The Doctor: It's better that way. People who know for certain tend to be like Mr. Halpen.
Written by Keith Temple.
The Doctor and Donna land on a gorgeous snowy world— your favourite alpine vistas, cranked up to 11— 4126 AD, the time of the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. It is the Oodsphere, home planet of the Ood, the apparently willing slave race we first met in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit".
All is not well on the Oodsphere. Ood Operations, Ood suppliers to the three galaxies, are sitting on a disturbing fact: Ood everywhere have been going berserk and killing their masters. The only symptom is that the Ood's eyes will turn red just before it snaps.
The Doctor and Donna sneak off to interview some Ood, but the only hint the Ood themselves can give is that "the circle must be broken"note . The Doctor and Donna discover, to their horror and disgust, that the process that wild Ood undergo to turn them into slave Ood is... lobotomy. The communication orb isn't just an addition to their bodies: it's a replacement for their second, external brain. The Doctor gently connects to Donna telepathically and helps her hear the collective mind-song of those Ood that are still intact.
But even the unaltered Ood are being restrained somehow— something is holding back their song. That's when they come across the third brain of the collective Ood consciousness, a giant mass imprisoned in a ring of machinery and electricity: the circle which must be broken.
They save the Ood using the tried and trusted method of blowing things up, hear their Song of Freedom, and receive in return a cryptic message about the Doctor's song ending soon.
- Alien Blood: Ood blood is purple, as shown when the Doctor and Donna find a dying one in the snow having been shot.
- Alien Sky: There's a large ringed planet visible in the sky of the Oodsphere.
- Arc Words: Bees disappearing.
- Artistic License Biology: The Ood were already established as bald humanoids with dozens of thin dangling tendrils in place of mouths. This episode reveals they also have a secondary brain which hangs outside the body on a slightly thicker fleshy cord. Somehow their natural habitat is a Slippy-Slidey Ice World. How do they not all freeze to death?
- Ascended Extra: The Ood, who had been secondary antagonists in the Krop Tor two-parter, are the protagonist aliens here.
- Asshole Victim: Everyone the Ood kill qualifies as this because of their evil delight in the slavery business.
- Batman Gambit: Ood Sigma's "hair tonic". He was counting on Mr. Halpen's concern about his baldness and the status of the Ood as Beneath Notice to blind him to the possibility that it was something else.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Lampshaded. The Doctor attempts to examine a dying Ood, but isn't familiar with their biology and has no idea where the heart is or if they even have one.
- Blatant Lies: "Fire alarms". Not "escaped Ood" alarms.
- Body Horror: Halpen's "hair tonic" turning him into an Ood. His hair and scalp peel away revealing an Ood head, and tentacles spill out of his mouth, followed by a brain. And this was after they toned it down the original scene was going to be a lot more graphic.
- Bond Villain Stupidity:
- He's not the Big Bad, but the overseer, Mr. Kess, definitely displays this trope once the Doctor's cover is blown. He specifically orders his armed Mooks back so that he can have the pleasure of chasing the Doctor around a warehouse with a giant claw machine, instead of just shooting him. For bonus points, he even says, "I've always wanted to do this."
- Justified later on by Mr. Halpen, when the Doctor and Donna end up captured. Halpen reasons he can't just shoot them at the risk of being questioned by the authorities when they inevitably launch an investigation, instead deciding to leave them to the mercy of the Ood; only for them to spare the Doctor and Donna when they remind the Ood of the circle.
- The Doctor is all gleeful to walk out and find a snowstorm of actual snow. (The last few times it's been, respectively, the ashes of a Sycorax spaceship, bits of Racnoss web and artificial snow expelled by the TARDIS, and ballast dropped by a damaged interstellar cruise liner.)
- The Oodsphere is in the same system as Sensphere, homeworld of the Sensorites. The Doctor even notes his visit to the Sensphere was "ages" ago.
- The 42nd century is the time of the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, which, unlike the Fourth, actually exists. Presumably this would be the same "empire" Mr. Jefferson mentioned in "The Impossible Planet".
- Donna wonders whether humans spreading out so far is a good thing does it make them explorers or a virus? The Doctor notes that sometimes he wonders; he had a similar conversation with Leela back in "The Invisible Enemy".
- The Friends of the Ood were mentioned by the Torchwood Archive crew back in "The Impossible Planet".
- Cassandra Truth: When the Doctor explains his last encounter with the Ood involved the Devil himself, Donna assumes he's taking the mickey.
- Chekhov's Gun: The drinks Mr. Halpen keeps knocking back are blatantly going to bite him somehow. Boy, do they ever.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Klineman Halpen.
- "Well, we can write [two thousand Ood] off. That's what insurance is for."
- In a cut scene, when he's watching the video of Mr. Bartle's death, he decides to cut off the pension and life insurance being paid to Bartle's family upon hearing Bartle call him an idiot.
- Container Maze: The warehouse full of shipping containers with Ood, where Mr. Kess attempts to run down the Doctor with the robotic arm intended to move the crates.
- Continuity Nod:
- Back in "Partners in Crime", Donna mentioned that she packed for cold weather. In this episode, she brings out a winter coat.
- Donna compares the TARDIS unfavourably to a big rocket-ship ("You've got a box, he's got a Ferrari!"), much like the Doctor compared Jack's Vortex Manipulator unfavourably to the old girl back in "Utopia".
- The Doctor gives Donna a brief recap of what happened the last time he encountered the Ood. They were possessed by the Devil or at least something that claimed to inspire the legend of such a creature.
- Donna has learned to whistle.
- The destruction of the circle around the third brain is very similar to a scene from the classic series.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Dr. Ryder gets smothered by grey matter.
- Cruel Mercy: Halpen's punishment for lobotomizing and enslaving the Ood is...to become one himself. Ood Sigma even says that they will take care of him.Doctor: Funny thing, the subconscious. Takes all sorts of shapes. It came out in the red eye as revenge, it came out in the rabid Ood as anger, and then there was patience. All that intelligence and mercy focused on Ood Sigma. How's that hair loss, Mr. Halpen?
- Distressed Dude: The Doctor handcuffed to a pole.
- Escape Artist: Subverted Donna assumes the Doctor's probably met Houdini (which he has), but he's forced to admit, "These are REALLY good handcuffs."
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: A deleted scene has it mentioned that Bartle has a wife and two kids. Halpen cuts off their insurance payouts after seeing Bartle call him an idiot on the video of his death.
- Fantastic Racism: Emphasised by the fact that the whip-happy slave overseer is a black guy, and the PR representative who is tasked with justifying slavery to the audience is Indian.
- The Ood refer to the Doctor and Donna collectively as the Doctor-Donna. It takes the rest of the series for the Doctor to figure it out, but when he does, he thinks it's all quite clever. Partly because of the way he introduced them to the Ood in the first place. Truly an example of Fridge Brilliance.
- Mr. Halpen suspects that the Doctor and Donna are from the Friends of the Ood activist group. Dr. Ryder reveals himself as a member in the climax.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Nobody seems to care much about Dr. Ryder, or the fact it was the Ood Brain, the thing he was trying to help, that kills him.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The eyes of Ood with "red-eye" glow slightly.
- Happiness in Slavery: Subverted, after being set up way back in "The Impossible Planet". The Ood do not enjoy their enslavement as the Doctor and the audience were led to believe.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Kess, tasked with gassing the rabid Ood, ends up being the only victim of the gas.
- Ignored Epiphany: Solana the PR representative helps the Doctor and Donna once, but doesn't go with them. Instead, she calls the guards on them.
- Improperly Placed Firearms: Guards with M4s and a guy with a PPK in the 42nd Century. Justified in that it is believed that small arms have hit a peak where making them any more powerful would make them uncontrollable.
- Irony: Ryder being killed by the very thing he was trying to help.
- Ironic Juxtaposition: All of Solana's marketing lingo is contradicted by the guards hunting down and capturing a rabid Ood for that extra effect.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: "It's a he, not an it."
- Karmic Death: Solana the PR rep is zapped after rejecting the Doctor's offer to stop the injustice against the Ood, and Kess is gassed to death with the same gas he tried to use on the Ood.
- Karmic Transformation: Halpen, the man who sold Ood like livestock, is now an Ood himself.
- Large Ham: Kess, the overseer, takes this to impressive levels while he's chasing the Doctor around the warehouse with a giant claw machine, cackling, rocking back and forth in his seat, and making some very expressive faces just to be sure the viewer understands that he's having fun.
- Long Speech Tea Time: Donna's first impression of the Oodsphere is that it's freezing. The Doctor encourages her be more awestruck by the setting, consider how last week she was in Chiswick just getting up, working, coming home, watching telly and going to bed and now she's travelling across space and time to land on alien worlds... then finds she's gone back into the TARDIS to get a coat.
- Ma'am Shock: Inverted Donna reacts to being called Miss. "Why do you say Miss; do I look single?" Never mind that she is.
- The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Nope. By the 42nd century, mankind's spread out over three whole galaxies.
- The Mole: Dr. Ryder, for the Friends of the Ood social activism group. He spent the last ten years infiltrating Ood Operations so he could free the Ood.
- Never Trust a Hair Tonic: Mr. Halpen's hair tonic... isn't.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Mr. Halpen.Mr. Halpen: Can't say I've ever shot anyone before. Can't say I'm gonna like it. But... it's not exactly a normal day, is it?
- Not So Different: The Doctor mentions the situation with the Ood isn't that far away from contemporary Earth, pointedly reminding Donna that her shirts were made in sweatshops. She returns fire by asking if he only brings humans along so he can act superior at them, a point he concedes.
- Ominous Hair Loss: Mr Halpen loses a lot of hair over the course of the episode, revealed to be due to the Ood graft in his drink; it eventually turns him into one of the Ood.
- One-Woman Wail: Prominent throughout the episode in the background music. Ramps up further when the Doctor allows Donna to hear the Ood's songs. It's actually a One-Man Wail, as the Ood songs are performed by Mark Chambers, a countertenor with an incredibly high vocal range.
- Open Secret: The treatment of the Ood, according to Solana. "[The public] don't ask. Same thing."
- Pet the Dog: Despite his attitude towards the Ood at large and his general asshattery, Halpen seems to be genuinely quite fond of Ood Sigma for most of the episode and tells him to "join your people" while he still can.
- Pinball Protagonist: An unusual case for Doctor Who. The Doctor and Donna have minimal effect on the plot, the Ood effectively free themselves thanks to the natural born Ood and Ood Sigma.
- Quick Nip: Solana reminds Mr. Halpen that alcohol isn't allowed on the premises; he explains it's hair tonic. That's what he thinks, anyway.
- Railing Kill: When Dr. Ryder reveals he's a Friend of the Ood, Halpen pushes him over the rail and into the Ood brain.
- Random Transportation: The Doctor specifically mentions that he's set the controls to random. "Mystery tour!"
- Reality Ensues: The Doctor's psychic paper fails, not because, as has previously happened, the person in question was resistant to it, but because they bother to run a background check on the suspicious people who weren't on the guest list at the earliest possible opportunity and discover their credentials are entirely fabricated. It gets him into the complex, but doesn't do much more good than that before he and Donna are outed as frauds.note
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Donna gives Mr Halpen a very big and very deserved one about how awful he is about the slavery thing. The Doctor approves of Donna's correctness.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: "Red eye" is a common infection in the Ood.The Doctor: His eyes turned red.
Donna: What's that mean?
The Doctor: Trouble.
- Retro Rocket: Of a similar design to the one from the last Ood episode. Donna approves."Blimey, a real, proper rocket! You've got a box, he's got a Ferrari!"
- Running Gag: Solana Mercurio joins the list of people who have mistaken the Doctor and Donna for a couple.
- Sadist: Kess seems to take a particularly disturbing pleasure in trying to kill the Doctor with the warehouse's grappling hook.
- Series Continuity Error: This story is supposed to take place after "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", where the Doctor first encountered the Ood. Just one problem: the date that Captain Zack gives for various crewmembers' deaths while logging them in the computer in that story is "43K 2.1", which seems to be the year 4221... 95 years after this episode's given date of 4126. The explanation could be space-time warping courtesy of the earlier story's Unrealistic Black Hole, but given the purpose of the gravity funnel, that doesn't seem likely.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: "Pleased to meet you, Doctor Noble, Mrs. Noble." The response here is "not ever".
- Shout-Out: The "comedy classic" Ood is programmed to say "D'oh!" when told it dropped something.
- Speak in Unison: An entire cargo container full of Ood, whenever someone mentions "the circle". Donna admits it's creepy.Ood: The Circle must be broken!
The Doctor: What is the Circle? Tell me!
Ood: The Circle must be broken!
The Doctor: Why?
Ood: So that we can sing!
- Supporting Protagonist: The Doctor and Donna are mainly here to witness the revolution and call out the Corrupt Corporate Executives for their brutalization of the Ood, who (alongside their Friends of the Ood ally) do the rising-up on their own.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: The Ood are shipped out as slaves to all three galaxies of the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Despite nine hundred or more years travelling time and space, the Doctor still gets excited at each location he visits because the universe is amazing! Why else would he still be travelling?
- The X of Y: "Planet of the Ood".
- Yiddish as a Second Language: "I've had enough of the schmoozing."
- Zerg Rush: A perpetual favourite of berserk Ood; berserk you know?