11th April 2009
McMillan: I’m charging you too; aiding and abetting!
The Doctor: Yes. I’ll just step inside this police box and arrest myself.
Writers: Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts.
Director: James Strong.
Producer: Tracie Simpson.
Starring David Tennant as the Doctor, and Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina de Souza; with Lee Evans as Professor Malcolm Taylor, Noma Dumezweni as Captain Erisa Magambo and Paul Kasey and Rauri Mears as Sorvin and Praygat.
The shocked passengers of the 200 bus suddenly find themselves on the planet, San Helios. Lucky for them, the Doctor is also commuting – but something is coming to devour them, riding on the wind…
What they thought:
Though Planet of the Dead achieved an Audience Appreciation Index of 88 (excellent), it was received with lukewarm reception by the press.
Den of Geek’s Simon Brew noted: “It never really fully gelled for me, and the ending of Lady Christina flying off into the sunset I could have lived without. But was it entertaining? Yes. Was it vintage Who? No.”
Though Brew called Lee Evans “arguably the highlight of the episode,” he was also impressed with Michelle Ryan, saying that “she made for a solid one-off companion for the Doctor. The pair had some decent dialogue, although I never bought a romance between them, and thought that the snog could easily and safely been left on the cutting room floor. Ryan though – as fans of Bionic Woman can testify – is a better actress than her EastEnders days would lead you to believe, and as a one-off character, Lady Christina wasn’t half bad.”
Ben Rawson-Jones didn’t exactly agree with that, in his review for Digital Spy: “Ryan’s a decent enough actress, but is utterly unconvincing in the role. The script hardly helps her, with the only interesting exchange between the pair taking place when The Doctor refuses to let the eager thief join him in his travels.”
Giving the episode two stars out of five, he explains: “Although the UNIT personnel fare well and director James Strong incorporates some eye-catching visual flourishes throughout, ‘Planet Of The Dead’ feels too lifeless for much of the hour. The irritating and ill-conceived presence of Lady Christina certainly doesn’t help, while the sandy terrains of Dubai aren’t fully exploited by the incident-lacking narrative.”
But it wasn’t all bad, with io9’s Charlie Jane Anders saying that “it was a pretty solid adventure with a reasonably cool set of monsters. And the fly people were actually sort of cute once you got past the boiler suits and the funny heads. And David Tennant was on pretty great form, dishing out the technobabble and being serious and awestruck when the situation demanded it.”
DVD (Region 2) Information:
- Released as part of the Doctor Who: The Specials box set in 2009, including commentaries with cast and crew.
- Also released as a ‘vanilla’ DVD and – for the first time – Blu-Ray.
- The episode was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – but lost out to the following story, The Waters of Mars!
- Though it’s a controversial choice, Planet of the Dead was advertised as the 200th Doctor Who story, giving the bus its number.
- The episode was largely filmed in Dubai and the Queen’s Gate Tunnel in Butetown (Cardiff).
- Slight script revisions had to be made after the bus was damaged on its way to Dubai when a crane accidentally dropped a container on it.
- This was the first ever Doctor Who filmed in HD.
WATCH IT IF YOU LIKE… THE NEXT DOCTOR.