Monday, 21 December 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

Carmen: "No, but you be careful, because your song is ending, Sir. It's returning. It's returning through the dark and then Doctor, oh, but then. He will knock four times."

According to Russell T. Davies, 'Planet of the Dead' was the Doctor's last chance to have some fun. It's common knowledge now that the Doctor's just four episodes away from his end, so this was Ten's last chance to embark on one last old-fashioned romp, before the serious business of his dying begins in earnest. Something is returning. Carmen doesn't specify what, but we can be almost certain that whatever it is, it'll mean the end of the road for David Tennant.

I really liked Lady Christina de Souza. She was in every respect the Doctor's equal—a thrill seeker who's intelligent, a dapper dresser (nice catsuit), confident and assertive. Her Mission Impossible antics were impressive (if a tad clich√©), and she evidently thought enough of her leadership abilities to appoint herself head over her fellow passengers—much to the Doctor's surprise. Clearly she's no shrinking violet, and if there's adventure in the offing, she's definitely not the type to run the other way. Which makes her the perfect companion for the equally dapper Doctor. When he says to her "The worse it gets the more I love it" what could she do but agree? She's as bonkers as he is!

I was a little disappointed by the Doctor's refusal to take her along with him. She would surely have made an excellent short term companion. I understand the Doctor's reluctance to take on a new travelling buddy: losing Rose in parallel universe wasn't exactly the happiest of times for him, and in many respects Donna's mind wipe was even more of a tragedy—not to mention what happened to Adric all those years ago. But this has always been the way. Companions come and go. Sometimes they make it through unscathed, and sometimes, regrettably, it ends tragically. I just wish the Doctor had got back on the horse, so to speak, with Christina.

I have to admit, initially, Carmen annoyed me. Characters with psychic abilities have become a bit of a cliché in sci-fi, and at first her presence did little more than cause unease amongst her fellow passengers, and make us, the viewers, wonder what the hell she was going on about. Yet she was responsible for the most intriguing moment of the whole episode. She can obviously see the future, but in traditional psychic style, what she sees is so vague it gives little of substance to hold onto. Yet, clearly what she did say was enough to unsettle the Doctor. That was one long, frozen, pensive stare he gave her. It was inspired writing to take an essentially bright and breezy runaround adventure and kick us in the teeth right at the end.

When I first heard that Lee Evans was playing the part of Malcolm, I was both pleased and a little nervous. I had this horrible image of him sweating his way through the episode, before collapsing to the floor and then re-inflating himself with an invisible pump. Of course, his stand-up routine's a far cry from his acting work, but he's an actor who comes with baggage. To his credit though, he weighed in with a surprisingly reserved performance: he was funny, bumbling, endearing and in the end, actually pretty heroic as he stood firm against Captain Magambo. So shame on me and full marks to Lee.

But Captain Magambo was a little over enthusiastic, wasn't she? I understand that the earth's safety was of paramount importance to her, but threatening to shut down the worm hole without giving the Doctor and Co. a chance to escape? Even a couple of minutes warning would have been nice, especially after she'd expressed such admiration for the Doctor earlier in the episode. I can't help but feel that UNIT are too quick to react these days. Didn't they try to rip the earth apart using the Osterhagen System last season? Patience guys, patience! With UNIT protecting the earth, who needs enemies ?

The Tritovores probably should have made me cringe, but they didn't. At least not too much. They were essentially men in overalls wearing rubber fly masks. So I should have been horrified by the cheapness of it all, but for some reason I quite liked them... in a strange, don't they look a bit crap, kind of a way. Goodness knows what they were saying to the Doctor. Do flies actually talk like that? Come to think of it, do flies actually talk? I was under the impression they communicated via pheromones and wing vibrations. I suppose, with the Tritovores not having wings, the latter method's redundant—but a clicking sound? Do they have tongues? Am I wondering about this too much. Should I shut my face?

For one scary moment I thought the Doctor was going to leave Christina behind to face the consequences of her crimes. This obviously sat uncomfortably next to the Doctor's gushing praise for her. Not to mention that kiss! Christina's certainly not backwards in coming forwards. I dare say she's a lady used to getting what she wants. Not that she got everything. Despite them being 'made for each other', she never managed to secure herself a place aboard the TARDIS. But I was pleased to see the Doctor aid her escape in the end. Some nice closing words too between them, with Christina ruing the future ('We could have been so good together') and the Doctor acknowledging the past ('Christina, we were'). A case of the right girl at the wrong time, maybe?

Other Thoughts:

—'Which one was your favourite? The one with the giant robot?' A reference to the Target novel Doctor Who And The Giant Robot maybe? Or possibly the Tom Baker episode 'Robot'? Or maybe even a reference to the Cyberking? Would that incident be in UNIT's files though?

—'Humans on buses, always blaming me'—A reference to the bus accident on series four episode 'Midnight'?

—Is anything seriously guarded by four full time guards? It's kind of hard to believe that none of them saw Christina hanging from the roof. Who the hell trained those guys?

—I'm not sure why more Rays didn't get through the worm hole. They appeared to be travelling in a swarm, yet only a handful managed to slip through. Were they an advanced scouting party or something?

—The friend who used to call him Spaceman was no doubt his most recent companion, Donna Noble.

—I don't recall seeing Russell T. Davies co-write an episode before. Come to think of it, has an episode of Nu-Who ever been written by more than one writer?

—It took me a while to work out why this episode was called 'Planet of the Dead'. Because the sand is all that's left of its previous inhabitants. Duhhhh!!!!

—Why were the communication devices on the Tritovore's ship shaped to fit a human ear?

—The next episode is entitled 'The Waters Of Mars'.

Quotes:

Doctor: 'Hello, I'm the Doctor. Happy Easter!'

Christina: 'And what's your name?'
Doctor: 'I'm the Doctor.'
Christina: 'Name, not rank.'
Doctor: 'The Doctor.'
Christina: 'Surname?'
Doctor: 'The Doctor.'
Christina: 'You're called the doctor?'
Doctor: 'Yes, I am.'
Christina: 'That's not a name. That's a psychological condition.'

Christina: 'Let's just say we're two equal mysteries.'
Doctor: 'We'd make quite a couple.'
Christina: 'We don't make any sort of couple, thank you very much.'

Christina: 'Point five. The crucial thing is to not panic. Quite apart from anything else, the smell of sweat inside this thing is reaching atrocious levels. We don't need to add any more.'

Doctor: 'Oh, this is beautiful. Intact it must have been magnificent. A proper streamlined deep spacer.'
Christina: 'I'll remember that as I'm being slowly tortured. At least I'll be bleeding on the floor of a well designed space ship.'

Christina: 'What are they doing?'
Doctor: 'They're believing.'
Christina: 'What? Simple as that?'
Doctor: 'I've got a very honest face... and the translator says I'm telling the truth... plus the face.'

Christina: 'I've got sand in my hair... that's dead people... Oh, that's disgusting!'
Doctor: 'Something destroyed the whole of San Helios.'
Christina: Yes, but in my hair.'

Doctor: 'The worse it gets the more I love it.'
Christina: 'Me too!'

Doctor: 'People have travelled with me and I've lost them. Lost them all. Never again!'

Christina: 'We could have been so good together.'
Doctor: 'Christina. We were.'

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