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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)

What lies beneath…

Director James Strong and his design team take us through the creation of the two-part story's alien Ood

The Satan Pit. It was the first episode title to be announced for Doctor Who’s second season, way back in the early summer of 2005, and it’s a name with some scary connotations. The second part of Matt Jones’s story continues the Doctor and Rose’s adventures on the impossible planet orbiting a black hole, where a group of Human engineers are drilling deep underground to access an energy source. Yet their actions have unleashed a terrible dark force…

“The suggestion for what is causing this is probably the most scary proposition we’ve ever had in Doctor Who,” says the story’s director James Strong. “We’re tapping into notions of, ‘Is it the Devil causing this?’ That’s terrifying to most people.”

After The Impossible Planet took a little time to establish this world and the characters, The Satan Pit promises 45 minutes of full-on adventure and chills.

“The first half of the first episode was finding out what’s happening,” Strong defines. “But from the opening frame there is something very odd about this station. It’s unsettling from the word go. And then the story pretty much takes off. The whole of the second episode is a roller-coaster ride. It grabs you by the throat.

“This one has got a 90-minute story, which is great for me. There is the feeling of one long big adventure.”

Just like Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel before it, the story gives us just a taste of what a Doctor Who movie could be like. It’s epic in scope, punctuated by huge thrilling set pieces, and set to be remembered as one of the season’s best. “This is one of my favourites,” promises The Mill’s Will Cohen. “It’s very moody. You’re going to love it.”

So was Strong blessed with a suitably larger budget in order to bring this impossible environment to the screen?

“You always want more time and money,” he reasons, “but I think the show has got fantastically adept at getting the best with the resources and pushing everyone to deliver the best they can.

“I certainly didn’t ever feel compromised. I was very much encouraged to let my imagination run wild and treat it excitingly and dynamically. They are hopefully two very cinematic episodes and I hope they can stand up against the body of work that is out there in Sci-Fi terms.

“I know The Mill have been very excited by the scale of it. It’s big stuff – black holes, planets, space rockets and there’s a big CG monster. It has big screen aspirations.”

The first episode introduced a new species of alien to the Doctor Who universe. The oddly-named Ood, which are used by the Humans for menial tasks, are usually genial but are being manipulated for evil by the dark force deep below the surface. Brought to life by Neill Gorton and his team of specialists at Millennium Effects, these creatures are almost a fusion of humanoid and aquatic elements.

“The initial written description was of albino creatures that have got a sea anemone kind of glued to their face where their mouth should be,” Gorton tells TV Zone.

by David Richardson

Read the full interview and more on the story in
TV Zone Special #70

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, Doctor Who © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
TV Zone Special #70, see below for ordering options
TV Zone Special #70
Ood Doctor Who 2006
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