Doctor Who – Planet Of The Dead, an episode review

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Let’s not beat about the bush, Planet Of The Dead was a bit of a damp squib. Considering that we’re in the countdown to [[David Tennant]]’s departure from [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]], I think most fans had high hopes for an exciting lead-in to this Doctor’s death.

Instead, what we got was a tired episode that seemed to be willfully ripping off movies left, right and center: the opening scene was clearly lifted from Mission: Impossible.  Lady Christina de Souza – hmm, a black-clad, busty aristocratic treasure hunter – Lara Croft, anybody?

And which Harry Potter movie featured the Knight Bus, another London bus speeding through the city powered by non-natural means?

Here’s a quick episode recap:

  • Lady Christina de Souza is a professional cat burglar, who steals an ancient chalice from a museum. In order to escape capture by the police, she jumps on board a London bus, coincidentally the same one The Doctor gets on.
  • The bus travels through a wormhole in space and becomes stuck on a desert planet. The planet has been devoured by a race of metallic stingrays which are responsible for the wormhole and are heading toward Earth.
  • In the meantime, a ship piloted by Tritovores has been taken down by the stingray creatures and they think The Doctor did it. Despite becoming friendly with the Tritovores, The Doctor and Christina are unable to save them from a stingray attack and instead scavenge the parts they need from their ship and return to the bus.
  • The Doctor fits the plates to the wheels of the bus, and after a bit of modification using Christina’s stolen goblet, manages to make the vehicle fly. He flies it back through the wormhole and has the UNIT scientist, Malcolm close the wormhole.

On paper, it looks alright, but stretch this story out over a full hour, and it becomes tedious.

Michelle Ryan – who I had high hopes for as a new companion – flopped abysmally. The character was marginally interesting, but all the innuendo between her and The Doctor was dull and forced. When she snogged him at the end, I groaned out loud and prayed to Stephen Moffat that she wouldn’t get paired with [[Matt Smith]]’s Doctor. On the upside, she looked good in her cat burglar clothes!

In terms of the story, I just couldn’t have cared less. The Doctor, removed from his TARDIS, on a bus on a desert planet, with a bunch of random passangers that didn’t really add much to the plot. As I said above, these are the episodes that will end David Tennant’s tenure as The Doctor – we wanted a meatier, more relevant storyline, especially since they took the decision to cut the series down to a measly 4 episodes.

Of course, there were a few redeeming moments – Lee Evans (who looks for all the world like an older Russell Tovey from [[Being Human (TV Series)|Being Human]]) was quite funny as a star-struck UNIT scientist. I still don’t get why he didn’t try to tell The Doctor afterward about the UNIT commander’s order to close the wormhole before he’d gotten back to Earth. I was surprised at how unscrupulous Captain Magambo was about locking The Doctor at the other end of the universe.

The ending managed to raise the excitement levels somewhat, especially when it became clear that the stingrays were headed for Earth, but whenever the crew of the bus returned to Earth, things quickly got confused and jumbled.

Worse still, the psychic woman’s revelation at the end was just awful – unsubtle and already done before (when the Ood foretold the Doctor Donna storyline) – it felt tacked onto the end to satisfy some kind of continuity with the next episodes. We didn’t need it though – we know what’s coming.

And while I think it would be foolish to point the finger at Russell T Davies for a deliberate drop in quality just before Stephen Moffat takes over, after this episode I’m keener than ever to see someone new at the helm. I just can’t understand why RTD would allow this lightweight nonsense to hit the screen considering it’s the end of his and Tennant’s era on the show.

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  1. Bob

    Michelle Ryan was the only good thing about this lackluster show. She was great but the episode in general was on autopilot. Would love to see her again.

  2. priyabhakta

    I actually liked the prophecy – paired with that music it was actually probably the best thing about the episode (ilu Simm!Master). I also think there must have been other things in there which will tie together in the finale.

    Obviously the show itself was not so great and if it had just been any other episode or special then fine but I think we all expect something brilliant for this ‘swansong’ of Davies’s. That said I’ve always been more of a Moffat girl myself, he writes the best episodes.

    I thought they really neglected a point that was interesting – the fact the planet had died, I mean they skimmed over it in about ten seconds and there could have been more mileage for that sure.

    I read an inteview (either with Tennant or Davies) which described the relationship as a ‘romance’ with an old school Thomas Crown Affair flavour to it. NOTE: Her being a thief and snogging him does not make it the Thomas Crown Affair. It was so dry – you wondered if they even liked each other.

    A colleague (who doesn’t watch Who regularly) pointed out that the idea of being stuck in a bus in a place they can’t escape was like Midnight except it was clearly not as good (that was a good RTD ep). Also it didn’t have emo!Colin Morgan in it.


    …uhm, I got distracted there. And I’ve forgotten what I was going to type so I’ll skip ahead to the preview for the next ep looks good but my instant thought was that it seemed not dissimilar to Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.

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