Doctor Who: The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit
by Martin Conaghan, posted Jun 19th 2006 8:26PM
(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...