Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Planet of the Dead"

Nothing sums up the needless pointlessness of the whole 'Specials' gimmick than Planet of the Dead, a dull and characterless runaround with no purpose and virtually no plot. The Doctor's in a bus which gets stranded on an alien planet, he fixes the bus and they go home. Throw in some arbitrary animal-based villains and allies in the form of flying metal stingrays and anthropomorphic fly-men in coveralls, some padding in the form of a UNIT appearance and a companion who seems to only exist for the purposes of eye candy and that's it.
You can tell that RTD basically wanted the BBC to pay for him to take a holiday to Dubai because the whole thing is such a phenomenal waste of time. Apparently the metal stingrays fly around the planet really quickly like they're re-enacting the time travel sequence from Superman which causes a wormhole to open. I hope I don't need to explain that this has absolutely zero grounding in any form of real-world physics whatsoever and that the bus acting like a Faraday cage seems to be an extremely convenient explanation for why they can't just turn around and walk back. It's typical hand-wavey nonsense and it reveals how totally insubstantial and pointless this story is.
Anyway the Doctor wants to fix the bus so he puts the other passengers to work. It's nice to watch the scene where the Doctor bigs them all up but it's a bit disappointing to see how disinterested he is in this alien planet. I suppose you would be disinterested if it was all just sand but it's incredibly frustrating how in this series whenever the Doctor goes away from Earth he's still in the company of nothing but humans and no effort is really made to construct fresh alien civilisations. It's desperately unimaginative and comes across as patronizing the audience.
Just to rub it in we keep cutting back to Earth where UNIT show up and essentially do nothing besides sit there and we're introduced to an annoying, camp Welsh scientist called Malcolm who has a phone call with the Doctor for basically no reason. Yes, Malcolm can close the wormhole. That's essentially everything UNIT does. Couldn't the Doctor have done it when he got back? Probably, but I suppose having some dudes with guns running around keeps kids and Tories watching. The UNIT Captain is the one from "Turn Left" in case any die-hard UNIT fans were worried she wasn't real.
Anyway the Doctor's busy getting to know the jewel thief of today, sprightly young woman Lady Christina de Souza, who flounces along having a good old flirt with the Doctor while they wander around inside a ship run by fly people. I mean come on, fly people? This one is seriously weak. We need to drop the whole 'humanoid bodies with animal heads' thing but clearly RTD can't think up anything better. They have some bollocks device in the bottom of their ship which the Doctor needs so Christina does her Mission Impossible thing and grabs it after we've discovered the planet used to have a civilisation but it was turned to sand by the evil flying stingrays. Basically it could have been interesting, but instead we have flying metal fish. Anyway the two fly-men are conveniently killed off so that the Doctor doesn't have to worry about taking them home or showing them to UNIT or in case the morons in the audience would get bored because there aren't just conventionally attractive humans on the screen, the Doctor and his new squeeze run off with more and more heavy-handed flirting and the Doctor makes the bus fly.
This has got to be one of the stupidest scenes ever in a Doctor who story, where he somehow uses magical unscientific anti-gravity things from the fly-men ship to fly a bus and he of course uses Christina's stolen treasure to make it work due to some pointless gabble about 'welding the systems'. Then they fly back to Earth, UNIT shoots down some stingrays, Professor Welsh stops the Wormhole and that's that. Christina's been bigged up as a perfect match for the Doctor because she's adventurous and intellectual and so on and she has the abritrary snog with Tennant which seems to be mandatory in this era for every woman who enters the show for more than five minutes but Tennant flat-out refuses to let her come inside the TARDIS for some more fun. Why? Not because she's a thief and the fact that she steals out of boredom suggests she has some rather curious psychological issues, but actually because he's apparently decided to "never again" travel with a companion. Come off it, RTD, we knew by this point that the next Doctor was going to have a companion, so why slather all this melodramatic angsty crap on the Tenth Doctor about how people leave him and get hurt and how the floors are as dirty as hell and he isn't going to take it anymore? It's just a needless change to the character of the Doctor once again which we know will be proved untrue once he regenerates.
At the risk of sounding paranoid at times it almost feels like RTD is trying to perform some kind of character assassination on the Doctor to turn crazed fangirls and casual viewers against the future series because it will contradict all this crazy and fundamental-aspect-of-the-show-breaking character development which is somehow the 'true' Doctor. Regardless it becomes even more wearisome than ever to watch the Tenth Doctor revelling in depression. He lets Christina escape for some reason however and recommends a couple of the cyphers from the bus for a job, so clearly he's a nice man for getting kids jobs with a military organisation and letting a criminal escape. Christina performs one of the slowest getaways imaginable in the flying bus and the cops just stand there like lemons cursing and stamping their feet instead of, you know, shooting her down or anything in a ridiculously forced happy ending which takes the piss out of the authorities for doing their jobs because apparently law enforcement is just professional killjoying and UNIT stand around with big grins on their faces rather than being upset that the public is being exposed to a flying bus and valuable alien technology is escaping. It just sums up how stupid this whole episode is.
Then of course there's the prophecy. One of the bus passengers is a textbook 'mystic old black person', in this case Carmen, and she prophesies that "He will knock for times" in a case of stereotyping which when you get right down to it is essentially just racist. It's more hype-drumming and you know some ridiculous, awful finale is on its way. This is a complete waste of time of an episode and it's disappointing to see that instead of using these specials as an opportunity for something artistic, meaningful and creative that RTD dribbled out more of this sort of junk.

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