There’s so much I love about ‘Planet of the Ood’. Picking a moment will be hard.
I love some of the things other people hate.
Unlike Lawrence Miles, I love that Donna ticks the Doctor off for his “Who do you think made your clothes?” crack. Why the hell should Donna put up with smuggery like that from a guy wearing Converse trainers? Who makes your clothes, Doctor? (Apart from anything else, one answer is probably ‘women’.) Okay, he apologises for making her feel uncomfortable, which is problematic… but it isn’t as if the episode lets the matter rest there.
Unlike many people, I love that the Ood thank DoctorDonna for, essentially, doing nothing. I love that they free themselves without any help from the Doctor. I like him better as an ally than as a messiah. The Ood don’t suffer the fate of the N’avi: they don’t get Whitey leading them to freedom. The DoctorDonna doesn’t interfere. DoctorDonna renounces any claim they might think they have to judge the oppressed, to moralise when the oppressed free themselves by any means necessary.
I love that the episode is nevertheless unambiguous about the right of the oppressed to use violence against their oppressors. There are no patronising sermons which hold the oppressed to a higher moral standard of forgiveness and forebearance. Violence is horrible, but the violence of the oppressed in revolt is fundamentally morally different to the violence – individual and structural – of the oppressors.
I love that the Solana doesn’t have a change of heart.
I love the vacuous marketing slime in the PR lounge, tittering at the accessories they can add to their living merchandise. Just as lobotomised, in their way, as their commodity.
I love that Halpen flatters himself by being kind to his personal Ood servant while contemplating genocide against the entire race.
It’s not perfect.
I have a problem with the racial politics. By making so many of the human oppressors into people of colour, the episode effaces the particularity of race as an axis of oppression. It seems to say that capitalism is colour blind and all it cares about is the colour of money. This is true to an extent, and I believe that economic factors are ultimately causal, but race is a specific category of oppression within capitalism, and slavery of all things is a colour issue.
And it is, basically, another orientalist fantasy for assuaging white guilt (though considerably better than most).
But it’s time to pick a moment… so here goes:
The Doctor and Donna, handcuffed, are being harangued by Mr Halpen.
“The Ood were nothing without us,” he blusters, “just animals roaming around on the ice!”
Yes, yes, that’s what they always say. The [insert name of ethnic group being enslaved here] were just slightly-more sophisticated ruminants until the civilised people came along to put them and their land to good use. That’s the essence of the liberal justification for Western colonialism going back to forever. We’re doing them a favour. …