The TARDIS was rocking back and forth in flight. The Doctor pulled a lever to stop it. “Setting the controls to random! Mystery tour! Outside that door could be any planet, anywhere, anywhen in the whole wide u— are you all right?”
“Terrified,” Donna admitted. “I mean, history's one thing but an alien planet?”
“We could always take you home,” Lilith teased.
“Yeah, don't laugh at me.”
“I know what it's like," the Doctor said. “Everything you're feeling right now. The fear, the joy, the wonder? I get that.”
Donna grinned. “Seriously? After all this time?”
“Yeah. Why do you think we keep going?”
Lilith noticed that a deep blue jacket with turquoise lining had appeared on the jump seat. She slipped it on.
“Oh. All right then, the three of us!” Donna went over to the doors. “This is barmy! I was born in Chiswick. I've only ever had package holidays. Now I'm here. This is so. I mean it's. I don't know, it's all sort of. I don't even know what the word is.” She threw open the doors and went outside.
Lilith laughed. They were on a completely white, snow covered planet. “How about the word ‘freezing’?”
“Snow!” the Doctor exclaimed with glee. “Oh, real snow. Look at that, Lilith, proper snow at last. That's more like it! Lovely. What do you think?”
“Bit cold.” Donna shivered.
“Look at that view!” The Doctor motioned to the massive icicles hanging from bridges of rock over vast ravines.
“Magnífico,” Lilith breathed.
“Yep. Beautiful, cold view.”
“Millions of planets, millions of galaxies, and we're on this one. Molto bene. Bellissimo, says Donna, born in Chiswick. All you've got is a life of work and sleep, and telly and rent and tax and takeaway dinners, all birthdays and Christmases and two weeks holiday a year, and then you end up here. Donna Noble, citizen of the Earth, standing on a different planet. How about that Donna?” Donna had disappeared. “Donna?”
She came out of the TARDIS in a big fur coat with a hood. “Sorry, you were saying?”
Lilith raised her eyebrows. “Better?”
“Can you hear anything inside that?”
“Pardon?” Donna joked.
The Doctor chuckled. “All right, I was saying, citizen of the Earth—” He was cut off by a rocket gliding slowly above them.
“Rocket! Blimey, a real proper rocket. Now that's what I call a spaceship. You've got a box; he's got a Ferrari! Come on, lets go see where he's going.” Donna dragged a slightly hurt looking Doctor along.
“There’s, there’s nothing wrong with the TARDIS!” he protested.
“She looks like an old, blue box, Dad,” Lilith said. “Humans get distracted by shiny things, remember? A bit like you.”
As they were crossing a rock bridge, a delicate music reached Lilith’s ears
The Doctor stopped, looking around. “Hold on, can you hear that? Donna, take your hood down.”
She did. “What?”
“That noise is like a song. Over there!” He spotted something to their left. An Ood lay on the ground, partly covered in snow.
“What is it?” Donna asked.
Lilith stared at the alien. “An Ood?”
“But it's face.”
The Doctor shook his head. “Donna, don't. Not now. It's a he, not an it. Give me a hand.”
Lilith knelt next to him, putting her hand on the Ood’s chest. “I don't know where the heart is. Don't even know if he's got a heart. Talk to him, keep him awake.”
“It's all right, we've got you,” Donna said. “Er, what's your name?”
The Ood held up the translator ball. “Designated Ood Delta 50.”
“This is the Doctor. Just what you need, a doctor. Couldn't be better, hey?”
“You've been shot,” the Doctor noted.
“The circle…” the Ood said.
Donna put her hand on his shoulder. “No, don't try to talk.”
“The circle must be broken.”
“Circle? What do you mean?” the Doctor asked. “Delta 50, what circle? Delta 50? What circle?”
Delta 50 sat up with a roar, eyes glowing red. Lilith pulled the Doctor an Donna back and pulled out her blaster. Then, the Ood exhaled and fell back, dead.
“He's gone,” Donna whispered, reaching out to him.
“Careful,” Lilith warned, still wary.
“There you are, sweetheart.” She closed his eyes and looked back at the Doctor. “We were too late. What do we do, do we bury him?”
“The snow'll take care of that.”
“Who was he? What's an Ood?” she asked.
“They're a slave race,” Lilith answered. “Servants of humans in the forty second century.”
“Mildly telepathic, too,” the Doctor added. “That was the song. It was his mind calling out.”
“I couldn't hear anything,” Donna murmured. “He sang as he was dying.”
Lilith didn’t take her eyes off the dead Ood as she put her blaster back in its holster. “His eyes were red.”
“What's that mean?”
“Trouble. Come on.” They continued walking towards where the rocket was headed. “The Ood are harmless. They're completely benign. Except, the last time I met them, there was this force, like a stronger mind, powerful enough to take them over.”
“What sort of force?”
“Oh, long story.” The Doctor shrugged, dismissively.
“It was the Devil,” Lilith said.
Donna scoffed. “If you're going to take the mickey, I'll just put my hood back up.”
“No seriously. Horned creature in the pits of hell and everything.”
“Must be something different this time, though,” the Doctor mused. “Something closer to home.” A factory came into sight “Ah ha! Civilization!”
The Doctor, Lilith, and Donna approached a tour group as the guide was giving a speech. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Ood Sphere. And isn't it bracing? Here are your information packs, with vouchers, 3D tickets and a map of the complex. My name's Solana, Head of Marketing. I'm sure we've all spoken on the vidfone. Now, if you'd like to follow me.”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry. Late. Don't mind us. Hello. The guards let us through.” The Doctor flashed the psychic paper.
“And you would be?” Solana asked.
“The Doctor, Lilith, and Donna Noble,” the Doctor introduced.
“Representing the Noble Corporation PLC Limited, Intergalactic,” Donna said.
Solana checked her clipboard. “Must have fallen off my list. My apologies. Won't happen again. Now then, Doctor Noble, Mrs. Noble, Miss Noble, if you'd like to come with me.”
“Oh, no, no, no, no. We're not married.”
“We're so not married.”
If the tour guide was confused, she didn’t show it. “Of course. And here are your information packs, vouchers inside. Now if you'd like to come with me, the Executive Suites are nice and warm.”
An alarm sounded. “Oh, what's that?” the Doctor asked. “That sounds like an alarm.”
“Oh, it's just a siren for the end of the work shift. Now then, this way, quick as you can.” She led the tour group inside.
In the presentation area, three Ood were standing on small platforms, while others were taking around trays of drinks.
“As you can see, the Ood are happy to serve, and we keep them in facilities of the highest standard. Here at the Double O, that's Ood Operations, we like to think of the Ood as our trusted friends. We keep the Ood healthy, safe, and educated. We don't just breed the Ood. We make them better. Because at heart, what is an Ood, but a reflection of us? If your Ood is happy, then you'll be happy, too.”
“Cheesy marketing at its finest,” Lilith muttered.
“I'd now like to point out a new innovation from Ood Operations,” Solana continued. “We've introduced a variety package with the Ood translator ball. You can now have the standard setting. How are you today, Ood”
The first Ood responded in the normal, monotonous Ood voice. “I'm perfectly well, thank you.”
“Or perhaps after a stressful day, a little something for the gentlemen. And how are you, Ood?”
“All the better for seeing you,” the second Ood said in a husky female voice.
“And the comedy classic option. Ood, you dropped something.”
The third Ood used a voice reminiscent of Homer Simpson. “D'oh.”
“All that for only five additional credits. The details are in your brochures. Now, there's plenty more food and drink, so don't hold back.” Solana left.
The Doctor went to her lectern and used its computer access to light up the big screen. “Ah, got it. The Ood Sphere, I've been to this solar system before. Years ago. Ages. Close to the planet Sense Sphere.”
‘With Susan?’ Lilith questioned.
‘And Ian and Barbara. I think someone else was there too.’ The Doctor frowned, as if trying to remember, but shook his head. “Let's widen out. The year 4126. That is the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire.”
Donna’s eyes widened. “4126? It's 4126. I'm in 4126.”
“It's good, isn't it?”
“What's the Earth like now?” she wondered.
“Bit full. But you see, the Empire stretches out across three galaxies.”
“It's weird. I mean, it's brilliant, but. Back home, the papers and the telly, they keep saying we haven't got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing. But look at us. We're everywhere. Is that good or bad, though? I mean, are we like explorers? Or more like a virus?”
“Sometimes I wonder,” the Doctor admitted.
“So, the red dots,” Lilith said, studying the map, “those are Ood distribution centers?”
“Across three galaxies? Don't the Ood get a say in this?” Donna went over to an Ood and gently touched his arm. “Er, sorry, but, tell me, are you all like this?”
The Ood lifted his translator ball. “I do not understand, Miss.”
“Why do you say Miss? Do I look single?” Donna demanded.
“You are single, Donna,” Lilith pointed out.
Donna glared at her. “Yeah. What I mean is, are there any free Ood? Are there Ood running wild somewhere, like wildebeest.”
“All Ood are born to serve,” the Ood responded. “Otherwise, we would die.”
“But you can't have started like that. Before the humans, what were you like?”
The Ood twitched and blinked. “The circle.
“What do you mean? What circle?” the Doctor asked.
“The circ— the circle is—”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Solana interrupted, “all Ood to hospitality stations, please.”
“I've had enough of the schmoozing. Do you fancy going off the beaten track?” The Doctor took out the map of the factory complex.
Donna grinned. “Rough guide to the Ood Sphere? Works for me.”
They went back outside to the back of the factory. The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver on a gate in the wire mesh fencing.
“Ood shift eight now commencing. Repeat. Ood shift eight now commencing,” a voice said over a loudspeaker.
The Doctor, Lilith, and Donna watched the Ood marching through in double file from an upper catwalk. One at the back fell down. A human stormed over and cracked a whip at the Ood.
Donna looked horrified. “Servants? They're slaves.”
The Doctor watched with disgust. “Last time I met the Ood, I never thought. I never asked.”
“That's not like you.”
“They were trying to kill me,” Lilith mumbled.
“I was busy. So busy I couldn't save them,” the Doctor said. “I had to let the Ood die. I reckon I owe them one.”
A man in a suit paraded out of the building. “That looks like the boss,” Donna noted.
“Let's keep out of his way. Come on.”
They continued their search of the complex, stopping at a door. The Doctor unlocked it with the sonic and they went inside. It was full of shipping containers.
“Ood export,” the Doctor explained. “You see? Lifts up the containers, takes them to the rocket sheds, ready to be flown out all over the three galaxies.”
“What, you mean, these containers are full of…?” Donna trailed off.
Lilith eyed the containers with distaste. “Despicable.” She opened one and it was filled with Ood, all standing silently.
“Oh, it stinks,” Donna commented. “How many of them do you think there are in each one?”
“A great big empire built on slavery.”
The Doctor shrugged. “It's not so different from your time.”
“Oi! I haven't got slaves.” Donna protested.
“Who do you think made your clothes?”
“Is that why you travel round with a human at your side? It's not so you can show them the wonders of the universe, it's so you can take cheap shots?”
“He’s rude to everyone,” Lilith said. “Not just humans.”
“Honestly, Spaceman.” Donna turned to the Ood. “I don't understand, the door is open, why don't you just run away?”
“For what reason?” an Ood asked.
“You could be free.”
The Ood blinked. “I do not understand the concept.”
Donna frowned. “What is it with that Persil ball? I mean, they're not born with it, are they? Why do they have to be all plugged in?”
“Beats me, but something tells me it’s not pleasant process.”
“Ood, tell me. Does the circle mean anything to you?” the Doctor questioned.
“The circle must be broken,” all the Ood chorused
“Oh, that is creepy,” Donna muttered.
“But what is it? What is the circle?”
“The circle must be broken,” they repeated.
“So that we can sing.”
Suddenly, an alarm went off. “Guessing the know we’re here. Time to run?” Lilith suggested.
They ran, losing Donna somewhere along the way. Somewhere after getting lost in the maze of containers, the claw started chasing them. “Bad time to make a joke about Toy Story?”
“Don’t even think about it!”
Whoever was controlling the claw managed to knock Lilith over, sending her flying into the Doctor and both of them tumbling to the floor. The guards caught up with them and marched them away.
“Doctor, get me out of here!” Donna’s voice shouted from one of the containers.
“If you don't do what she says, you're really in trouble,” the Doctor said. “Not from me, from her.”
“Unlock the container,” the lead guard ordered. Two of them opened the doors and Donna ran out.
The Doctor hugged her. “There we go, safe and sound.”
“Never mind about me. What about them?” she pointed back to the Ood.
One of the Ood killed the guard by the container door.
“Red alert. Fire!” the lead guard shouted. Ood started coming out of other containers. “Shoot to kill!”
While the guards fired their guns, Lilith, the Doctor and Donna bolted outside where they were joined by Solana.
“If people back on Earth knew what was going on here,” Donna panted.
“Oh, don't be so stupid,” Solana scoffed. “Of course they know.”
“They know how you treat the Ood?”
“They don't ask. Same thing.”
“Same thing?” Lilith demanded, outraged.
“Solana, the Ood aren't born like this,” the Doctor said. “They can't be. A species born to serve could never evolve in the first place. What does the company do to make them obey?”
“That's nothing to do with me.”
“What, because you don't ask?” Lilith snarked.
“That's Doctor Ryder's territory.”
The Doctor pulled out his map. “Where's he? What part of the complex? I could help with the red eye. Now show me.”
“There,” Solana pointed. “Beyond the red section.”
“Come with me. You've seen the warehouse. You can't agree with all this. You know this place better than me. You could help.”
The tour guide looked at them, torn, before turning and shouting, “They're over here! Guards! They're over here!”
Lilith shook her head and followed the Doctor and Donna as they ran off.