It's easy to get jaded and cynical about Doctor Who. Since Russell T Davies revived it, it has had such universal adoration that a backlash was inevitable, and yes, some of the complaints have been thoroughly justified. What we needed then, was a great episode, something to remind us why we all got so excited about this little show in the first place. Thank goodness for Planet of the Dead.
We start with a good old fashioned heist, all alarms, incompetent security guards and skin-tight catsuits. The wearer of said catsuit is Lady Christina de Souza, AKA Michelle Ryan, an aristocratic thief with a Daddy who 'lost everything in the Icelandic banks' and a look on her face that says she's not just doing this for the money. She lives a life filled with adventure, and as such she's on a crash course with the Doctor - she finally meets him on her getaway vehicle of choice, a Routemaster bus.
And already I'm hooked. Murray Gold's doing some sub-Bond thing in the background, the Doctor's got a handheld device with a tiny satellite dish (and, fabulously, using his psychic paper as an Oyster card), there's some likely looking lads in the background, and a lady spouting nonsense about screaming voices. Classic.
There's also a jobsworth cop on Christina's tail but she's in luck - a wormhole has opened up and the bus and all its contents are going through. 'We're surrounded by the dead!' says the lady with the low-level telepathic ability - could this BE any better?
Well yes, actually. Because back on Earth UNIT have been called, and they've got a technical expert by the name of Malcolm. I was enjoying myself so much, you see, what with the Tritovores being all helpful (and untranslated, since the TARDIS isn't there) and the other passengers so interesting (RTD loves to turn ordinary 'chops and gravy' people into heroes) that I'd completely forgotten that, fifteen minutes in, we were still waiting for Lee Evans to turn up.
But there he is, in big goggles and fingerless gloves, doing his best Rhod Gilbert-meets-Moley impression and being generally wonderful as the techy genius who's going to bring the Doctor, Christina and the rest back home. And what a great turn it is - he's ridiculously excited to speak to the Doctor, and the two have a great chemistry despite most of their conversations being conducted over the phone. 'No you're *my* best friend!'
Back to that Planet of the Dead, and a swarm of metallic, flying stingray type things are on the way - they're what low-level telepathic ability lady was on about, of course. Suddenly the pace, which has slowed for a while, increases, and the race to get back through the wormhole speeds up. Christina uses her thieving skills to take an energy-boosting crystal from deep inside the Tritovores' spaceship (presumably they wouldn't be needing it...), UNIT order the hole to be closed as soon as possible, and Malcolm, brilliant Malcolm, refuses to do so before the Doctor's back, even with a gun pointed at him.
A bit of Doctor-ish mechanical jiggery-pokery later, and the Routemaster is flying through the air, straight back to Earth. Hoorah! It's not one of those episodes where the Doctor learns something, or loses someone important, or has to face the loneliness of being the last Time Lord. Nothing like that. And of course there are niggles, such as another unnecessary kiss for the Doctor, but really, we're nit-picking here.
I thought, what with us having such a brief time left with Mr. Ten, that I would resent one of the episodes being 'wasted' on a romp. But I'd forgotten how much fun this type of episode can be! Just lots and lots of fun with a great story, Ryan on good form as the slightly smug but ultimately charming Christina, Brilliant Malcolm (did I mention him?) and, in any case, we did get a little taster of things to come: Who will knock four times and why? An episode, in other words, to make you fall in love with Doctor Who all over again. One down, three to go...