The Ood, under the control of the one they refer to as the Beast, close in on Rose and the crew of Sanctuary Base 8, while the Doctor and Ida Scott are stranded beneath the surface of the planet. The Doctor makes a reckless jump into the pit they’ve discovered there – a literal leap of faith – while Rose helps the survivors of the Sanctuary Base marshal their resources to save themselves. In the pit, the Doctor finds the Beast – its body, chained forever in the pit, rages aimlessly, seemingly unable to communicate with him. Little does Rose know that the Beast also is on the base with her – its disembodied intelligence inhabits the body of a young archaeologist, quietly helping the Ood whittle the crew down to just two men and Rose. But the crew manages to shut down the telepathic field controlling the Ood and, leaving the Doctor and Ida for dead (over Rose’s objections), they flee the base in their only escape vehicle. Now, unless the Doctor and Rose take decisive action without being able to contact one another, the Beast’s mind may escape into the civilized center of the galaxy to build its new army.
written by Matt Jones
directed by James Strong
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Danny Webb (Mr. Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Burnbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (voice of the Beast), Silas Carson (voice of the Ood)
Notes: The Doctor mentions Draconia and Daemos as worlds that have an image of the beast. The third Doctor met the Draconians in 1973’s Frontier In Space, and have continued to feature in Doctor Who print fiction and video productions; the latter is an interesting choice since it’s the homeworld of Azal, a demonic creature who the third Doctor battled when it posed as the devil in 1971’s The Daemons; the Beast seen here might have been a much older and more powerful Daemon, or something else entirely.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Successfully building on The Impossible Planet‘s doom-laden atmosphere, The Satan Pit seems to be flirting with exploring the theology of Doctor Who, and that might even be intriguing if it had had the time to play out. The problem with any such attempt is that The Daemons went there already, and in 1971 no less, with another demonic creature in another pit which may also have been the inspiration for numerous societies’ stories of the devil. I’ll grant you, the CGI creature seen here is a little bit more menacing than Stephen Thorne in goatskin pants, but in the case of either The Daemons or The Satan Pit, the real drama lies with someone acting as the devil’s spokesperson – in The Daemons it was Roger Delgado as the Master at his most sinister, and here it’s Will Thorp as Toby, and he effectively steals the show from the huge red critter that’s green-screened in in front of David Tennant.
Here we see a Rose not seen since the previous season – she has learned from her travels with the Doctor, including how to inspire and lead others, and she’s learned that sometimes a supreme sacrifice is necessary. She loses points for trying to hijack the ship momentarily, but even the other characters in the scene know she doesn’t have the cajones to pull the trigger. When she does finally work up the nerve, she’s doing something considerably nobler.
If there’s really a problem here, it’s that the story and the script waltz right up to the edge of getting into the Doctor’s belief system. This isn’t really something we absolutely need to know for the series to go on, but it’s an interesting idea to explore. (I for one think it’s at least interesting that, since his ninth persona, the Doctor has suddenly been saying things like “For God’s sake, Rose, run!”, something that his previous selves just weren’t prone to change.) So what’s changed in the Doctor’s worldview?
Well, that’s just it. We don’t know. It’s a tease with no resolution and a glib cop-out – “I think…we beat it.” The mere mention of Daemos (see notes, above) seems to tease us with the possibility that there may be a sci-fi-ish explanation for humanity’s fixation on the devil, but we don’t even get that. The Satan Pit winds up being a bunch of great action setpieces, but those ultimately don’t finish the story that the writer seemed to be setting out to tell.