Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead

by Alan Rapp on March 16, 2013

in Television Reviews 

  • Title: Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead
  • IMDB: link

Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who we continue to look back at some old episodes of the series including the second of five Doctor Who specials that ended David Tennant‘s run as the immensely popular Tenth Doctor. The episode is also notable for being the 200th of the series (well, sort of), one of the few episodes featuring The Doctor traveling without a companion, the first episode to be filmed in high definition, one of the only episodes of the entire series where the TARDIS never materializes and the inside of the TARDIS is never shown, and the only one to be co-written by Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts.

Traveling alone after the loss of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), The Doctor (Tennant) is transported halfway around the universe to a dead world along with several other passengers of the double-decker bus who include an elderly couple (Ellen ThomasReginald Tsiboe) and jewel thief Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) who jumps aboard fleeing the police after stealing the Cup of Athelstan from the International Gallery in London.

Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead

Saved from the deadly journey by the metal frame of the bus which acted as a Faraday cage, but is now stuck in the sand, the group find themselves stranded in the middle of a desert with a storm approaching on the horizon. While trying to keep the travelers calm, The Doctor makes a phone call to UNIT and the commander, Captain Erisa Magambo (Noma Dumezweni), in charge of the situation on the ground (as the wormhole continues to grow in London).

As the rest of the travelers work to dig the bus free from the sand and try, unsuccessfully, to get it moving again, The Doctor and Christina do a leading exploring which leads them to a crashed Tritovore spaceship whose insectoid crew are trapped as well. Helping to restart the ship and send a probe into the oncoming storm The Doctor learns they are all on what should be the thriving planet which has been turned to sand by a swarm of stingray aliens devouring everything in their path and whose circling of the dead planet ripped the hole in reality to Earth – the next world they plan to devour.

With the help of Christina, who uses her unique skill set to retrieve some Tritovore technology necessary for their escape, and UNIT scientist Malcolm Taylor (Lee Evans), The Doctor is able to formulate a plan to get the travelers home safely, destroy a priceless British artifact (sorry, Christina), fly a double-decker bus over the streets of London, and close the wormhole before the stingray aliens (who make a terrific edition to the ever-expanding catalog of Doctor Who creatures) make their way to Earth.

“Planet of the Dead” has an awful lot to enjoy including the ridiculous Evans as goofy, but brilliant, scientist in total awe of The Doctor. Sometimes you cast the right actress for the right role at the wrong time which is the case here as Christina would have made a terrific longtime companion, but due to the episode’s placement means we only see Michelle Ryan in a single episode. Christina is a wonderful sharp-witted character and Ryan and Tennant have great chemistry on-screen as The Doctor and Lady Christina continue to banter back and forth until the episode’s end. The episode also reminds us that The Doctor has more than a little in common with the thief given that he stole his beloved “little blue box” as well.

Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead

Dangerous throughout, with a wickedly-designed new enemy, “Planet of the Dead” also includes some very humorous moments that keep the balance of the show from ever becoming too dark. The episode ends in a cryptic message from the psychic Carmen (Ellen Thomas) to The Doctor, “he will knock four times” and “your song is ending,” setting up the three specials to come and The Doctor’s eventual death and regeneration into the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith).

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy March 20, 2013 at 7:56 pm

This is my one of my favorites. Those creatures are the creepiest things ever and Michelle Ryan is brilliant and I totally agree Christina should have been given a season or more as a companion.

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Noble Donna March 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm

This is my favorite of all of the specials. End of time is too long, Next Doctor has some real dumb stuff, and Water of Mars is too creepy.

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Jenna June 2, 2013 at 3:08 am

I agree Lady Christina would have made a great companion.

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