‘PLANET OF THE DEAD’
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The Mighty 200!
Here are Tritovores; stingrays; a London bus and the sexy Lady Chrstina on an alien planet!
‘Planet of the Dead’ by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Thomas, is the first and possibly the only Easter Special ever in ‘Doctor Who’! If you’re expecting aliens in Easter Bunny costumes handing out poisonous Easter eggs to everyone and the Doctor stopping them, then you’re in for a disappointment. ‘Planet of the Dead’ is a rollicking romp of an adventure!
It has a red double-decker London bus ending up in the middle of the desert on the alien planet of San Helios. The Doctor meets his new friend Lady Christina de Souza, played by the lovely Michelle Ryan from ‘Eastenders’. I’ve also seen Michelle in the ITV version of ‘Mansfield Park’ with Billie Piper.
The story starts with a burglary at London’s International Museum (Cardiff Museum to be exact). The burglar is Lady Christina and she’s on the run from the police. She’s stolen a long-old golden cup once belonging to King Æthelstan. She eventually gets on a London bus and soon meets the Doctor.
The police chase after Lady Christina in the bus as it goes through a tunnel. Then the bus enters a ‘door in space’ and it journeys through a wormhole. It ends up on the desert planet of San Helios. The Doctor has to try to find a way to get everyone back home and Christina is on hand to help him.
It was a very sunny weekend that Easter back in 2009 when I saw this on TV. Filmed in the exotic deserts of Dubai, this story sees the Doctor on another adventure saving a group of people on a red double-decker bus with the help of a potential companion and it’s an amazing group of people here.
There’s the sweet, lovely Victoria Alcock as Angela Whittaker; David Arnes as Nathan; Daniel Kaluuya as Barclay and Reginald Tsiboe and Ellen Thomas as married couple Lou and Carmen. The Doctor gets everyone to calm down and tells them to hold on as he promises that he will get them all home.
There’s also Adam James as D.I. McMillan (not Dai McMillan); who has been chasing Lady Christina for some time with her thieving lately and is starting to lose it. There’s also Noma Dumezweni as U.N.I.T. Captain Erisa Magambo, who last appeared in ‘Turn Left’ with Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble.
But the biggest guest star is Welsh stand-up comedian and actor Lee Evans as Malcolm Taylor, U.N.I.T.’s new scientific advisor. I remember seeing Lee Evans in ‘Mouse Hunt’ with Nathan Lane. Here he plays a character that is a huge fan of the Doctor’s and is quite nutty and bizarre to look at.
But eventually it soon becomes clear that Malcolm’s very bright and clever and the Doctor calls him a genius at some point. I love the phone conversations the Doctor and Malcolm have. They finally meet at the end of the episode. Malcolm goes “Oh, I love you!” and he gives the Doctor a big hug too.
Of course, Michelle Ryan stars as Lady Christina who I enjoyed watching. She’s really sassy, smart and so sexy. She comes prepared with everything in her rucksack including a shovel, a hammer and her sunglasses in the desert. She and the Doctor get on like a house on fire and seem to work well.
The Doctor works out her mystery as she’s a thrill-seeker looking for an adventure rather than just thieving for the sake of it. She has this cool, feisty and rather sharp attitude to her, but she does come across as being really and ‘honourable’. The Doctor says that ‘they were made for each other’.
There are two types of monster in this story. There’s insect-like Tritovores and they really do like fly-people. The Doctor gets to speak in their language as they sound so insect-like with their hissing and croaking. The Tritovores are rather sweet as aliens, even though my mum doesn’t like insects much.
The two Tritovores (played by Paul Kasey and Ruari Mears) are very mistrustful of the Doctor and Christina at first. But eventually they believe what the Doctor tells them through the use of their translators (and possibly the Doctor’s ‘honest’ face). They soon get to help the Doctor and Christina.
There’s also the stingrays, a swarm of devourers of death that fly around and around in the planet’s sky. There’s no evil intent with these creatures, except for the fact that they eat anything. I loved it when the Tritovores’ probe gets eaten and the Doctor gets annoyed with ‘everything getting eaten’.
The stingrays are shielded with metal, as they’re the ones forming the wormhole in order to go through and attack the Earth. San Helios has become a desert because of the stingrays with the cities, wildlife and people turning them into sand. This is a horrifying and unnerving concept in this.
Eventually, the stingrays are defeated as a U.N.I.T. battle takes place. The Doctor gets the bus back home with everybody on board through the wormhole. Malcolm also seals the wormhole with ‘five thousand Bernards’ (his measurement) and prevents more stingrays getting through the wormhole.
The episode ends on a happy note, as the Earth is saved and the Doctor manages to save everyone. He even gets a kiss from Christina as a reward. The bus flies through the air using anti-graft devices from the deceased Tritovore spaceship. The Doctor lands the bus safely for everybody to disembark.
Christina is ready to go and join the Doctor on some adventures. But the Doctor says no. He’s not ready to take on another companion, as he’s still suffering from the loss of Donna and Rose following ‘Journey’s End’. It’s a shame, as the Doctor and Christina seem to be a perfect companion team-up.
It would have been great to have seen some more adventures with those the Doctor and Christina. Maybe Christina will return again someday. Perhaps Big Finish could do some Tenth Doctor adventures on audio and Christina could return to have those adventures, which would be fantastic.
But the Doctor’s song is ending, as Carmen gives him a terrifying prophecy of doom. As it’s coming to the end of his era, the Tenth Doctor has no idea what’s in store for him. But it doesn’t seem good and as Carmen wearily tells him ‘it’s returning from the dark’ and also that ‘he will knock four times’.
That gave me the shudders when I heard this prophecy as it does for the Doctor. I didn’t know what was to come when I heard that prophecy being foretold. But from the look of the Doctor’s face, it’s terrifying and it doesn’t look good for him. It was so exciting and terrifying, yet I looked forward to it.
The DVD special features are as follows. On the ‘Planet of the Dead’ DVD and Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Specials’, there’s the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ making of documentary called ‘Desert Storm’. There are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including David Tennant and Michelle Ryan.
‘Planet of the Dead’ is a good old romp. Not the best ‘Doctor Who’ I’ve seen, but it’s definitely not the worst. It’s dosed with humour and is wonderfully written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts. And it has some wonderful performances by David Tennant and Michelle Ryan in the story.
This story was fraught with a troubled production. I commend the production team for braving through it as there was so much bad luck with the making of this story, with a bus getting damaged and bad weather conditions. Well done to director James Strong and also to writer Russell T. Davies!
‘Planet of the Dead’ rating – 7/10
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