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Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead [Blu-ray] by Director: James Strong
Review by Charles Mohapel
BBC Warner Blu-ray  ISBN/ITEM#: B0016821YI
Date: 24 August 2009 List Price $19.89 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: IMDB.com / Show Official Info /

Knowing that Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead was the first new Doctor Who story since the 2008 Christmas Special and had been the 2009 Easter Special on the BBC, I was anxious to watch it in all its glory on Blu-ray.

Satisfied with the rousing success of Torchwood in High Definition, the BBC decided that Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead would be the first Doctor Who story to be shot in HD. Having already enjoyed Torchwood: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray, I knew that the BBC had made the right decision for the right reasons.

Director:
James Strong
Writing credits:
Russell T. Davies (written by) and
Gareth Roberts (written by)

Cast:
David Tennant ... The Doctor
Michelle Ryan ... Lady Christina de Souza
Lee Evans ... Dr. Malcolm Taylor
Noma Dumezweni ... Capt. Erisa Magambo

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

CM: This special begins with four armed security guards facing outward and surrounding a gold chalice in a museum, but it's not the Holy Grail. Using a descender mechanism, a black clad, balaclava-wearing cat burglar slowly, silently, and surreptitiously descends between the guards and the activated security lasers. Substituting a cheeky knicknack for the chalice a la Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, she stealthily ascends with the prize. Upon reaching terra firma, the cat burglar removes the balaclava, revealing the smiling visage of Michelle Ryan.

Smiling with self-satisfaction, her private celebration is disturbed by the sound of triggered burglar alarms. Stepping out of the museum, she sees her waiting accomplice being manhandled by the local police, turns and runs in the opposite direction. Climbing aboard a red doubledecker bus, she offers three cut diamonds to the driver in order to escape the police. The camera follows another pair of legs through the closing doors of the bus and we see the smiling visage of Doctor Who. And the adventure is just beginning...

After the end credits finished scrolling past we are treated to a teaser promoting The Waters of Mars, the second Doctor Who special of 2009, and according to IMDB.com, it's scheduled to air on November 14th.

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead Confidential
CM: Narrated by Noel Clarke who played Mickey Smith in the triumphant return of Doctor Who as played by Christopher Eccleston, this is an absolutely wonderful featurette about the shooting of Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead, including the accidental damage suffered by the doubledecker bus shipped by boat to Dubai and the trials and tribulations of shooting on location in the desert in Dubai.

This featurette is packed with clips from David Tennant (The Doctor), Russell T. Davies (Head Writer), James Strong (Director), Julie Gardner, (Executive Producer), Edward Thomas (Production Designer), Tracie Simpson (Producer), Stephen Nicholas (Chief Supervising Art Director), Debbi Slater (Production Manager), Michelle Ryan (Lady Christina de Souza), Adam James (D.I. (Detective Inspector) McMillan), Danny Hargreaves (Special Effects Supervisor), and Julian Howarth (Sound Recordist).

I found it interesting that Michelle Ryan performed most of her own stunts, beginning with the wirework when stealing the golden chalice in the museum. I certainly don't envy any of the cast and crew who participated in the location shoot in Dubai, most of all the actors who faced the blowing sands, that in the words of David Tennant, "ravaged our faces". At least the crew were able to wear one of the fifty or so kheffiyah (Arabic headscarf) purchased for protection. But my favorite scene comes at the end when the returning doubledecker bus races back through the wormhole and soars into the air before circling over London in a scene very reminiscent of the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

All in all, I heartily recommend Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead on Blu-ray as a rollicking adventure that is the television equivalent of what many people call a popcorn movie, a somewhat dismissive term for the collection of films that "officially" launch the Summer season just prior to Memorial Day.

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