Planet of the Ood

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 196, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Keith Temple
  • directed by Graeme Harper
  • produced by Susie Liggat
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 43 minutes
Story: The Doctor and Donna arrive on an ice planet, where a corporation shipping Ood servants to the rest of the galaxy is suffering an outbreak of violent rebellion. What is the new cause of the "red-eye" syndrome amongst the Ood? What is "The Circle" that the Ood refer to in riddles? And what family-inherited corporate secrets has Mr. Halpen got locked away in a disused storage building?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by director Graeme Harper and actor Roger Griffiths (Commander Kess).
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Oods and Ends (13 min.) with Harper, David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble),
    Tim McInnerny (Halpen), executive producer Russell T. Davies, producer Susie Liggat, choreographer Ailsa Berk,
    stunt co-ordinator Abbi Collins, and effects supervisors Paul Kelly, Tim Barter & Dave Houghton.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (5 min.) - introduced by Davies
  • Trailers & Teasers

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Finally we get back to outer space, and an alien planet. Excellent. And clearly done without breaking the budget on a host of excess effects. Not so hard was it? Graeme Harper is back to direct, and with help from a highly successful returning species, this tale had a good shot at becoming the best story of the season so far. It's not nearly as good as "The Impossible Planet" (story no. 178) though.

Not everything is a resounding success here either. Much of the banter between the Doctor and Donna surrounding their initial landing on the planet contains a lot of corny build-ups that take a bit too long, making each of the fairly well-working payoffs a bit too predictable. The TARDIS materialization is skimped on, again. (Come on, guys, it shouldn't be that hard to at least do it right more often than forgetting it!) At least the idea of the craft and the interior/exterior relationship is portrayed well enough.

The Ood weird us out yet again, give us some mystery, and facilitate some decent action story beats. And Silas Carson, who also had at least two recurring roles in each of the Star Wars prequel trilogy films, returns to give the Ood their perfect voice. All good. Closer examination may reveal a certain lack of creativity in how the Ood are handled though. The red-eye phenomenon seems to have to stretch credulity to find a new reason to give us the same thing we witnessed in "The Impossible Planet". Why not give us a new phenomenon? Ah well, it still works.

More disappointing is the whole idea of the Ood as unnatural slaves, because "The Impossible Planet" had been more subtle. As presented then, they all belonged to a group/hive mind, or collective, and sought to serve others as their greatest need. Rose and the "Friends of the Ood" then react as a lot of ego-centered free-will maniacs do when hearing about such things - they can only *perceive* it as "slavery". I preferred to give the Ood enough cultural and biological freedom to embody a different view of themselves and the universe and what interaction is normal. It makes the universe a more interesting place to believe that differences that huge are possible, and comprehension is difficult. When we humans actually do encounter alien species publicly, watch out! Some of them may resemble the Ood with regards to collective thinking and constantly serving the greater good, while perhaps our egos make us a greater aberration to nature and evolution.... all a subtle question of perspective, very philosophically fascinating. And so it is sad that Keith Temple has now spearheaded a whole cast and crew that cemented the whole "Ood are actually unwilling slaves" theory in stone. Ah well, it still works.

In particular, the Ood have some new surprises up their sleeves, equally weird, some of which are nicely built up with suspense and mystery. It's a nice touch for the Doctor to realize that this planet, the Ood Sphere, is in the same system as the Sense Sphere, since the Ood do resemble "The Sensorites" (story no. 7) in both external appearance and many mannerisms, and both are misunderstood by humans. Nice connection. However, I'm not sure that it's too believable that a species would carry a hind brain in their hands all the time, or that such a species would be regarded as suitable for one-handed manual labour. Ah well, what we get still works.

So now we have action in the far future on an alien planet.... using bullets? Come on, where are the LASERS?! This is very reminiscent of Harper's old series stories "The Caves of Androzani" (story no. 136) and "Revelation of the Daleks" (story no. 143), where everyone walked around with pistols and machine guns. Disappointing both then and now, as it makes things less sci-fi, and emphasizes the violent qualities of what is being shown. I find it less enjoyable as a result. This is also a story that leaves the audience very unsure of who to root for during these struggles as well, as Donna so eloquently states at one point. The humans here are no angels, but not so different from us First (and Second?) world nations who, as the Doctor so rightfully points out in one excellent bit of dialogue, put our money into shoes and clothing produced by hard labour in Third World countries. Meanwhile, the Ood are going mad, inciting violence, and frothing at the mouth. Not quite the best anti-slavery solution one could hope for. Ah well, it does still work.

I think we get very nice use of CGI during the action with the warehouse crane-claw thing. Far more believable than the ridiculous creature in "The Lazarus Experiment" (story no. 187) last year. Kudos. ...And forming a perfect cliffhanger should this story ever need to be split into two episodes for the classic half-hour format. Nice.

Murray Gold seems to be scoring this episode more from synthesizers than the orchestra that dominated the last three stories. While there is definitely some cool new stuff here, it's not quite as interesting as last year's score for "42" (story no. 188), none of which made it to the year's official CD. This time, the most thematically centered pieces of music from "Planet of the Ood" make it to CD, slightly re-mixed and now titled "Songs of Captivity and Freedom". Good stuff. As with last year's "Boe" from "Gridlock" (story no. 185), some extra piano lines give the TV version a nice extra bit of energy, although the CD presents the composition uninterrupted at its full length, while on TV much editing took place to match the music to the events on screen. Ah well, both versions work in their own way! And variety is nice.

The Doctor's influence on this adventure, however, is mostly honorary. It seems likely that events would have turned out more or less the same even if he hadn't arrived and taken part. As was the case back in "Warriors' Gate" (story no. 114), (which by the way, Graeme Harper had temporarily taken over directing), the Doctor spends the bulk of his time here just trying to figure out what is going on and what everything means. At least this time he is given a climactic final act to perform.... although this is handed to him on a silver platter by other characters who could equally have done the same thing themselves. Ah well, it still works.

Music by Murray Gold
"Songs of Captivity and Freedom" and
alternate versions of "Donna's Theme"
are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 4" (2008)

More info & buying options

An alternate version of "Doomsday" is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who by Murray Gold
Silva Screen SILCD1224

More info & buying options

The final departure scene is a nice touch, putting needed closure on this episode, hinting at how it might link with the rest of the season, and opening up a Pandora's Box of riddles about what is yet to come. The TARDIS gets a stunning vista in which to dematerialize - a poster moment for the season for sure. Yes!

So, while "Planet of the Ood" had good chances to remain the best story of the season so far, it is far from the greatest thing we've ever seen. What is strange is the way this production team will spend oodles of money and effort on more common Earthly settings while watching every penny and curbing every creative idea while out in the galaxy. For what we got here, tons of corporate offices, industrial space, jail cells, and a bit of fake snow around a quarry and factory grounds, we could easily set 90% of the season's stories on half-decent alien planets, and more successfully feel like the TARDIS had actually taken us somewhere in the galaxy. A large part of this story's triumph is in delivering so well on this simple expectation, where other adventures insist on ignoring it. A decent outing, creating anticipation of more good stuff to come.....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Immer zu Diensten"

Magyar: "Az oodok bolygója"

Français: "Le Chant des Oods"

Русский: "Планета удов"

Italiano: "La canzone degli Ood"

The Germans had an interesting take on this episode, calling it "Always at Your Service". The Hungarians and Russians stuck with very literal translations of the title, while the French and Italians decided that the Oods' song was more interesting than their planet.

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Sontaran Stratagem"

Home Page Site Map Star Trek Sliders Doctor Who David Tennant Era Episode Guide Catalogue