Sunday, June 04, 2006
Doctor Who - The Impossible Planet
This series of Who is just getting better and better. The Impossible Planet was by far the best episode I think I've seen so far ... it cranked up the tension and just oozed effectiveness from every pore. What an enjoyable experience. The TARDIS arrives on a deep space exploration sanctuary where a small crew are trying to keep things together. The planet they are on - which at one point they say is unnamed but then say it's called Kroktor (or something) in the scriptures of Valtino (whatever they are) which translates as 'the bitter pill', and it's in orbit around a black hole designated K37J5. Of course this is impossible, but it's happening, and the debris of the universe is being sucked into the hole around them - including any atmosphere that the planet might have. The people we get to meet - Ida Scott (efficient science officer); Zachary Cross Flane (serious acting captain); Mr Jefferson (cold head of security); Danny Bartock (right-on ethics committee); Toby Zed (uncertain archaeology) and Scooti Manista (cute trainee maintenance) - all seem nice people, but are a little generic. Scooti is apparently 20 years old, and one wonders therefore how long it took for the group to get to this planet, and to then build/construct the complex base that they live in, to set up the drilling and to get 10 miles deep ... maybe they start them young in maintenance. The TARDIS is lost when there's an earthquake and a section of the base is sheared away, and the Doctor and Rose seem trapped there. However the crew are busy drilling down into the planet to try and locate a power source there which they want to tap into. This power source is also keeping a gravity well open which is how they arrived. The gravity in the base seems OK, and also on the surface as Scooti goes out in a space suit to repair something ... why wasn't she blown away or dragged off the surface into the black hole? That gravity must be awfully strong. But now the plot starts to kick in. The computer and the strange Cthulhuian Ood creatures (who speak through their balls! And while we're on that subject, if those ball things are translating for them, how would they know whether the translations were correct or not? Wouldn't they just assume that they were?) start to spout pseudo Biblical phrases like 'The Beast and his armies shall rise from the pit and make war with God' and 'He is awake'. Very spooky though. Spookier still is what happens to Toby. While examining some fragments brought up by the drilling, which are covered with runes, he hears whispering behind him and an incredible voice tells him that if he looks around then he is dead. This is Gabriel Woolf ... Doctor Who fans will know his voice well as he was the voice of Sutekh the Destroyer in the 1975 story Pyramids of Mars (and maybe there's a connection here as Sutekh was meant to be Satan as well ... hmm) and his tones are creepy to the extreme. Poor Toby discovers that the runes have transferred to his hands, and then his face is covered with them as he is possessed by the Beast. I was vagely reminded of the Pokemon Jigglypuff which would put its victims to sleep by singing to them and then write all over their faces with black marker pen ... but back to the plot. Toby goes for a wander outside without a space suit and Scooti sees him. Next thing, he's making the window by her break with some sort of power and poor Scooti is sucked out. The first death and very horrible too. But hang on ... if there's no atmosphere, then why weren't Toby and Scooti imploded or exploded or whatever happens to unprotected humans in this circumstance? The drilling stops - they have hit point zero, and so some investigation is in order. Toby is back to normal now, though he is behaving a little Lady Macbeth in checking his hands all the time. But who do they decide to send down? Ida I can believe, she is the science officer after all, but the Doctor? And only these two? Very strange indeed. Why not the archaeologist, or someone from security (wearing a red shirt just to be on the safe side)? There are others on the base after all - we just don't get to see them very much. But no. It's Ida and the Doctor make the trip. And at the bottom? A vast cave, ancient buildings and carvings, and a 30 foot across metal hatch-thing in the ground. For no particular reason, everything now seems to happen at once ... the Ood all go a bit wierd, advancing on people in a threatening way, and using their translator ball to kill a random person ... Toby gets written on again and reveals that he knows Jefferson's secrets before passing on the writing to the Ood who advance menacingly on Rose and the others at the top of the shaft ... the gravity field fails, and the planet starts to fall into the black hole ... and the hatch opens down below. The camera rises from the hole under the hatch and the voice of the beast announces that it is free ... and we crash breathlessly into the closing titles, and with no annoying NEXT WEEK trailer immediately after as well. A brilliant cliff hanger. It's all go, and I can't wait for next week to see how it all resolves itself. I hope and pray that they don't go and spoil it all with something naff ... but we will have to see. Overall a superb episode, spoilt only by some inappropriate music on a couple of occasions (when the initial earthquake happens and also when the Doctor and Ida descend into the shaft) and also the cringe-worthy scenes between the Doctor and Rose as they discuss houses and mortgages. Leave it out guys or get a room as they say.