Planet of the Ood
By Keith Temple
It can be hard for the casual Doctor Who viewer to see the character as alien. They may have two hearts, regenerate once in a while, but fundamentally the Doctor looks human. It does not help that they are obsessed with human culture and like to hang around on Earth a lot (cheap sets). But fundamental to the character is the alienness, the best Doctor Who stories lean into this. The Doctor is not going to automatically side with the humans, it is in no way a given that we are in the right. In Planet of the Ood, an adaptation of one of the early 10th Doctor/Donna stories by screenwriter/author Keith Temple, humans could not be much more in the wrong.
The Ood are a race who exist to serve. Over the past 200 years they have been sent all over the three galaxies into homes and businesses. Almost one in two homes now have an Ood to serve them, safe in the knowledge this is what the Ood desire. Or is it? On the origin planet of the Ood there are some shady looking warehouses behind the shiny corporate buildings. Inside a song is becoming louder, a song that only the Ood can hear. A song of hope, a song of freedom. But to be free the Ood must first fight their masters – the humans.
Like so many of the Target novels based on Who episodes, Planet is a quick and entertaining read. The episode was a classic horror style story with an introduction to several characters and witnessing their fate. Temple can expand further on the horror elements of the story in the adaptation as we see inside the minds of many of the victims. It is hard to have much sympathy for the human characters, even the nicer ones did earn a living on the back of slavery, but you get a better sense of the horror of being an Ood.
Temple sensibly spends some time exploring what it is like to be a hive mind that has been separated from the centre and is being artificially controlled. You get a sense of sadness from the Ood, but you also get to experience their righteous anger. It is easy to see Doctor Who’s ‘aliens of the week’ as evil, but here we see a reason for the Ood’s anger. It may go too far in places, but you can understand. One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.
The relationship between The Doctor and Donna is one of the best in recent years, but this is not the story that plays with it too much. It is such an early adventure between the two that they have yet to fall into their rhythm. There are snatches of snarky language and misunderstanding, but the respect and love between the two has yet to grow fully. It is nice to witness Donna’s first alien world through her eyes, but there are more harrowing adventures to come for the duo.
Planet of the Ood is what I would consider to be quintessential Doctor Who, not in terms of being the greatest outing, although it is great fun, but in terms of the structure. Temple leans into the horror side of the series. The episode is unerring and a little scary, but on paper the concluding section takes on the tension of the Alien films as the humans are slowly stalked by an unstoppable force. What is layered on top of this horror is what make it Doctor Who, a sense of empathy with the aliens, there is more to the Ood than creatures who electrocute people. At under 200 pages, this is another great Target novel that captures the episode it is based on and expands on it for the lucky readers who are intelligent enough to grab the adaptation.
Written on 14th July 2023 by Sam Tyler .