A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead”
Is the Doctor flirting? After encountering Lady Christina de Souza, an aristocratic thief with Mission Impossible moves, the Doctor can’t resist turning up the charm. This may be his most brazen flirtation to date.
After stealing a valuable golden goblet from a London museum, Christina hops on the number 200 bus—which the Doctor happens to be taking, as well. But the bus soon finds itself off course. Way off course: it passes through a wormhole to another planet. The planet is all desert—and seemingly deserted. But obviously, it’s not: the Doctor and Christina must find a way back to earth before a swarm of stingray-esque aliens kill everyone on their commute. Meanwhile, back on earth, UNIT does its best to protect the world’s humans. Even if that means sacrificing the Doctor.
Considering it’s a special, “Planet of the Dead” suffers from a lack of specialness. But while the episode feels like filler, it’s still fun. This is the Doctor on vacation: he’s taking a break from his regularly scheduled emotionally draining companion travel to muck around in the desert. Sure, he gets himself into a life-or-death mess—as always—but the stakes have never felt lower. He doesn’t have anyone to hurt.
Which is the point. At the end of the episode, Christina invites herself aboard the TARDIS—and is quickly dismissed. The Doctor explains that he’s lost all of his companions, so he’s travelling solo from now on. In some ways, Christina would have been the ideal companion: she’s a born thrill-seeker who had an instant connection with the Doctor. And their relationship progressed further in one hour than the Doctor’s relationship with Rose over two seasons. (i.e. Him and Christina kissed.)
However, Christina lacks a certain quality that most of the companions share: humble beginnings. As a capital-L Lady, Christina already has the whole world at her fingertips. Her birthright gives her the means to adventure—what does she need the TARDIS for? It would be hard for viewers to transition from Donna—a highly sympathetic character with a painful inferiority complex—to a priss like Christina. She feels entitled to a tour in the TARDIS. Which is precisely why she should stay on earth.
The big question mark of this episode was Carmen’s prophecy in the final moments. One of the other passengers on the 200 bus, Carmen has “the gift”—so the Doctor listens up. “You be careful, because your song is ending, sir,” she says, “It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then Doctor—oh, but then, he will knock four times.”
I know David Tennant will soon regenerate—for real this time—but Carmen’s words still raise a lot of questions. Who is “he”? And what is he knocking on? This is one of the creepiest knock-knock jokes of all space/time.