In which the Doctor does…..nothing

The Doctor: Biroc! What are you doing here?
Biroc: Nothing.
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.

In Planet of the Ood the Doctor does nothing. Did anyone else notice that? Oh,he runs around and shouts and if he had to do something, he undoubtedly would. That’s the sort of guy he is. But in the end, he doesn’t have to. The Ood have already worked out their own salvation.

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.

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4 thoughts on “In which the Doctor does…..nothing

  1. And my heart don’t wish to roam
    I agree completely that the “your song will end” is to breaking his circle of travelling and getting companions and losing them. I felt that so much of S3 was about his disatisfaction with this way of life- just see HN/FoB and LotTL. What the Doctor is being shown as wanting is a family, however much that seems to go against every the Doctor is about. Obviously Rose will be a part of this because of all the build up this season, but I don’t think she’s everything.
    Really interesting comparison with the 4th Doctor episode- which I haven’t seen.
    And what is with the disappearing bees????

  2. Re: And my heart don’t wish to roam
    Oh, well the Doctor was called Theta at school, which was a Greek letter and rhymes with Beta, which is also a Greek letter that looks like B, so the Bees refer to the Doctor vanishing from this universe…and I should probably get out more.

  3. I just loved that it had proper aliens, and took place on a different planet for a change. And the scene with the grabby claw? Brilliant. The antagonists seemed very Classic Who to me, as did the setting. I loved seeing Donna pull a Tegan and then take it back. And was it just me, or was his hair worse than usual?
    All the deeper things aside, I thought this episode was a very fun ride.

  4. Definitely agree about the hair. Getting to be past ridiculous now – one reviewer suggested that he hides his lines under his fringe. You do wonder.
    Thanks for the link about the bees. It’s been on the BBC Today programme as well. But my theory is still that it’s an in-joke connected to Tennant’s upcoming role as Hamlet.
    Of course I shall now be proved wrong and the fate of a million galaxies will hinge on it. I wonder if the bees know something we don’t and they’ve moved out, a bit like the dolphins in Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy?

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