Doctor Who's "Easter special" was surprisingly un-Easter-y, compared to all the Christmas specials. But it did serve as a showcase of Russell T. Davies' writing at its best... and at its weakest. Spoilers ahoy!
I mostly loved "Planet Of The Dead," which is just as well since it's the last new Doctor Who we'll get until November's scary-water episode, "The Waters Of Mars." POTD was pretty much everything you've come to expect from Russell T. Davies' Who: crazy adventures, slightly cartoony characters, clever dialogue, moments of sheer silly fun, a childlike solemnity, a miraculous save, bombastic music, and one woman who's held up as being the most special person ever.
It didn't hurt that POTD had all the elements of a cracking good story: The Doctor and friends trapped on an alien planet, on the other side of the universe, with no easy way to get home. Alien creatures who might be hostile. A deadly swarm coming to tear our heroes apart. And UNIT on the other side of the wormhole, trying to come to grips with this almost unimaginable threat.
It felt like a bit of a mash-up of "Midnight" with "The Impossible Planet," with a dash of "The Daemons" in the UNIT stuff. (Was I the only one who thought of Osgood when Malcolm started talking about oscillations?) Luckily, "Midnight" was one of RTD's best scripts in ages, and "Impossible Planet" was also among the best episodes in recent years, so I'm happy to see them recycled a bit.
The main weak spot, for me, was Michelle Ryan's character, the Lara Croft knockoff Lady Christina. She was the first RTD heroine who actually filled me with revulsion, although she did have some great moments: the bag full of every possible gadget, the clever "heist" where she grabbed the crystal stuff in the ship, the fact that she knew what a Faraday Cage was. But the clip above pretty much sums up why she annoyed me: She's just learned that an entire alien world, full of unimaginable beauty and teeming with life, was wiped out - and she's grossed out that its remains are getting in her hair. WTF? Oh, and she's willing to sacrifice the lives of everyone on Earth to keep her gold cup intact. In general, her smugness annoyed me and felt like a throwback to the early 1990s, when every female character had "attitude." (Attitude, meaning cuteness, pouting, a constant smirk and no genuine personality.)
I was actually stoked when Lady Christina got arrested at the end, and after she got away, I started fantasizing that the police shot down her flying bus in a burning pile of scrap metal five minutes later. Everyone has to have a dream.
Oh, and one other giant nitpick: Captain Mogambo was absolutely right that Oswald, I mean Malcolm, should have closed the wormhole as soon as he figured out how to. At the very least, I didn't get why only three of those swarm creatures made it through the wormhole when there were thousands of them right behind the bus, and the wormhole was still open for a good minute after the bus came through. Enough swarm monsters should have made it through the wormhole to strip the Earth bare. So yes. I am getting a bumper sticker which says "Mogambo Was Right."
All in all, though, it was a pretty solid adventure with a reasonably cool set of monsters. And the fly people were actually sort of cute once you got past the boiler suits and the funny heads. And David Tennant was on pretty great form, dishing out the technobabble and being serious and awestruck when the situation demanded it. Once again, he connected with the "regular" humans by learning about their average everyday lives - chops and gravy! Fantastic! Rainy night! Catching a cab! Fantastic! - and made wild, possibly-not-realistic promises about getting everyone home safely.
Oh, and the Doctor is now UNIT's main recruiter. I'm starting to wonder if there's a small army of UNIT privates who were all recruited to the organization by the mysterious time traveler, and they run around getting almost killed by alien menaces and cursing the Time Lord under their breath. That sounds like a spin-off!
And then finally, in the end, we had the obligatory bit of foreshadowing, where the psychic woman tells the Doctor his song is ending (in a callback to the Ood Doomsaying) and that "he" will knock four times. Oooh! I can't wait to see it.
So what did you think?