As any fan of the Time Lord knows, this is the last season featuring David Tennant in the role (until “Waters of Mars"…maybe). It’s being done in a series of one-hour specials, officially starting with this episode/special, “Planet of the Dead.” It made its domestic debut at 8:00 p.m. this past Sunday, July 26 on BBC America.
All one can add is if “Planet” is any indication of the specials, Who fans are in for one great time.
As stated by former executive producer Julie Gardner, “Planet of the Dead” was designed to be a non-stop romp, a true ripping yarn in the classic British sense of the word. The Doctor (David Tennant) and his latest companion, Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan), find themselves on a desert planet through no intentions of their own. In the horizon, the creatures that not only brought them to said planet, but turned it into a desert wasteland, are coming like a flock of turbo-charged locusts. The Doctor and Christina must solve this dilemma before they are turned into locust chowder, and the action is non-stop from nigh the beginning to the very last scene of this episode.
If there is anything to complain about, it’s that Michelle Ryan’s appearance on this series is just way, way too short. For some reasons, this saucy bit of royalty-cum-cat burglar is only on board for this one special. Then, like most competent companions who team up with our favorite Time Lord, she’s gone. As played by Ryan, Lady De Souza is a wonderful mix of surprises and trouble. In other words, when she admits she thinks she and the Doctor would make an incredible team, there’s no way for viewers to disagree. You have to wonder just what went into scriptwriter Russell T. Davis’ head when he wrote her out of the series.
Tennant himself is in top form. From the moment we see his cloth-tops (do they have Chuck T’s in Wales?) to the moment we watch him leave the constabulatory and UNIT in the dust (in the only real appearance of the TARDIS), his mix of humor, action and just plain charm are firing on all cylinders. In his four years as the renegade Time Lord, this has to be one of his best performances ever.
There are also plenty of "Easter Eggs" for the fans scattered throughout the episode. They range from the extremely obvious, such as UNIT having a very heavy role in “Planet,” to some extremely subtle tests of memory. Helping us fans along is Malcolm (Lee Evans), a UNIT scientist who’s probably spent way too much time reading the Doctor’s files. Still, he brings out some interesting trivia that will have old timers sitting back in wonder.
In all, if you are just looking for a bit of fun before the “regeneration” (as Gardner puts them) stories start, this is it. Quite frankly, “Planet of the Dead” is such a lively affair it will no doubt end up one of the most cherished and remembered Tennant episodes of all time.
The BBC would like you to know that if you can not get the series, “Planet of the Dead” will be released on DVD Tuesday, July 28