RELEASED: April 11th 2009
DISTRIBUTED BY: BBC
SHOWRUNNER: Russell T Davies
WRITTEN BY: Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts
DIRECTED BY: James Strong
MUSIC BY: Murray Gold
STARRING: David Tennant, Michelle Ryan, Lee Evans, Noma Dumezweni, Victoria Alcock, David Ames, Ellen Thomas, Reginald Tsiboe, Daniel Kaluuya & Keith Parry
REVIEW: The adventures of the Tenth Doctor continue, this time with an Easter Special, as the Doctor teams up with cat-burglar Lady Christina de Souza and a bunch of unassuming Londoners on an unintentional trip to the ‘Planet of the Dead’.
Much like The Next Doctor, this isn’t a stand-out episode of Doctor Who, especially, again, after the highs of series four. It’s not an episode I’ve revisited all that much in the past eleven years, and it’s probably not an episode I’ll revisit all that much again in the future.
Having said that, it is a step up from The Next Doctor in that while it is more focused on fun than thoughtful storytelling, it is also more of a conventional Doctor Who-y episode, and less of a Christmas special.
The story is well-paced and plotted, and manages to capture the balance of having very high stakes, but also being very grounded, like some of the best Doctor Who episodes. The antagonists of the piece are suitably interesting and different and are also blessed with not being outright villains, which makes for some of the most interesting Doctor Who antagonists (not necessarily in this case, but it’s a nice change of pace).
Furthermore, the companion of the story, played by Michelle Ryan, while not the strongest performance, is a fun character, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing more of alongside Tennant, were that to become possible. I know it can’t, eleven years on. But if we were in some parallel universe where Tennant wasn’t leaving (or even if he was) and setting up a companion was on the table for these specials, she’d be a fun character to watch develop.
The rest of the cast also does quite well, creating heartfelt and funny people with relatable lives and stories, each of whom bring a different element to the group creating a strong group dynamic of characters. Lee Evans is particularly enjoyable as a UNIT scientist, and seeing him finally united with Tennant’s stranded Doctor at the end of the episode makes for some very enjoyable pay-off.
Still, in the grand scheme of things, none of these factors is strong enough that they’re particularly memorable. Everyone is good, but not delivering some of the great material that has kept Doctor Who going for over fifty years.
Still, it’s fun to see pre-Hollywood famous Daniel Kaluuya.
All-in-all, I give Planet of the Dead: