Planet of the Dead

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  • #29655
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    The Doctor, Lady Christina de Souza and several other passengers find themselves transported to a barren desert planet on a double-decker bus. As the Doctor and Christina struggle to uncover the mysteries beneath the sand, the Swarm draws closer.

    I have to admit that this Easter Special left me a bit underwhelmed. I know they had a ton of logistics problems and they did the best they could, but the script is just not one of Russell’s best. It’s Midnight without anything that made that story great. A bit of a misfire. But then there’s Michelle Ryan to look at… just WOW 😯 (sorry), and there’s always next week… At least this time we don’t have to wait months for another bus to come along.

    #29670
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Again, this is fun. But nothing but fun. I can see why @craig was a bit underwhelmed; the production team decided that this was the last opportunity for their Doctor to have a bit of fun, but didn’t go beyond that. So you’ve got an exciting, very enjoyable episode – which had a very high approval rating – but it didn’t carry the long term story on beyond a few lines about ‘your song is ending’. It looks great, it’s enormous fun – but it could be dropped into any series of the After Gap Who.

    They did indeed have a ton of logistics problems – if you have the DVD and haven’t watched the Confidential, go watch it. It’s almost as entertaining as the episode; the production team explain about the bus (destroyed by an errant crane) and the sandstorm (David Tennant gets so much sand in his hair, he goes blond, they can’t see the scenery they’ve gone to Dubai to film, and to add insult to injury – the wind buggers up the sound). Then, back in Wales, there was the UNIT lab. Where a metre of extra in-studio space made the lab look so much bigger inside than its location outside, UNIT appeared to have found one of the Master’s old Tardii.

    But the script is a bit of a mish-mash. First we have a jewel thief – crime caper? Then we have a planet (pop. 100 billion) entirely destroyed by an alien lifeform – Russell, this is your idea of a comedy? Then we have a psychic prophet who seems to be playing Greek Chorus, and finally we’ve got UNIT and an eccentric scientist. I’d ask where the kitchen sink is, but it’s almost certainly in the lab set. 🙂

    I found Lee Evans one of the highlights – his Malcolm is utterly ridiculous, and utterly endearing. I gave a small cheer when Malcolm got a little shout-out in The Day of The Doctor; I hope that means they’re trying to get Lee Evans back. An Honourable Mention, for making the most of a difficult-to-act part, goes to Ellen Thomas (Carmen) for managing to inject some life into ‘I will now forbode with a side of forboding and a little extra on the forebode. Oh, and some more foreboding, please.’ 😉

    But, if you haven’t seen this episode, don’t let all these caveats put you off. It’s a not-very-serious story which is simply meant to be enjoyed – and when it was first broadcast, that’s exactly what most of the audience did.

    #29673
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    The Dr is that nutter who sits next to you on the bus…
    Of those in peril, the only character I’m liking is Barclay.
    There must be a reason they can’t ask for the TARDIS to be sent through the portal…

    Nice to see Capt Magambo back (nod to Bambera?), even if she will betray the Doctor.
    These Flies and their language are obviously a nod to The Leisure Hive. That’ll be Gareth Roberts then.
    Cool Shipwreck.
    She’s as hard as nails, but don’t put dead people in her hair…
    ‘The worse it gets, the more I love it!’ Good line.

    An obligatory Ten-nant snog.
    The Doctor is recruiting nice innocent young men for UNIT – controversial!
    The TARDIS was in Buckingham Palace Gardens all along. There was no problem sending it through to rescue everybody after all then…
    Good – Lady De Souza doesn’t need a man to have adventures, just a flying bus in the style of Iris Wildthyme (she might want to take it to the panel-beaters, though!)

    #29681
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I think after the mixed Next Doctor, to be presented with this was disappointing, because it follows a similar trajectory.

    There is a lot to like. The beginning as we are introduced to Lady De Souza and her intersection with the Doctor on the Bus is an interesting start (definitely “nutter on the bus” territory @wolfweed :-D). Andrew Cartmel once said that the eventual replacement for Ace was intended to be a canny jewel thief, and I can’t help but think that would be an interesting dynamic.

    I know a lot of people criticised Michelle Ryan/Lady De Souza, but I actually think it’s a good turn. Yes – she is overly confident and full of herself, but that’s the nature of the character. It’s a big performance, but honest I think, and the relationship with the Doctor as he tries to work her out is pretty entertaining. I actually think she may have worked as a companion for a while, and you could do something different with such a risk taker. Give her an arc the scope of Donna’s and you could have real fun and tragedy aplenty.

    @bluesqueakpip s assessment on the “fun” part of the story is spot on, but I’ll agree there is something a bit jarring about some of the concepts on offer in a fun story. I starts with the fate of the Bus driver (a good effect, but there is very little consequence.

    I have to admit I found the tritovore a bit ludicrous even given Russell’s stated position that “animal head on a human body makes a hilarious alien”.

    I think the swarm is an interesting threat. I’ll go back to my musings on Russells love for 2000AD and point out what surely must be another influence – the Dune Sharks of Judge Dredd (inhabitants of the desert planet Hestia)

    The desert setting is actually glorious really. Just because it’s unusual in who history to be given a desert planet that actually looks like a desert. It may have caused problems but the widescreen format on TV does it justice, all muted yellows and reds. Tennant and Ryan’s panicked run back to the bus is great.

    I’ll echo the praise for Lee Evans. I don’t really appreciate his comedy act, but he’s turned in some good performances in movies like Fifth Element and There’s something about Mary, and this is another one. He’s obviously enjoying himself and there is something really endearing about Malcolm and his strange little world.

    OK – the flying bus. We’re into the money shot. Like the big stompy robot in Next Doctor, you can imagine Russell getting really excited about this idea. Big, fun, something for the kids, etc. Thing is, it does lurch into ludicrousness with the relative ease of control and ballet like movements.

    Has there ever been a pitched battle between UNIT and Monsters that has looked this good? I doubt it. There were a couple of good ones in S4 with the Sontarans, but this is genuinely well shot. As are the Dune Sharks.

    And it’s just time for some flirtatious banter, and the Doctor has a “what the hell” moment as he cheekily allows De Souza to escape in her flying bus.

    It is fun enough, but I think Spectacle won out on developing a bit more time on the script and story. A similar issue to The Next Doctor.

    #29687
    Arbutus @arbutus

    I’ve read a lot of criticism of this story at various times, and I don’t understand the reason for it. This is actually my favourite of the Tennant specials, being tightly edited and well paced, with a lot of great moments and some nice supporting characters. Its overall lack of angst is delightful, and the fact that it feeds virtually nothing into the Doctor’s longer arc is not a problem for me; in fact, it’s actually a plus in my book. We can enjoy this without worrying about past companions or future doom. In a nice change of pace, the threat is not a malevolent being bent on domination, simply a species following its instincts.

    I enjoyed Lady Christina. She’s a bit annoyingly smug, but she is meant to be.  She and the Doctor bounce off one another rather well, as they try to outdo one another while also trying to figure each other out. His look when she starts producing folding tools from her bag is priceless. And she’s refreshingly fearless. She might indeed have made a good companion, but I think she would have worn thin fairly quickly. The “dead people in my hair” line was pretty irritating. But as a one-off, she doesn’t have to have staying power, and she’s perfectly suited to this adventure.

    The other bus passengers are nicely played, without a lot of depth being written in, but likably portrayed in all cases. Carmen is a bit of a “stock psychic” character but again, convincingly acted. I love her husband’s proof of her powers: they win 10 pounds on the lottery twice a week!

    I love the Bond-esque theme music in the opening scenes. Shocking lack of a backup escape plan; and yet even the Doctor has an Oyster card! But the story really starts when we come through the wormhole. The scene when they exit the bus is very cool. They are not in Kansas, or indeed, London, anymore.

    I like Tennant’s performance throughout most of this. I think that this Doctor is at his best when he is less emotionally engaged, a little more cool, more restrained. “Humans on buses, always blaming me.” He is having fun, despite the danger and the moments of concern. He does like these adventures, of course. That’s why he lives this way. “The worse it gets, the more I love it.”

    His interactions with UNIT are great fun throughout. “Did you just salute?” “… No.”  “You named a unit of measurement after yourself?” Malcolm is delightful, he would have made a rather great companion. “Don’t be ridiculous. That’s Quatermass!”

    The scene in the alien ship is really well done, it feels creepy and alarming, as we learn that the desert was recently a city. Then the bad news from the bus, and the Doctor starts to look truly alarmed for the first time. But he goes into high gear when things get really bad, and starts working things out, piece by piece. His affectionate talk about the TARDIS, where it has taken him, and the fact that he stole it, is quite lovely. He doesn’t look the remotest bit sorry, does he?

    Malcolm may be the Doctor’s new best friend, but he clearly doesn’t trust Magambo one bit, as he continues to refuse to divulge the nature of the threat. Rightly, as it turns out. Malcolm’s expression when Magambo points the gun at him is wonderful: a scientist out of his depth.

    The music during the crisis scene adds loads of excitement and atmosphere, as does the editing, cutting between the bus and UNIT, with the Doctor trying to get the bus aloft, and Malcolm making his brave stand against the Captain. The passengers’ joy at the bus taking flight is delightful, and the swarm of flying creatures is very effective. And it’s through the looking glass, back to earth.

    A few dialogue gems: “I said gold.” “It is gold.” “Oh, they saw you coming.” And Malcolm turning the tables on the Doctor: “Not now, I’m busy!” “500 hundred bernards! Do it now!!” And the Doctor to the police: “I’ll just step inside this police box… and arrest myself.”

    The kiss was unnecessary but didn’t bother me. Malcolm’s hug, on the other hand, was great. I think it sums up my feelings about Lady Christina that, while I enjoyed her character and her interactions with the Doctor, a part of me was satisfied when he wouldn’t take her in the TARDIS. She was great in many ways, but somehow, not really worthy. On the other hand, it would have been pretty cool for Malcolm to get a trip!

    On the whole, I think this is what a holiday special actually should be all about: fun to watch and you feel good at the end.

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