Saturday, August 1, 2009

Doctor Who S04E15-Planet of the Dead

A seemingly routine investigation of an anomaly leads The Doctor and a double decked bus full of people through a wormhole to a mysterious desert planet. With the threat of a widening wormhole and a storm of monstrous proportions heading their way, The Doctor joins forces with beautiful passenger Christina to save the people and the Earth from a fate worse than death. All the while, warning signs of an unpleasant fate for The Doctor begin to creep ever closer.

“Planet of the Dead” is the first of four specials (five if you count “The Next Doctor”) that will chronicle David Tennant’s final journey’s as The Doctor. There is no series on the horizon until 2010, when newbie Matt Smith takes over as the 11th Doctor. However, “Planet of the Dead” seems to function as more of a random episode of a series than an epic special like the ones at Christmas. That doesn’t stop from being any less fun and it sets up some interesting tidbits for what is to come.

There is not much to say on the matter of the actual Planet of the Dead setting. It’s grand, it looks hot and it’s filled with sand. You have to give the production crew some credit, while the sky is digitally imposed, the fact that they filmed in Dubai gives the desert look a more realistic feel. I personally don’t think I’d survive such an environment, cudos to David Tennant and crew for braving it, especially in a suit.

The cast of this episode is standard fare, imagine the cast of “Midnight” or “Voyage of the Damned” and you get the idea. There is nothing really special or important about this group save for two people. One I speak of is Carmen, a slightly annoying psychic who complains every five minutes about the dead coming after them and essentially how screwed they all are if they stay on the planet any longer (we understand the danger going into the episode. There is no need to pound us over the head with how bad the danger is). As annoying as I found her, Carmen’s warning at the end of the episode hinted at a pretty bleak future for The Doctor; death and possibly the return of an old enemy. It sent chills down my spine.

The other special passenger I alluded to was companion du jour Lady Christina de Souza, played by British favorite Michelle Ryan (Eastenders, Bionic Woman). Christina is a welcome return to the smart, clever and sexy companions The Doctor traveled with in the past. The fact that she falls in love with him harkens back to Martha and Rose. But let’s face it as beautiful as Freema Agyeman and Billie Piper are they don’t come close to matching Michelle Ryan’s flirtatious and down right sexy portrayal of this black clad master thief. Christina is likeable and a good match for The Doctor, but sadly she is a one time companion left behind at the end of the episode. Perhaps we’ll see more of her in the future (at least I hope so).

U.N.I.T. also pops up in this special. Captain Erisa Magambo from “Turn Left” returns to lead the charge against the alien threat beyond the wormhole, but it’s Lee Evans as the eccentric Malcolm Taylor that works best. Malcolm can both match The Doctor’s cleverness and stand toe to toe with Magambo when she decides to make a gutsy call that may mean killing The Doctor and the bus passengers. Good writing and good acting to make it work.

All in all, “Planet of the Dead” was fun, but ok, not as special as it could be. However, the groundwork has been laid for some interesting action later this year as the sad approach to David Tennant’s final adventure gets closer.

Next Time-“Water always wins…” The Waters of Mars


Whoa…the wait is over

Tonight I was inspired. I am not the only member of my family who loves Torchwood. After hearing my aunt’s eccentric review of Children of Earth, I figured it’s time to get back into the swing of things. THE REVIEWS ARE COMING BACK. Starting tonight with reviews of “The Next Doctor” and “Planet of the Dead” and moving into “Torchwood: Children of Earth” later on in the week. Then Yes, yes I promised I’d start from the beginning and I’m going to hold true to that. I’M BACK BABY!!!

Doctor Who S04E14-The Next Doctor

The Doctor lands in London 1851 on Christmas Eve. Instead of a nice quiet stroll, The Doctor gets caught up in a conflict between the mysterious Ms. Hartigan and her personal legion of Cybermen and a man who claims to be The Doctor. Questions aplenty arise: Why are the Cybermen here? What is the secret of the Cyber King? And more importantly, is this “Doctor” really a future incarnation of the famous Time Lord? One thing is certain, it’s gonna be another unquiet Christmas for The Doctor.

This Christmas special marked a couple of changes from the traditional formula we’ve seen thus far on the series: real snow, the past instead of the present, and a familiar foe. This change of pace works well for “The Next Doctor”, making it one of the best Christmas specials this show has done in quite some time. But the real draw point is the title of the special. We all know that David Tennant is sadly departing from the series at the end of this string of specials and “The Next Doctor” teases us with the possibility of special guest star David Morrissey as a potential replacement.

Since I don’t bother with warning for spoilers I’ll just say it, Mr. Morrissey is not the next Doctor. However, he puts on a strong and energetic performance matching the acting capabilities of our Doctor, the other David, David Tennant. And the duo looks like they are having a swell time running from or into trouble with laughter we’ve come to expect from men who play The Doctor. So while David Morrissey is not the next Doctor, you agree with David Tennant’s sentiments at the episodes end; if anyone could do a great job replacing Mr. Tennant, it would be David Morrissey (applause).

And after a lengthy two year absence, the Cybermen return to the show. They’re doing pretty much what they always do on the show: march slow and delete people. This time though, they’re taking order from a woman. Ms. Hartigan proves to be every bit as threatening as the men in metal themselves using her sensuous and dark dialogue to usher the killing blow to a lot of people. No buts about it, this woman is attractive (in a creepy sort of way), but her ruthlessness makes her a classic Doctor Who villain who by the end of the episode gets her just rewards.

Lastly, I have to say that as I was watching the episode I was curious as to how they were going to up the spectacle like they do each year. Then I saw the walking giant The Cyber King rise from the Tems and I said, “Ohhh…” Just in sheer awe, I applauded the visual team for blowing my mind yet again with this work of genius. Russell T. Davies I am going to miss you and your imagination.

I have accepted the fact that no Christmas special will ever be as good as “The Christmas Invasion” but “The Next Doctor” comes in at a very close second; beating out the depressing “Voyage of the Damned” and the annoying “Runaway Bride”. It’s a classic Doctor Who story with a twist that will surely be remembered in the years to come. A Merry Christmas indeed.

Next Time-Three Suns, Wormholes and Alien Sand…Welcome to the Planet of the Dead.