In the science-fiction television series Doctor Who, the Ood are perhaps one of the strangest recurring enemy that the Doctor has had to face, especially considering that no Ood has ever felt any animosity towards him of any kind. Left to their own devices they are a caring, servile and profoundly mysterious telepathic species. This has led to their exploitation and they are also easily controlled and possessed by others. It is when thus possessed that they have posed a threat.
The Ood as a species are humanoid, slightly taller than an average human, with bald heads and tentacled faces. They originate on an icy planet known as the Ood-Sphere, which is located within the same solar system as the Sense-Sphere1. The Ood are born with two brains; as well as a brain in their heads, they also have a hindbrain that they carry in their hands but is connected to their heads by an umbilical-like cord. Being born having to carry their delicate brains in their hands ensures that as a species they remain peaceful. Additionally the Ood are telepathically linked to a third, giant brain known as 'The Mind of the Ood' which unites the Ood together. According to research done by the Halpen family, if this giant brain dies, the whole Ood species dies too.
Barring illnesses, the Ood are a long-lived species. Ood Sigma, for example, is known to have lived for over a century. Despite the differences between mankind and the Ood, it is possible for a human being to be transformed into an Ood if they regularly consume 'Ood graft' over a prolonged period (for example, if they believe it to be a hair restoration tonic). Stronger concentrations of Ood graft may well make the transformation instantaneous.
The Ood's mental powers are phenomenal. As well as their telepathic ability, which they call 'singing', they are able to see into the future, correctly predicting the creation of the Doctor-Donna2 as well as the Tenth Doctor's demise. They are also able to appear to the Doctor as he travels across time and space, although whether they have actually physically teleported or their appearance is an illusion instead caused by a form of their telepathy is unclear. Yet for all their mental ability, the Ood have never developed a sense of humour.
The Ood's telephathic field can be monitored by electronic equipment, with the strength 'Basic 5' considered a normal level. If the field exceeds 'Basic 30', it is as if either the insides of their head are screaming, or something is screaming at them. Both Basic 0 and Basic 100 are normally fatal. The Ood's telepathic signal naturally manifests itself as a song reflecting their mood. This song can be detected by other telepathic species, such as Time Lords.
Shortly after being encountered by humanity in the 40th Century, the Ood were enslaved, exported and sold as commodities to hundreds of thousands of planets by Ood Operations, nicknamed 'Double-O'. This was a family-run business owned by the Halpen family. After they discovered the Mind of the Ood, also known as the Ood Mind or Hive Mind, they imprisoned it within a warehouse, blocking its telepathic field with electric interference. To ensure that the Ood remained docile their hindbrains were surgically removed and replaced by translation globes, allowing them to speak English. The Ood were then sold across the universe as slave labour, not only for domestic duties but also for military purposes and even on scientific expeditions, such as the exploration of the mysterious planet Krop Tor.
When Rose asked head of the Sanctuary Base's Ethics Committee Danny Bartock about the Ood, he informed her Everyone's got one. In his words,
They work the mineshaft, all the drilling and stuff, supervision and maintenance. They've born for it. Basic slave race... The Ood offer themselves, if you don't give them orders they just pine away and die.
When Rose asked an Ood if that was true, that they want to be ordered around, one replied, It is all we crave. We have nothing else in life.
Although pressure group Friends of the Ood attempted to infiltrate and expose the barbaric truth behind Double-O's Ood enslavement, it remained ongoing for two centuries until the arrival of the Doctor and Donna Noble to the Ood Sphere. With the assistance of Doctor Ryder, a member of Friends of the Ood who had spent ten years infiltrating Ood Operations, they freed the Ood Mind3. As soon as the Ood Mind was released, the Ood's telepathic song was heard across the universe and the Ood were allowed to return to their homeworld.
Unfortunately it was not just mankind that enslaved the Ood. Their telepathic reception has allowed other strong-willed telepaths to possess and control them, which curiously also changes their eye-colour from green to red. Among those who have successfully taken over the Ood are the Beast of Krop Tor, who controlled the Ood found on the Sanctuary Base on the inhospitable planet there, and also House, a TARDIS-eating parasite from a bubble universe that controlled an Ood known as 'Nephew'.
City and Civilisation
Within a hundred years of their freedom, the Ood constructed a vast splendid and magnificent city on their homeworld, much to the Doctor's surprise. Why the Doctor is astonished is unknown, for as the Ood were the main labour force throughout the universe for two centuries, operating mine shafts and building bases etc, city construction is something they have extensive experience in. Having a single Ood mind unifying all Oodkind would also drastically cut down on the bureaucratic red tape involved in a major development project of this nature.
Despite being a technologically advanced race, the Ood are one of the few races that the Doctor has encountered that have never developed the concept of vehicles that can be locked remotely4. When he materialises on the Ood-Sphere, the Doctor beeps a remote control to lock his TARDIS, only for Ood Sigma to be perplexed. Perhaps the Ood never developed a need for locks as a result of all their species being telepathically and harmoniously joined together.
It is unclear to what extent the Ood have individual identities, or whether despite having separate bodies, they have a single mind. One Ood informed Rose that they have no names, as we have no titles, we are as one. Despite this, the Doctor sees a specific Ood, Ood Sigma, on three different occasions and a form of hierarchy appears to exist when the Ood observe a form of traditional or religious ritual associated with their mental powers. When summoned to the Ood Sphere by Ood Sigma to attend such a ceremony, the Doctor meets with the Ood Elder. This Ood has a different shaped head, with prominent brain lobes visible. The ceremony itself involves the use of incense and the holding of hands.
Creating the Ood
When the first episodes featuring the Ood were being made as part of the second series of the revived Doctor Who, it was touch and go whether the Ood would actually appear. Showrunner Russell T Davies explained,
We were running out of money, so it was going to be the Slitheen, just to save a bit of cash, but looked at the sums and I e-mailed Millennium FX asking them how many they could do for us if all the monsters' heads were identical. Neill Gorton said that if it was just heads, if the Ood were wearing clothes and gloves, they could do six. I showed him a picture of a Sensorite, from William Hartnell's time as the Doctor back in the 1960s; I've always loved that look, that uniformity and their expressionless faces, so we put a bit of that into the Ood... The Ood are odd. That's how I came up with their name, I wanted them to sound odd.
In order to make the masks cheaply, the design had fronds covering the mouth, with dialogue indicated by a simple illuminating ball, cutting out the need for expensive mouth prosthetics to match mouth manipulation and vowel movements. One mask had animatronic features installed to make the eyes blink and forehead move to give a range of facial expressions, the others were simple masks, with the masks made so cheaply that twelve, rather than six, were made.
Here is a description of the televised Doctor Who stories that feature the Ood.
'The Impossible Planet' / 'The Satan Pit' (2006)
The Ood are part of a team in a Torchwood sanctuary base exploring a planet orbiting a black hole. They have been brought to operate the mineshaft that is drilling down to explore the core of the planet, where a power source creating a gravity funnel preventing the planet from being sucked into the black hole is located. Soon the remains of an advanced civilisation are discovered and the Ood begin behaving strangely, delivering comforting messages such as The Beast and his armies shall rise from the Pit to make war against God, before engaging in a killing spree...
Two episodes written by Matt Jones, directed by James Strong. The lead Ood was played by Paul Kasey and voiced by Silas Carson.
'Planet of the Ood' (2008)
The TARDIS lands on the Ood Sphere in the 42nd Century, from which planet the Ood are exported as servants throughout the three galaxies that make up the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, for only 50 credits each. The Doctor and Donna find a dying Ood whose last words are 'The circle must be broken' and soon uncover the horrifying truth behind the Ood's enslavement. The Ood Mind has been enslaved behind a circular electric field to prevent it from contacting the Ood, making their enslavement all the easier. Yet subconscious signals, transmitting the Ood's mind's anger to occasional Ood, begin to get through, infecting the Ood with 'Red Eye' and starting an Ood revolution.
This was written by Keith Temple, directed by Graeme Harper with Paul Kasey playing the lead Ood, voiced by Silas Carson.
'The Waters of Mars' (2009)
Ood Sigma appears briefly to the Tenth Doctor after the Doctor broke the laws of time, proudly calling himself the Time Lord Victorious. This was an omen foretelling the Doctor's death. This episode was written by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford, directed by Graeme Harper.
'The End of Time' (2009-10)
Having been summoned by Ood Sigma at the end of 'The Waters of Mars', the Doctor travelled to the Ood Sphere5. A century has passed since he visited with Donna, but accelerated time has affected the Ood, dramatically increasing their mental powers and their ability to construct cities. The Ood are also suffering from bad dreams. The Doctor is taken to the Elder of the Ood, who predicts,
A shadow falling over all creation. Something vast is stirring in the dark. The Ood have gained this power to see through time because Time is bleeding. Shapes of things once lost are moving through the veil and these events from years ago threaten to destroy this future and the present and the past... The darkness heralds only one thing, the end of time itself.
Moments before the Tenth Doctor regenerates, he sees Ood Sigma for the last time, drawing strength from his presence. As the Doctor is about to regenerate, Ood Sigma tells him, We will sing to you, Doctor. The universe will sing you to your sleep.
This was a two-part adventure written by Russell T Davies and directed by Euros Lyn, with Paul Kasey as Ood Sigma and Ruari Mears as the Elder Ood.
'The Doctor's Wife' (2011)
The Eleventh Doctor is lured into a bubble universe by House, a TARDIS-eating sentient asteroid parasite. House created slaves out of the mortal remains of those who had become trapped in its domain, operating to chop, change and combine the bodies of its victims until any identity and will of their own was long lost.
A 'minisode' is the name given to short, mini-length episodes of Doctor Who, typically lasting only a few minutes in length. To date, three have featured the Ood:
'Death is the Only Answer' (2011)
'Death is the Only Answer' was written for a schools' writing competition and, as the winning entry, was filmed. Here it is revealed that the Eleventh Doctor's fez was previously owned by Albert Einstein, who wants it back. Einstein then has a drink and transforms into an Ood. As no other Doctor Who episode implies that Einstein is an Ood, this is unlikely to be considered canonical.
'Pond Life' Parts III-IV (2012)
In 'Pond Life' Part III, Rory unexpectedly discovers an Ood sitting on the loo in his bathroom. In Part IV set a month later the Doctor admits that he had rescued the Ood from the Androvax Conflict and was taking him back to the Ood Sphere, only to have misplaced him, while the Ood acts as Rory and Amy's butler, making them meals and cups of tea. These episodes were between 3 and 5 minutes long, both written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Saul Metzstein.