MSRP: $19.89
RATED:  Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 59 Minutes
• Featurette

The Pitch

Dr. Who and his latest lady take a bus to a dead planet.

She might be bionic, but she looks like Melanie Griffith four moltings ago. 

The Humans

David Tennant, Michelle Ryan, Adam James and Lee Evans

The Nutshell

Dr. Who – Planet of the Dead is a bizarre standalone episode that was designed to work around Tennant’s busy schedule. There’s four more episodes after this and we get a new Doctor aka Matt Smith. Taking a few cues from Pitch Black and borrowing some character actors allows for the series to break out of its usual surroundings. What strikes me as peculiar is how this almost seems like a testing ground for something else. Whether it’s another show or not remains to be seen. After all, how many times can they milk a Torchwood out of the Dr. Who teat?

The Lowdown

Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) has just stolen a rather expensive piece of art. She steps out of the museum and hops onto a local Double Decker bus. The 10th Doctor happens to be going for a ride, when a vortex swallows the bus. The driver, the passengers, the Doctor and Christina are taken to a desert planet where strange manta ray creatures attack them. Quicker than you can Riddick, mysteries are afoot.

Dr. Who – Planet of the Dead might sound rather scary, but it’s a pretty fast action romp through the usual Sci-Fi schtick. Lady Christina is a rather fun female counterpart to the Doctor. A strong sensible leader goes a long way into this alien odyssey adventures. But, what I don’t like is how the UNIT was forced into the London side of the story. Sure, it’s a use of continuity to show how London responds to these weird instances in the Who-verse.

There’s also this element of fan service that seems to come from everyone hired to guest star in this Easter 2009 special. Hell, you can almost play a drinking game around how many characters spend time gushing about finally getting to meet the Doctor. By the time that the fly creatures show up and the storm of manta rays start to attack, you feel like half of the episode has flown by. Nearly thirty minutes of exposition to set up what amounts to less than three minutes of Sci-Fi ultraviolence. One feels cheated.

Noted by the showrunners as being the last upbeat adventure before the dour 2009 conclusion, I’m left wondering where the joy is in Brit Sci-Fi? Sure, the Doctor beats back the evil Manta Rays. But, people die over stupid mistakes and you’re forced to watch a really bad riff on Mission: Impossible by way of Topkapi. The dourness of the material is offset by the chipper nature of Tennant, but who can keep up with his energy? It’s all a little uneven.

Dr. Who – Planet of the Dead as a series special stands out as a fun jaunt that could serve as a jumping-on point for quick witted newbies. However, it lacks the usual panache that holds life-long fans in complete attention. Being a recent convert, I have to say that I admire the decision not to use classic villains and actually develop new material. But, it still feels a little lackluster compared to the Dalek attacks of old. I’d still recommend it.

The Package

Blu-Ray is pretty typical for BBC America/Warner Brothers. You get a
boombastic DTS HD track that makes the most of the audio soundstage and
effects afforded to this television series.
Plus, you get a rather subdued 1080 transfer that seems to have the
problem that most PAL to NTSC transfers have in High Definition. The
lighting seems a little on the lacking side, while daylight exteriors
tend to look like they were shot on an overcast day. Spread across four
50 gig discs, this is quite the release for an International series.

supplemental featurette is pretty interesting. It’s a 60 minute special that takes you through the reinvention of Dr. Who since 2005 with a healthy helping of current Doctor material. Sure, it’s a quick blow by blow of Russell Davies’ highlights, but it feels like there should be more. The first Dr. Who offering still looks amazing in HD and I would love to see the entire relaunch come to the next-generation format.

Sometimes, Crouch is still a little Moody.

7.4 out of 10