I know I’m not alone in being a bit underwhelmed by last night’s Doctor Who Easter special. In fact our Head Chef’s already called it ‘tripe’ and I think he’s only being a smidge uncharitable. David Tennant has emblazoned our screens with many classic episodes - ’Midnight’, ‘Blink’, ‘Forest of the Dead’, ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ – but ‘Planet of the Dead’ wasn’t one of them.
The opening lazy heist sequence was a frank slap in the face with it’s ‘Mission Impossible’ wire work, ‘Entrapment’ lasers, James Bond farting horns, ‘Indiana Jones’ bag swap (woefully done, incidentally) and idiotic RTD dialogue (‘Sorry Lover’). And I still can’t work out why, having been on the roof, Michelle Ryan was running through the gallery when the alarms went off. Is she supposed to be the worst cat burglar in history? Apparently.
And it got worse.
She flees on a bus that the entire Metropolitan Police force can’t seem to stop, the driver having accepted her diamond earrings as payment (as if) and then they disappear through a wormhole to a desert planet straight out of ‘Pitch Black’, three suns, swarming monsters and all. Yes, the sand is actually the pulverised bodies of a billion dead (hence the title) and why the wormhole was created in the first place and how they get back through it is plausable enough when you think about it, but the passengers themselves were the typical ‘normal’ human types the Doctor seems to adore these days, with their ‘food, home and people’ that he feels are somehow so much more powerful and significant than being trapped on the other side of the galaxy with the dust of the dead in your hair and a trillion flying sharks ready to reduce you to a bloody sandpit. And did I mention that there’s a wise woman? There’s always a wise woman, invariably Carribbean, with ‘psychic ability exacerbated by an alien sun’, sprinkling her doom-laden patois over proceedings: “Sometin’ is comin. Sometin’ is comin. Ridin’ on the wind. And shinin’…..Death. Death is comin’” Oh come ooonnnn.
Here’s the first ten minutes. Just watch it. If you’re an adult with a fully functioning Cerebellum you should hate it, and if you don’t there’s probably something wrong with you.
UNIT arrive soonafter and things deteriorate on the London front. The lady in charge thinks the Doctor is a god, the Doctor somehow gets through to her on a mobile (that Sonic Screwdriver has become such a Deus ex machina it’s sickening) and Lee Evans, as UNIT’s resident mad scientist, gets to do his slapstick routine with a fire extinguisher whilst elevating the pro-Doctor sycophancy levels to absurdly high proportions (when they finally meet all Evans can say is “I Love You”, over and over)
Meanwhile, back on Planet Death, Michelle Ryan and the Doctor are retrieving some crystal from a pair of humanoid houseflies in a sequence that steals liberally from the first two ‘Alien’ movies but still manages to be borderline tedious. And when the Doctor finally does manage to fly the bus back to Blighty why do only three monsters come through the wormhole with him? It takes a full minute for Lee Evans to seal the rift, and back on the planet the nasties were all over their arse, so why do only three steel sharks get to eat UNIT lead? It makes no sense.
But then most of it makes no sense. It’s as if, having deprived him of a companion, Russell T Davies has written a one-off romp for the Doc that feels like one of those throwaway comic-strip stories you get in spin-off magazines, and perhaps I wouldn’t have minded that if the hype machine for this special hadn’t been cranked up to 11. The Times review basically said “We haven’t got a preview DVD but an insider says it’s ‘awesome’” and they just took their word for it. Since when did it become a positive thing for critics not to be able to review a flagship BBC programme?
As far as I’m concerned the whole enterprise was a waste of time. For all the audience gratification on offer Russell T Davies might as well have flopped his arse out of the television screen and shat in my child’s lap.
Here’s hoping ‘The Waters of Mars’ is better. It has to be.