Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead review

Doctor Who’s 2009 Easter special. This is the first of the specials made instead of a full series for 2009.

Cast and Crew

  • David Tennant as the Doctor
  • Michelle Ryan as Christina
  • Lee Evans as Malcom
  • Noma Dymezweni as Captain Magambo
  • Adam James as DI McMillan
  • Glenn Doherty as Sgt. Dennison
  • Victoria Alcock as Angela
  • David Ames as Nathan
  • Ellen Thomas as Carmen
  • Reginald Tsiboe as Lou
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Barclay
  • Keith Parry as Bus Driver
  • James Layton as Sgt. Ian Jenner
  • Paul Kasey as Sorvin
  • Ruari Mears as Praygal

Directed by James Strong

Written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts


A thief takes a bus ride to evade the police. The Doctor also boards the bus; shortly afterwards it falls through a wormhole into a desert on a planet with three suns. UNIT quickly become involved, a dire threat to the safety of the Earth is discovered and the Doctor saves the day with a little help from his new companion.

High Point

“You look human.”
“You look Time Lord.”

Low Points

  • Super-intelligent UNIT scientist doesn’t know how to use a fire extinguisher
  • Chasing a bus? What London bus driver wouldn’t pull over for the police?
  • UNIT soldiers applauding
  • Fly-people with human body language
  • Police car rear doors can’t be opened from the inside

The Scores

Originality: 3/6. I’m sure I’ve seen world-eating creatures somewhere else before, and London’s always in deadly peril in the new Doctor Who.

Effects: 4/6. The fake things look extremely fake. Nicely modelled, but this is not up to even the normal Doctor Who quality, let alone what’s actually possible these days.

Story: 3/6. Mindless animals which just happen to eat advanced civilisations for breakfast? Maybe I can handle that, but there’s nothing particularly interesting here. There’s even the token dead person just to prove how dangerous the situation is for everyone else.

Acting: 3/6. Lee Evans puts on an over-the-top parody of a Welsh accent, despite his Welsh surname. Most of the acting is lacklustre and without expression. David Tennant’s hyperactive Doctor looks most peculiar next to Michelle Ryan’s overly-calm Christina.

Production: 4/6. It looks more like London than some of the London scenes in the past – the police are even wearing uniforms that could almost belong to the Metropolitan Police – but the fancy camerawork just doesn’t come together in the end.

Emotional Response: 3/6. I was getting into it in the first few minutes, but then I lost it. There was simply no reason to care, other than to wonder how many people would make it back.

Overall: 2/6. I’d hoped that it wouldn’t suffer from the same problems as the Christmas specials tend to, but I was obviously hopelessly optimistic.

The total score is twenty-two out of forty-two. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t go out of your way for it. Watch something else instead.

9 replies on “Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead review”

  1. Watch something else instead.

    Yes, I tried that. The Red Dwarf three parter was on as well. It was worse than Who.

    I honestly don’t know which was the more disappointing for me this weekend; the Doctor Who special or the (fortunately brief) return of Red Dwarf which turned out to be little more than a lackluster rehash of Blade Runner. Red Dwarf probably won’t be making another come back, but Doctor Who will be, and it needs to be better than that if the issue of the Doctor approaching his last reincarnation is actually going to be an issue…

    • There are so many better regular episodes of Doctor Who it isn’t funny. There is nothing special about this “special”.

      But.. I thought Red Dwarf was excellent. The fatal flaw for Back to Earth was splitting it up into three parts. All together, it was a pretty good episode and I enjoyed it a lot more than the Doctor Who.

      • The real thing with Red Dwarf for me was that it was basically just a rehash of an old episode, but three times as long and with fewer jokes. I did laugh properly a few times, but nowhere near as much as I did the first time I saw, say, series four.

        And quite frankly, after reviewing Doctor Who it was far too depressing to review Red Dwarf as well.

        • Who could have been better, but still it wasn’t as bad as the Christmas episode. Also, to me, “specials” need to be more than an hour long.

          Roll on Steven Moffat.

  2. Ooh, bitter review :)

    Come on its not rocket science, its Dr. Who :)

    I thought it was jolly enough, even though not very scifi, but when is it ever.

    Red Dwarf was a total downer though.

  3. My biggest beef with the episode was the choice of music. The jaunty theme that they used reminded me far too much of something from the Goonies. I kept expecting Sloth to appear and start waving at the bus as it went by.

  4. Whilst I’m sure Russell T. Davies has done sterling work getting Doctor Who back onto the screen, someone really needs to put a bullet in his head to stop him actually writing any more episodes. Doctor Who is certainly a program for kids, but since when did that mean that epsiodes had to purile collections of wackiness, with the standard contentless emote-along-to-the-music catharsis and tedious speechifying that RTD seems to love so much? If I have to listen to one more “I’m the Doctor, I’m awesome, but quirky and lonely” speech, or sit through another interminable “He’s the Doctor, we all love him” scene, I’m heading to the clock tower with my shiny, shiny rifle.

    Doctor Who is a science-fiction program, right? And that’s suppose to be a content-driven genre that generates novel thoughts, right?


    Fortunately, he’s only got three episodes left. Steven Moffat gives every indication of wanting to produce stories that don’t assume kids come pre-lobotomised. I certainly hope so. More “Blink”, less fart jokes and less playing The Master for yucks.

  5. Blink was Dr. Who written for kids as it ought to be. It was written to scare the kids, and could scare adults too!

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