Remember when New Doctor Who was exciting and unpredictable and pushed boundaries? I do too just about, even if Russell T Davies seems to want us all to forget that it ever was despite making it so in the first place. I remember the time when an RTD script guaranteed some biting satire or some audacious dialogue or some moments so dark they'd take you by surprise. Not anymore. Planet of the Dead is so safe and traditional it defies believe. It's entertaining in a superficial way, but it does and says nothing of worth. The more you think about it afterwards the more unimpressive it becomes. There's not a single risk taken in the entire episode. The Next Doctor may have been pretty traditional and not enormously interesting either, but it at least had the character of Miss Hartigan to give the story some edge. This has literally nothing. Er... "crime is OK if you're rich"? Did I understand that right? I would've loved it if the Doctor had dismissed Christina (a character who while nice to look at doesn't resemble any sort of actual person) because she was a thief, not because he's such a misery guts angst merchant when it comes to his companions these days. If she'd been arrested the episode would've ultimately had some kind of bite, but instead we have her flying off in a bus accompanied by some of the worst music Murray Gold has ever composed (along with more people cheering, urgh).
And the Doctor. I'm not going to blame David Tennant for this (even if he did look bored throughout), I'm going to blame the writing. I've become thoroughly sick of Ten since season four when the writers decided to stop doing anything interesting with his character, apart from actively ruining it in a few episodes. Remember the moment in Planet of the Ood when the Doctor asked Donna who did she think made her clothes? A great scene, quickly ruined by him apologising almost straight after. No. No. The Doctor simply wouldn't apologise. And then there's Journey's End where the Doctor actually says he's a pacifist and I nearly put my foot through the TV screen. Not only that but he then has the gall to condemn his clone for doing what he should have done in the first place.
When did my Doctor have his backbone removed?! The Tenth Doctor is now a barely tolerable series of tics, mannerisms and catchphrases who peddles out the same old routines every time. I have never been more bored of a Doctor in my entire life than I am now. Every time he says "Allonsy" I grind my teeth into powder. I hate him. I actually hate him and that worries me a lot. I wouldn't mind so much if they'd stop endlessly banging on about how great he is, but they don't. I can make my mind up about how great the Doctor is thanks, I don't need to be constantly told. Nor do I need to be constantly told about how great and feisty and modern the companions are either. Nor do I need yet more speeches about mundane boring people and their brilliance. Show, don't tell Rusty.
Oh, and nothing really happens. Plot? What plot? They go through a wormhole, wander around some sand dunes (which after all the Dubai filming bally-hoo could've been absolutelu anywhere, let's face it), chat to some unconvincing fly people (oh, yet another New Who alien race that looks like a species of earth creature, zzzzzzzz), get some alien gizmo, attach it to the bus and go home again. The end. Thrilling. But there's lots of spectacle and shiny effects in there, so that's OK. Oh, no it isn't. Because whizzy CGI is simply no substitute for a good plot, wit, atmosphere and memorable characters.
I can't help but feel it was a mistake to not have any of the non-human characters speak, too.
I love Doctor Who, both new and old and very rarely dislike an episode. But this might be the low-point of RTD's tenure, as Planet of the Dead makes disturbingly clear that his era has run out of creativity, energy and imagination. It's too safe, too pleased with itself, too by-the-numbers. I've loved the majority of his era and will defend almost all of his episodes to the hilt, but watching Doctor Who at the moment is akin to the sound of a balloon slowly deflating. For god's sake surprise us and stop going through the motions - it's what made the show such a smash when it returned in the first place!
Fortunately The Waters of Mars looks like it'll be back up to the high standard we're used to and kick off David Tennant's final batch of (hopefully excellent) stories in a big way. Here's to the future.