Planet of the Dead

A review from last night, or Ten Good Reasons for RTD leaving:

1 – A plotless, aimless story, with no real sense of menace or emotional involvement. Nothing wrong with that per se, but given that this was the first new episode since Christmas, and the only new Who we’re getting for the next few months, what could have been overlooked as a mid-season blip in a full series looked, like the 200 bus, woefully exposed stood out on its own.

2 – It was hard to detect Gareth Roberts’ influence as co-writer – there was certainly none of the camp zest of his historical literary pastiches or the paciness of his Sarah Jane scripts.

3 – Aside from the ethical implications, doing the desert shoot in Dubai didn’t really add anything. Instead there was the inescapable feeling of “let’s-do-a-foreign-location-and-give-everyone-a-free-holiday”, with no real script justification (see also Arc of Infinity and The Two Doctors). With today’s technology, even your bog-standard Devon quarry could have been pimped up to the required standard.

4 – The stingray monsters looked quite impressive, but there was nothing to them other than a rapacious swarm. They were merely fulfilling their natural function, so couldn’t even be called “evil”. And, given how impressively built they supposedly were, they seemed to be rather too easily destroyed by UNIT firepower.

5 – The Tritovores weren’t allowed any sort of personality, so it was hard to feel anything when they both got devoured by the stingrays. More worryingly, it was hard to care about the plight of any of the human characters.

6 – Lady Christina, if she ever returns as a proper companion, has the potential to be a very interesting character, with her amorality and snobbish streak that the Doctor can both utilise and challenge. However, Michelle Ryan needs to be considerably less wooden first.

7 – But at least she was only wooden. Lee Evans as Malcolm and Adam James as MacMillan felt like they’d wandered in from an excruciatingly bad sitcom. Evans in particular was painful to watch with his comedy Welshman shtick. Better would have been, say, Rob Brydon who a) wouldn’t have to “do” a Welsh accent and b) could have made the character less of a caricature (I’m thinking Uncle Bryn if he’d ever got to work as a scientist).

8 – The passengers on the bus seemed to be drawn from RTD’s pool of stock characters: the moody cute boy; the dolt who comes good; the unhappy middle-aged woman; and the sympathetic old couple, one of whom delivers the Cryptic Prophesy of Doom that’ll probably be realised round about Christmas. If there are only seven types of story, then you start to wonder after four years if there are even fewer types of people in the ones written by Russell T Davies.

9 – The Doctor’s umpteenth pep talk consisting of him banging on about how people’s boring, inconsequential lives of chips, cups of tea and domestic squabbles are the most wonderful thing in the whole Universe. We get the message that the Doctor prizes these trivialities because he can never have that sort of life himself – but you’re left hoping that Steven Moffat invests the Eleventh Doctor with a healthy disdain for the narrow scope of most people’s lives, and which would thus make Lady Christina an eminently suitable companion.

10 – Finally, and really it ain’t looking good when the main cultural point of reference at the top of the episode is dreary Sean Connery/Catherine Zeta-Jones heistbore Entrapment.

And One Good Reason why he’s not gone just yet:

The Waters of Mars – Lindsay Duncan, group jeopardy on a space colony and gruesome deaths. It looks fantastic, and it’d be just like this most wildly inconsistent of writers to come up with an absolute classic after this comparative dud.

Chris

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