One of the specials aired between Series 4 and Series 5, Planet of the Dead has the Doctor (David Tennant) suddenly transported to a desert planet via a wormhole while riding a bus through London. While there, he finds the source of the wormhole and discovers a horrible threat to Earth.
This was a fun special, but not spectacular. As far as the story went, it offered nothing new, though I still enjoyed it quite a lot. It was pretty standard fare for a Doctor Who episode, special or not. The pacing worked well, and left no moments that moved too slowly.
I really enjoyed Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan). Her character had a lot of spunk and reminded me a lot of Jenny from “The Doctor’s Daughter” in Series 4. She was smart, and contributed significantly to the enjoyability of Planet of the Dead. She was also flawed, and almost caused her own demise. I found that helped the episode stay real for me.
The aliens in this episode were interesting: giant fly people (Tritovores) and weird, flying, carnivorous rays of some sort with metallic exoskeletons. The rays, while sounding a bit silly at first, were actually quite terrifying as they swarmed. So, maybe a cross between killer bees, rays, and piranhas. Nasty creatures, and worthy opponents for the Doctor when he had very little to work with.
The secondary characters in Planet of the Dead were interesting, especially Carmen (Ellen Thomas), Captain Magambo (Noma Dumezweni), and Malcolm Taylor (Lee Evans). Carmen was just down-to-earth, and a nice character. Along with her husband, Lou (Reginald Tsiboe), she influenced events in the episode more than usual for background characters.
Captain Magambo had hard decisions to make, and handled them like a star. She previously appeared in the awesome episode “Turn Left”. Sadly, this was her last appearance (at least through series 10). Evans did an awesome job as the nerdy and bumbling scientist helping the Doctor figure out how to return to Earth.
Within the four specials, this was my second favorite. It had an interesting and smart companion, was a solid problem-solving episode, had interesting aliens, and played into the upcoming change of face for the Doctor. I recommend watching Planet of the Dead, but only after watching all the episodes before it (of course). Bring your popcorn.
Original Air Date: April 11, 2009 (UK)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-PG
Network: BBC One
Language: 1 (brief minor, deity)
Sexuality: 0 (mild flirting)
Violence: 1 (some death, extreme peril)