søndag den 12. april 2009

Who Review #204 - Planet of the Dead

Picture: Bart as a Tritovore

Just a quick step out of time here with a fast foward to the Easter Special (BBC 1 , 11 April).

At the very shallow level, I was always going to enjoy the episode for the simple reason Michelle Ryan is in it.

She plays a character called Lady Christina; they might as well have called her Lady Croft because she is so similar to the famous Tomb Raider: intelligent, a lady, physically fit, sassy and some other things. But I don't mind - I am also a massive fan of the Tomb Raider games and love Lara! (She's not bad, she's just programmed that way - to ad lib Jessica Rabbit.)

There were several other things that came to mind (were they influences?): Final Fantasy - the Spirits Within; Pitch Black; Bart Simpson as Fly Boy from a Simpson's Halloween episode; Superman (he flies around the world to reverse time); Back to the Future (flying cars); and - that ultimate of horrors - Cliff Richard and Summer Holiday. Of course, there are parallels with last season's episode "Midnight" too.

The story builds up quite nicely. They drive through a wormhole and end up in Dubai (well, an alien world). The bus acted as a Faraday cage so they were unharmed; running back through the hole obliterates you, as the bus driver unfortunately demonstrates. The bus is damaged so it might be a problem - a hasty last minute bit of script writing as they actually did do the bus a mischief carting it to Dubai. They have the added problem of being stuck in sand. Meanwhile an elderly, psychic lady (Carmen) is hearing voices - the voices of the dead. The bus passangers are being observed on a monitor by an unseen alien - a plot device which has been used several times before (Death to the Daleks, the Sontaran Experiment, Terror of the Zygons, the Android Invasion) . Lastly, there is a storm approaching on the horizon which adds an unknown danger and a sense of urgency, since the psychic says death is coming, riding on the wind.

The Tritovores didn't exactly thrill Phil BC *(nor did this story); I thought they were very well realised compared to previous attempts at insect creatures in the past history of the show. The swarm creatures are also interesting; they are the first creatures since the Magnodon (from Hartnell's the Daleks) with a metal body, although the idea of a galactic parasite is itself rather more common Whofare (the Axons, the Krynoid). The thing that lets them down is not their design - I like alien monsters that are based on animals for their design, here sting rays - but the CGI.

Right, those are the things I really liked. Now for the dross.

UNIT are getting plain irritating; they don't have the same charm as the Pertwee UNIT of old, which was also a time when they were supposedly a top secret organisation. Will they stop saluting the Doctor already! Why the hell did that Officer not get eaten? I was really hoping she would be! Malcolm is an attempt at a comic character but just too OTT. Murray Gold's incidental music is sometimes just loud and bombastic - like the tune as the bus returns and Christina takes off. Dimensionally transcendental Police Boxes are OK , but flying London buses? (Oh well, we had a transformer that towered over London 1851 in the Xmas special.) The characters on the bus get precious little do. The aristocracy are always prepared, chirps Christina...grrrrr Finally, I really am tired of the Doctor having flirts and snogs with every girl he meets.

Ending on a positive note - with any luck, Lady Christina will return; the psychic mentions four knocks, that "it" is returning through the dark and that the Doctor's song is ending. The latter refers to David Tennant leaving, of course, but what else? The speculation is rife. The rumour mill has it there will be a grand finale with the Master and the Tennant companions. We shall see. Whilst brief, I liked the mention of the Robot (Tom Baker's first story) ; that Christina's father lost his fortune in an Islandic bank, an obvious reference to the present Credit Crunch; and the irreverant suggestion that the Doctor saw something quite different happen at the crucifixtion of Jesus.

Roll on the Waters of Mars!

* Phil didn't want to bother looking at how people were portrayed from a gender, etc perspective; it is worth noting, though, that the number of black people in Doctor Who, before the new show came back in 2005, can be counted on your fingers. Freema Agyeman and Noel Clarke even made it to companion status.

PS. I can't believe that Lisa Rullsenberg or The Medium is not Enough haven't blogged about the episode at the time of writing.

The Guardian has a thread with viewer reactions. A quick distillation of the commonest viewpoints: RTD is disliked, Murray Gold's music is too much, a flying bus?, thin plot, Michelle Ryan has a nice arse...fnarrr.

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