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Sunday, Jul 26, 2009

Picture the following situation. You catch a bus to go home after a hard day’s work, pay the fare and take a seat. Suddenly there are sirens everywhere, a blinding flash of light, and a series of incredible jolts and accelerations. The next thing you know you’re stranded in an area of absolute desolation with death on the horizon.


Now while this is quite normal for American users of public transport, Britain is a green and pleasant land, so it’s a bit of a shock for the Doctor and his fellow passengers.


So what is the Doctor doing on a London double decker bus? It turns out he’s tracking a newly opened wormhole and the bus he was riding just drove through it. So now the Doctor and his fellow passengers are all stuck on the Planet of the Dead in a wrecked bus. Since there aren’t any Americans with public transport experience around, they are left to their own devices.


Luckily, the passengers turn out to be pretty resourceful. The better half of a sweet old couple from Brixton has psychic ability. There are two likely lads who start repairing the bus. And there’s a mysterious and aristocratic lady in a tight leather body suit who used diamond earrings as bus fare. She’s Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan), and has just stolen a very precious artifact from a museum. Half of the police in London were chasing her when she boarded the bus.


The London police may have their faults but they do know what to do when a double decker vanishes into thin air. They call in the normally hapless but always well intentioned folks at UNIT. UNIT is the United Nation alien rapid response team and this time they have a really good mad scientist, Dr. Malcom Taylor (Lee Evans), on staff.


All of this talent is going to be tested to the full as the Doctor has to cope with crashed alien spacecraft, a disgruntled alien crew, a rapidly growing wormhole and metallic, and planet chewing space locusts. Indeed, it’s a great show, which manages to duplicate some of the sense of joyful adventure from the old Tom Baker days. It’s the combination of the fast pace, originality and happy go lucky style that makes Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead one of the best adventures that any of the Doctors has had.


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Sunday, Jun 28, 2009

In Doctor Who: The Next Doctor, the Doctor (David Tennant), arrives in London on Christmas Eve, 1851. As the Doctor exits the TARDIS he finds himself in scene out of Dickens. It’s snowing and the happy Londoners are singing carols, roasting chestnuts and doing other wholesome Christmasy things. Fortunately this state of affairs ends quickly when the Doctor notices an ape-like Cybershade running through the streets. Taking up the chase the Doctor meets Rosita (Velile Tshabalala) who happens to be the comely companion of The Next Doctor (David Morrissey).


After a great deal of confusion the Doctors decide to join forces and start to sort things out. They have quite a bit to do. Cybermen are bad news wherever they show up but of course everything is slightly worse in the Victorian era. Finding out what the nefarious schemes of the Cybermen are and thwarting them will be quite a challenge.


The challenge is made much more difficult by the machinations of the fiendish Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan). She runs a workhouse for orphans but that’s just her hobby. Her real passion is to create the Cyberking and help the Cybermen take over the world. She also ruins funerals, shocks the clergy and wastes a good chunk of London before she’s done.


As if this weren’t enough there’s the vexing question of which Who is Who and how this all came about. The Next Doctor has the Doctor’s aplomb and his tools (sort of) but has no memories before he started fighting the Cybermen. Neither Doctor can remember the other so both are quite baffled. Is one an incarnation of the other?


With both the Doctor and the Cybermen forced to use steam-age technology the visual effects are very imaginative with a touch of H.G. Wells. Miss Hartigan is one of the better villains of the series and Morrissey had better watch out because he makes a good Doctor. (The fate of most actors who play the Doctor isn’t that great) The fans of “classic” Doctor Who will find the pace to be very quick and will wistfully dream of what Tom Baker and the old gang could have done with a budget. Everyone else will just enjoy a ripping good story even if it is a Christmas special airing a week after midsummer. But then again the Doctor doesn’t pay much heed to the seasons so why should the BBC?


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