Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: Doctor Who 4.15: Planet of the Dead
Doctor Who - Season 30, Episode Fifteen - Planet of the Dead
Written 26/4/13

I was in Wales on the Easter of '09. I was still recovering from the fact that for the first year since 2005, we weren't gonna have a full series of Doctor Who on our TV screens. I really didn't need my one small consolation prize to be Planet of the Dead, a story executed so haphazardly at such a cost that I'd rather they hadn't bothered at all. Seriously, the expense that went into making this thing just went completely to waste, and it's nothing to do with the acting or the design - it's just a mediocre script that translates to a mediocre episode.
     The Doctor ends up on a bus with the world's thickest art theif Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan) as the bus pops through a wormhole onto a desert planet. Stuck and needing the bus to get through the wormhole, they try to organise their way out, with UNIT assembling on the terrestrial side. The Doc calls through to UNIT and talks to scientific advisor Malcolm (Lee Evans) who scans the wormhole, while Doc and Christina run into some fly people, who reveal that they arrived to trade with the planet, which used to be flourishing before it was devoured by a race of wormhole-making metal stingrays. They get back through by turning the bus into a hovercar, the stingrays get fried and The Doctor allows a career criminal to escape.
     We'd already had the first of our temporary companions in Jackson Lake, but as the first of the 2009 companions, Lady Christina de Suza doesn't really measure up. She's probably one of the least likable companions of the new series - I think I even prefer Adam Mitchell. Being a criminal is one thing - there's always the whole "steal to survive" motive to iron that out morally. But Christina is a fricking aristocrat, and she's stealing because she's bored. No amount of lax flirting will allow me to like a member of the corrupt aristocracy, especially with the current government. The hokey dialogue doesn't help either.
Thankfully the last of the animal-themed aliens of RTD's tenure.
     The idea behind the plot was okay, with the Dubai location looking absolutely smashing, and the damage the bus obtained during shipping being nicely worked into the plot at the last second. I wasn't a big fan of Malcolm; the character himself was harmless, but I wasn't really wowwed by Lee Evans in this role or in his stand-up, which consists of screaming vulgarities and making absurd noises as substitute for any wit or talent. I think that if that's RTD's idea of decent comedy then it explains rather a lot of things about some of his earlier scripts.
     There's nothing particularly offensive about Planet of the Dead on its own; it passes by with a few lumps of stupidity stuck to the plot, and by the end it feels little more than a light-hearted Easter romp. Which I suppose is what it was aiming for, really. But when your plot is one that shows us world-devouring aliens, a civilisation reduced to dust and a dumb-ass prophecy predicting The Doctor's death, you'd want it to feel a little more serious than the antics of Malcolm and Lady de Suza ever allow it to be.


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