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News and reviews for the big and small screens…where potatoes fear to tread.

Roasting vs Baking ~ Doctor Who, ‘Planet of the Dead’

David Tennant and Michelle Ryan/ The Doctor and Lady Christina

David Tennant and Michelle Ryan/ The Doctor and Lady Christina

Over the past couple of years I have (sadly) fallen out of love with Doctor Who. So much so that I didn’t realise this special was even on until a couple of days ago. After the abysmal Christmas episode I didn’t really have high hopes – and whilst ‘Planet of the Dead’ was not quite as dull and indeed had some enjoyable parts, I felt it was cast from a similar mould.

Lady Christina was in theory a very interesting companion. The three previous girls have been lower to middle class (Martha, arguably), so having an aristocratic woman was a nice change, although I could have done without the ‘we’re always prepared’ line. I liked her brainy, gutsy personality, which I felt was indeed a good match with the Doctor’s. I’ve never been a huge fan of Michelle Ryan’s (hated her in the awful Jekyll, hated her in the awful Bionic Woman, but she can’t be totally blamed for either of those monstrosities) but she was passable in this. Not amazing, but passable. Didn’t quite buy her as an aristocrat, though (wrong hair, wrong body type, and I’ve run into enough of them to know. She should have been wearing a body warmer for a start). Her chemistry with Ten was fun, although I could have done without the snogging. I am far from a romance hater when it comes to Who, but I think the kissing companions thing is overdone and should be given a rest. She should also have been arrested, because she did break the law by stealing the cup, regardless of whether she did it for profit or fun.

The desert setting made for lovely visuals and I enjoyed the swarms of stingrays (or, as some have pointed out, cosmic sperm) flying above the sand dunes. The plot, however, was frankly ridiculous. They make a wormhole by flying round the planet? Eh? Plus there was no real explanation of how everything became sand. Do the rays excrete sand when they’ve eaten something? (It’s possible I missed the point, I’d switched off a bit by this stage). Similarly the Tritovores were wasted as all they did was wave their lame looking prosthetic mandibles and die. The wormhole expansion was also puzzling to me, as we were told it was ten miles big but the creatures only came through the tunnel.

Still, Russel T. Davies’ plots rarely stand up to close inspection, and I know it’s not worth picking holes. He has time and time again used ‘space magic’ which is unexplained or hand waved by the Doctor to solve things, and this episode was no exception. The handy anti-grav devices made for a fun flying bus sequence, but I found it fairly lazy storytelling.

The secondary characters were fairly pointless and their talent was wasted (I’m thinking of Daniel Kaluyaa in particular, whose turn as ‘Posh Kenneth’ in early Skins was hilarious, and who is a great writer as well). Carmen the psychic (entering Magical Negro territory) was totally under used and seemed to have been shoehorned in so she could deliver the PORTENT OF DOOOOOOOOM at the end (which, by the way, was not exactly difficult to figure out *dee dee dee dum*). Lee Evans’ slapstick may have amused the younger audience but I found my interest wandering when he was on screen.

Doctor Who is, in my opinion, struggling a little under its own weight. It is so popular that it obviously feels the need to deliver bigger and better spectacle each time, when often I find the simpler, more emotional stories deliver more than the action packed capers. My favourite stories (both two parters) are the Series One double ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’ and ‘Human Nature/The Family of Blood’, both of which explore what it means to be a Time Lord and his effect on the humans around him, as well as creating great secondary characters and using well structured plotlines. I also think ‘Midnight’ is a great episode, just in case you think I am a mindless Rusty basher (only when he bites off more than he can chew). I know I’m not the programme’s target audience, and I’m sure that for people who like the action/adventure/caper aspect of the show, ‘Planet of the Dead’ delivered.

I’d give it 6/10.

p.s. Murray Gold…makes me want to stab things. His soundtrack was like something from a 1980s movie about pirates or superheroes. Less is more.

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3 Responses to “Roasting vs Baking ~ Doctor Who, ‘Planet of the Dead’”

  1. We all need to hear the truth, especially when we hate to hear it. “Doctor Who” has become very, very ‘stale”. It has sunk to appealing to the 10-14 year old “Speed Racer” set who have to have more and more UNBELIEVABLE FX to keep their 2-year old attention spans enthralled.
    This is WHY I refused to watch “Sarah Jane” and will NOT watch the new “K9”. But even beyond the Disny/Mickey Mouse Club appeal, this story just plain SUCKED and I am not one to give David Tennant OR Michelle Ryan a “pass” on this. This couldv’e been made so much more “adult”.

    I am NOT enthused by the prospect of the next episode “Waters of Mars” and am only really interested in the final 2-stories because 1)Bernard Cribbins “Wilf” returns and 2)David Tennant is leaving and RTD is FINALLY THROUGH!!!

    Bring on Moffett and Smith to save the show, if it’s not already “too late”. With the re-invention of “Star Trek” this is a bad time for the ramblings of RTD’s “second childhood”. Drop all the spinoffs and concentrate on the main course to make it the best SF.

    Give kids more credit than you do. The interlligent ones will appreciate a grown-up “Who” like we adults. Otherwise, stay on the same course, “WHO” is dead/gone/finute’ after 2010!

  2. I’m forced to agree. I seem to remember thinking that Eccleston,and the first season of Tennant were fairly credible. I don’t remember thinking that highly of RTF stories even then, but they were….watchable. Lately, I don’t know. This show is just bad. So bad, it is ruining my whole Doctor Who groove. I would think, with about 500 Dr. Who episodes to draw on for inspiration it should be too hard to capture the gist of Doctor freaking Who, but every episode since the infamous Kylie Minogue-and-the-flying-Titanic special has simply sucked out loud. This ep in particular stands out as among the top 3 worst ever, in my mind. I want to write the BBC and let them know the JK Rowling called, and wants her flying bus back. Of course, DT makes a good stand-in for Harry Potter, so maybe it is appropos after all.

    If there are sharks in space, surely Doctor Who has jumped one. I’m goingt o go watcha Troughton eppy now and try to cleanse my mind.

  3. Thanks for replying and it’s a shame that, and no self-promotion here, we’ve had two of the most intelligent comments, albeit highly negative/critical, on this episode and the path of “WHO” in general. Let me reiterate, I’m kinda’ sick of this whole “David and Russell are leaving” schtick, like they are like the END of an Age or something (Likened unto “The Undiscovered Country” was basically for STOS, if you exclude ST VII that is and Kirk’s “death”). Personally, I’m to the point of being pissed. David Tennant, now that he’s nabbed the starring role in “The Hobbit” prequel to “LOR”, should BE GONE already!!”. He’d made up his mind before the end of last season (Reboot S4). There should’ve been a REAL RE-generation. If Matt Smith wasn’t ready, certainly Pertwee’s son, or who was the black actor that everyone WANTED to see in the role, should’ve been pegged to finish up at the end as everyone walks away…”AND now, we start all over again”. BUT NOOOOOO!. David Tennant, RTD, and the BBC held we the viewers hostage while the Grand Dame of WhoDom, DT, gets to do Hamlet, and every other freakin’ project for 4 measley over-the-top episodes. I almost wish that Eccleston wouldv’e stayed. We could’ve criticized his portrayal at times, BUT I believe, would’ve kept up focused on “the show” and not the actor himself.

    Let’s make it clear 1)David Tennant wanted more money although he was already getting more than any other BBC actor. Can’t blame him, BUT MOVE ON already! 2)David Tennant acts in interviews like he KNOWS he’s good..Too Good..For the SHOW and the Fans..I could sense in his remarks about Comic Con that it was an “anywhere but here” /”Gawd, I dispise these fan boys” attitude he took. (Quasi-Shatnereque). 3)The Brit DT/RTD Sycophants are ready to fall on their swords, micro-criticizing EVERYTHING about Matt Smith even before he starts..4)Matt Smith is being paid LESS than half of what DT made and I hope personally, he and Stephen Moffat remake this show into something so freakin’ fantastic story wise that after the second episode we’ll be going “David, Russell, WHO?”. 5)Let’s hope, we’ve seen the last of the senseless snogging, hetero and homo-erotic. (Bye Bye Captain Jack) 6). Let’s hope, as I said in the first posting back in April, ALL the Spin-offs are cancelled. CONCENTRATE the freakin’ budget on “WHO”. 7)IF the Brits continue to bash Smith, and let’s be honest, if he does a Peter Davison “joyless” type portrayal, this next series probably WILL be the last (although I don’t think he will), then let’s buy the series and produce it in the US and/or Canada.. Making sure ofcourse, that it’s aired as commercial free as possible, maybe even as an HBO, Showtime project. (eliminate the need to appeal to every tweenie!)
    8) Who is thinking another Pertwee might be the “older” 12 th regeneration of the Doctor as mentioned by Alex Kingston/River Song. Can’t say why, but even as a success, I’ve got a hunch that Matt Smith is a 2-season “WHO” at best. Pertwee’s son would fit that role. AND like his dad, he really WANTED/Still Wants the role. 9)Slightly off-topic, I thought “Children of Earth” was a great story except for the ridiculous “reason” the 4, 5, 6 came to harvest…I don’t have a tenth reason, and my hands are tired of typing anyway.

    Before I go, a)Water’s of Mars is looking even more like a pointless rip-off of something else. b)John Barrowman’s manic display at Comic Con was as over-the-top, as DT’s “Gawd, I’m embarrassed/I hate these geeks”..It was like “They LIKE me, they REALLY, REALLY LIKE ME!!!..They’re coming to take me away HEE HEE..HO HO!!”. c)If the BBC wanted to make a real spin-off, “The Sally Sparrow Stories” would’ve been SO much better. “Blink” was such a great almost “doctor-less” story..


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