Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

Carmen: "No, but you be careful, because your song is ending, Sir. It's returning. It's returning through the dark and then Doctor, oh, but then. He will knock four times."

According to Russell T. Davies, 'Planet of the Dead' was the Doctor's last chance to have some fun. It's common knowledge now that the Doctor's just four episodes away from his end, so this was Ten's last chance to embark on one last old-fashioned romp, before the serious business of his dying begins in earnest. Something is returning. Carmen doesn't specify what, but we can be almost certain that whatever it is, it'll mean the end of the road for David Tennant.

I really liked Lady Christina de Souza. She was in every respect the Doctor's equal—a thrill seeker who's intelligent, a dapper dresser (nice catsuit), confident and assertive. Her Mission Impossible antics were impressive (if a tad cliché), and she evidently thought enough of her leadership abilities to appoint herself head over her fellow passengers—much to the Doctor's surprise. Clearly she's no shrinking violet, and if there's adventure in the offing, she's definitely not the type to run the other way. Which makes her the perfect companion for the equally dapper Doctor. When he says to her 'The worse it gets the more I love it' what could she do but agree? She's as bonkers as he is!

I was a little disappointed by the Doctor's refusal to take her along with him. She would surely have made an excellent short term companion. I understand the Doctor's reluctance to take on a new travelling buddy, losing Rose in parallel universe wasn't exactly the happiest of times for him, and in many respects Donna's mind wipe was even more of a tragedy—not to mention what happened to Adric all those years ago. But this has always been the way. Companions come and go. Sometimes they make it through unscathed, and sometimes, regrettably, it ends tragically. I just wish the Doctor had got back on the horse, so to speak, with Christina.

I have to admit, initially, Carmen annoyed me. Characters with psychic abilities have become a bit of a cliché in sci-fi, and at first her presence did little more than cause unease amongst her fellow passengers, and make us, the viewers, wonder what the hell she was going on about. Yet she was responsible for the most intriguing moment of the whole episode. She can obviously see the future, but in traditional psychic style, what she sees is so vague it gives little of substance to hold onto. Yet, clearly what she did say was enough to unsettle the Doctor. That was one long, frozen, pensive stare he gave her. It was inspired writing to take an essentially bright and breezy runaround adventure and kick us in the teeth right at the end.

When I first heard that Lee Evans was playing the part of Malcolm, I was both pleased and a little nervous. I had this horrible image of him sweating his way through the episode, before collapsing to the floor and then re-inflating himself with an invisible pump. Of course, his stand-up routine's a far cry from his acting work, but he's an actor who comes with baggage. To his credit though, he weighed in with a surprisingly reserved performance: he was funny, bumbling, endearing and in the end, actually pretty heroic as he stood firm against Captain Magambo. So shame on me and full marks to Lee.

But Captain Magambo was a little over enthusiastic, wasn't she? I understand that the earth's safety was of paramount importance to her, but threatening to shut down the worm hole without giving the Doctor and Co. a chance to escape? Even a couple of minutes warning would have been nice, especially after she'd expressed such admiration for the Doctor earlier in the episode. I can't help but feel that UNIT are too quick to react these days. Didn't they try to rip the earth apart using the Osterhagen System last season? Patience guys, patience! With UNIT protecting the earth, who needs enemies ?

The Tritovores probably should have made me cringe, but they didn't. At least not too much. They were essentially men in overalls wearing rubber fly masks. So I should have been horrified by the cheapness of it all, but for some reason I quite liked them... in a strange, don't they look a bit crap, kind of a way. Goodness knows what they were saying to the Doctor. Do flies actually talk like that? Come to think of it, do flies actually talk? I was under the impression they communicated via pheromones and wing vibrations. I suppose, with the Tritovores not having wings, the latter method's redundant—but a clicking sound? Do they have tongues? Am I wondering about this too much. Should I shut my face?

For one scary moment I thought the Doctor was going to leave Christina behind to face the consequences of her crimes. This obviously sat uncomfortably next to the Doctor's gushing praise for her. Not to mention that kiss! Christina's certainly not backwards in coming forwards. I dare say she's a lady used to getting what she wants. Not that she got everything. Despite them being 'made for each other', she never managed to secure herself a place aboard the TARDIS. But I was pleased to see the Doctor aid her escape in the end. Some nice closing words too between them, with Christina ruing the future ('We could have been so good together') and the Doctor acknowledging the past ('Christina, we were'). A case of the right girl at the wrong time, maybe?

Other Thoughts:

—'Which one was your favourite? The one with the giant robot?' A reference to the Target novel Doctor Who And The Giant Robot maybe? Or possibly the Tom Baker episode 'Robot'? Or maybe even a reference to the Cyberking? Would that incident be in UNIT's files though?

—'Humans on buses, always blaming me'—A reference to the bus accident on series four episode 'Midnight'?

—Is anything seriously guarded by four full time guards? It's kind of hard to believe that none of them saw Christina hanging from the roof. Who the hell trained those guys?

—I'm not sure why more Rays didn't get through the worm hole. They appeared to be travelling in a swarm, yet only a handful managed to slip through. Were they an advanced scouting party or something?

—The friend who used to call him Spaceman was no doubt his most recent companion, Donna Noble.

—I don't recall seeing Russell T. Davies co-write an episode before. Come to think of it, has an episode of Nu-Who ever been written by more than one writer?

—It took me a while to work out why this episode was called 'Planet of the Dead'. Because the sand is all that's left of its previous inhabitants. Duhhhh!!!!

—Why were the communication devices on the Tritovore's ship shaped to fit a human ear?

—The next episode is entitled 'The Waters Of Mars'.

Quotes:

Doctor: "Hello, I'm the Doctor. Happy Easter!"

Christina: "And what's your name?"
Doctor: "I'm the Doctor."
Christina: "Name, not rank."
Doctor: "The Doctor."
Christina: "Surname?"
Doctor: "The Doctor."
Christina: "You're called the doctor?"
Doctor: "Yes, I am."
Christina: "That's not a name. That's a psychological condition."

Christina: "Let's just say we're two equal mysteries."
Doctor: "We'd make quite a couple."
Christina: "We don't make any sort of couple, thank you very much."

Christina: "Point five. The crucial thing is to not panic. Quite apart from anything else, the smell of sweat inside this thing is reaching atrocious levels. We don't need to add any more."

Doctor: "Oh, this is beautiful. Intact it must have been magnificent. A proper streamlined deep spacer."
Christina: "I'll remember that as I'm being slowly tortured. At least I'll be bleeding on the floor of a well designed space ship."

Christina: "What are they doing?"
Doctor: "They're believing."
Christina: "What? Simple as that?"
Doctor: "I've got a very honest face... and the translator says I'm telling the truth... plus the face."

Christina: "I've got sand in my hair... that's dead people... Oh, that's disgusting!"
Doctor: "Something destroyed the whole of San Helios."
Christina: "Yes, but in my hair."

Doctor: "The worse it gets the more I love it."
Christina: "Me too!"

Doctor: "People have travelled with me and I've lost them. Lost them all. Never again!"

Christina: "We could have been so good together."
Doctor: "Christina. We were."

Since we only have four David Tennant adventures left, I wanted more from this episode. It was a bit of a stand alone really. If it hadn't been for "your song is ending" stuff, I'd probably have given it 2 sonic screwdrivers. But...
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

12 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Hey Paul,

Already done an in-depth review on my own blog so I’ll be brief here. I with you on practically every point. Good fun but not really great, loved the Romana-like Lady Christina de Souza (hope she turns up again), didn’t get too annoyed by Lee Evans and thought UNIT are a bit extreme of late (the Brig would not approve).

Not sure what’s returning from the dark but it’s pretty obvious who is going to be knocking four times. Oooh, I'm giddy with glee.

El Marpla said...

About the rays, i thought the ones that got through were the ones that were on the tritovores ship, and they closed the wormhole before the swarm got to it

Paul Kelly said...

Hi Mark,

Just read your blog whilst having my tea. It's almost as if we watched the same programme ;-)

I liked your comment about random comedians turning up in the show. Remember John Cleese in City Of Death?

So who do you reckon will be knocking on the door? The Master?

Paul

Paul Kelly said...

Hello El Marpla,

Ah, good call. That makes perfect sense. I completely missed that connection. So thanks for pointing it out :-)

PK

Mark Greig said...

The Master? I hope so. Although I bet it turns out to be the Monk or the Rani after a regneration gone gender wrong.

RTD is a devious git after all.

Paul Kelly said...

Hi Mark,

Wow! I barely remember the Monk. He hasn't been seen since the Hartnell era has he? The Rani's got a few more episodes under her belt, thought I have to say, apart from the Master, I don't have anything better. So nice guesses.

As long as it's not the Cybermen! If I see John Lumic one more time I'm gong to shave off my eyebrows in protest ;-)

PK

shawnlunn2002 said...

Wow, what a doozy of episode. We've had so much better but this was a lot of fun.

I love that Easter actually got a decent mention, even if the Doctor's easter egg offer to Christina could be taken as a first move.

Give her a posh role and Michelle Ryan's pretty good. Christina might not have been as cool as Jackson but I enjoyed her for the episode and I'm glad we didn't get a Time Lord reveal with her. Perhaps better really.

The wormhole was a fun idea and only one casualty? I guess RTD is holding back for the final three episodes then. Poor bus driver but he really should've listened to the Doctor.

I liked the Doctor trying to get everyone to focus and that episodes like Midnight and Robot got a mention. Ooh and Donna was mentioned. Gee, I wonder why.

UNIT had a better time here but Erisa can go from sweet to vicious in zero seconds. She really looked like she wouldn't have a problem in shooting Malcolm when he refused to close the wormhole.

I'm glad the Tritovores weren't the villains of this episode and Christina's jewel thiefing came in handy, which it would. Her motives for pinching stuff might not be the strongest but they're believable enough.

The Doctor/Christina kiss, talk about blink and you'll miss it. The flirting between them was a little OTT but I liked the girl and HoYay, Malcolm's declarations of love to the Doctor sorta made up for it. I really wonder how much he loves the Doctor (yes, I'm going to hell for that).

I liked the Swarm, they were convincingly vicious enough and the idea of them turning worlds into deserts as part of their survival worked for me. Also the Doctor didn't actually really stop them.

The other characters varied. I guess Nathan and Barclay may have earned potential UNIT employment and Angela and Lou were alright but Carmen sorta drove me insane. I don't need low level psychic abilities to tell that dangers on the way.

However I did love the 'four knocks' thing. Just awesomely creepy and more painfully clear that Tennant's days really are coming to the end. Has to be The Master IMO.

And another seven months for Lindsay Duncan in The Waters Of Mars.

The less said of flying buses and McMillon, the better I think. And the Doctor deliberately rejected Christina because he can't bear getting hurt? Wowsers, 9/10.

shawnlunn2002 said...

My review here ...

http://www.tv.com/Doctor+Who+%282005%29/Planet+of+the+Dead/episode/1263684/reviews.html

Great review Paul, looking forward to The Waters Of Mars

Michael Colvin said...

Michelle Ryan - after the debacle that was Bionic Woman, I've come to realize that yes you can act, but you need your own accent. I remember how much better you were in the one BW episode where you pretended to be British. Leaps better. Translated to this one as well. It was a fun, flirty, satisfying stand alone. Dubai provided powerful images and great production values. Solid writing. Good!

Patryk said...

Doctor: Who needs diesel...

As in Vin? ;) The plot looked kinda like Pitch Black but it ws really fun nonetheless.

Kenneth Serenyi said...

Strangely this is one of two episodes that the American Netflix service is missing (out of seasons 1-6). It doesn't sound like I'm missing much but it's still frustrating. (The other missing episode is the Christmas Carol episode with Matt Smith). I guess I'll just have to find it elsewhere.

Arie said...

Unlike everyone else I didn't really like Lady Christina. She reminded me far too much of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider who is also a Lady, an adventurer, steals stuff, wears black, has a backpack and has long dark hair. I liked the rest though - particularly I'm enjoying the change in Tennant's performance. Back in Season 2 the Doctor was constantly smiling at Rose (and everyone really), and just a very jubilant and happy fellow. Whilst he's still been upbeat in Season 4 with Donna, there's a big change since Journey's End. In the past the Doctor would've likely welcomed Lady Christina on board (although maybe not with that kiss as he's gunshy since Martha and Rose about romance and companions), but not anymore, at least not in this particular form at this particular time.