Published on June 11th, 2006 | by Christian Cawley
The Satan Pit
“â€¦The Lost Girl so far away from home,
The valiant child who will die in battle so very soon”
Is The Satan Pit a commentary on the current state of world events, with the accidental unleashing of an ancient evil on mankind through common human activities such as exploration a parallel to the surrender of rights to a bloodthirsty cabal hell-bent on colonial and cultural superiority?
Or is it just a damn good episode of Doctor Who, providing a conclusion to the events that were set in motion in The Impossible Planet while posing one or two new questions?
You can discuss the real-life reflection of this particular fiction in the Kasterborous Forum should you wish, along with the real meaning of “Torchwood” â€“ an increasingly tired reference that really needs to be giving us a good payoff to be relevant. Meanwhile, letâ€™s look at the conclusion of what will probably be voted “Best Story” in Doctor Who Magazineâ€™s Poll of the Year.
The timing of this episode with the real-world date (6/6/06) has been mentioned elsewhere, and ties in with other events, such as The Christmas Invasion and the anniversary of the Queenâ€™s Coronation tying in with The Idiotâ€™s Lantern. It also serves to add to the tension of the story, underlining the legendary horror of the villain of the piece.
While the adventureâ€™s conclusion has parallels with the last time the Doctor encountered “Satan” â€“ even down to the use of the same actorsâ€™ voice â€“ this is nothing more than cosmetic. Possession and subversion are common themes in devil fiction, but where The Satan Pit excels is in two key areas. Firstly and most obvious are the astounding visual effects, from the black hole to the expeditionsâ€™ rocket and the Ood to the magnificent spectacle of the Beast and its prison. Secondly, and most vitally is the pacing and plotting and scripting of the piece. Matthew Jones has succeeded only where Steven Moffat has this season in providing us with forty-five minutes of perfectly paced Doctor Who â€“ of course the difference being heâ€™s done it twice.
Effectively hitting the reset button at the conclusion to the cliffhanger allows the tension to be relieved for a short time before the thrills start again. Excellent shows from actors Danny Webb and Will Thorp along with an understated performance from David Tennant allowed the tension to be prolonged, not extinguished as it first seems, and its not long before the Ood are on the move again.
There are plenty of future uses for the Ood in my mind, not least one which involves the repercussions of their possession by Satan. Such a perfect design cannot be discarded and I hope to see them in Doctor Who again some day â€“ perhaps next year?
Of course guessing what happens in the next episode of Doctor Who would be quite a trick, and next year more so; spare a though for poor Rose, who is told by the Beast the circumstances of her death. Whether or not this is just poppycock will remain to be seen. Thereâ€™s no way we can know the circumstances of her departure from the TARDIS â€“ good or bad â€“ but it certainly puts her departure on more of a knife edge. I suspect that there will be several moments in the coming episodes that will see us suspecting the impending death of Rose only to be cleverly misdirectedâ€¦ It could of course be nothing more than misdirection itself â€“ however as this series has at last got into itâ€™s stride after a couple of false starts, that is by no means a bad thing.
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit can only be declared a success. It entertains on several levels, features the best assembled cast of the series so far, Murray Goldâ€™s score is demonically striking and the atmosphere is perfect. While I feel there was some mileage in the Doctor and Rose being stranded on a future Earth without the TARDIS, I can at last triumphantly announce that Doctor Who 2006 has got off to a start with a bang in episodes 8 and 9.
Better late than never, eh Doctor?