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David Tennant
Planet of the Dead
Tenth Doctor Logo


Synopsis


Arrival
Arrival
 When a London bus takes a detour to an alien world, The Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina.

 But the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets, hidden in the sand.

 And time is running out as the deadly Swarm gets closer…

Source: BBC DVD


General Information

Season: Thirty (New Series 4) Specials
Production Code: 4-15
Story Number: 200 (New Series: 44)
Episode Number:753 (New Series: 57)
Number of Episodes: 1
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Production Dates: January 2009
Broadcast Date: 11 April 2009
Colour Status: HD Colour
Studio: BBC Wales (Upper Boat, Pontypridd)
Location: National Museum (Cardiff), Queen's Gate Tunnel (Butetown), Mir (formerly Alphasteel) Steelworks (Newport) and Dubai (UAE).
Writers:Gareth Roberts and Russell T Davies
Director:James Strong
Producer:Tracie Simpson
Executive Producers:Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies
Associate Producer:Debbi Slater
Script Editor:Lindsey Alford
Editor:Mike Jones
Production Executive:Julie Scott
Production Manager:Steffan Morris
Production Designer:Edward Thomas
Director of Photography:Rory Taylor
Casting Director:Andy Pryor CDG
Costume Designer:Louise Page
Make-Up Designer:Barbara Southcott
Cameramen:James Leigh (Operator) and Joe Russell (Operator)
Incidental Music:Murray Gold
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Paul Jefferies
Sound Recordist:Julian Howarth
Sound Supervisor:Paul McFadden
Visual Effects:The Mill
Special Effects:Any Effects
Prosthetics:Millennium FX
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Murray Gold
Music Performed By: The BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor)
Number of Companions: None Number of Acquaintances: 1The Acquaintance: Michelle Ryan (Lady Christina de Souza) (Joins and Departs) Guest Cast: Lee Evans (Malcolm) Additional Cast: Noma Dumezweni (Capt Magambo), Adam James (DI McMillan), Glenn Doherty (Sgt Dennison), Victoria Alcock (Angela), David Ames (Nathan), Ellen Thomas (Carmen), Reginald Tsiboe (Lou), Daniel Kaluuya (Barclay), Keith Parry (Bus Driver), James Layton (Sgt Ian Jenner), Paul Kasey (Sorvin), Ruari Mears (Praygat)Setting: London (circa 2010) and planet San Helios Villain:Metallic Stingrays

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
753Planet of the Dead11 April 200958'53"BBC One: 9.5
BBC HD: 0.2
Total: 9.7
Yes

Total Duration 59 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 9.7 (BBC One: 9.5   BBC HD: 0.2)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)70.46%  (Position = 99 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2010)62.80% Lower (Position = 4 out of 10)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)61.16% Lower (Position = 191 out of 241)


Archives


 This story exists and is held in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library.



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Notes


Russell T Davies co-wrote this story with Gareth Roberts, the first writing partnership for the show since its 2005 revival.

For the fifth year in a row a new story that has been aried in the spring has achieved more than average viewing figures. "Planet of the Dead" is also the fourth highest watched story since the shows revival in 2005 - and 2 of those that are higher are Christmas specials "Voyage of the Damned" (13.3 million) and "The Next Doctor" (13.0 million). The other highest watched story is the revised shows opener "Rose" (10.8 million).

"Planet of the Dead" is the first of 3 special stories to be broadcast throughout 2009 and is the first Doctor Who story to be filmed in high definition, after a positive reaction to the visual quality of spin-off series Torchwood.

Michelle Ryan portrays Lady Christina de Souza, an adrenaline junkie and daughter of a recently impoverished aristocrat. As revealed by Director James Strong:

It's back to basics: she's probably more of a traditional, romantic kind of Thomas Crown Affair kind of heroine, if you like. It echoes to me of Rose, in that there may be a good old fashioned romantic connection between them. She's young, she's beautiful, she's sexy, but whereas Rose was a very ordinary, normal girl, Lady Christina is a lady, she comes from a very privileged, very elite background. She's different to any of the companions we've ever had in that she doesn't particularly want to get caught up with The Doctor. She's got her own thing going on, so she's very much a match for The Doctor and very much an equal. Often in an adventure The Doctor will take control and everyone will do what he says. She's very much in control – the two of them are in a sparring way, battling against each other to get through this adventure’.

Michelle Ryan is more famous for playing the part of Zoe Slater in 478 episodes of the long-running BBC soap EastEnders (2000-2005). She also played the title role in the 2007 series Bionic Woman as well as Nimueh in the first season of the BBC drama Merlin.

Comedian Lee Evans plays Professor Malcolm Taylor, a UNIT scientist devoted to his predecessor, The Doctor.

According to Russell T Davies this story was influenced by several works. He has also described "Planet of the Dead" as ‘a great big adventure, a little bit Indiana Jones, a little bit Flight of the Phoenix, a little bit Pitch Black’.

To ensure that the desert scenes looked as realistic as possible, the production team filmed in Dubai for three days, sending several props - most notably, a 1980 double-decker Bristol VR bus - to the United Arab Emirates for filming. After the bus was unintentionally damaged in Dubai by a shipping container, Russell T Davies was forced to re-write the script so as to provide an explanation for the damage in the narrative. The production team also had to alter a second bus, that stayed in the UK for the filming of the internal bus scenes, so as to maintain continuity.

Filming in the UK took place at the peak of the February 2009 snowfall, where the sub-zero temperatures slowed filming and had a visible effect on the cast. To accommodate for the adverse conditions, Russell T Davies included a line in the script that specified that the Tritovore spaceship cooled as external temperatures increase.

Unlike the Christmas specials, the theme of Easter was not overtly emphasised in this story; right at the beginning, during the pre-credits introduction, The Doctor offers Christina a chocolate Easter Egg and wishes her a ‘Happy Easter’ – this being the first thing he says to her when they meet on the bus. Also there is another fleeting mention of the Easter holiday made with the line ‘robot bunnies carrying baskets full of deadly egg bombs.

Although The Doctor has never attempted to detect Rhondium Particles before, the Third Doctor used a Rhondium Sensor to detect Delta Wave Particles in "The Time Warrior".

The Stingrays operate in a similar way to the Nimon in the 1980 story "The Horns of Nimon". In that story, the half man, half bull creatures persuaded civilizations to build black hole gateways between worlds for them. Having arrived on a new world, these 'intergalactic locusts' would drain it of energy before persuading another world to build a new gateway to allow their great journey of life to continue.

Thanks to a Time Lord gift, most alien languages are usually translated for The Doctor and those around him if he is nearby and conscious. Sadly that's not the case for the Tritovores. Another alien language that could that could not be translated by The Doctor was that of the reptilian Foamasi in the 1980 story "The Leisure Hive".

"Planet of the Dead" was advertised as Doctor Who's 200th story. Russell T Davies admitted that the designation is debatable - based upon how fans counted the unfinished story "Shada", the four parts of the 1986 The Trial of a Time Lord season, and the Season Twenty Nine (New Series 3) finale consisting of "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords". Russell T Davies has been reported as personally disagreeing about counting the 1986 The Trial of a Time Lord season as one story - arguing that it ‘felt like four stories’ to him - and grouping "Utopia" with "The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords", but agreed that it was only an opinion which did not override any others. Co-writer Gareth Roberts inserted a reference to the landmark - specifically, the bus seen in "Planet of the Dead" is numbered is 200. To confirm this landmark event Doctor Who Magazine ran a reader survey of all 200 stories in the magazine's 407th issue.

Busses have been used previously in Doctor Who - Renegade Time Lady Iris Wildthyme who features in numerous short stories, novels and audio dramas, travels on a twentieth century London 'Routemaster' double-decker bus (the No. 22 to Putney Common) which is in fact her TARDIS.

The end of this story contains a trailer for the next story "The Waters of Mars". Interestingly this trailer is overlaid with the sound of the Cloister Bell - The warning sound heard within a TARDIS when there is impending danger.

To accompany this story BBC 3 broadcasted an hour after "Planet of the Dead" the first Doctor Who Confidential edition attached to the 2009 specials. Titled "Desert Storm" it was narrated by Noel Clarke and featured improved graphics in its opening and closing credits sequences. An extended version of this programme (with an extra 5 minutes) was released on the individual DVD for this story, in June 2009, and in The Complete Specials Box Set released in January 2010.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first of 3 special stories to be broadcast throughout 2009.

 The first Doctor Who story to be made in High Definition.

 The introduction of companion Lady Christina de Souza played by Michelle Ryan.

 The first Doctor Who story to be filmed in Dubai and in a real desert.

 The first writing partnership, in the revamped series. This being between Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts.

 Tracie Simpson's first involvement in the show as Producer.

 Debbi Slater's first involvement in the show as Associate Producer.

 The first Doctor Who story to be released in High Definition on BlueRay.


The Lasts (Subject to Future Stories):

 Michelle Ryan's last story as companion Lady Christina de Souza.

 Tracie Simpson's last involvement in the show as Producer.

 Debbi Slater's last involvement in the show as Associate Producer.


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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
The Doctor and Christina
The Doctor and Christina

Tracking a mysterious energy signal, The Doctor boards a London bus and so meets Lady Christina de Souza - a young thrill-seeking cat-burglar who has just stolen a gold chalice once belonging to King Athelstan from a nearby museum. She is on the bus so as to evade the police who are after her.

As the bus enters a road tunnel, with the police in hot pursuit, it is catapulted through a wormhole to the alien planet of San Helios that is located on the other side of the universe.

There The Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina so as to find a means to return, along with all the other passengers, back to Earth. They soon realise that they have three problems. Firstly San Helios seems to be just one enormous desert – and the sand has already got into the engine – rendering the bus completely immobile, secondly the bus was damaged while it travelled in the wormhole, making it very dangerous for anyone to return through the wormhole unprotected – as proved when the bus driver tries enters the wormhole, only to exit as a skeleton.

Arrival
Arrival

The third problem is though much more difficult for The Doctor to overcome – they are not alone on the planet – thousands of lifeforms are heading towards them that will not only kill everyone on the bus but also everyone on Earth if they are allowed to reach the wormhole.

The Doctor and Christina decide to scout the planet, while two of the passengers Nathan and Barclay try to fix the bus. The Doctor and Christina soon encounter stranded Tritovore traders and, when they find themselves on the damaged Tritovore’s ship, they discover that San Helios is meant to be a bustling world of billions with a thriving ecosystem. Soon, it becomes clear that the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets and that the wormhole and the devastation of San Helios are linked. They also spot what appears to be an approaching storm – but which The Doctor realises is a large deadly swarm of metallic stingray-like aliens who routinely create wormholes and then destroy whole ecospheres. And this swarm is travelling very fast and with the wormhole still open, and growing in size, Earth is in grave danger.

The Wormhole
The Wormhole

With the help of the Christina’s cat-burglar skills The Doctor is able to retrieve a crystal which powers the Tritovore’s spaceship (together with the claps used to fix it to the Tritovore’s spaceship) that he can use on the bus and so offer them a means of escape.

Unfortunately, in retrieving the power supply, Christina unintentionally awakens two stingrays, that have lain dormant within the Tritovore’s spaceship, The Doctor and Christina manage to escape back to the bus but the two Tritovore are not so fortunate.

Using the claps and the gold chalice of Athelstan, that Christina is forced to hand over, The Doctor is able to make the bus to fly through the wormhole, with the stingrays in hot pursuit.

Lady Christina de Souza
Lady Christina de Souza

Meanwhile, back on Earth, UNIT, who have taken charge of the road tunnel, close the wormhole but not before three of the stingrays pass through it. UNIT therefore have to shot down the stingrays, with the aid of some nifty driving by The Doctor in the flying bus.

When all the stingrays are destroyed The Doctor safely lands the bus. On departing Christina asks The Doctor to let her travel with him, but he rejects her because he has no wish to lose another companion. He does though help her to re-enter the bus so as to escape from being arrested by the police for the theft of the gold chalice.

However, one of the passengers, Carmen – who seems to have low-level psychic abilities, has a premonition that visibly unnerves The Doctor…

 
The Doctor and Christina Explore
The Doctor and Christina Explore
A Tritovore
A Tritovore
The Swarm
The Swarm
Christina (Cat Burglar)
Christina (Cat Burglar)
 
Malcolm
Malcolm
Returning Home
Returning Home
Christina Escapes
Christina Escapes
Carmen
Carmen




Quote of the Story


 'You be careful, because your song is ending, sir. It is returning, it is returning through the dark. And then Doctor... oh, but then... he will knock four times.'

Carmen



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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
DVD
Planet of the DeadJune 2009BBCDVD 3009Photo-montage
Video
Blu-Ray
Planet of the DeadJune 2009BBCBD 0053Photo-montage
Video
DVD
The Complete Specials Box SetJanuary 2010BBCDVD 3104Photo-montageDVD boxed set containing all 4 stories
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Specials Box SetJanuary 2010BBCBD 0053Photo-montageBlu-Ray boxed set containing all 4 stories
Audio
CD
Original Television Soundtrack - Series 4 SpecialsOctober 2010Photo-montageMusic by Murray Gold
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Series 1-7 Box Set (Limited Edition)December 2013BBCBD 0242Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray boxed set containing all Series 1-7 stories at full 1080p high definition
Video
DVD
The Complete Specials (2014 Re-release)August 2014BBCDVD 3972Photo-montageBoxed set containing all 4 stories
Video
DVD
The Complete David Tennant Years Box SetNovember 2014BBCDVD 4000Photo-montageBoxed set containing all 37 stories on 26 Discs
Video
Blu-Ray
The Complete Fourth Series (Specials) Box Set (Limited Edition Steelbook)September 2019BBCBD 0470Photo-montageLimited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook boxed set containing 4 stories


In Print

No Book Release
Doctor Who Magazine - PreviewIssue 407 (Released: April 2009)
Doctor Who Magazine - ReviewIssue 409 (Released: June 2009)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 483 (Released: March 2015)
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of FictionIssue 525 (Released: June 2018)
Doctor Who DVD FilesVolume 55 (Released: February 2011)

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Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Acquaintance

 
David Tennant
The Tenth Doctor

   

 
Michelle Ryan
Lady Christina de Souza
 
   




On Release

DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Blu-Ray Cover
Blu-Ray Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Complete Specials DVD Box Set
Complete Specials DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
   
Complete Specials Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Specials Blu-Ray Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Original Television Soundtrack Cover
Original Television Soundtrack Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Complete Series 1-7 Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set
Complete Series 1-7 Ltd Edition Blu-Ray Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
   
Complete Specials DVD Box Set<BR>(2014 Re-release)
Complete Specials DVD Box Set
(2014 Re-release)

BBC
VIDEO
Complete David Tennant Years DVD Box Set
Complete David Tennant Years DVD Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
Complete Series Blu-Ray Limited Edition Steelbook Box Set
Complete Series Blu-Ray Limited Edition Steelbook Box Set

BBC
VIDEO
   


Magazines

Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 407
Doctor Who Magazine - Preview: Issue 407

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 409
Doctor Who Magazine - Review: Issue 409

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 483
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 483

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 525
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 525

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 55
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 55

GE Fabbri


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