Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit By @Paul_Bowler

Doctor Who: 
The Impossible Planet & The Satan Pit 
By Matt Jones 
Reviewed by Paul Bowler

“You know nothing. All of you, so small. The Captain, so scared of command. The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife. The scientist, still running from Daddy. The little boy who lied. The virgin. And the lost girl, so far away from home. The valiant child who will die in battle so very soon.”

The TARDIS materialises aboard Sanctuary Base, on the planet Korp Tor, a world that inexplicably orbit’s a black hole. The Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) encounter the Ood, a subservient telepathic race who maintain the station. After a brief misunderstanding with the Ood the Doctor and Rose meet the human crew.

Captain Zach (Shaun Parkes) explains how the planet is suspended inside a gravity funnel, which allowed their spaceship to land safely on the planet, and how Zack then had to assume command when the expeditions original commander - Captain Walker - was lost during the trip to the planet. The energy funnel originates from a power source deep inside the planet, they have been drilling down to uncover the source of this power, and in the process ancient symbols have been discovered that cannot be translated - even by the TARDIS.

When an earthquake strikes the base the Doctor and Rose are cut off from the TARDIS when the time machine falls into a deep chasm. Believing the TARDIS is lost forever, the time travellers have to face the possibility they will be marooned in this time period. As the drilling reaches completion, a terrifying demonic entity begins to manifest inside the base. The Beast possesses Toby (Will Thorp) when he is alone in his quarters, covering his face and body with same symbols he has been trying to translate. He becomes an unwitting pawn of the Beast, killing Scooti (MyAnna Burning), and enabling the Beast to possess the Odd and turn them against the crew. Toby then seems to return to normal, but he is actually still secretly controlled by the Beast.

Once the drilling is complete The Doctor and Ida (Claire Rushbrook) travel down the drill shaft and discover a vast underground structure of a long dead civilization. They find a giant metal disk covered in the same strange markings. Before they can investigate the disk opens and The Beast awakens. Its essence reaches out to attack the crew, utilising the the Odd‘s voices to talk, taunting them about their secret fears and the far reaching influences that his evil power has obtained throughout the history of the known universe. With Rose trapped on the surface helping the crew in their fight against the Odd, the Doctor descends into pit to face the Beast.

While Ida waits by the pit as the Doctor plummets into the inky darkness below, security chief Mr Jefferson’s (Danny Webb) brave sacrifice enables Rose, Zack, Toby, and Danny (John Maynard Jefferson) to escape in the rocket ship. Meanwhile, deep inside the planet, the Doctor confronts the physical form of the Beast, a gigantic demon bound by chains. The Doctor quickly deduces that the beast has somehow transferred his mind into someone else. Sensing that he must break the enchanted jars that hold the planets gravity tunnel in check, the Doctor smashes the jars, even though he knows Rose will be killed. The Beast is enraged, it struggles to get at the Doctor, fire billowing around it as the planet begins to fall into the black hole. On the rocket, Toby transforms again, but Rose is ready and fires the bolt gun at the window, causing Toby to be sucked out into the black hole. When all seems lost, the Doctor suddenly stumbles on the TARDIS in the cave, and he uses it to save Ida and tow the rocket to safety - however he is unable to save the Odd. After returning Ida to her crew Rose returns to the TARDIS to continues her adventures with the Doctor. The rocket zooms into space as the Captain Zack reports the names of his fallen crewmembers in his ships log.

The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit (2006) are the eighth and ninth episodes from David Tennant’s first season as the Tenth Doctor. This two part story by Matt Jones takes the Doctor and Rose to one of their most exciting adventures yet, set on a distant planet, they are faced with a horror unlike any other they have faces before, one that claims to have existed even before time itself. David Tennant and Billie Piper are excellent in this story. When they arrive the Doctor and Rose are positively flippant, even though the TARDIS is wheezing and groaning even more than usual. However, that soon changes when they are cut off from the TARDIS and have to face up to the possibility of being stranded. They are so far out on the edge of space that Rose is unable to get a signal on her mobile, and even the Doctor has to contemplate the prospect of getting a house and a mortgage!

Director James Strong keeps the action flowing over both episodes, with some great sets and special effects, this story also features a brilliant supporting cast of characters who each have a significant role to play as the story unfolds. Clare Rushbrook is particularly good as Ida Scott who accompanies the Doctor for the latter half of the adventure. Together they find the underground cavern where the disk is housed, Ida is the anchor the Doctor needs as he descends into the pit, and their discussion as descends into the pit is riveting.

This story also introduces the Ood, a bizarre looking alien race with glowing red eyes and tentacles for a mouth. The humans refer to them as a slave race, they are completely docile, and apparently their only desire it to serve others. A strange globe like device is used by the Ood (voiced by Silas Carson) to communicate with the humans, they also share a telepathic link, and it is this link that the Beast exploits to turn them into his Legion of the Beast. The once friendly creatures translator globes are then used as deadly weapons against the crew to electrocute them. Although none of the Ood survive this adventure, something which the Doctor deeply regrets, the aliens would many times: we learned more about their race in Planet of the Ood (2008), they appeared in 10th Doctor’s final story The End of Time (2009) to warn him about the Master, and a lone Ood (Nephew) chased Amy and Rory inside the TARDIS in Neil Gaiman’s fabulous 11th  Doctor story The Doctor’s Wife (2011).

The Beast itself is one of the series most terrifying monsters. The disembodied entity is voiced by Gabriel Woolf, the man who also played the voice of Sutekh the Destroyer in the classic 4th Doctor story: Pyramids of Mars (1975). His quiet tones are just as sinister in this story, perhaps even more so, as the Beast is so utterly malevolent. The sole ebodiment of all evil, this being claims to be older than time itself, and of influencing every civilization and religion in the universe. Toby’s transformation is particularly horrible after the Beast sneaks up on him in his quarters. Gabriel Woolf is magnificent in this scene, Will Thorp conveys Toby’s helpless horror, as he slowly becomes the Beast’s puppet. Later, when Scooti witnesses Toby standing outside the base, without a space suit, the way he kills her - by shattering the window - is another moment of pure horror. Scooti’s death is made even more poignant when the crew witness her lifelessly body slowly drifting past the observation dome, they watch silently as she floats past the glass, shocked by their young crewmember tragic fate.

When the Doctor confronts the Beast at the bottom of the pit we finally get to see the creature that has been taunting everyone. So far it has only been glimpsed on a holographic display, now it is revealed as a towering behemoth, chained in a fiery pit where is rages and writhes against its bonds as it struggles to be free.

The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit is one of the Second Seasons most exciting stories. In some ways, it feels like a very traditional Doctor Who story, a base under siege attacked by an evil force, with a diverse crew of humans that the Doctor and his companion must join forces with to save the universe. The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit is a great two part story, it’s exciting and scary, and the Doctor and Rose are at there very best.

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