus it seems almost like a reunion between their two characters in that production at some points.

And then of course there’s your man Gabriel Woolf. Is it Sutekh? Well… no, the little we do learn about the origins of ‘the Beast’ do seem to go against it, but who cares frankly when you’re getting a performance like that out of the man. Despite never appearing on screen he managed to be by far the most disturbing thing about the story, with his highlight coming in the “Don’t turn around!” scene in which he possesses poor old Toby’s soul.

But what was he? Or she, or it? The devil? An Osiaian? Something completely different? Unless this does all very cleverly and unexpectedly link into something we’re going to see at the end of the season then I don’t suppose we will ever know and it will forever be a mystery – which is nice. We could do with a few fewer explanations in Doctor Who, and the dark, enigmatic shadowy nature of this devil made it by far the most intriguing enemy the Doctor has faced this series, and perhaps since the show returned last year.

No God-like evil from the dawn of time is complete without its minions, however. The Beast gets the Ood, a frankly repulsive lot and another score for the design team, although I’m not completely sure about the voices. While I was a little disappointed the whole idea of their slave race nature and their origins and how they fit exactly into human society wasn’t explored just a little more, the idea of this servants-turned-killers plot development was a good, if slightly predictable, one, and echoed The Robots of Death, as cleverer reviewers than I have long since tired of pointing out.

There’s little else I can add without repeatedly going on about how much I enjoyed the story. Another great effort by all concerned, and let’s hope we get a couple more trips to completely alien worlds in series three.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

Oh dear. Having just glanced over the reviews already posted on this page, it seems that I am destined to become largely outspoken in my opinion of these two episodes. You see, I thought they were just damn awful. There you go, I said it. ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘The Satan Pit’. Awful.

As inflammatory as that may sound, it would not be fair of me to take an indiscriminate swipe at all the elements of this story. The visual effects, for example, were absolutely stunning – probably the best the series has seen since it returned to our screens. Hats off also to James Strong for his accomplished, inspired direction. And, of course, David Tennant and Billie Piper were, as always, brilliant. Not one of these things can be faulted.

No, where ‘The Satan Pit’ fell down was with the most important element of all – the script.

Now lets be honest, the quality of the scripts so far this year have generally been weaker than in Series One. There have been some corkers (‘School Reunion’, ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’), some trundlers (‘New Earth’, ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’) and some absolute stinkers (‘Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel’). Unfortunately, ‘The Satan Pit’ falls into the latter category.

Given that Matt Jones had ninety minutes to play around with, how he chose to fill them was baffling. We seemed to be getting padding and endless set-pieces when we should have been getting plot and character development.

It’s true that, in Season One, the writers were still finding their feet when it came to the two-parters – the finer points of how the narrative should be paced were still being worked out which lead to them being slightly patchy and uneven in their concluding episode. Even ‘The Empty Child’ suffered with this to some degree although, admittedly, not as much as the others. By Season Two, Russell T. Davies and his team of writers should be starting to get to grips with the longer stories but neither of the two-parters so far this year have demonstrated any advancement in this area. In fact, they seem to have taken a step backwards. But whereas the problem with ‘The Rise Of The Cyberman’ was that there were too many elements vying for attention (The Doctor, Rose, Pete and Jackie, Mickey, the Cybermen, John Lumic, the Preachers, an alternate Earth, etc), ‘The Satan Pit’ suffered from the exact opposite - there simply wasn’t enough plot to go around, resulting in a lot of tedious, overblown dialogue, running down corridors and repetition (just how many times did we get the scene where Toby was sitting in his office only to have his name whispered by the unseen beast? I genuinely lost count!)

Another side effect of the thin plot was that you just stopped caring about the guest characters. When something was revealed about one of the crew it tended to be largely superficial. There was one instance where the beast goaded each crew member, revealing some weakness or ghost from their past. Toby, for instance, was apparently a virgin. Was this mentioned at any other point? Did it have any bearing on the plot? Nope. Ida was still running scared from her father. An interesting scenario and motivation for the character. Did this develop any further than the one glib remark? Nope. The only character that was allowed to bleed through successfully from this scene was that of the Acting Captain. He was demonstrated true worry about the responsibility of command and, certainly earlier on in the story, this proved to be quite interesting. Unfortunately, we were given no grounding to how this insecurity had come about. Shame.

Even the Doctor’s character suffered. The idea of him having his ideals tested is a brilliant one but it was just too shallow and came across largely unresolved. Having sat there through all the tedium for ninety minutes, you couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated and unfulfilled.

In Doctor Who Confidential, Russell T. Davies commented that it was important for the Doctor to not always have an answer, hence at the conclusion of this story we are left not fully knowing the nature of the beast that he encountered. This is all well and good, a fine idea in fact – nobody ever has all the answers – but I fear that what Russell was really saying was ‘sorry guys, but we kind of ran out of ideas…’ If the intention really was to let the audience draw its own conclusions on the beast then why not leave the creature unseen, an invisible but ever present threat? Surely this would have been scarier and far more in keeping with the creepy, dingy space-horror that the story was trying to emulate. ‘Tooth & Claw’ suffered in much the same way – how much more exciting and horrifying would it have been if we’d been made to wait right up to the moment when the werewolf bursts into the observatory before we get a chance to see it in all its terrifying glory? I understand that the BBC want to show off how accomplished the effects being produced at The Mill are – and don’t get me wrong, I think they’re breathtaking – but it comes across slightly like a young teenage girl putting on makeup for the first time; she cakes too much on. Season One got it right in this respect, the visual effects were there to compliment the narrative, to drive it forward to the next passage of plot development. Here, unfortunately, it just felt like the visuals were plugging the gaping holes in the storyline.

Why, oh why couldn’t this story have been confined to one episode (a format far more fitting to the depth of its plot) and an extra forty-five given over to one of the richer ideas from this season? (Just imagine how much more Toby Whitehouse could have done with Sarah Jane and K9, for instance!)

Please, please, pull your socks up guys! In 2005, you showed us how brilliant Doctor Who can be in the right hands!

As K9 would say: “Suggestion – spend less money on visual effects and more on hiring people who can write!”

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

Newcomer Matt Jones has contributed essentially one of the most solid scripts in new Who to date. Chiefly because this is fairly unpretentious stuff, offering little that it can’t deliver, though it is debatable whether the second episode delivers what is so accomplishedly promised in the superior first episode.

The premise of the story is tempered with a new generation of audience in mind, suggesting, rather arrogantly, that this is the most challenging scenario the Doctor has faced in his several incarnations yet. That is to say, an ‘impossible planet’. But of course older fans will recall, for instance, the equally ‘impossible’ nature of Zeta Minor, the last planet in the known universe which harboured a portal into the universe of anti-matter, in Season Thirteen’s definitive ‘gothic sci-fi’ story, Planet of Evil, the story from which Matt Jones has borrowed the most of his own story’s ingredients. Ironically, recalling the unusually stunning sets of the eerie world of Zeta Minor, shot largely on film at Ealing Film Studios, Jones’s modern offering on similar themes is even to some extent visually ghosted by its Louis Marks-penned predecessor of almost exactly thirty years back. However, the cavernous location filming in the ‘pit’ in Jones’s offering, is admittedly about as filmic and 2001: A Space Odyssey as the series has ever looked – certainly a world away from Planet of Evil’s video-shot anti-matter pit set. But essentially, has that much really changed in thirty years when one compares Planet of Evil and The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit?

Essentially this latest new Who offering is both one of the best-written stories since new Who returned last year, as well as being one of the most obviously lifted from the former triumphs of the classic series. We have ingredients from Robots of Death with a group of isolated humans being turned-on by their own ‘slaves’ (i.e. the Vocs in Robots and the Ood in Impossible Planet), the Ood also being expertly voiced in an uncannily similar soothing tone to both the Vocs and the Clockwork Robots in Girl in the Fireplace – beautifully done. We have another manifestation of the Devil, aka Azal, aka Sutekh, and so on, now manifested somewhat anonymously – so this harks back to The Daemons (also alluded to in this story) and of course Pyramids of Mars, with, coincidentally, the incomparable Gabriel Wolf voicing what is basically another version of Sutekh once again. There is also a striking similarity between this modern Satanic manifestation and the – admittedly completely botched one – of the Great Vampire in State of Decay, who is also imprisoned beneath a planet; who’s to say this isn’t one of that giant number, formerly thought destroyed by the Timelords? But, as previously cited, Planet of Evil is Jones’s most obvious inspiration for Impossible/Satan: both stories have an ‘impossible’ planet at the edge of the known universe, one the gateway to anti-matter, one orbiting a black hole; both harbour a pernicious and indestructible power force and almost magnetic imprisoning of their human visitors; and both feature possessions and transmogrifications of one of these human visitors into something symbiotically a part of the planet they are trapped on (i.e. Sorenson and the mundanely named Toby). And of course both stories are quite blatantly inspired by the cult Fifties film Forbidden Planet, which is where presumably Jones got his own title.

So basically what we get from Jones is a fairly derivative plot, but it is in the details of this plot and the scriptural elements (i.e. allusions, dialogue, back stories etc.) and characterizations that his new Who offering really comes into its own. All the characters are excellently scripted and acted, and with the compliment of the beautifully designed and voiced Ood servants (stupid name but excellent concept: a bipedal ‘herd’ species, rather like cows, with superbly realised blinking eyes and what look like Turkish pipes as translators – their ‘telepathy’ and how it is measured being very well thought out), colour a scenario strongly reminiscent of Chris Boucher’s classic Robots of Death. These are, at last, characters one can to some extent engage and empathise with, to the point that one very nearly cares what happens to some of them; the casting had a lot to do with this, some good solid actors for a change.

Ironically, during the first episode, I tended to feel the only characters which were annoying me were the Doctor and Rose themselves, who seemed to trip into the grim scenario fairly smugly to be greeted by a bunch of rather subdued and moody protagonists who were quite clearly taken aback by the intruders’ pretensions to amiability – cue the cringe-inducing and meaningless hug that the Doctor offers the Captain. What on Earth, or off it, was that all about? The forced ‘zaniness’ and overly emphatic manic ‘energy’ of the Tenth Doctor can often be grating and slightly embarrassing, making Tenant resemble a hybrid of Jarvis Cocker and Kenneth Williams, but thankfully the ‘zaniness’ is fairly muted for the rest of this two-parter, and Tenant puts in his best performance to date as the Doctor: not too omnipotent for a change, a little feckless, and prone to philosophical digressions on the ontology of his adversary, a welcome relief from his ubiquitous allusions to popular culture which litter and deflate many other episodes – as a friend pointed out to me the other day, the ‘Kylie’ and ‘Walford’ style quips would be perfectly apt from the mouth of Rose, someone grounded in that very culture, but coming from the Doctor it is simply absurd, puerile, pointless and basically down to abysmal scripting and characterization. The Doctor should be a figure we look up to both morally and intellectually – I can’t look up to anyone who quotes Kylie lyrics and alludes to EastEnders. And what was the point in the Walford reference anyway, when it was barely audible due to The Doctor irrelevantly blurting it out from inside a space helmet? This is simply slack writing. However, Tenant, as I said, certainly pulled off his most convincing performance to date, and seemed to be directly mimicking the mannerisms and delivery of his iconic predecessor Tom Baker when confronting the demon in the pit. Even though what we get is a much less compelling pastiche of the Fourth Doctor, Tenant is at last given an opportunity with a pretty straight and substantial script, to put in a convincing performance – ranking equally to his refreshingly accented portrayal in Tooth and Claw –, blissfully unhampered by the growingly tiresome Rose.

Which brings me on to some of the criticisms for this story. As previously mentioned, the highly nauseating smugness of the Doctor and Rose as they first meet the humans. The Doctor’s completely stupid hugging of the Captain and his equally fatuous and geeky back-of-the-throat chortles afterwards, rather like that goggle-eyed eldest son from My Family. Rose’s dim-witted remark about the black hole funnel being ‘like a rollercoaster?’ – the sort of line occasionally force-fed to poor Sophie Aldred in some of the worst scripted McCoy’s; and the inevitable scene when, faced with being stranded forever on the planet (remember Frontios? no doubt one of this story’s other influences), Rose proposes sharing a mortgage with a thankfully awkward-looking Doctor, who seems to gladly greet this prospect with the same sort of horror that the classic series Doctors would show at the prospect of residing back on Gallifrey. Thank God, at least, for this subtle re-emphasis of a cosmic hobo who won’t be tied down to anything other than the TARDIS. But the greatest irritants of this otherwise accomplished script, are the Doctor’s constant commentaries and eulogies on the intrepid spirit of the human race; yes, admittedly we appear to be a contrast to the home-loving Timelords, but come on, there’s also the couch-potato side to Earthlings as exemplified in the cloying Jackie. No doubt Jones was attempting to pull off a similar monologue from the Doctor to Tom Baker’s in The Ark in Space – but I’m afraid there’s no comparison: on this level Jones could not compete with the Fourth Doctor’s classic speech on the ‘indomitable’ spirit of the human race which, as we may recall, was not meant to be particularly flattering, but awe-struck, horrified and sardonic all at the same time. While the Third and Fifth Doctors might have often eulogised about Earth being their favourite planet (though Pertwee was frequently attempting to escape it in the TARDIS), the Fourth and Seventh Doctors were noticeably more misanthropic, and this was something I always liked about those incarnations. Sadly RTD’s obsessive terrestrialization of Doctor Who seems constantly intent on emphasizing the Doctor’s sentimental bond with Earth via frequent speeches paying tribute to its inhabitants (the worst example being the Ninth Doctor’s ludicrously parochial eulogy about the British in World War II, only just saved by a refreshingly political tribute to the Welfare State).

Other criticisms I have are related to the story’s overly Geiger/Ridley Scott-esque visuals, and in particular the blatant Aliens rip-off of the Ood going through the tunnel sequence which takes up a sizeable chunk of episode two. Satan Pit was for me a bit of a come down from the promise of episode one, but it was still pretty good in its own right, if a little too action-based.

But back on a more positive note, Gabriel Wolf put in another inimitably chilling vocal performance as the Devil; not quite on a par with the ‘abase yourself you grovelling inse-e-ect’ lines of Sutekh, but not far off. The scene in which he warns Toby not to turn round and look at him as it will kill him is one of the most genuinely disturbing scenes ever done in the series. Excellently directed. As is the scene in which the girl spies the possessed Toby through the glass of the base to her imminent peril as he turns round to flash his red eyes at her and smash the glass by clenching his fist in its direction, to the strains of string and wood instruments that have a menacing Celtic arc to them – brilliantly shot by director James Strong. Other scene highlights in terms of script and direction are those as the Ood rise up possessed chanting ‘I am the fear, the doubt, the obsession, the temptation…’ and so on. I was also greatly relieved to find that this story’s chosen ‘musical insert’ was a beautifully incongruous but atmospherically compatible choice of Ravel’s Bolero; a lovely and classy touch to shots of the Ood going about their menial work. Very well chosen.

Overall this story is for me the most successful and well-produced of the new Who cannon since Dalek, to which it comes a close second in my opinion (followed closely by Tooth and Claw, Unquiet Dead, Father’s Day and the Girl in the Fireplace). Well done all round – bar the still seemingly inevitable scriptural lapses between the Doctor and Rose.

8/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

In 'The Impossible Planet' and 'The Satan Pit' we got what 'the Guardian' described as 'Alien plus The Matrix divided by The Exorcist'. You didn't need to look too hard to find other influences from various precursors in the sci-fi and fantasy/horror genres but it was all brought together with such panache, and with enough that was original and fresh, that there was never any hint of schlock. 'Derivative' is not a disparaging criticism when the sources are as impeccable as they were here. Of course, give a bad cook a platter of even the finest ingredients and you'll still end up with an inedible meal. Fortunately for us, what we sat down to here was a banquet, lovingly prepared by a gathering of master chefs.

It is reported that when Lew Grade had finished watching a screening of the very first episode of 'Thunderbirds', he said to Gerry Anderson 'That's not a television show. It's a movie!'. Similar words are apt here. For a new take on the base-under-siege theme, with a suitably claustrophobic setting, this felt simply epic in its scale. Splice these two episodes together and you have a cinematic experience more involving than many a Hollywood blockbuster.

Matt Jones' script skillfully increased the tension and excitement as the plot, which never felt predictable, advanced. The gradual revelation of the presence of the Beast, first in simple references, then through the disembodied voice heard by Toby, his subsequent 'possession' with its truly chilling physicality, the conversion of the Ood into his army, the flickering hologram and finally the monster in the pit, was masterful. Moments of action and tension were interspersed with intimate duologues which gave the characters time to grow, to breathe and to explore their relationships, even their relationships with characters in their lives outside this story. Just three words, 'My old Mum', added flesh to Ida's character, superbly portrayed by Claire Rushbrook. When the Beast, through Toby, asked Jefferson if his wife had ever forgiven him, going on to say 'She never did', a whole history was alluded to in just a couple of sentences. The effect was powerful and the writer allowed us the intelligence to make more of these exchanges than the mere words conveyed. Such finesse abounded.

The economy of the language used to make such dramatic impact was breathtaking. Jefferson's poetic eulogy as he reported Scooti's death elevated what was already a powerfully moving scene to another level again. Beautiful words, simply spoken. The beast confronted the deepest psychological fears of the crew not with snarling threats but simple insights; 'The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife. The scientist, still running from Daddy. The little boy who lied.' When cut together with the reaction shots of the people concerned, the effect was electric.

Subtlety in scripting was matched by subtlety in performance. Given the nature of the story and its themes, it would have been all to easy for any of these actors to chew the scenery with a vengeance but none did. Every performance was based in truth and pitch-perfect. The stand-outs were, of course, Will Thorp and Gabriel Woolf, who, individually and together, inhabited the character of the Beast to mesmerising effect. Toby was entirely believable and his transitions from downright terrified to downright terrifying were brilliantly portrayed. It is impossible to imagine a voice better suited to the Beast than that of Gabriel Woolf. Two outstanding performances that brought to life two characters in one.

David Tennant's Doctor, surely destined for an honoured place in the Who Hall of Fame, continues to grow in stature and authority with every episode. He is at his quirky and eccentric best when considering apparently insurmountable problems. His 'thinking-out-loud' approach, with sudden swoops of logic and contradiction, is as much a joy to watch here as ever. So too his quiet contemplation of events in his duologues with other characters. He always conveys a sense of this Doctor's deep empathy. Billie Piper too reminds us of why Rose really is such an apposite companion for this Doctor and why she is perfectly equipped to bring her to life. Rose here shows more steel than we've seen before; but then she has come a long way from being a simple shop girl. She's been changed by her experiences with the Doctor and her fondness for him, just as Sarah Jane and others were before her. The rest of the ensemble cannot be faulted and it is no struggle to believe that this is a group of people who have journeyed far together.

The meticulous care with which the production team have brought the Doctor back to our screens has been evident in every episode since 'Rose' but the bar is raised again with this two-parter. The whole look is impressively filmic and it's difficult to believe that something with such visual punch is actually a kid's programme created for broadcast television on a comparatively tight budget. The sets, the costumes, the lighting, the effects photography, all are seamlessly integrated to create a wholly plausible environment; whether the dingy confines of a realistically detailed sanctuary base or the cavernous underground of a lost civilisation.

The Ood were another great concept brought to life by some terrific prosthetics and animatronics. They didn't look like blokes in rubber suits as so often creatures did in the classic series, but believable aliens. The CGI beast, when it first appeared in all its malevolent glory, actually elicited from me the involuntary but entirely appropriate exclamation of 'Bloody HELL!'. The scale and detail of that creation was astounding and resulted in surely the most visually impressive 'monster' the series has ever featured. The heat haze which shimmered about it was a small example of that almost obsessive attention to detail which helps give such creations their authenticity.

Equally impressive and arguably more disturbing still was the manner in which the 'possession' of Toby was represented. A simple idea, amounting to little more than a few tattoos and some red contact lenses, but brilliantly executed and brilliantly effective. Factor in Will Thorp's focused performance, and Gabriel Woolf's measured tones, together with James Strong's taut direction, and the effect was astonishingly creepy. When the beast inhabiting Toby fixes Jefferson with his gaze, during the first occasion on which the crew realise his possession, you really get the remarkable sense that he is looking not at him but into him. The moment in the maintenance tunnel when an apparently 'clean' Toby turns to the advancing Ood and stills them with a look and a gesture was totally unexpected and shocking indeed. It is again a tribute to all involved that when the possessed Toby later begins spouting messianic phrases and even breathing fire it never seems over the top but remains true to the story, entirely believable and horrific.

Much of the credit for the foregoing belongs to James Strong. His pacing always works with the script, never against it. Intimate conversations took place in close-up; sometimes with an unusual angle of view, such as when the Doctor and Rose were shot from below against the towering image of the black hole above. In these more contemplative passages the camera was allowed to linger, the cutting between shots kept to a minimum, the dialogue brought to centre stage. In the action sequences the cuts came thick and fast; close-ups capturing every nuance of reaction, medium shots used to show the characters interacting with the environment or each other and long shots, again often from unusual perspectives, used to create a sense of the scale of this drama. Together with the effects team, he offered us some stunning and very memorable imagery: the shot of Danny looking through the porthole, seamlessly transitioning to Toby looking through his magnifying glass; the possessed Toby on the surface; Scooti drifting in space; the Doctor and Ida exploring a cavern which seemed both real and vast; the space-suited Doctor suspended in the inky void of the pit, finally falling; the Beast railing against his chains and writhing in fire; the possessed Toby confronting Rose in the space ship, his malevolence captured in extreme wide-angle close-up. These pictures will long stay in the mind.

Murray Gold also continued to deliver the goods. I've never found his music for the series intrusive as some claim to have done. For me, it always helps the drama just as the best incidental music should. Haunting refrains underscore emotional scenes whilst action sequences are accompanied by orchestral passages which here are wonderfully percussive and Faustian. Sometimes all it takes is a single, stabbing chord, a crescendo or glissando, to highlight a dramatic event. Classy stuff.

My only minor niggle in this whole story concerned the reappearance of the TARDIS. It needed to reappear where and when it did, of course, as it was essential to the eventual denouement, but the way in which this was done just felt a bit lazy. How, for example, did it come to be beyond the great seal over the mouth of the pit, which was closed at the time the TARDIS was lost? Did the earthquake really open up a chasm over ten miles deep that went beyond that seal elsewhere? Or did the TARDIS somehow dematerialise to protect itself during the fall, something not beyond credibility for a device which we know to be sentient on some level, being drawn, naturally enough, to rematerialise near the source of the gravity field? A quick question from Rose answered by the Doctor would have filled in the one remaining blank for someone who likes everything nice and tidy.

It is, of course, beyond irony that these episodes, which in time will surely come to be regarded as classics of the Who canon, and which of all the New Who episodes most recall the spirit of great episodes from the classic series, are those which have received the lowest audience numerically since the Doctor's return; even if still enjoying a good percentage share. Someone in the BBC must be certifiably insane for scheduling the series to run in the summer months. Imagine how many more people would be inclined to watch and enjoy the programme on a winter's evening. Imagine, too, how much better the dark of winter would have suited the broadcast of a story as atmospheric as this.

This has been my first review, so I should explain that I am writing simply from the perspective of one of the millions who formed in earlier years a great and abiding fondness for one of our national TV treasures. After reading much of what has been written here concerning the 9th and 10th incarnations of our eponymous hero, I'm really rather relieved that I'm not what might be called a 'true' fan. It must be terrible to have access to television drama of such sublime quality as this every Saturday evening and to remain unable to enjoy it for what it is. For the true fan, it seems, the 21st Century Who can do no right (and I can imagine the reviews for next week's episode already!). For the rest of us, fortunately, it remains entertaining and enthralling and can do no wrong, especially with material as strong as this. Long may it continue.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor Television
 

Since "Doctor Who" came back to TV, the makers have so far been going down a checklist of things that either the original series or the spinoffs in the wilderness years did and bringing them to full-screen and fully-updated life. This story covers some of the few remaining "big" items to check off, like "visit hostile alien planet," and "meet Devil," and now having seen these done and done so well, I feel like we are at last back to "normal," or at least what normal was before the cancellation crises of the mid-80s started, or what normal should be today in 2006. Strange that such a gripping, suspenseful, and terrifying story should bring about in me a feeling of relaxation, like the series is finally well and truly "home." What a pleasant feeling to have. :)

In classic series terms, this is very much "Planet of Evil" crossed with "Pyramids of Mars" and a bit of "The Ark in Space." From "Evil," we have a bottomless black pit that the Doctor falls into, a scientific expedition on a hostile planet that's slowly going under, and some physics that's rough around the edges. From "Mars," we have the god-like being that could destroy the universe, the prison that it's kept in, the prison helping the Doctor to prevent the jailbreak , and even the voice of Gabriel Woolf. And from "Ark in Space," there's some good old running-away-from-monsters-in-ducting and diversion of power from a rocket ship with its own power system. Oh, and there's the old "we've lost the TARDIS" trick. I make these points not to criticize the series for reusing its own greatest hits collection, but to remind everyone that we saw these things in "Doctor Who" in 1975, and that's where it's all coming from, and not from other movies and media that became hits in the meantime. And it's more than just straight reuse. It's all given a fresh 2006 update with plenty of great character work, as the story stops itself on numerous occasions to let the Doctor, Rose, or our guest starts pause to think about the implications of what it is they're discovering, or about how much trouble they're now in, or how old the person who's just died was as she floats off into a black hole. I also very much like that, for once, the space explorers in a tough environment are not a bunch of cynics complaining about their lot or what bonus their evil paymasters didn't give them or how they shouldn't trust these strangers who just turned up. They're still at least somewhat cheerful, for although they may lose people, they're all doing something they believe in and feel like they're getting somewhere, and for that, the Doctor gives their captain a hug, in what's probably my favorite character moment that the Tenth Doctor has had yet. And now for that thing they discover...

Now, normally, I bristle whenever in "Doctor Who" we get a giant god-like monster from beyond the universe or time or what-have-you. These things are too often done as excuses for the villain to do apparently magic things or to introduce a silly backstory with all sorts of proper names attached to it. I was therefore a bit surprised to find myself really enjoying how the Beast material turned out, and I think the reason why is that although we've got the Beast, there's only a very sketchy backstory given for it (literally), and we only see a small fraction of its power. The rest is very wisely left to our imaginations as to whether or not this thing really is the true original Devil, or how bad it would be for the universe if it ever got out. It's big (really big) and bad and it can read your mind, and it might be older than the oldest hill, and it sounds like Gabriel Woolf, and that's all we need to know for it to be terrifying. On the Woolf casting front... I, like many others, was a bit giddy with anticipation that it could turn out to be Sutekh himself, but in the end I'm glad it turned out not to be. Had it been him somehow, it would have devalued both this and the earlier story, and in any case, the Beast that we do get to see is so visually impressive that I don't mind that it wasn't that guy with the mask with the green lightbulbs in it. And I do also much appreciate the implication that this Beast probably inspired those on all of the other planets that we've already seen horned beasts on, particularly Dæmos as the Dæmons were supposedly behind humankind's obsession with devlish imagery.

Of course, another big thing the 2006 series can bring to these 1975 "Doctor Who" traditions is the much-improved visual images, and this story certainly didn't disappoint on that score. "Doctor Who" has never looked as good as it did here, and in parts this show looks almost as good as "The Lord of the Rings" movies. There's the black hole itself, the star systems it's eating, that freakin' awesome Beast, the exteriors of the base, Scooti floating in underwater-for-space, but most of all, the cavern system leading to the seal, which looks utterly and completely convincing to me. I had no idea until I'd seen the "Confidential" episode how they shot that, and that it proved to have been done in a traditional "Doctor Who" quarry is the most ironic thing I've heard all year. Everyone at the Mill and on the effects team in general should give themselves some hugs like the Doctor does in this story, because you've really surpassed yourselves this time.

Director James Strong did a number on us as well, milking almost every shot for all the tension he could get out of it. For example, in one scene, the stage directions probably read "Toby looks in horror at his hands, which are suddenly covered in the alien lettering." But is that the final shot we get? Not quite.... first Toby looks at the backs of his hands, which are clear and fine, and so for an instant he and we watching think, "oh, they're fine," but then he turns them over, and there's the lettering all over them. Strong fills the entire story with little changeups like this, so we can never quite anticipate just when the scary bit is going to appear. I also would like to mention the four different reactions shots from only slightly different angles that we get in quick succession as the Doctor has one of his Tenth Doctor trademark moments of "Yes! No! Wait! Yes!" as he thinks very rapidly aloud to himself down in the pit.

Speaking of that Tenth Doctor, David Tennant really found some new sides of him to show us this time. We haven't seen "melancholy" from this Doctor much before now, but here when he's confronted with some really terrifying things for the Doctor, he gets all sullen. The two that stand out to me are when he's sitting with Rose over dinner contemplating having to settle down somewhere and have a mortgage on a house now that he may have lost the TARDIS for good, and especially that moment when he is hanging in the pit deciding on whether he should fall to the bottom or not and also trying to answer Ida's question about what he believes in. It's in that moment that we hear for the first time in a while his belief that he hasn't learned everything yet, and that's what keeps him going and going, and it's that which gets him to let go and fall to the bottom. (and what an image that shot is of him falling into blackness) And once there at the bottom, we learn of his other belief... his belief in her....

And speaking of Rose, she at last is back to the top form and quality screen time she hasn't had really since "The Parting of the Ways." "The Satan Pit," where she takes charge of the Ood crisis back in the base, is her strongest episode of the season by far. Whereas that take-charge-like-the-Doctor-does attitude got her into trouble in the previous story, here it's what saves herself and some of the others and helps to finally destroy (?) the Beast. Cut off from the Doctor, she doesn't go apopleptic but instead thinks what he would tell people, tells them the same, and because it makes so much sense, they do it even though they've all got ranks and a command structure and she's the mysterious stranger who doesn't even know what an Ood is. I mentioned things I bristle at earlier, and another one of those is when a hero has some pithy final line for the villain just before killing him, but somehow I actually really loved Rose telling the Beast to go to hell just before she literally sends him there with her bolt shot at the window at the end. I don't know why I liked it this time. I think it's just because it was Rose saying it and doing it... this lost little shop girl so far away from home comes through and kills the Devil himself. That's pretty cool.

Speaking of pretty cool, Murray Gold's music veered back into that category with this story. He gave us some truly beautiful music to go with the imagery this time, particularly the movements that accompany the reveal of the cave and the bit where Toby is standing out in the vacuum and then kills Scooti. That was very "Firefly"-like, and that's always a good thing. More like this please, Murray.

There's lots of other things I want to praise about this story too, but this is already going on a very long time, so I'm going to just have to list things and tell you at the top here that these were are all fantastic: the entire guest cast and the way their parts were written, the character name of Captain Zachary Cross Flane which is just the coolest name ever, the Ood, the inventive plot of the Beast trying to escape the jail in mind and not in body, the rocket, the ventilation ducts which for once don't do any venting, the spacesuits, the random spooky voices, putting the next week trail after the credits again... and so on and so on.

And last and least, I will take my shots at the ropey physics. I call them the least because they're all things that could have been fixed, and none of these things being wrong really impede the story in any way. It's just frustrating for someone of my background to see these things continuing to crop up from time to time. I do wish they'd let someone with a science background at least glance over the scripts before they shoot them so burs like this can be sanded down though.

There clearly seems to be gravity on the surface of this planetoid, so why is Scooti's dead body not just lying on the ground outside where Toby cracked the wall? Why is she suddenly floating above the base and off towards the black hole? (It looked really, really cool, I'll grant you, but why?)

Why is the gravity near and within the pit at normal levels when, being near the center of the planetoid, it should be balanced out to near zero-g? And since it should be near zero-g, that could've been used as the reason why the Doctor didn't crash when he got the bottom of the pit.

Why do they keep saying it's impossible to orbit a black hole when it is no such thing? (All this needed was to say that they're beyond the event horizon of the black hole while they're orbitting... now that would be impossible.)

Sci-fi tends to scrimp around the sounds-in-space issue for dramatic effect when ships are shooting at each other, but as recently as "The Parting of the Ways" we saw "Doctor Who" not allowing Dalek-to-person sound transmission through the vacuum. So how can Ida and the Doctor hear the rocket take off when it's doing so in vacuum?

That's all that come to mind right now, but I suspect there might have been one or two others.

Overall though, a tremendous story and a welcome return for "Doctor Who" to a truly alien planet and situation. 9.5 out of 10. (I'm docking 0.5 for the ropey physics.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor