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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 525 > Planet of the Dead

Planet of the Dead

A glamorous cat burglar joins forces with the Doctor on a double-decker bus, in Doctor Who’s one and only Easter Special…

The Fact of Fiction

Exploring the hidden depths of Doctor Who’s most intriguing stories…

The Doctor (David Tennant) and Lady Christina (Michelle Ryan) explore the desert planet.

Third Doctor actor Jon Pertwee liked to say that there was nothing scarier than finding a Yeti in your loo in Tooting Bec. He meant that Doctor Who was at its most engaging when exotic alien monsters menaced the world of the mundane; when the end of the Earth lay at the end of the Northern Line. Planet of the Dead is the story of a handful of relentlessly ordinary people, not unlike you, who one night catch a bus bound for somewhere like Brixton and are suddenly transported to a hostile alien world…

Yes, Planet of the Dead builds to a threat to the Earth entire – but saving planets and galaxies and universes and realities boils down to saving relentlessly ordinary people.

People like Angela and Nathan and Lou and Carmen, whose psychic gift wins her ten small but all-important pounds each and every week – little more than the price of her chops-and-gravy supper, plus next week’s stake. Even antiques-lifting Lara Croft-alike Christina shows her essential ordinariness when she reveals that “Daddy lost everything” when he invested his fortune in the Icelandic banks – at the time, a startlingly up-to-the-minute reference to then-current international financial crisis (since the Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir banks had all collapsed early in October 2008, during the scripting process).

In that sense, we can draw a direct line between Planet of the Dead and the series’ very first episode, An Unearthly Child (1963) – the story of two cardigan-wearing nobodies from an unhappening part of London who one night stopped by a junkyard and… ended up missing their chops-and-gravy supper (probably).

Because great Doctor Who isn’t about the Yeti in the loo; it’s about the people stuck in the loo with the Yeti.

FIRST BROADCAST: 11 April 2009

Night at the International Gallery, London. An acrobatic thief foils four security guards and a fence of laser beams by descending on wires to swipe a golden cup…

01m 11s The opening theft sequence (indeed, the entire spine of the story) came to co-writer and executive producer Russell T Davies in a “sudden fit of ideas” on the afternoon of Monday 28 July 2008 – as described in a lengthy email to DWM’s Benjamin Cook, eventually published in The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter (BBC Books, 2010). What if the one-off companion for the 2009 Easter Special was a “top-class, glamorous cat burglar”, he wondered? “The Black Canary, that sort of thing. Scene 1, she’s flying down on wires to steal something valuable…” The original Black Canary (real name Dinah Drake) was a DC Comics character created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino in 1947. She wasn’t primarily a thief, however – rather a glamorous vigilante whose usual modus operandi was to pose as a thief in order to infiltrate criminal gangs, so she could bust them from the inside. (She wore black, and then she ‘sang’ – like a canary, geddit?)

01m 40s One of the security guards sees that the cup has been swapped for a golden cat figurine. By Japanese tradition, the maneki-neko, or ‘beckoning cat’, invites good fortune… in this case, for a cat burglar.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

From scenes which didn't make the final cut to characters who were completely edited out... Issue 525 of Doctor Who Magazine brings you the best bits of Doctor Who you never got to see! Doctor Who Magazine 525 also includes: • An interview with Will Oswald, an editor on Doctor Who from 2007 to 2017 • DWM chats to Michelle Ryan about the return of her character Lady Christina de Souza • The Time Team returns - and they've regenerated! • Out of the TARDIS with Janet Fielding, who played 80s companion Tegan • A look back at the ways new Doctors have been introduced to the public • Jamie Lenman's cosplay quest to recreate the Fourth Doctor's scarf • Part Two of The Clockwise War, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 2009 Tenth Doctor story Planet of the Dead • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!