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October 25, 2014

Doctor Who: The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit

by Martin Conaghan, posted Jun 19th 2006 8:26PM

The Satan Pit(S02E07/S02E08) If I'm being totally honest, I can't say I really liked this two-part story which landed just over half-way through the current series of Doctor Who here in the U.K.

I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the blatant classic sci-fi rip-offs, or the dodgy technology and wonky science, or perhaps it was the ropey plot, which involved The Doctor and Rose landing on a planet orbiting a black hole -- with an ancient evil lurking in the rock below the Sanctuary base.

Warning: spoilers after the jump.

In a plot reminicient of just about any major Hollywood sci-fi movie from the 80s and 90s, The Doctor and Rose discover the crew of a space station and a scientific mystery of how a planet can remain in geostationary orbit around an all-consuming black hole.

The Doctor calculates the power required to generate the holding field that keeps the planet safe (which transpires to be impossible), and soon finds out that the power source is buried ten miles down through solid rock, with the crew of the deep space mission drilling down to find it.

It's not long before crew members start to vanish on board the station, and the subservient race of Ood (a slave race which serve as maintenance personnel on the station) start turning a bit on the mad side, as apparitions of a demonic creature begin to haunt the decks, until one crew member is possessed by the all-powerful demon from beneath the rock.

Added to the complexity of the situation is the loss of The Doctor's TARDIS, which falls to the bottom of a chasm when a quake hits the planetoid, thereby ending any hope of him and Rose making the journey home to Earth.

The Doctor and Science Officer Ida make the long trip down the mine shaft to investigate the power behind the strange goings-on around the station, and discover an ancient cavern with giant sculptures along its walls, and a large circular disc-shape seal covering a pit.

Before they know it, their presence triggers a series of near-catastrophic events, and the planet begins descending in to the black hole, as the possessed crew member takes control of the Ood and releases the ancient demon on the space station.

It seems almost unnecessary for this story to have been told over almost two hours, since the second part offered very little in the way of exposition, but threw up a loosely-connected series of set-piece action sequences which seemed designed to give the episode some pace and excitement, but succeeded only in mimicking classic sci-fi movies like Quatermass, Alien, Aliens and The Thing.

In the end, the audience was presented with a classic Star Trek-formula dilemma of trouble-on-the-top and trouble-on-the-bottom as The Doctor wrestle with a caged demon in the bowels of the planet as Rose and the space station crew wrestle with the Ood and a possessed crew member.

As ever, The Doctor figures out the reason for the demon's imprisonment, while Rose realises that its consciousness has made it on to the escape shuttle along with the remaining crew members, fully intending to conquer the Universe -- but not before Rose and The Doctor both put an end to its domination plans and send it headlong into the black hole.

As I said earlier, this wasn't one of the better episodes from an otherwise excellent second series of the recent run. In fact, it wasn't two of the better episodes, but it passed a few hours in-between episodes of Big Brother and World Cup matches.

However, the best is yet to come with the episode that followed this two-parter, Love and Monsters, a review of which will be along in the next few days...

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The Jeremy

If you don't like this two-parter, there is something especially wrong with your head...and you should definitely seek medical attention if you hold up "Love & Monsters" as an episode superior to them. Sure, it has themes from recent movies - *Event Horizon* in particular (and *The Black Hole* slightly too), but its still great. Too bad *Doom* as a motion picture wasn't as good as these eps. I sincerely hope SciFi decides to air them as a SciFi Saturday movie as a sneak-peak to Season 2. It rocked.

June 23 2006 at 6:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Akbar Fazil

dd, where did you possibly EVER get that the ood were born to serve the beast?

They werent found on the planet. They were brought there by the humans. They even talked about how lots of people used the ood. If the beast set them up to be there, that is a HELL of a setup and lots of precognition.

I think the beast just used and manipulated them to his own means. Don't forget he also spoke through the bases computer system as well.

June 20 2006 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dd

The spirit of exploration has always been fueled by greed. It goes hand in hand. Besides, doesnt mean the curiosity is any less strong as the greed.

Your projecting your own values onto the show. The future shouldnt be saddled with preconceptions. As for the slave race, well, they were born from the beginning to serve The Beast. In fact, the human survivors of the Imp Planet would have to convince everyone to destroy their Ood.

It's a necessary evil. They were built to ingratiate themselves to communities to facilitate the Beast's return. Instant Gestapo. An Army in waiting. Whatever sentience they had is overrided by their genetic dna and any mutations controlled by the device they have in their hands.

That's the purpose of the bauble. A weapon, a communication device, and a reciver/transmitter for the Beast's thoughts. You may say that the Ood were trying to warn the humans by voicing the Beast voice in their heads.

But as a race, the Ood were doomed from the start.

June 20 2006 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Akbar Fazil

Evande:
heavy handed? It was one line that you can take as foreshadowing or as just pshycobabble from the bad guy messing with your head.

This whole season has been a set up for the fate of Rose. She and the Doc have become very complacent in their adventures (almost to the point of feeling they are invincible.)

Other examples that have some hints:
-Queen Victorias line at the end of "Tooth and the Claw"
-Jackies lament in "Love and Monsters"
-Rose's emotional fall from losing alternative reality Jackie, Mickey and an abandonment from alternative reality Father
-Curse of a companion hinted at in "School Reunion"

June 20 2006 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Evadne

These episodes had a different feel from usual, I think--I agree that the vibe was 80s/90s sci fi more than anything else, and not quite as clever or zany as I might have hoped. The Doctor going on and on about the adventurous spirit of humans made me want to throw something at the computer screen--talk about your old sci-fi cliches. I mean, to me it seemed pretty clear that the crew, with the possible exception of Ida, was doing a job and hoped to make some money off of it (which is more interesting to me anyway), and also that somehow this "love of exploration" nonsense was supposed to compensate for the enslavement of the Ood (it made me uncomfortable that no one seemed that perturbed by the death of all those Ood at the end). I liked the crop of guest stars--I mean, I've never seen those people before, but it was an interesting bunch, and I sort of hoped they'd take on Ida or Danny or the captain, whose name I cannot, alas, remember, at the end. Um, the foreshadowing of Rose's imminent departure was a bit heavyhanded; I don't remember any other hints the rest of the season.

June 20 2006 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Akbar Fazil

for the record. I LOVED "Love and Monsters" I will leave my discussion for that subject til we get a review.

June 20 2006 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin

When I saw the way this episode started out I immediately picked up on some of the Lovecraft undercurrents, but I was extremely disappointed that they weren't developed further along that vein, and the story was instead padded out to a two-parted by a few set pieces.

Part of my disappointment, I feel, is because I think Tennant's Doctor is a little bit too gung-ho for someone who is historically (in my recollection) a lot more cerebral. It seems to be more teeth and exposition over the last few episodes, and solutions are derived by throwing every conceivable possibility at the problem until something sticks. I don't mean any disrespect to David, though, and my opinion is probably coming from a prejudice nurtured by a childhood watching the earlier Doctors (and at least he is better than McCoy, IMO.)

June 20 2006 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jamie

I loved "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit." it was classic Who and good science fiction. I thought the special effects, especially the Beast, were extraordinary for TV in general but especially the relatively lw budget BBC. The influences from other sci fi was homage rather than a rip off. the only thing that bothered m was how virtually everyone who talked about the episodes ignored the H. P. Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos influees and called them "Doom" references instead. Broaden they horizons, people.

And I agree with "Love & Monsters." It was horrible. Way too much sexual innuendo--including an awful closing joke--and the Doctor resolving the heat tugging conclusion in a very cruel manner opposite of how he helped people converted to Cybermen a few episodes back. This episode was just awful.

June 20 2006 at 6:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron M

Count me in with Akbar -- I loved this story, aside from the predictable TARDIS deus ex machina at the end. In particular, I found the building tension in the first part to be quite effective.

Having seen how divisive Love and Monsters has been, I'm quite looking forward to watching it. :)

June 20 2006 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Akbar Fazil

How very very strange. I found these episodes quite wonderful. I rather enjoyed the fact that they borrowed from many other scifi things but did them in a very unique way. A great two parter and a nice foreshadow of what is to come to the end of this series.

Now, Love and Monsters that is a whole nother story. It pretty interesting how many people HATED it.

June 19 2006 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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