“Planet Of The Dead”
The Doctor finds himself on a bus with cat burglar Lady Christina de Souza, just as it passes through a wormhole and emerges on the desert planet of San Helios.
New Who has often been glorious. It’s also had its fare share of disappointments. But never before has it been so utterly, unrepentantly boring. That, in a nutshell, is the best way to sum up “Planet Of The Dead”. It’s dull, it’s uninspired but its worst crime is that nothing really happens. The story amounts to little more than The Doctor and company milling about on the surface of an alien planet before they just go home again. Setting it on a desert planet seems to have been an ironic bit of foreshadowing considering how desolate this 60 minutes feels.
Unexpectedly arriving on San Helios with a bus full of scared humans, you might expect The Doctor’s first actions to be rallying everybody together before attempting to figure out if they’re in any immediate danger. And while the issue of how they arrived in the first place and how they might be able to escape is addressed, the dangers they might potentially face are utterly ignored. That could be because the characters have somehow read the script and realised that there isn’t any danger. So instead we’re “treated” to long stretches of mundane conversation between characters of little or no significance who aren’t very interesting at all. It’s On The Buses in space.
The Doctor decides to stretch his legs and discovers a crashed ship belonging to an alien race named the Tritovores, who were basically just dropping off supplies at the time of the crash. They learn that an alien race is destroying San Helios. They look like sperm crossed with stingrays. They might get to Earth through the wormhole that brought the bus here and that could spell disaster for humanity. Why, then, is there absolutely zero tension to any of this? Why does this feel like anything but a legitimate threat that The Doctor must immediately address? And why is Michelle Ryan in this episode?!
All of these flaws could still be forgiven if the script contained a healthy dose of humour. But aside from one or two throwaway jokes concerning lottery tickets and flies, the script is about as funny as being forced to watch “The Twin Dilemma” whilst having your nasal hairs plucked. It’s all so vapid, devoid of suspense and utterly lacking in anything resembling comedy. Tennant does his best to keep things ticking along but at 60 minutes there simply isn’t enough story to make “Planet Of The Dead” either intriguing or exciting. And with a title like that I expected something similar to “The Impossible Planet” – dark and unsettling and very bizarre. But instead we have to make do with a bus in the desert and spermrays eating planets.
If you can somehow manage to wipe the memory of Peter Kay from your brain, then guest star Michelle Ryan’s portrayal of a lady cat burglar is possibly the worst performance in New Who – she’s utterly unconvincing in the role and makes a fairly terrible companion for The Doctor. I could only shout “Thank fuck!” when, at the conclusion of the episode, The Doctor refuses to travel with her in the TARDIS. Can’t say I blame him, really. He’d be better off with a robot dog.
The only instance of New Who that has bored me to tears and failed to keep my attention. What went wrong is anybody’s guess really but ultimately the episode is far too long considering how little proper story there is. The worst thing about “Planet Of The Dead” though is that you’ll have forgotten much of it before the credits have even rolled. A depressingly dull 2/10.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett