The Doctor and Rose land on a kit-constructed sanctuary base in deep space, far from their usual “Oh, look, isn’t that Earth I see from this viewing platform?” grounded adventures. There are drilling sounds in the air, unreadable ancient letters on the wall, and yay, a squad of Cthulhu guys, each bearing an orb leading into their mouths with a tube! I swear, those orb/tube combos looked so much like drink containers I had to stop to get raspberry-lime seltzer. “We must feed!” the Cthulhu gang repeats menacingly. *stops again for peanut butter toast*
Whew, turns out the Lovecraftian aliens were just offering round refreshments! Their tube/orb contraptions function as translators (and surely also hold delicious beverages?). But this is no time for thirst-quenching: a group of humans stationed at the base rush in and cart Rose and the Doctor off to ride out a dangerous quake in the control room.
Let’s ignore everyone’s exclamations of “real people!” — I thought something exciting would happen later concerning deviously fake people, but the crew’s merely surprised other humans made it onto their atmosphere-devoid black-hole circling planet. Yes, yes, they’re “beyond the laws of physics” because they’re not sucked in to the black hole even as they view various solar systems ripped apart by it. Sounds nice.
The Doctor gets to put on his sexy wonk glasses to learn about the gravity funnel while one crew member, Toby (the resident archeologist) heads to check out a collapsed part of the base, mostly so someone can whisper, “Tobbyyy!” in a creepy way even though no one’s there. We learn our atavistic refreshment-offering pals are the Ood, a slave race who work in mineshafts, and pine and die if they have no orders. House elves, anyone?
The whole gravity funnel/orbiting around the black hole thing is totally impossible (title!). It would require “a power source with an inverted self extrapolating reflex of six to the power of six every six seconds.” 666! That’s reassuring. The crew’s drilling to point zero to harness the energy. Though he’s momentarily grim thinking of the wartime uses, the Doctor changes tacks. Can he have a hug from acting captain, Zack? “Comin’ in!” the Doctor declares joyfully, smishing Zack, declaring humans amazing and brilliant.
Time for another round of “The TARDIS is lost forever!” It was parked on the portion of base the quake collapsed. Though he argues the ship is “all I’ve got. Literally, the only thing,” the crew refuses to divert drilling to seek the Doctor’s ship. “I’ve trapped you here,” the Doctor murmurs to Rose, distraught. Though Rose initially brushes off the crisis, she notes, “changed my mind; start worrying about me!” after citing their obstacles (and obviously because someone mentioned putting them on laundry duty).
Ravel’s “Bolero” plays as the crew transitions to the night shift. Jefferson, head of security, checks in Ood with ridiculously creative names like “Ood 7 Gamma 10”. I tell you, name your Ood 7 Gamma 10 and your parents will never let you hear the end of it! Why, you’re practically thrusting your Ood into a life of demonic possession! You might as well name him Ood 7 Gamma 11!
In his bunk, archeologist Toby examines ancient letters. He again hears a whispered “Tobbyyy!” At the canteen, Rose commiserates with an Ood: she too slopped goop during her tenure as a Dinner Lady. “The Beast and his Armies shall rise from the Pit to make war against God,” the Ood replies. When Rose stares, it follows with, “Apologies! I said, I hope you enjoy your meal.” You’d think that’d be one to carry back to the Doctor right away. But Rose apparently wants to eat goop first. Tasty, tasty goop.
“I have many names,” says the voice tormenting poor dorky Toby. “Don’t turn around!” If Toby looks, he’ll die. Well, of course he’s going to look now! Ah, no one’s there. Eeeee, I love this kind of of paranoid trapped on a space station old fashioned Sci-Fi narrative! Gasp, the ancient script transferred from pottery shards to Toby’s hands! Now he’s got letters scrawled on his face! Quick, yank off your shirt to check if it’s on your no-doubt sculpted abs! Aww, dang, he just collapses instead.
The crew re-opens the shield to observe a “moment in history”. They watch the Scarlet System, home to a billion year old ancient civilization, get gobbled up by the black hole. Without the TARDIS, and dependent on the crew for a “lift” somewhere, the Doctor might have to settle down, live in a house. It’s a prospect he finds terrifying (perhaps more so when Rose suggests they might “share. Or not, you know.”). Rose can’t even call Jackie; they’ve got no signal on the Super Duper Cell Phone (which was left behind with Mickey, sheesh; a little continuity, please!). Then her cell rings so someone can growl, “He is awake!”
Danny, the Ethics guy, tells Rose they monitor the empathic Ood, a “herd race” because they’re “so stupid, they don’t even tell us when they’re ill.” Hey Danny, the Ood are right there. Their low-level telepathic field registers at Basic 5; then how come, Rose asks, it’s at Basic 30? It’s the equivalent of Ood shrieking horribly inside their heads; “or something’s shouting at them,” the Doctor notes. Rose relates her “He is awake,” message and the Ood chant, “And you will worship him!” Creep-ayyy!
Scooti (spunky maintenance chick) searches for Toby. Don’t worry, Scooti: he’s just popped out of the airlock sans spacesuit for a bit of bathing in the black sun! He beckons her in full demonic mode. When she shakes his mesmerizing spell off and yells, “Stop it!” his gesture cracks the viewing window glass, sucking Scooti into space’s vacuum.
As the computer alerts the crew to the emergency hull breach, Zack orders an evacuation. Everyone runs to the control room, where Toby turns up looking normal, whaaaaat? Rose advises he eat some protein one with a dash of three, because whether you’re on Satellite 5 or a damned space base, Rose knows food courts, okay?
Everyone wonders where Scooti is. Then Scooti (I’m so, so sorry; I couldn’t resist) scoots on by overhead, because she’s dead in space being sucked toward the black hole. Jefferson quotes Thomas Babington Macaulay, “For how should man die better than facing fearful odds? For the ashes of his father and the temples of his Gods.” It’s nice public school recitation, but what it has to do with Scooti, who died on an errand because a demon was a jerk rather than taking a stand for her people and faith, I have no idea.
Suddenly, the drill stops. They’ve reached Point Zero, the source of the energy. And this is what this episode is so good at: the ominous suspense, the increasing paranoia, the almost blatantly suicide-mission the Doctor and Ida volunteer for, heading to the unknown point of origin of Point Zero for a look-see. Everything builds to a grim anticipation of a pending confrontation that only gets more frantic and frightening from here on in. And yes, it’s very by the book — bet you guess certain emotional and generic marks from here, if not from the very first scene of the episode — but it’s extremely well done.
Rose kisses the visor of the Doctor’s space helmet while Danny tells the Ood they better stay still in their little pen no matter what. Very ethical, Danny. The Doctor waves to Rose as he and Ida enter the capsule for their exploration. While Toby rocks and looks generally unstable, checking his hands for more demon writing, Zack and the crew track the capsule’s descent until “you’re on your own,” he tells the Doctor, because they’ve gone past the oxygen field.
The capsule drops rather suddenly. The Ood stand as one and assume a formation. For a moment, there’s no contact. Then, “That’s beautiful,” Ida says from the cavern below as the Doctor reports, “Rose, you can tell Toby we found his civilization.” His demonic civilization? The crew above can’t see images because of interference, so only the Doctor and Ida witness the huge and ornate stone statues. “There’s no turning back,” Ida says, and the Doctor grouses and makes EastEnders references at this obvious tempting of fate.
The Ood won’t stop staring, Danny complains, and Captain Zack says he’ll go to bed without dessert if he doesn’t man up! Uh, their psychic level’s now at BASIC 100, and at that level, they should be brain dead. Keep a guard on the Ood, Zack advises. Enter Random Guard, someone introduced no doubt only to die moments later.
Ida and the Doctor discover a massive “trap door” covered with symbols (much bigger than the Hellmouth Seal in Sunnydale!). They can’t figure out the mechanism to open it, but those ancient alien characters imprinted on it might well be instructions. “I know what it says,” Toby interrupts. Anyone else think this won’t end well? Sure enough, Toby chants, “These are the words of the Beast. And he has woken. He is the heart that beats in the darkness. He is the blood that will never cease. And now he will rise.” Yay?
The base shakes. Jefferson tells Toby to stand down, threatening to shoot him when Toby (as the Beast) taunts him by saying his dead wife never forgave him. “But how many can you kill?” Toby asks, sending out tendrils of ink as the symbols leave his body and float toward the Ood. Great, now the Ood are the Legion of the Beast!
I can’t do justice to the terrific and rapid back-and-forth between all the different characters in their various settings here. Suffice to say the tension ramps up fantastically as the Captain panics for someone to report, the Doctor insists he’s going back up to save Rose, and the possessed Ood turned red-eyed and start killing humans with the mere contact of their translator spheres (starting with, you guessed it, Random Guard!).
The Ood incant freaky sounding names for the Beast, like, “Bringer of Despair, the Deathless Prince, the Bringer of Night.” “I shall become manifest,” the Ood-as-Beast threaten (echoing The Wire from our last episode). The entire planet starts to jolt out of its orbit, endangering them all with black hole suckage, arrghh!!!
“The Pit is open, and I am free!” the Ood cry, and with a round of hearty Satanic laughter, we’re at the cliffhanger, to be continued in the next episode! Oooh weee oooohhhahooo! I’ll have the recap for “The Satan Pit” for you tomorrow morning!