Doctor Who: Planet Of The Dead review

Review Simon Brew 14 Apr 2009 - 08:19

The only Doctor Who episode we’ll get this side of the year, and it just about did its job, reckoned Simon.

You'll have to forgive me. If all best laid plans had fallen into place, I'd have actually got to watch Doctor Who on Saturday night and had a review up sooner. But best laid plans don't work that way, and instead, thanks to the miracles of Sky + - quite possibly humanity's finest achievement - I finally got to see the episode last night.

And got pretty much what I expected. This was effectively the last standalone David Tennant episode of Doctor Who before he embarks on the specials that will bring his tenure in the Tardis to an end, and it was by turns ambitious and predictable. Still quite entertaining, though.

Clearly, a bit of cash had been spent on it, and this was most evident by the fact that the producers had shipped out a London bus to the middle of the desert. Alas, it's my sad duty to inform them that their efforts were in vain, as my wife remarked "that looks really fake" (for the record, she uttered not a sound when said bus started to unconvincingly fly around). Despite my protestations that the bus was really there, she wasn't buying it.

I was, though, and I really liked the idea of a group of people stranded in the desert under attack from a swarm of strange attackers. But then I liked it when I read it in Michael Crichton's book Prey, too.

Who, though, to be fair, made a fair fist of it, even when you suspected that the usual cast of British thesps were going to be cannon fodder. They were the passengers on said bus, which ended up driving through a wormhole to a planet on the other side of the universe, where all, as usual, wasn't as it seemed.

However, before we'd even got this far, we'd had Michelle Ryan's audition for the next Tomb Raider movie (right down to the accent and the work of the costume department) as thief Lady Christina, who we saw at the start nicking some very badly protected golden trinket, that you just knew was going to play some vital part in the episode's denouement. Ryan, I thought, was perfectly fine, and as she boarded the bus, she made for a solid one-off companion for the Doctor. The pair had some decent dialogue, although I never bought a romance between them, and thought that the snog could easily and safely been left on the cutting room floor. Ryan though - as fans of Bionic Woman can testify - is a better actress than her EastEnders days would lead you to believe, and as a one-off character, Lady Christina wasn't half bad.

Nor was Lee Evans as UNIT's latest recruit, Malcolm, who turned out to be arguably the highlight of the episode. I've never been a huge fan of Lee Evans, and wasn't over enamoured with his casting, but thought he fit this a treat. He also get the best laughs out of the script, with his invented units of energy (Malcolms and Bernards), and I'd be quite happy for him to return to the show in the future (Russell T Davies has hinted of a possible spin-off for him).

But back to the mysterious planet, and there two alien races to contend with. One was the Tritovore, who turned up, did not a fat lot and went away again, leaving behind a receipt for another insect-driven costume, and a bit of lunch. They were sound enough, just not given anything of particular substance to do, and were safely tucked away long before the finale. The bigger threat were flying together en masse in a swarm, with airborne carnivores looking to devour anything that got in their path. Not much did in this episode though, as through a series of developments, by the time they got close enough to the aforementioned bus, it could, er, fly. It did lead to an impressive shoot out back in London, though, when the bus came back through the wormhole and brought a few of the critters with it. Barely anyone on the bus though seemed to have a graze on them, though (save for the long-dead driver). It was, certainly, the safest episode to be a Doctor Who extra in.

Yet as a self-contained episode, Planet Of The Dead was passable enough. It never really fully gelled for me, and the ending of Lady Christina flying off into the sunset I could have lived without. But was it entertaining? Yes. Was it vintage Who? No. Did I get excited when the woman out of Teachers proclaimed that Tennant's time was coming, and that they would knock four times? Hell yes. I'm easy like that.

I'm glad, though, that the next time we see Tennant - in The Waters Of Mars - we'll be closing in on the ending of his story. Much though I'm happy to sit through one-off specials, I still prefer it when things are leading towards something on the whole. And that's why, for me, the Planet Of The Dead turned out to be a decent distraction from the upcoming specials that we really want to see.

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Had this episode taken part in any of the series, it would be dismissed as being the rather rubbish one that everyone instantly forgets.
Sadly it wasn't and the bar has to be set a lot higher, even as a self-contained episode nothing really happens, the plot is langid and takes the worst parts of Pitch Black and the Langoliers.
Personally i'd have co-ordinated with the guys over at Torchwood and have Jack, Ianto and Gwen plus whoever they are going to get for the next series turn up instead of UNIT.
There were a lot of things that could have been done well in Planet of the Dead but the fact it lost out to Britian's got talent is really telling, this was a really poor and weak episode.

Sorry but I felt this episode started off badly (with the ludicrous robbery scene) and went rapidly down hill as the simple implausibility of the plot accelerated. Diamond earrings to pay for a bus ticket, making the bus driver run from the police (in a double decker bus with acceleration of 0-moving in 3 weeks) was just the beginning of the woes.

I actually enjoyed Ryans performance (and for more than just the cat suit, which she filled rather fetchingly), she had the best lines in the show and carried them with style, but she was also saddled with a load of shit that she struggled to make watchable. Sorry Lee, but I felt your mad scientist was just lame and predictable and your gurning delivery just made it painful to watch, mind you I have been a fan of Lee Evans.... but by that score I hated that Tate woman before she became the assistant and won me over by some brilliant acting.

All in all 1.5/10, not the worst special but it wasn't good, not by any stretch of the imagination. I really wonder how they can come up with brilliant 2 parters like mommy and the ood, but give us such bags of crap when it comes to specials.

I found it profoundly boring I'm afraid. My kids wandered off to do other things half way through whereas previously they would have been glued to the screen until the final credits had faded from the screen.

The Tritovores, hailed by RTD as "soon to mentioned in the same breath as Daleks & Cybermen", were absolutely pointless. The swarm was an impressive bit of CGI but there didn't seem to be any feeling of threat.

The snog ... unnecessary.

Had the programme been 15 minutes shorter, better scripted and tighter directed it would have been just tolerable ... and I'm a fan!

I can't believe how corny this episode was. Some of the acting was bloody terrible, like that stupid kid saying everything twice: "we're flying! WE'RE FLYING!" ... and then "he did it! HE DID IT!" ... It really was painfully cringeworthy. I'm sure the makers of this episode had been gorging on cheese for a year beforehand.

Well I disagree with ya all & thought it was a damm good entertaining romp.
Only thing is how did the bus get back through the wormhole the 2nd time without sustaining any damage again!!!?

Carnt believe how badly people are dismissing this, even at its most average, which this is, Doctor Who still beats most other shows on at this time slot, Primeval, Merlin, Robin Hood and dare if I even bother saying Demons. With that said could have done a lot more, if Russel T Davies wants to be bowe out with style, The Waters Of Mars certainly needs to raise the bar

Why compare it to garbage? Why not compare it to the standards that the show itself has set?

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it. This boring "story", such as it was, IMHO, was not worthy of being commissioned. Waste of money going to Dubai, looked like a CGI desert! You would expect with only 4 episodes this year, the quality should have increased. DW needs to return to being drama, with credible threats realistically portrayed, a proper, worthwhile story, and less switch-pressing Deus ex machina endings. And less silliness. The warning about the Doctor's future at the end, was one of the few effective moments, because it was dramatic. But is also served to highlight how the rest of the episode was wasted. Roll on the Moffatt era.

*have never been a fan of Lee Evans*

two words - Pitch Black. and the flying bus?? ffs. the sooner Moffatt has his hands and his hands alone on the creative levers of this show, the happier I'll be.

and it's still not as good as it was in the seventies and eighties anyway. ;)

Beside the armed guards who had taken a day off from the "Splinter Cell" games to stand facing the cardinal points in the museum, perhaps taking a break every five minutes to face a blank wall.
Beside the fly-headed alien's internal comms being a perfect fit for the human ear.
A flying Double decker.
Only one death (a bit Dalek-y as well)
The worlds most cheap looking prop (the crown)
And the main villians themselves (The "Langoliers" was it)
It wasn't as bad as Robin or Merlin on a good day.

I agree that POTD was a distinctly average episode, though as it was signposted as a 'romp', should have expected it really. I don't understand Feefer's comment that its losing out to Britain's Got Talent was no surprise. The programmes were not on at the same time and BGT gets the highest viewing figures of any programme currently on British tv, even more than Coronation Street. Even RTD would say that a science fiction drama is never going to beat that. The important thing is that Who's viewing figures for POTD were up there with previous ratings and shows that it's holding its audience.

But Robin/ Merlin/ Demons/ Primeval etc, are all insipid, unmitigated shite. So saying this episode was marginally better than them isn't really any sort of acclaim.

Just because Doctor Who outshines those progames in every sense of the word, doesnt change the fact that they are its competition, and the fact Docotor Who is playing premiership football in league one (Or division two for you oldies), shows how good this show is, even episodes like this are an entertaining enough romp to outshine and stand a top of its class, so those who are saying this was complete garbage, take a look around. On a final note I've seen alot worse by Doctor Who, ironically (Maybe) it was by the same co-writer, how stupid was the Unicorn and the Wasp lol!

A not very special Special. I wish they would get rid of the intergalactic phone, it spoiled all the suspense once they could chat to UNIT. Much better if they had to work independently and then the moral questions of potentially letting the swarm through would have more weight. BTW It would be much more useful if Carmen joined UNIT not the lads!

What? You may think that this was good, fair enough thats your opinion... My opinion was that it was garbage that started badly and got worse.

I don't care how much better it was than garbage such as demons / robin hood / primeval or whatever... I don't watch them because they make me want to throw things at my telly.

I watch dr who because by and large its good telly, every so often its fantastic telly. Part of the show is that each story is different which means its possible for Dr Who to have huge inconsistency in quality.... PotD was a pile of steaming stinking excrement with maybe 2 or 3 bits of watchable tv mixed in.

Still thats my opinion and yours may differ, but please don't say that because its still "better" than other shows in the same time slot that that "fact" means this was good.

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