Friday, 23 August 2013

The Impossible Planet

This is just flat-out brilliant. It may not make the heart sing like The Doctor Dances, but that is not what it's for. The Impossible Planet is glorious Old School Who: there's a base under siege, the Doctor is almost immediately cut off from the TARDIS, and there's (either demonic or alien) possession. Best of all, this is very, very scary: literally, flee behind-the-sofa terrifying. Or it would be if our sofa wasn't up against the wall.

A distinct and unsettling atmosphere is achieved early on thanks to the Ood, the extreme setting and some beautifully haunting music. The visuals - the black hole, the base, the brilliant Ood design - are all fantastic, and the ensemble cast is very good too. But the best sequence in the story, and one of the scariest in the whole of Doctor Who, is the scene where poor Toby Zed is bedevilled by the strange voice in his room. Chris couldn't get behind the sofa so he did the next best thing at this point and crawled right up on to my lap, clinging to me. William had his arms folded before the episode even began. "I remember this one," he had said. "It's rubbish."

By the end it had become clear that what he had meant was, "I remember this one and I resent the fact that it is far too good at scaring me witless." As the possessed Ood advanced on the humans, Will was jumping up and down in his chair, deeply frustrated that the jeopardy was being maintained for as long as possible. "Use your gun! Shoot them!" (To be fair, I get like this about medical dramas. Why do the writers deliberately hurt all these poor people? And then make it worse by sending them to the same hospital that their estranged relative works at? It's just cruel.)

I had been looking forward to The Impossible Planet, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected. In fact, I don't think there's anything to dislike here. Even Rose is wonderful. For all that I've moaned about her on this blog, she really is on top form in this episode. She gets some great jokes ("Who are you? Chief Dramatist?") and the way that she adapts to her predicament is really admirable. As for her relationship with the Doctor, a lot is implied but nothing is forced upon us: unlike School Reunion or New Earth, there's a subtlety to these conversations (even, incredibly, the "we could share a mortgage" chat) that means the romance is there if the viewer wishes to look for it.

The boys haven't raised the subject once - I'll have to ask them about it. They were much too busy being scared to think about anything other than red eyes and awakening beasts. William's "It's rubbish" ended up as a 7. "Too much danger!" he said. "We don't have enough answers yet!" Christopher didn't mind so much and gave it a 9. "That was the scariest one yet," he said. "Even scarier than the Werewolf!"

I didn't say that, unlike Tooth and Claw, it won't stop being scary, even when they're grown up. The Devil knows that the moment you're allowed to turn around and look at him is the moment you stop being scared.


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