Doctor Who, Planet of the Dead (BBC 1, 11th April 2009)

I am a great fan of Doctor Who and look forward to each episode. Unfortunately, the special ‘Planet of the Dead’ was not, in my view, one of the best episodes of the TV programme.

With any Doctor Who episode, viewers are confronted with the layers of narratives surrounding the production. It is as if the viewer feels that they are being let into the ‘secrets’, but it is more like a publicity campaign constantly keeping Doctor Who in the public eye. For this episode we were told all the details of the red bus. For example, we were supplied with images of Michelle Ryan and David Tennant on the bus and we were privy to the news that the bus had been damaged in transit to Dubai. David Tennant produced a blog and we saw more of the red bus in his blog.

All this was really interesting and certainly kept my attention, but the none of the pre programme stuff really gave any in depth information on the programme itself. They were all, of course – teasers.

I thought the opening of the programme was really strong. It set a tone and aesthetic which I felt if the programme had sustained would have made an excellent episode. The kind of James Bond/Jewell thief cliche could have been developed, but apart from Lady Christina de Souza carting round a bag full of tools and being able to get the diamond and clamps, this aspect wasn’t really developed.

Ok, so the episode moved on and there was the London bus on a rainy evening and maybe things would develop well from this. The idea that the Doctor catches a bus is wonderful, there are so many ways this could be developed and then the bus goes through a wormhole and everything is very disjointed from then on.

The title suggested for me something like Sixth Sense and having a character who had a kind of sixth sense gave the impression that we would really feel surounded by ghosts and not, as it turned out, on a planet which had been invaded by a swarm of insects, or stingrays – I wasn’t sure what.

The bus in the middle of the desert at times looked like a toy bus on the beach. As I knew this was Dubai it felt too much like a London bus in Dubai.

Captain Erisa Magambo is a great character, but UNIT and no Martha or mention of Martha baffled me slightly and I didn’t get the Professor at all.

This is Doctor Who and there were good moments, such as the Doctor’s teeth , but not the bus flying off at the end – why?.

This episode did not explore a concept in the detail and really take an idea forward as other episodes such as ‘Gridlock’ (traffic jams), ‘The Sontaron Strategem‘ (SatNav) or ‘Rise of Cyberman‘ do. As a viewer I could see the possibilities as if the production team had set some really exciting possiblities up, but had then tried to create an episode of a patchwork of unrelated ideas. Normally this would be great, but on this occasion it didn’t work for me.

I am now looking forward to ‘The Waters of Mars’, but maybe staying clear of the pre show publicity and hoping for a classic episode.

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