Sunday, April 12, 2009

Review of the 2009 Easter Special: "Planet of the Dead"

Russell T. Davies is officially out of steam. If only we could just skip over his final few episodes and get straight to Steven Moffat because, frankly, I'm starting to wonder why I even bother to watch Doctor Who. And coming from a guy who spends his time writing a Doctor Who blog, that's saying something!

So what was so bad about this episode? Almost everything. The one thing that I did sort of enjoy was the relationship between Christina and the Doctor. I liked how she immediately took charge when they reach the alien planet and how she insisted on calling him “The Doctor.” It's always fun to see someone take the Doctor down a peg or two. And the dialogue between them had a few nice moments as well. “You look human,” she said. “You look Timelord,” he countered. "We make quite a couple," he said. "We don't make any sort of couple, thank you very much," she said. Good stuff!

Unfortunately, that was the only good stuff. First off, the plot was nonsensical bordering on nonexistent. Some people on a bus end up on an alien planet. Why? Well, something about flying manta rays zipping around in swarms really, really quickly or something. Whatever. Really, it seemed like they ended up there just because Russell T. Davies thought it'd make for a cool visual. I assumed that they were transported through the wormhole as a consequence of whatever artifact Christina had stolen from the museum in the opening Mission Impossible "homage." But noooooo…. That would have actually made sense and would have tied her sudden appearance on the bus to the overarching plot. Turns out, an international super-thief hitched a ride on the Doctor's bus purely by coincidence. And speaking of coincidences, there also just happened to be a psychic lady on the bus. Of course there was. Isn't there always? I was hoping that perhaps she would somehow relate to the plot as well. Nope! She was just a really lazy way to give the audience the occassional info dump or scary portent. In fact, she turned out to be rather useless, never revealing anything that the other characters couldn't have figured out for themselves. As to the other people on the bus, I'm not sure why we needed them either. Not a single one of them did anything worthwhile and we never got to know (or care about) any of them. This episode was really the Doctor and Christina show - which would have been fine if we didn't have to put up with the occassional line from one of the glorified extras. Overall, the whole people-trapped-on-a-bus-bond-and-bicker scenario was done better in the episode called "Midnight," also written by Davies. In fact, the Doctor actually makes a joke to that effect. You know, calling out that you're plagiarizing your own stories doesn't make it okay....

Other things that I hated. The alien fly people approached Sarah Jane Adventures-levels of cheap - and the bad purple and green lighting in their ship only made things worse, especially when the Doctor commented on how beautiful the interior of their ship was. Yeah, really beautiful. If you think color gel sheets are the epitome of beauty. And don't even get me started on the comedy stylings of Malcolm. He was the single most irritating character in the history of Doctor Who. Every second that he was on-screen was like nails on a chalkboard. When he popped up wearing those stupid goggles or tried to use the fire extinguisher only to be knocked over, I felt my soul die a little.

Speaking, er, typing of souls, I'm not a religious man. At all. And yet, even I found the religious metaphors in the episode more heavy-handed than those of the typical Narnia book. Given the fact that the episode was set on and broadcast on the day before Easter, I can’t believe that they actually named the main female character “Christina.” She's like a female Christ, see! Oh, and in case that was too subtle for you, the people on the bus returned from a "planet of the dead" on the very holiday that celebrates the return of Christ from the dead. And I won’t even mention that Christina just happened to steal a golden cup that looked a hell of a lot like many depictions of the Holy Grail. Oh, and the Holy Grail somehow managed to save the day, returning all of the boring, stock characters to the world of the living. Yay!

Because there are only a few episodes of Doctor Who this year, you would think that the writers could devote a lot of time to each episode, really putting together a tight story with a coherent plot. But, no. We’re still getting the same nonsensical Russell T. Davies plot mechanics. For example, all of the fly aliens conveniently get killed so the Doctor can steal their only means of getting home without feeling guilty. Oh, and the bus suddenly flies. That's so wizard, Russell.

So, what I'm saying is, I didn't care for the episode.


Julia said...

And i quite agree with you. Malcolm was irritating as heck, and Christina was cardboard and irritating. The plot, yes, didn't make sence. But then, what has RTD written that does make sence?! I didn't see those religious refrences, but thanks for pointing them out.
I have decided that id RTD pulls off the Dr.'s regneration right, I will forgive him for all the crap he has done to this show.

Doctor What said...

Hey, Julia. I can join you on that bandwagon. If RTD can pull of that two-parter with Wilfred, I'll be okay with his run overall. RTD has never been the best person with plots, but his earliest Doctor Who episodes weren't THIS bad. From the ratings (Doctor Who was beaten by Britain's Got Talent), it seems like we're not the only ones who are getting sick of RTD's nonsensical episodes.

And as for Christina, I'm sure you're heard by now that "Lady Christina De Souza" is an anagram of "Lady C.D.Souza Is The Rani." That could be interesting.... She did make a good foil for the Doctor.