The Satan Pit


One of my favourite feelings when watching television is the sensation of genuinely not knowing what’s going to happen next. ‘The Satan Pit’ delivered it in spades. It was intriguing and surprising — and that it managed this while having an escape through a ventilation shaft and a Beast that looked perfectly Devil-like (in a Doom sort of way) is pretty surprising. Let’s start at the beginning.

Who would have thought that when the pit opened last week, there was in fact nothing coming out of it? Hah! Well, alright, this was a little disappointing in a way.1 Later on, it becomes more interesting, when it turns out that the seal is not so much “opening to free an entombed evil upon the helpless universe” and more “trying to get the silly curious bipeds to come down and do their damned job”. Meanwhile on the base, a bunch of Ood are taken down by liberal firepower. This never becomes interesting, but luckily they’re running out of bullets. The crew’s quick escape is followed up quickly by the aforementioned (and very tense) ventilation shaft sequence, so I didn’t find this cliffhanger strand nearly as anticlimactic.

But the real follow-up to the cliffhanger is the Beast’s conversation with all the characters, and it’s a cracking one. What I particularly like is that it gives the impression that the crew would have all given up at this point, were it not for the Doctor and Rose. They’re like, intergalactic self-help gurus, but way cooler. Much much cooler. Actually I regret that simile, ignore it. But I also like how the Doctor finds himself challenged — he’s had a bit of a smooth time of it recently — and that we’re all reminded that he’s the “killer of his own kind”. Sometimes it’s harder to associate this new model with all that angst. It feels like it belongs to the ninth Doctor. Maybe we could give this one some of his own angst. If the Beast is right, it could be happening quite soon.

The action on the base was quite exciting. I was a bit worried when they started crawling about, but they did move quite quickly, and the token valiant sacrifice, while certainly not unexpected, was nicely played. I didn’t expect the Captain to get rescued at the last second, but I will admit that I am a bit like putty when watching television, and my expectations easily moulded at times. In any case, I was glad; the crew really got good in this episode after some shaky beginnings last week, and none more so than the captain. His abduction of Rose was a great moment — two people opposed, both for the right reasons.

And they had the coolest rocket ship ever. Move over, Thunderbird 3.

What I really didn’t expect was for the Doctor to be trapped on the surface alone with Ida for so long. And if I had I wouldn’t have been expecting much. And yet at the centre of the episode we had these great little discussions on the human impulse to explore, and to fall, and a curious insight into what the Doctor will risk when faced by certain doom. Rose’s voice reaching them just after the Doctor decides to fall into the darkness gave the situation that neat little tragic edge as well. From this point the Doctor only gets more awesome — discovering the huge beast, saving the day, getting to do the second coolest thing2 any Doctor has ever done with the TARDIS.3 It’s only really a shame that he didn’t get one more chat with the Beast — a bit more of Gabriel Woolf’s evil tones would not have gone astray.4

If Doctor Who isn’t careful, it’ll start a tradition of the first two-parter of the season being crummy, and the second being awesome. And the third, hopefully. I’m particularly grateful to the last few episodes for putting the Doctor and Rose’s relationship back on track — all those distractions early on in the season didn’t give Rose much to do at all, which was a bit of a shame. To see her being generally cool this week5 was great, and to see the Doctor realise that if this “saving the universe together” idea is ever going to work, he has to trust her and rely on her was even better.

Oh, and did I mention that huge awesome CGI Beast? Woah. Every episode should have a monster the size of a building.

  1. Though, the biggest disappointment is perhaps that once again we get nothing new before the title sequence. I want something new to think about while I’m watching the vortex, dammit. You’ve already used that cliffhanger. Not a major complaint, this one, I’m just looking to recapture that awesome “Those would be terrible last words” moment in ‘The Empty Child’
  2. The coolest of course is the TARDIS attacking the Dalek Saucer last year and materialising around Rose and a Dalek.
  3. The TARDIS’ convenient appearance at the end — punch the air moment, or shoot the telly moment? Before you answer, think on this. The Beast awoke and was posessing Toby way before the seal opened. Clearly something else woke him up. How cool would it be if the earthquake at the start of ‘The Impossible Planet’ were responsible? Or even the TARDIS itself? It tracks with everything in the episodes, though not with the TARDISODES. However they suck pretty bad so I’m not fussed.
  4. For those new to this party, Gabriel Woolf is famed for playing the voice of Sutekh the Destroyer in the 70s classic ‘Pyramids of Mars’. Now that it seems this Beast is the inspiration for all that is Devil-like in the universe, it makes a lot of sense that their voices are similar. Though it must be said that many were hoping it was Sutekh down there.
  5. It’s not Rose’s fault that killing Toby turned out to have been a good idea. And in fairness, once she realised, she got right on it.
This one knows me, as I know him; the killer of his own kind. — The Beast

2 Responses to “The Satan Pit”

  1. Good review. Another explanation re: The TARDIS given on Outpost Gallifrey is that the TARDIS dematerialised to save itself (it is, after all sentient) and was drawn towards the source of the gravity funnel, which is where the Doctor was.

  2. Dematerialising to save itself is of course precedented, as recently as the sixties serial ‘The Krotons’. I’m sure everyone remembers the Hostile Action Displacement System (or HADS).