From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Doctor Who Easter Special — “Planet of the Dead”

It’s hard not to be bitter about the fact that we’re not in the midst of Doctor Who‘s fifth season right now and instead have to content ourselves with just one hour-long episode. But I was determined to put that behind me and enjoy “Planet of the Dead”. After all, Michelle Ryan is a favorite of mine (ever since her turn in Jekyll). I must admit that I was generally underwhelmed by the episode. This would have been forgivable if it was mid-season, but it’s one of the last three with David Tennant. Is it so much to ask that it be super amazing and awesome?

Apparently so.

“Planet of the Dead” features a familiar setup — The Doctor boards a London bus sparsely populated with random people and somehow ends up going through a wormhole in space to a far-off desert planet. The other passengers are mostly just bystanders — the one we’re meant to watch is Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina, the cat burgling aristocrat who steals things for the adventure of it.

I think the only reason I didn’t find that bit of characterization annoying is that Ryan is such a great actress I feel she can pull off almost anything. She did make at least four episodes of The Bionic Woman watchable, and that was a feat.

Anyway, The Doctor and Lady Christina attempt to outdo each other in the cheeky and brilliant department as they try to figure out how to get back through the wormhole, what’s exactly in the storm front moving toward them, and why every marginally attractive young woman seems to immediately go into romantic entanglement mode about 10 minutes after meeting this particular Time Lord. Okay, I was the one trying to figure that last one out.

Why, why, why, I cried to the heavens, does Russell T. Davies insist on having women fall in love with The Doctor? Am I the only one who misses when he was mostly asexual? I feel I can’t take much more of this. And it’s bound to get worse when the changeover to #11 comes.

The episode wasn’t all bad. There was a good amount of adventure, some tangly moral issues, a cool new monstery thing, and quite a few black people. Though most of them got a non-annoying characterization, I did wince a bit every time the psychic woman started going on. The accent was just a bit too Miss Cleo for me. YMMV.

Speaking of her, I wonder what you all think of her parting words to The Doctor:

“You be careful. Because your song is ending, sir. It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then Doctor… oh, but then… he will knock four times.”

One thing I find annoying about this is the talk of “The Dark”, which has become a bit of a theme on Doctor Who and Torchwood, but is never dealt with well, in my opinion. “The Dark” is so generic, and yet it’s always spoken of and used as if it has more of a specific meaning. Yes, many things come out of The Dark or The Darkness, but honestly, that’s not scary, RTD. Get a new theme.

I did like that she said “Your song is ending,” echoing what the Oood said to him in the last season. The “It” that is returning? I’d be interested in hearing your guesses on that one as well as who “He” might be.

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