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28 March 2015 @ 09:39 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Planet of the Dead  
This is the first story for a while that I've re-evaluated on a second watch. At the time I classed it as fun but pointless and more or less instantly forgot about it. This time I was struck by a few things, particularly the continuity back to the UNIT of Turn Left and also how terribly unsuitable Lady Christina would have been as a companion; mostly she served just to egg the Doctor on and, in the next special, we get to see where that kind of thing leads.

I recall a lot of people ranting, at the time, about Lady Christina in particular that it is difficult to sympathise with an aristocratic thief who steals stuff because she is bored. There is a line about losing the family money in the Icelandic banks, but it is difficult to work out if we are meant to believe it. She certainly isn't short a bob or two for specialised equipment. The script itself seems slightly ill at ease with the character. It wants us to like her, but it can't quite bring itself to condone of her lifestyle. It's not clear at the end if the Doctor turns her away because of Donna's fate, or because he's aware at some level that she lacks much of a moral compass - and possibly that he is in the process of losing his.

Where she works is that she is a reflection of the Doctor at his most reckless, the man who stole a Tardis because he was bored, effortlessly takes charge in a crisis, and enjoys things more the worse they get.

As well as these two we have, what I'm inclined to consider, a rather bland set of bus travellers, but NLSS Child was very engaged by the whole group and became very anxious about who would live and who would die. The interactions with UNIT are all rather charming (and NLSS Child enjoyed them immensely), I like Lee Evans channeling the hapless Sergeant Osgood from The Daemons. The whole set up with its faraday cages, metal exoskeletons and hapless trading insects is rather more coherently put together than a lot of Davies plots even though it relied quite heavily on serendipitous coincidences. For all this is a special with an eye clearly fixed on producing some exciting visuals, it involves a lot fewer battles and explosions than Davies' big-effect stories normally have. It's a bit difficult to compare it to anything else Davies has done, in fact. It lacks the dark edge and the pessimism of his more introspective stories while being less concerned with relentless set pieces than his more crowd-pleasing stuff. It has a touch of the whimsey we see in, say, Love and Monsters but takes itself much more seriously.

It was actually a lot of fun. NLSS Child was very engaged by the whole thing, gripping tight onto me during the final chase through the wormhole. Much more so than she is by most Doctor Who.

In retrospect, and knowing the shape of the story Davies was telling through these specials, Planet of the Dead seems a lot less throwaway. At the same time it manages to be genuinely entertaining, and a little bit different from a lot of Doctor Who. It has risen a great deal in my estimation.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/150579.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 29th, 2015 09:50 am (UTC)
I've also changed regarding this. I didn't like it at all on first viewing, find it silly and pointless. A second viewing a year or two ago made it seem much better, although this was part of a wider re-evaluation of a number of Doctor Who stories I didn't like much, new and old. Lee Evans is certainly fun.

That said, I still don't like the end being "UNIT shoot everything and the Doctor doesn't care." I also don't much care for Lady Christina who does seem like one of those characters new Who regularly produces who we are more or less ordered to find amazing, which I find produces the opposite reaction.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 29th, 2015 10:16 am (UTC)
I couldn't decide if we were supposed to like Christina or not. She feels like the companion who is a spur rather than a check on a number of the Doctor's less salubrious tendencies (to be reckless, to assume he is right, to assume he is better than other people (EDIT: and better because of birth), to care about ordinary people more in the abstract than in the reality) and, as such, one should be dubious about her. It's possible that is all unintentional, but Davies is normally cleverer than that, so I suspect it is deliberate.

I think the end is more the escape through the wormhole, UNIT shooting the remaining creatures is just clean-up and is at a very different level than, to pick the obvious example, the Brigadier and the Silurians.

Edited at 2015-03-29 10:18 am (UTC)
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 29th, 2015 11:24 am (UTC)
Yes, I know you're right about UNIT, but somehow it rankles. It's on a different level, but being a long-term fan I think it shouldn't be. I have the same problem with Terror of the Zygons, which is very good story, but just ends with UNIT shooting Broton. Ugh.