Back in 2008, my daughter was friendly with the family who lived behind us. They had a girl, Ruth, who was nine years old like she was. My kid asked whether Ruth could come watch Doctor Who with us. At the time – and keep reading, won’t you, as this will become a plot point in about three weeks – we watched the show five days after its UK transmission. We wouldn’t get same-day broadcast on BBC America until later on.
So that Thursday evening, Ruth’s mother asked what this program was and whether it was appropriate. I said that it was a sci-fi adventure made for a family audience, with no swearing or sex, and she okayed it. We had the usual gang of five or six friends and sat down to watch it. The mom drove her around to our house, because she didn’t want her kid walking down the hill.
Now, if you’ve seen “Planet of the Ood,” you’re probably remembering that there’s a gross-out moment toward the end when the guest star, Tim McInnerny, gets squicked and splattered and turned into one of the aliens and you are thinking to yourself “Wow, you picked a bad one to start a kid on.” But we didn’t get that far.
Several minutes earlier, about halfway through the episode, some men break out some machine guns and start shooting, and that’s when our houseguest yelled “I-I-I-I’M NOT ALLOWED TO WATCH THIIIIIIIISSS” and bolted upstairs. So I went up as well, and phoned her mom, and in the time it took the wide-eyed sprog to tell me “Those men had GUNS,” the mom had arrived and I apologized and she assured me no harm was done, and then I went downstairs to catch the gross-out special effect and said to myself that I’d dodged a bullet, because this timid child would have had nightmares for months if she’d seen that.
I never actually watched the segment I missed while I was upstairs that night before now. I don’t know why; I guess I figured I’d get around to it, and now I have. It’s a very good episode, helmed by the reliably excellent Graeme Harper, and it reminds me of the Pertwee serial “The Mutants” because it’s a world where the supposedly wonderful empire of Earth is built on the back of slavery and the oppression of native people. If the story has a flaw, it’s that it doesn’t push hard enough. It raises the point that we should question where our clothes come from, a subject we discusses with our son afterward, but it doesn’t want to make the audience too uncomfortable. I’m glad that it opened the door, but it should have broken it off its hinges.