Monday, 11 January 2010

Doctor Who: New Earth

“New, new Doctor!”

It looks as though we start with a continuity error- there’s no snow and everyone has changed clothes. Then again, they could just have waited a day or two. It was Christmas Day, after all.

The TARDIS lands in the year 5,000,0000,023, on the planet New Earth in the M87 Galaxy. Yes, that’s right- an alien planet! An alien planet crammed with reference points to Earth, but another world nonetheless. But the Doctor and Rose have been spotted- by one of those spider things from The End of the World

The TARDISeers haven’t arrived here by accident, though. There’s a message for the Doctor, and it’s from yon nearby hospital. Said hospital has no shops, disappointingly, but on the other hand it has lots of cat nurses, who remind me very much of the Cheetah People from Survival.

Our heroes are separated whilst travelling downwards, and while the Doctor encounters the petrified Duke of Manhattan and his rather uptight underling Frau Clovis, Rose comes face to face with Cassandra, now reduced to skulking underground with her genetically engineered slave Chip and some footage of herself back when she looked like Zoe Wanamaker. Not for long, though, as she quickly and rather rudely steals Rose’s body.

The Doctor, meanwhile, encounters another mysterious face from the past: the Face of Boe. The Face may be dying but there’s still no reason why he can’t be annoyingly enigmatic. Apparently before he dies he’s going to impart one last secret to “the lonely god”. Gosh, I wonder who that could be.

All is not well in the hospital, it seems; the cat nurses seem to have concealed hordes of lab rats-cum-lepers in a secret underground chamber, and they’re effecting their miracle cures by simply transferring their patients’ diseases into these human cattle. This almost, but not quite, seems to have something to say on medical ethics and animal experimentation and that. You get the impression that RTD feels he ought to vaguely allude to this sort of theme but at the end of the day it’s just not a particular political hobby horse of his.

We get a number of Tennant firsts around this point. The first kiss between him and Rose, sort of; the first “I’m so sorry” of which more below; and the first example of his occasional cosmic arrogance with his “If you want to take it to a higher authority, there isn’t one.” You can almost smell the foreboding.

It all kicks off as the Doctor realises something’s up with Rose, forcing Cassandra to accelerate her plans. The leper people are soon released, and pandemonium ensues. I’m reminded of Terminus. And also minded to give a rather similar score to the one I gave for that story, unfortunately.

Cassandra’s sudden, shocked, change of heart after seeing inside the leper's head actually works quite well, but unfortunately the conclusion of the Doctor just randomly mixing lots of medicines together is, well, awful. I’m not generally in the habit of uttering the phrases “deus ex machine” and “Russell T. Davies” in the same sentence, but for this story I’m almost tempted.

The Face of Boe is suddenly cured, too, and he’s going to carry on being enigmatic for a while longer- works as a sort of teaser, I suppose. Cassandra’s story ends satisfyingly, too, in the arms of her past self. But for the first time in the “New Series” there’s something lacking here. After awarding every episode of last season a 5/5 I feel almost cruel doing this, but New Earth only gets a 3/5.

Oh, and here’s the start of a new feature…

The David Tennant I’m-So-Sorry-ometer

The Christmas Invasion: 0
New Earth: 1 (“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”)

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