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Doctor Who 4[XXX].15: Planet of the Dead

April 11th, 2009 (10:32 pm)
current music: by Murray Gold

I'm reviewing Planet of the Dead for This Way Up, so there can be no long essays here. However, I thought this much livelier and more coherent than The Next Doctor. That felt like a chore, a last sprint demanded of a marathon runner.

This episode represents Russell T Davies's renewal of his covenant with the viewing public, rent by the misanthropy of Midnight; here we have bus passengers who work together. It's leavened by Gareth Roberts's nostalgia for his own New and Missing Adventures in the 1990s, and for the Graham Williams era. The planet-stripping creatures who have destroyed the native life of the eponymous planet are reworkings of the Nimon from the traditionally much-maligned The Horns of Nimon, celebrated by the revisionist Williamsites of which Gareth Roberts is a sort of high priest.

I enjoyed Malcolm - the mention of 'the Giant Robot' immediately made me think that UNIT's 'files' are in fact old Target novelizations - but he's far more of a homage to the hapless Sergeant Osgood of The Daemons than a scientific acolyte of the Doctor, and my more po-face side rather hopes that science has a less grotesque representative in a future story. UNIT are still saluting the Doctor as if he holds military rank - but perhaps he does, despite himself. After all, Eccleston's Doctor was essentially a self-loathing military man... The mention of 'Bernard' will surely make Nigel Kneale turn in his grave.

Oh, and those of us watching together in an Oxford flat all started tapping out a particular four-note rhythm as soon as darkness and drums were mentioned... we got a cloister bell in the final teaser, too. And Total TV Guide were right about the title.

Comments

Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: April 11th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
eek

We also have Lara Croft, and aliens who make wormholes by flying around the planet about the same speed as a jumbo jet.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 11th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)

To be fair, there are lots of aliens...

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 11th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)

The Doctor has a rose-tinted view of UNIT, really, despite what he saw in the Sontaran story last year...

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)

The Doctorolatory was a bit over the top, but it was redressed by Cpt thingummy being willing to close the wormhole (though I didn't like her _first_ response to mutiny being to pull a gun; that's lousy discipline, even in the heat of the moment).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)

Major Magambo's decision to force Malcolm to close the wormhole at gunpoint is symptomatic of RTD's attitude to the armed forces as necessarily brutal and oppressive - see UNIT's treatment of Tosh in Torchwood, for example.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)

I never saw that episode of Torchwood - but that explains why fans who have never seen any Old Who seem to think UNIT is Evil and much nastier than Torchwood (though as an alien, I'd still rather fall into UNIT's hands than Torchwood. UNIT might shoot on sight, but Torchwood is capable of anything....)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)

The present lot honour the memory of the Brigadier and the Doctor but have little understanding of how they operated, I suspect.

Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 09:11 am (UTC)
booth

I was more bothered by the way that when the bus came through, every ran outside to gawp and let aliens through rather than Major Magambo saying "Right, NOW close the effing wormhole."

Posted by: El Staplador (el_staplador)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 11:15 am (UTC)

Oh, mine said 'the postman always rings twice', and concluded that there must be two postmen.

*is possibly not the fangirl RTD is looking for*

Posted by: richenda (richenda)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 09:43 am (UTC)
Bryn Celli Ddhu

Wail! I dozed off waiting for it to start, and woke up when it was almost over!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)

Opinion seems heartily divided on whether you missed a lot, or whether you were right to stay asleep...

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 09:43 am (UTC)

Thank you. Ponder says he can't comment here himself because I've told him not to get into fights on my LJ so that means he can't comment on anything else either(!) But he just delivered an explicatory commentary on your commentary that was a true expression of the Penny ur-Boyfriend of which both of you are manifestations.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 12th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
Hartnell words

He can comment if he likes! There needn't be a fight, just civilized exchanges of views...

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)

I meant he's banned himself from LJ completely because he's worried he'll get into fights! Almost certainly not with you.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)

I hadn't realised such conflicts had broken out or been close to breaking out...

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)

He just gets protective of me. And then I laugh at the poor thing.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)

You can be cruel in the face of chivalry...

Posted by: But what if I'm a mermaid? (deepbluemermaid)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC)
Hitchhiker's guide - Earth wiki

I watched Planet of the Dead with friends over the weekend; downloaded, of course, because it won't be screened in New Zealand for months (they just broadcast the Christmas special!).

I quite enjoyed it, but was irritated by Lady Christina. I hadn't heard the announcement of her as the new Companion, so I was dismayed when my friends mentioned it...

Also, I immediately made the same assumption re 'he will knock four times', etc. One friend asked whether 'your song is almost over' could refer to River Song, but I didn't think so. Thoughts?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 14th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC)

Since making the assumption that the four knocks refer to someone whom we thought we saw cremated a couple of years ago, I've heard the commentary podcast for the episode, in which David Tennant insists that the four knocks "doesn't mean what you think" and, apparently, we will hear them in The Waters of Mars.

I don't think the song refers to River - it's a repeat of the line the Ood had at the end of Planet of the Ood.

You will be pleased that there are no plans - at least, no public ones - for Christina's reappearance.