The Impossible Planet
|174a – "The Impossible Planet"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The black hole above the rocky landscape of Krop Tor
|Directed by||James Strong|
|Written by||Matt Jones|
|Script editor||Simon Winstone|
|Produced by||Phil Collinson|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Length||1st of 2-part story, 45 minutes|
|Originally broadcast||3 June 2006|
"The Impossible Planet" is the eighth episode of the second series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, first broadcast on 3 June 2006. It is the first part of a two-part story, followed by "The Satan Pit". The TARDIS lands in a base on a planet orbiting a black hole, an allegedly impossible situation that stumps even the Doctor. The base crew are drilling towards a mysterious subterranean power source, to claim the power that keeps the planet in orbit for the good of the Human Empire. However, an ancient evil is down there too, and it is awakened.
The TARDIS arrives aboard a sanctuary base used for deep-space expeditions. The Doctor and Rose explore the area, discovering strange alien writing that the TARDIS is unable to translate, meaning that it is "impossibly old". They are confronted by the Ood, a docile race of empathic servants who work on the station. After a misunderstanding with the Ood, The Doctor and Rose meet the crew of the base, Zack, Ida, Jefferson, Danny, Scooti and Toby. The crew are on an expedition on the mysterious planet Krop Tor, impossibly in orbit around a black hole. Captain Zack explains that a gravity funnel exists around the planet, allowing them to safely enter or leave the vicinity of the black hole. The source of the funnel is an immense energy force ten miles within the planet, which they are drilling towards to understand its power. As the Doctor and Rose are acquainting themselves with the crew, the base is struck by a quake that causes the section of the base containing the TARDIS to fall into the planet. Rose and The Doctor resign themselves to being trapped and begin helping out the crew.
As the drill nears its target, a malevolent presence begins to make itself known. The Ood's translation spheres reveal messages about the Beast awakening, while Toby is unknowingly possessed by the Beast. The possessed Toby kills Scooti when she discovers him surviving outside the base without any protective gear. When the drilling is complete, the Doctor offers to go with Ida into the bowels of the planet. After traveling down the drill shaft, the Doctor and Ida find a large circular disk inscribed with more undecipherable markings. The Doctor believes it to be a door, and they watch as it opens. Suddenly, the Beast repossesses Toby before transferring into all the Ood as they refer to themselves as the Legion of the Beast. With Rose and the remaining crew alerted that the planet is now falling towards the black hole, the Ood begin to close in on them whilst the voice of the Beast declares that it is free.
Zack mentions that he took over when Captain Walker, the original expedition commander, was lost on the voyage in. Captain Walker appears in the TARDISODE accompanying this episode, seen being given the assignment to go to Krop Tor. In the episode the human government is "the Empire". When reporting Scooti's death, Jefferson gives what appears to be the date as "Forty-three K, two point one". Although no further explanation is given for what the numbers mean, this episode is set no earlier than 200 years before "Planet of the Ood", set in 4126, as the translator devices were created 200 years before that point. Rose refers to the dinner lady job she had in "School Reunion" when talking to an Ood serving food.
The Doctor mentions that TARDISes are grown rather than built. Actor John Barrowman mirrored this comment when talking about the piece of "TARDIS coral" Jack Harkness keeps in his office at "the Hub" in a special feature in Radio Times. In a scene cut from the episode "Journey's End" the Doctor-Donna tells Rose and the meta-crisis Doctor how to accelerate the growth of a piece of TARDIS coral so that they could have their own TARDIS in the alternate dimension they were trapped in. Another "grown" spaceship was seen in the Seventh Doctor serial Battlefield (1989).
At one point toward the end of the episode, the possessed Ood begin to list the names that have been used to label "The Beast". One of them is Abaddon, a demon, who features as a major element in the episode "End of Days" of the spin-off series Torchwood. Possessed "red eyed" Ood would also re-appear in "Planet of the Ood" and "Death is the Only Answer". A possessed (but green eyed) Ood named Nephew appears and attempts to kill Amy and Rory in "The Doctor's Wife".
Writer Matt Jones also wrote, as Matthew Jones, the Virgin New Adventures novel Bad Therapy, featuring the Seventh Doctor and Chris Cwej. He was script editor on Russell T Davies' Channel 4 series Queer as Folk.
Executive producer and chief writer Russell T Davies said that an early draft of the script called for the role of the Ood to be filled by Raxacoricofallapatorians, the same species as the Slitheen. Their race would have been enslaved and they wished to awaken the Beast, whom they believed to be a god that could free them. Davies chose the name of the Ood rather than Jones; he intended it to be a play on the word "odd". In the accompanying Doctor Who Confidential episode, Davies said that he likes to think that the Ood come from a planet near to that of the Sensorites from the First Doctor serial The Sensorites (1964), as he suggests the races are similar in some respects. In "Planet of the Ood", this is confirmed. During an interview with the production crew, it was noted that the sanctuary base was based on the spaceship Nostromo from the movie Alien.
Scenes of bodies floating in space were filmed on the underwater stage at Pinewood Studios, the first time the series has used this facility, not counting the charity special Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death. This is the first episode of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who to use a quarry as an alien planet — quarries were frequently used in this manner in the original series. Davies was not a fan of this production decision. The Ood masks had their eyes in non-human positions, so the actors who played them had to see out of pin prick sized holes in the masks.
The voice of the Beast is provided by Gabriel Woolf, who also played Sutekh the Destroyer in the Fourth Doctor serial Pyramids of Mars (1975). One of the names that the possessed Ood have for the Beast is Satan. The Fourth Doctor also stated that Sutekh has been known by many aliases, including the Typhonian beast and Satan. However, Woolf was cast only after the episode had been written and filmed. Originally, the producers sought out Piper's husband Chris Evans for the role.
Danny Webb also appeared in the audio plays The Girl Who Never Was and The Dark Husband. Shaun Parkes previously starred with David Tennant in the BBC's 2005 Casanova serial written by Russell T Davies. Silas Carson previously played various alien voices in "The End Of The World", while Paul Kasey is a veteran at playing various monsters for Doctor Who and Torchwood.
This episode has numerous references to Hell, and the Number of the Beast, 666. The Doctor states that the power source to generate the gravitational field would have to be "66 every 6 seconds"; the story's two episodes are broadcast on either side of the week of 6 June 2006 (06/06/06). The differential forms of Maxwell's equations can clearly be seen written on the table that the Doctor and Rose are sitting at while they are watching the Scarlet System being swallowed by the black hole.
As they watch Scooti drift towards the black hole, Jefferson recites the lines, "And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, / For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods," from Macaulay's 1842 poem Horatius, Stanza XXVII, about the heroism of Horatius Cocles. During the night shift, Maurice Ravel's Boléro is played around the base. When the possessed Ood first identify themselves as 'Legion', they quote directly from the Gospel of Mark - "My name is Legion: for we are many." (5:9)
The Doctor's line "This'll be the best Christmas Walford has ever had" is a reference to the long-running soap EastEnders, in which Christmas storylines are generally miserable despite characters proclaiming the above hope.
Broadcast and reception
Overnight viewing figures for the episode were 5.94 million, peaking at 6.78 million. However, the episode still obtained a 39.8% share of the audience and was the second highest rated programme of the evening, behind Casualty. The final ratings for the episode were 6.32 million viewers.
IGN's Ahsan Haque gave the episode a score of 9.3 out of 10, describing it as "an extremely well written and directed episode with awesome visuals and excellent sound design". Though he noted that "much of this episode felt a bit like watching a moderately entertaining B-movie like Event Horizon", he thought it was "presented with ample flair and charm". Dek Hogan of Digital Spy stated the episode got the series "back on form", though he noted that losing the TARDIS was becoming tiresome. Dave Golder, writing for SFX, felt that the two-parter abandoned Doctor Who's "manic energy, a level of wit and an idiosyncratic visual approach" for more traditional science fiction, which made it look at times like "Stargate lite". While he thought the spaceship looked "silly", he praised the support cast and especially Tennant and Piper. Of "The Impossible Planet" he stated, "The build-up of the mystery was superbly paced and intriguing. The characters were fleshed out with masterful economy. The tension was tangible. The villain felt dangerous. And in the idea of an evil entity taking control of a telepathically linked race we had the kind of good, solid SF idea – simple and technobabble-free enough for the non-SF literate audience to grasp – in which the new series should be trading. It helps that the Ood were such a great piece of design work, as well."
In popular culture
In a September 2013 National Geographic Daily News article, the author mentioned this episode while discussing planets that surround black holes.
- "The Impossible Planet: Fact File". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- "You've Got the Look". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 2. Episode 8. 3 June 2006. BBC. BBC Three.
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- Kilkelly, Daniel (23 August 2005). "Chris Evans gets 'Doctor Who' role?". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 15 December 2005. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- "103. Doctor Who — The Girl Who Never Was". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- "106. Doctor Who - The Dark Husband". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- Lyon, Shaun (2007-06-04). "Impossible Planet overnights". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
- Lyon, Shaun (2007-06-14). "The Impossible Planet final ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
- Haque, Ahsan (21 November 2006). "Doctor Who: "The Impossible Planet" Review". IGN. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Hogan, Dek (4 June 2006). "Boos, Loos and Poos". Digital Spy. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Golder, Dave (12 June 2006). "Doctor Who 2.8 and 2.9 The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit". SFX. Archived from the original on 3 July 2006. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Than, Ker (2013-09-09). "New Role for Disabled Kepler? Finding Exotic Alien Worlds". National Geographic Daily News. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
In the TV series Dr. Who, the main character once found himself on a dark planet orbiting a black hole, an improbable situation that was reflected in the episode's title: "The Impossible Planet."
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- The Impossible Planet on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- TARDISODE 8
- "The beast and his armies will rise from the pit" - episode trailer
- Episode commentary by MyAnna Buring, James Strong, and Mike Valentine (MP3)
- "The Impossible Planet" episode homepage
- "The Impossible Planet" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- "The Impossible Planet" / "The Satan Pit" at Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- "The Impossible Planet" / "The Satan Pit" at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- "The Impossible Planet". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-01-01.
- "The Impossible Planet" at TV.com
- BBC Press Office release
- "The Impossible Planet" at the Internet Movie Database