I’m glad the production team decided to give the Ood another run out – they are certainly the most effective new monster race created since the series returned (except the Space Pig maybe, but he was a one-off sadly). But I wish they had done a bit more with them. The sight of the screaming, rabid Ood was effectively frightening, but beyond that they became a bit predictable: enslaved by evil humans as a vague soft-left parable for sweatshop labour or imperialism or sumfink… The Ood’s subservient status was their defining characteristic when they first appeared, and the Doctor’s blithe acceptance of it does his credibility a bit of damage, given that it turned out they were enslaved. It’s a shame they couldn’t think of something more interesting to explain it.
And overall, the episode had a rather dull, linear structure: the storyline, such as it was, centred on the Doctor and Donna wandering around. Now, I really like the Tenth Doctor and Donna combination, and it’s obvious the writers are really enjoying getting their teeth into writing the dialogue, but I wish there had been something else going on alongside it. The corporation types are rather one-dimensional, and almost certainly intended to be disliked by the viewer; though the choice of the marketing girl to stick to her job and dob the Doctor and Donna in was, I felt, actually a more plausible human reaction than it would have been if she had broken ranks and assisted them – sad she was shown to get “just desserts” for it.
By the end, we were staring at a giant brain… Well, did Time and the Rani teach Russell T Davies nothing?
As a saving grace, Tim Mcinnerny’s transformation into an Ood was phenomenally effective – indeed, rather stomach-turning for a family show; I doubt The X-Files would have shown much more. But his back-story was rather unconvincing; all that business about his father made this intergalactic slave corporation seem incredibly tin-pot.
This wasn’t bad TV by any stretch of the imagination, and I rate it more highly than a lot of the journeyman-written episodes from last year… But even so, it didn’t leave me feeling I’d been watching the most brilliant TV programme ever made – and as it was an episode of Doctor Who, that represents a failure, albeit a narrow and on the whole enjoyable one.