Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead
starring David Tennant, Michelle Ryan, Lee Evans (Malcolm), Noma Dumezweni
written by Russel T. Davies & Gareth Roberts
directed by James Strong
It's been nearly a year since Series Four concluded, and four months since the last Doctor Who Special (which I didn't see) aired. So, I was quite looking forward to my Doctor Fix. Although it was a good episode with some pretty fun parts, it was mostly underwhelming with a lot to be desired. But, hey, it was still enjoyable - and that's what Doctor Who's best at: witty dialog, brilliant actors (this episode being no exception to that rule), plenty of sci-fi to appease the hardcore fans, and a damn good time!
Since I'm feeling especially lazy at the moment, I'm just going to copy and paste the BBC's official description of the episode: "When a London bus takes a detour to an alien world, the Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina, in this one-off seasonal special. But the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets, hidden in the sand. And time is running out, as the deadly Swarm gets closer."
Co-written by reboot executive producer Russel T. Davies, "Planet of the Dead" comes off as more of a normal mid-season episode than a actual 60-minute, y'know, special. There's nothing uber-super cool about the particular episode, aside from the obvious stunt casting, but DW's been doing that for years, so it's no real biggie. From a writing stand-point, the episode is solid Who; the witty banter is intact, there's some great dialog (""I'll just step inside this police box and arrest myself."), but the sci-fi elements sorta falters. The way the episode was set up, this could have been a spooky Pitch Black-like episode, with some real danger and threat for the Doctor. I mean, with a title like "Planet of the Dead", you're sorta expecting that, no? A planet filled with dead people; hell, I wouldn't have minded zombies, and I'm not a fan of 'em.
Michelle Ryan (TV: Bionic Woman, Jekyll) plays what my ideal Companion would be - strong, assertive, intelligent, and absolutely able to hold her own. Series Three's Martha Jones seems to be the only other Companion within the last four series' to hit such qualities. But anyway, Ryan was a bloody joy. I only saw one episode of her Bionic Woman series in the States, but her performance in Steve Moffatt's Jekyll was frakking spectacular. I would have LOVED if Ryan stayed on as Companion to the Doctor in Series Five, but considering how they left things (which I liked), it's open enough for Ryan to guest star anytime her schedule allows. Concerning why The Doctor doesn't bring her along, I liked that scene - he's officially given up on company, especially after what happened to Donna in "Journey's End" (413); too many people have been irrevocably damaged by their experience with him, and he's not going to allow it to happen again.
The other notable guest star is Lee Evans as science/techno-terd Malcolm, who works for UNIT and really, truly loves The Doctor. He's the perfect comic relief. This bloke is FANTASTIC at the role, and I hope he pops up here and there. Hehe, just thinking about his performance makes me grin.
Special-effects wise, again - another solid. However, I really gotta question the Flying Bus thing; I can't think of any program or movie that utilized this idea well enough, and this is no better. The alien suits for the man-sized bugs, however, were quite unimpressive. I haven't been this iffy with a design since those strange fish-like creatures in "The Doctor's Daughter" (406").
The episode concluded with some nice foreshadowing of what's to come for Tennant's last episodes as The Doctor, and I'm excited. I haven't got a single clue as to what these "four knocks" are, but I LOVED how Carmen (I think that was her name - the psychic woman) reiterated "the song" from "Planet of the Ood" (403). Spooky. "It is returning through the dark." Interesting. Hopefully Davies can deliver on all of these hints and jazz, as he's renowned for his ability to make a outstanding, brilliant cliffhanging type penultimate episode, but crap all over the finale. Here's hoping Tennat's last hurrah will be a fantastic one.
In conclusion, "Planet of the Dead" was sorta mehh...It coulda been a lot better, and it coulda been a lot worse (sorry, but I'm thinking of "Love & Monsters" in season 2, which I was not a fan of). For the most part, it was entertaining, and it's great to see Tennant again. Hopefully the next three specials will kick some major ass. I just think "Planet of the Dead" was wasted potential - it could have been dark and thrilling, but I guess that's best reserved for a Halloween special than a Easter one. Oh well, with three left to go, and some foreboding words from Carmen, I'm sure this episode will be redeemed.
Post-credits, shots for another special airing "later this year" was included, and all I could really tell is that there's humanoid individuals who can manipulate water and are bringing down this giant dome structure - with The Doctor thrust right into the middle of it, 'course. Yep, I'm sold. It's Tennant, man! I can't back away..