Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:07 pm

They probably thought Christina was the Doctor's companion, and UNIT are desperate to keep on the Doctor's good side.

I didn't hear the Doctor complaining about their use of guns this time...
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Dingdongalistic on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:10 pm

Lee Carey wrote:While it will never rank amongst my favourite Dr Who stories since it's return, Planet of the Dead was a fun adventure with some very good lines, and an excellent guest turn by Lee Evans.

The theme was very much about nature- it was refreshing to see a story that had no real villain. The Tritovores misunderstood who was responsible for their predicament, and the stingrays were simply obeying their base nature to eat, and then move on to new feeding grounds. Christina was out for adventure, and so was the Doctor, and the story continued Russell T Davies favourite theme of the Doctor taking someone and making them reach their potential. Christina goes from someone who steals for the thrill of it to being an adventuress in her own personal travelling machine (mirroring the trajectory of Jackson Lake in the Next Doctor).

It was also steeped in science fiction and adventure stories from the 1920's and 30's, especially the work of Edgar Rice Burrows and Robert E Howard, where an ordinary person or group is transported to a magical realm full of strange creatures and they have to fight just for their survival. And, it has to be said, that the character of Christina is rooted in the pulp fiction of this period as well- it's a shame that the budget wouldn't have stretched to setting the London sequences in the 30's instead of the present.

Complaints? As some have remarked, the story, considering it's a Special, lacked... specialness. It would have benefited greatly from being a mid-series story instead of a stand alone one, just as both the Fires of Pompeii and The Unicorn and the Wasp would have worked as Easter specials in its place. I'd also agree with C=O that the cgi was a bit dodgy in a couple of scenes (mainly with the compositing of the bus in the desert- it simply looked too red!

But not a bad story by any means, and one that may improve when watched in sequence with the specials around it.

4 out of 5 (although on the lower end of the scale)

Great to see you're still writing your reviews, Lee. Even better to see that I agree with nearly every word of it.

One thing, though: it might have been more realistic if the bus was less red in the desert, but it wouldn't have stuck in the memory as well. As Davies says, "bus in the desert" is a lovely picture, so I suspect that even if the production team notice that flaw, they won't be too bothered.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Dingdongalistic on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:28 pm

The Co=Ordinator wrote:
Dingdongalistic wrote:I see the tradition of Rich and I disagreeing on virtually everything is continuing in fine form. Wink

As you haven't been around dingdong I'll let you off, but disagreeing with Rich is one of the Terms and Conditions of membership here. Razz lol!

I misread that, and for a moment it gave me such a shock!
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Dingdongalistic on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:29 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:They probably thought Christina was the Doctor's companion, and UNIT are desperate to keep on the Doctor's good side.

I didn't hear the Doctor complaining about their use of guns this time...

Yeah, I've always loved the Doctor's inconsistency on that front.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Zoltar on Fri Apr 17, 2009 4:36 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:I didn't hear the Doctor complaining about their use of guns this time...
"Oi, you lot! Stop shooting at the insane flying metal piranha-stingray monsters!"

*ponders*

"Wait, no...my mistake, you go right ahead and shoot at the insane flying..."

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:10 am

lol!

Exactly.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Rich Flair on Sat Apr 18, 2009 5:05 am

Bugger he's found us - evacuate quick and we'll meet at the Emergency Reserve Outpost.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Horizon Chaser on Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:50 pm

Rich Flair wrote:Bugger he's found us - evacuate quick and we'll meet at the Emergency Reserve Outpost.

Well, if y'all let me join....

How does the old Groucho Marx quote go?
"Any club that would have me as a member I wouldn't want to join."

Of course, there's always his, "Why don't we go join a club so I can hit you over the head with it?"
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Kate on Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:12 pm

Aaaaaand steering this thread back on track....

I really enjoyed PotD. Looking forward to the next one.

HOoray....

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:15 pm

And I am looking forward to the next one precisely because I didn't enjoy this one!

So, we are agreed. Next stop Mars. Mysterious water monsters will be provided. Bring your own bananas, clockwork mice, etc.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Rich Flair on Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:56 pm

Lucy McGough wrote:And I am looking forward to the next one precisely because I didn't enjoy this one!

So, we are agreed. Next stop Mars. Mysterious water monsters will be provided. Bring your own bananas, clockwork mice, etc.

And
Spoiler:
BRIAN BLESSED! as Churchill
.

Probably.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Sun Apr 19, 2009 1:19 am

Spoiler:
Decent!
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Dingdongalistic on Sun Apr 19, 2009 3:10 pm

Kate Seadevil wrote:Aaaaaand steering this thread back on track....

I really enjoyed PotD. Looking forward to the next one.

HOoray....

Disclaimer: The following is my own humble opinionated opinion, and I don't expect anyone to agree with it yours may differ (violently).

Spoiler:
After the somewhat catastrophic end of series 4 (in more ways than one) my hopes for the "year of specials" were not high. It never ceases to amaze me how Davies' writing can be so variable, how he can go from the heights of the amazing "Midnight", one of his best episodes if not the best of series 4, and the highly entertaining "Turn Left", and then plummet downwards in quality ("The Stolen Earth") to the depths of despair ("Journey's End") and beyond. I am not writing a review of the finale of series 4, which is perhaps just as well, as after watching it I found myself incapable of doing so, which perhaps contributed to my not trying to find the time to write a series 4 analysis, despite having written a few individual reviews on OG (or, now, DWF).

Nor did following Christmas special particularly increase my confidence in the series. It is a pity that "The Next Doctor" was broadcast at Christmas, when my sense of proportion and normal standards had returned, rather than immediately following "Journey's End", as in the context of immediate comparison to the latter it may well have impressed upon me as a classic, a Christmas gem; but it wasn't so it didn't. To cease the Sir Humphrey prattle, "The Next Doctor" further entrenched my disillusionment with the show, and in its ability to deliver strong storytelling. It probably wasn't helped by the competition from the brilliant, as usual, Wallace and Gromit, to which it was always going to play second fiddle.

But I am not reviewing "The Next Doctor" either, possibly just as well. So without further ado, I will finally catch up with the subject at hand. And not to beat about the bush, despite having almost terminally low expectations, I was surprised to "Planet of the Dead" immoderately exciting, fun and engaging, both as a story and as a piece of entertainment (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, despite what Davies seemed to suggest with "Journey's End").

It's not perfect. I'd better get the criticisms out of the way to begin with, of which there are fair few, although not many particularly noticeable ones. The first half drags somewhat to rather a noticeable effect, unusually - I have found in the past that Christmas specials have tended to take advantage of the extra breathing space that the 45 minute format did not allow for, and come off as more rounded as a result, but I suspect that as the production team got more used to the normal format, the extra 15 minutes started to be a little more redundant, and surreptitiously became used more as filler. Thus there is plenty of walking around and talking on the surface of the planet, to little advancement of the plot, and the pace and suspense feel very gentle as a result.

This also means that the majority of supporting characters, most notably on the bus, are under-developed, which is a pity, as it was avoidable. It is difficult to care about many of them as a result, which makes the episode weak in an area which Davies has traditionally been held as strong at, in that the only characters which there is any strong connection to are The Doctor, Lady Tottingham - sorry, Christina - Captain MaGambo and Lee Evans with a ridiculous Welsh accent (more on that later). It would have been nice to have felt something for the supporting characters actually in jeopardy.

There are also a few rather obvious contrivances in the plot. The bus driver accepting payment in diamonds is slightly ridiculous, particularly to those who have experience of London bus drivers, as is his refusal to pull over when the police are rather obviously in pursuit. Davies and Roberts do get the balance of ridiculous technobabble to simple science concepts right, and the idea of the bus serving as a Faraday cage was neat. There are also a few inconsistencies, like the fact that the bus flies back into the wormhole from high up in the air, yet still emerges from the original position in the tunnel, and the fact that one of the passengers manages to phone the Doctor on a planet without signal. Nothing really to worry about, obviously. However, there is no way a policeman would compromise in the reading of rights like that, or do something as stupid as leave the other door of a police car unattended for a criminal to walk straight out of.

Other areas work quite nicely, including a few things I normally groan at which are put to better than usual use here. The dialogue between the Doctor and passengers is a little trite, but works well within the context as the Doctor is busy trying to prevent everyone from descending into hysterics. The UNIT backslapping of the Doctor could be irritating, but is countered by the fact they work surprisingly well for the story in general, and have a deliberately eccentric Welshman doing most of the talking to the Doctor (again, more on that later). And the Doctor's predictable whittering on about his tragic past with companions and rejection of a potential new one is thrown into interest by the Companion herself.

Now, a lot of people have expressed irritation with Lady Michelle Ryan, but I rather like her character. It makes a change to have a genuinely selfish and shallow companion to contend with, particularly one who is also clever, merely amoral and lacking in emotional quality. The script doesn't shy away from a few quietly uncomfortable moments "Yeah, but they're [the dead people] in my hair! That's disgusting!", and when the Doctor rejects her as a companion I don't particularly disagree, though I was disappointed that he didn't simply say "you're a crook and need to learn some responsibility" rather than "I lose companions" (which should by now be the most obvious fact in the world) - I bet he was thinking it, though. However, neither do I disagree with his final action in helping her to escape, because this is entirely fitting with the Doctor's sense of mischief and slightly irresponsible character.

That said, I wasn't enthralled with the performance of the actress herself. It was okay - worked quite well in the context of the episode, but didn't particularly impress me as a brilliant feat of acting. I suppose I could be mean-spirited and say I wasn't quite convinced by the Aristocratic accent, but it's Easter. So I won't. I did, incidentally, think that the aristocratic element of her character was possibly a bit unnecessary, and afforded the social construct more credit than it is worth nowadays. (This is, of course, a political view that you don't have to take the blindest bit of notice of if it offends you.)

The two main characters work very well - although I wasn't sad to find out it wasn't permanent, the interaction makes the companion feel more useful than it has for a while, and cleverly asks all the questions the audience is wondering without making the Doctor seem too much of an infallible know-it-all, for a change. You can see the ideas and mistakes of both characters, rather than just finding out when it's convenient, which makes the plot feel more alive, and there are lots of nice touches (Christina "pressing the red button" whilst flying up the shaft was one of my favourites. Normally it's the Doctor who does these things as a matter of course, aided by the (pleasantly unobtrusive this time) sonic screwdriver).

I enjoyed Tennant's performance in this episode. After feeling he was playing somewhat on autopilot in the Christmas special, (and previously having been too distracted by the sheer cheapness of Journey's End to notice his performance), his performance feels refreshingly interesting this episode. Even the bits which normally feel horrendously clich├ęd work well, although I'm not personally sure I quite wished to see as much of his tongue in one scene as we were afforded.

And the story of the episode works really, really well. I have no doubt that it steals from an enormous number of subjects, like 99% of Doctor Who, but it holds together very nicely as the sort of fun, humorous romp that it is. It's co-written by Gareth Roberts (a fact I did not find out, amusingly, till half-way through this review), and features a return to form for comic talent that felt a little stale in "The Unicorn and the Wasp". The dialogue works well, for the most part, with some particularly nice lines ("And that thing tells them that I'm telling the truth. Also the face") and of course the occasional one that's too smug ("The Aristocracy survives for a reason. Yeah, right).

UNIT, as mentioned above, are also put to good effect, possibly the best since "The Christmas Invasion", on the other side of the wormhole. The writers get the two-way dynamic just right, with the phone conversations making for some timely plot stimuli and of course some very good comedy - with Lee Evans playing a particularly eccentric Welshman on the other end of the phone, what could have been a rather uninteresting dialogue becomes fantastic.

I didn't know it was Lee Evans until afterwards, and I've never seen any of his comedy. So I had no particular expectations, and don't really know what people who did know expected in this episode. But Malcolm works brilliantly as a character, providing not only a match for the Doctor intellectually but also in personality, providing for some very funny comedy, particularly his "Malcolm" and "Bernard" units, which I found irresistible. He also has more depth to him as a character, being both funny and touching when he hugs his keyboard and tells his commanding officer "I will never surrender!". Captain Magambo also works very well, as a character and as a performance.

In conclusion, "Planet of the Dead" is a refreshing little romp after a rather stale run of episodes, and leaves me feeling much better about Doctor Who. It's not perfect, and is somewhat shallow in places, but as a fun little unspectacular Easter special, it's not only entertaining but also perfectly respectable.

7/10
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Dave Webb on Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:43 am

For those unfamiliar with the dramatic work of Lee Evans, two recommendations:

The Martins
and
Funny Bones

Both worth a look.

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by whoisthedoctor on Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:58 am

Dingdongalistic wrote:
Lucy McGough wrote:They probably thought Christina was the Doctor's companion, and UNIT are desperate to keep on the Doctor's good side.

I didn't hear the Doctor complaining about their use of guns this time...

Yeah, I've always loved the Doctor's inconsistency on that front.

He's such a wonderfully hypocritical b*st*rd about weapons. Smile (But then I always find the Doctor's flaws more interesting than his more conventionally heroic side.)

I'm reminded of the days of sternly lecturing Ace about Nitro Nine...before making use of it. Seventh Doctor
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by whoisthedoctor on Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:00 am

Horizon Chaser wrote:
Rich Flair wrote:Bugger he's found us - evacuate quick and we'll meet at the Emergency Reserve Outpost.

Well, if y'all let me join....

How does the old Groucho Marx quote go?
"Any club that would have me as a member I wouldn't want to join."

Of course, there's always his, "Why don't we go join a club so I can hit you over the head with it?"

I've always assumeed that Groucho is what you'd end up with if you Chameleon Arched the 4th Doctor.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by whoisthedoctor on Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:04 am

Lucy McGough wrote:
Spoiler:
Decent!

Spoiler:
Any reaction to BRIAN BLESSED! must have a minimum of 5 exclamation points, to simulate his voice!!!!!
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:07 am

Spoiler:
Sorry: decent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by delgadofan on Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:10 am

Dingdongalistic wrote:
The Co=Ordinator wrote:
Dingdongalistic wrote:I see the tradition of Rich and I disagreeing on virtually everything is continuing in fine form. Wink

As you haven't been around dingdong I'll let you off, but disagreeing with Rich is one of the Terms and Conditions of membership here. Razz lol!

I misread that, and for a moment it gave me such a shock!

Hello! Ruddy long time no visit, sorry about that.

Ding-Dongs with Rich? I've had a day of it today on DWF, but it all comes out in the wash eventually and, as you say, it's virtually compulsory. It all got heated there with even Doc getting a brief punch from me over an incredibly tedious thread questioning whether some of us may look rather unkindly upon RTD's era with hindsight whilst entrenched in the next. Not that the thread topic itself is tedious. A fair question, I thought, but it's all got bogged down by 500+ posts mostly questioning OP motives. And by now no doubt locked...

ANYWAY, "Planet of the Dead"? Saved by Lee Evans (even if he had a Welsh accent for no discernable reason), but still a 2 from me. Very tired, mechanical and drenched in deja-vu. Ryan was sexy but ultimately seeming rather uncomfortable in her role as an international jewel thief. Even rewatching it a couple of times has failed to spark (as with the Xmas Special) the usual routine of RTD's scripts being able to 'carry on giving', as they say. The next special looks damn cool though, but I really am itching for the Moffat makeover now.

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Matt DM on Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:38 am

First post on this forum!

A bit of a disapointment for me as if the production team are treading water. Michelle Ryan was also resolutely unspecial. Would have worked fine as season opener bit of fluff but as the only 'who for months, I needed a bit more.

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:41 am

You're a slow burner Matt!

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:47 am

Matt DM wrote:First post on this forum!

A bit of a disapointment for me as if the production team are treading water. Michelle Ryan was also resolutely unspecial. Would have worked fine as season opener bit of fluff but as the only 'who for months, I needed a bit more.
I completely agree with you, Matt. It felt like a bit of a filler, and left me with the disappointment of a terminal nicotine addict who's just been handed a cardboard cigarette.*



*This gag may have been pilfered from The Truth by Terry Pratchett.
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Colin Hicks on Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:01 am

That's pretty much how I felt about PotD - it was fine as a bit of telly, but nowhere near representative of the heights of greatness that Doctor Who has repeatedly reached over the last 4 years.

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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by Lucy McGough on Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:17 am

It was distinctly mediocre, but nevertheless I remain optimistic for the last three specials. After PotD, things can only get better Very Happy
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Re: Rate 'Planet of the Dead'

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:21 am

It was better than "The Next Doctor". Wink

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