The Doctor: Biroc! What are you doing here?
The Doctor: It’s all right for you.
Biroc: And for you too. Do nothing.
The Doctor: Do nothing?
Romana: Of course. Doctor, don’t you see?
The Doctor: Yes that’s right. Do nothing – if it’s the right sort of nothing.
Why, then, did they need a Time Lord to bring matters to a head? Perhaps they didn’t, and his arrival was mere coincidence. Except, it seems that the TARDIS rarely does anything completely by chance, particularly in an episode where the Doctor mentions the randomizer. For the Doctor and Donna, however, it’s a strangely healing and joyful encounter. Donna’s insight into the Doctor’s situation deepens. And there is a lovely moment when she withdraws her threat to desert him. You can tell how relieved he is not to be losing her just yet.
Does anyone get the feeling that in their own quiet way, the Ood control the situation? That reference to patience is interesting. This series increasingly references Classic Who, but in a way that allows it to remain accessible to newer viewers. Those who remember “Warriors Gate” may recognise parallels. This was the last story featuring Romana, who elected to remain in a parallel universe at its conclusion in order to assist the Tharils. The Tharils had once been a mighty and arrogant people, but were reduced to the status of slaves. Biroc appears to manipulate Romana and the Fourth Doctor into helping them to make a new start, yet it’s difficult to say precisely what role the two Time Lords play in the process.
It’s a story that deals with several levels of reality and the shifting portals between them. We’re never quite sure who is pulling the strings. And it’s a prelude to the loss of Romana, which affects the Doctor deeply. A parallel universe also features, as does the powerful agency of a woman whose presence in his life was deeply significant to the Doctor.
So the Doctor’s song is coming to an end…is that a good thing? If it means the circle of love and loss in his life is to be broken, giving him a measure of peace, perhaps it is. I noticed that in the final shot the Ood were no longer in a circle, but in a semicircle facing the TARDIS. Whereas in Pompeii the Doctor was the saviour (and not entirely happy with that role), here he was gently and lovingly included and honoured. Donna was given equal weight (Doctor/Donna), just as in the earlier adventure Romana was equally, if not more, significant than the Fourth Doctor.
Does anyone else get the feeling that the Doctor feels a profound relief to leave an adventure in which his presence was valued as a catalyst, but ultimately those who suffered and needed liberation were the agent of their own destiny? And perhaps this looks ahead to a greater release for the Doctor – the freedom to retire to a parallel world and hand over his duties to another Time Lord (possibly even an earlier incarnation of himself?)
I doubt whether we’ve seen the last of the Ood.