Unearthly Times

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

Planet of the Dead


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

I’ve been re-reading The Stand recently, so I was acutely aware of Planet of the Dead‘s obvious use of the Magical Negro trope with the Doctor’s fellow bus passenger, chops-and-gravy fan Carmen.

Admittedly, her ability is nothing compared to the near-biblical scale of Mother Abagail’s proclamations, but Carmen offers just enough psychic insight to keep the episode moving and sticks around until the end to give the Doctor another taste of the Ood’s ominous ‘your song is ending’ message.

Ellen Thomas’s best efforts notwithstanding, it’s not the only underwhelming aspect of Planet of the Dead.

Right from the Mission: Impossible riff-or-rip-off opening, I wasn’t convinced that Lady Christina de Souza was quite as cool as – judging by the Doctor Who Confidential episode that was transmitted alongside it – everyone who worked on Planet of the Dead thought she was. Sure, Christina has a few snappy lines, but being smug and glib is no substitute for characterisation.

None of this is any reflection on Michelle Ryan, who does what she can with a character who’s pitched somewhere between Lara Croft and Selina Kyle and lacks the depth and charm of either, but I, for one, am quite happy Lady Christina turned out to have been a one-episode companion.

“Worse it gets, the more I love it.”

The Doctor, Planet of the Dead

The London bus in the desert does look great, admittedly – and I did like new UNIT Captain Magambo, at least until she pulled a gun on Lee Evans (which then seemed to be forgotten as soon as the day was saved), but after this viewing it’s no surprise to me that Planet of the Dead has always sat at or near the bottom of my list of Tenth Doctor stories.

It’s not so much that it’s bad. There’s nothing as egregious here as the eye-of-the-storm Dobby Doctor bollocks of Last of the Time Lords; it’s just a bit dull, which for an episode that – based on the official numbering – brings up ‘the mighty 200’ as far as Doctor Who stories go, makes for something of a flat celebration of that milestone.