The Doctor (David Tennant) & Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan) & a Damaged London Bus - Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead - (c) BBC
The Doctor (David Tennant) & Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan) & a Damaged London Bus – Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead – (c) BBC

Planet of the Dead

First Broadcast April 11th, 2009 @ 6.45pm (9.74m viewers)

2009 has similarities to 2016. Sadly, Doctor Who fans had to endure a year with very little Doctor Who on their television screens. In that respect 2016 is actually worse with only a Christmas special to look forward to. 2009 did, however, provide us with a unique event, a Doctor Who Easter special. Unlike adventures broadcast on Christmas Day, the festive period was only acknowledged briefly and did not have a significant influence on the adventure. What would shape the plot, however, was the desire of co-writer Russell T Davies to present a spectacular image, the likes of which had never been attempted by Doctor Who before.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead - Behind the Scenes (c) BBC
Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead – Behind the Scenes (c) BBC

Location filming for this story took place in a desert in Dubai, creating one of the most iconic images in the show’s history and assisted by the move to high definition camera equipment. Shots of a double-decker London bus in the arid wastes of the desert planet San Helios are simply spectacular and only a programme like Doctor Who can achieve such a juxtaposition of visual elements. Unfortunately, the bus was noticeably damaged in transit to Dubai when a shipping container was dropped on top of it, requiring an additional line of dialogue. The 200 number was also significant as ‘Planet of the Dead’ was advertised as the 200th televised story in Doctor Who’s history, however, this depends on how you count ‘The Trial of the Timelord’, ‘Shada’ and ‘Utopia’. In any case, this story has a uniquely celebratory feel, a final fun adventure for the Tenth Doctor before things become very serious.

UNIT Scientist Malcolm (Lee Evans) - Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead (c) BBC
UNIT Scientist Malcolm (Lee Evans) – Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead (c) BBC

David Tennant’s impending departure hung heavy over 2009 and towards the end of this episode the tone suddenly darkens as the Doctor is told: “He will knock four times”. Viewers had no idea what this meant at the time but it was obvious that it alluded to the Doctor’s regeneration story. The line was even referenced in The Simpson’s 2009 Halloween special months before the meaning would be revealed. But even though the end is coming ‘Planet of the Dead’ is a thoroughly enjoyable romp, even with the devastating carnage wreaked by the Stingrays. Central to this is the wonderful Lee Evans as Malcolm, the Doctor’s successor as scientific advisor at UNIT. Evans’ comedic skills are utilised to the fullest as he converses with the Doctor on the phone for the majority of the episode and so when they do actually meet it is an adorable scene.

Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina De Souza - Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead (c) BBC
Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina De Souza – Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead (c) BBC

Also making a guest appearance is actress Michelle Ryan, known for her role as Zoe Slater in Eastenders and for appearing in American series Bionic Woman. Her character, Lady Christina de Souza, is also notable because a glamorous upper-class cat burglar had been the proposed new companion to replace Ace in what would have been Season 27 of Doctor Who. Sadly the show was put on hiatus by the BBC and the character never materialised but it is interesting to see how well it might have worked.

‘Planet of the Dead’ is an enjoyable adventure, with an interesting potential companion and plenty of comedy from another guest star. The Tritovores are well realised but it is the location filming with an iconic London bus in the desert of Dubai which stands out as the spectacle in this lighthearted prelude to much darker events.

Cast:

The Doctor – David Tennant
Christina – Michelle Ryan
Malcolm – Lee Evans
Capt Magambo – Noma Dumezweni
DI McMillan – Adam James
Sgt Dennison – Glenn Doherty
Angela – Victoria Alcock
Nathan – David Ames
Carmen – Ellen Thomas
Lou – Reginald Tsiboe
Barclay – Daniel Kaluuya
Bus Driver – Keith Parry
Sgt Ian Jenner – James Layton
Sorvin – Paul Kasey
Praygat – Ruari Mears

Crew:

Writer – Russell T Davies
Producer – Tracie Simpson
Director – James Strong
Writer – Gareth Roberts

Also first aired On This Day…

  • The Keys of Marinus : The Sea of Death
  • The Ambassadors of Death : Episode Four
  • Doctor Who Confidential : Desert Storm

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.