size of the earth,
same orbit, lovely.
call goes out, the humans in..."
Dateline: 5,000,000,023. Galaxy M87. New Earth.
The Doctor and Rose
are 'texted' by an old friend to come to New New York's local Hospital facility.
The facility is coordinated by the Sisters of Plentitude who have demonstrated
that they can cure any disease or virus know to the galaxy.
Beneath the facility, the time travellers encounter
an old nemesis, The Lady Cassandra O'Brien (previously seen in THE
END OF THE WORLD).
EPISODE ONE REVIEW
At the start of this new DOCTOR WHO series
the Editor of eyeofhorus.org.uk informed its contributors to
be bear in mind that the site is truly "independent", and not affiliated by cronyism
to either BBC WALES, licence holders or in the pocket of other websites.
"Be honest, don't be influenced by other critics and be independent",
With the resounding success of THE CHRISTMAS INVASION, the
series has been buoyant for many months, riding on the crest of expectation for
four months. Has the wait been worth it?
NEW EARTH is Russell T Davies' tenth (of fifteen) script
for his re-launch of DOCTOR WHO , and his fifth in a straight
row; does he really trust other writers with his re-creation? I think not, and
it quite understandable. It's his 'baby, but there is a fine line between 'mothering'
and 'smothering' potential creativity and vigour.
Is NEW EARTH another example of Davies' astride his pony
trotting around the family sci-fi drama circus ring, receiving polite applause
from an audience even though the tricks performed have been well rehearsed and
without the threat of the writer falling off (due to safety wire)?
But judge for yourself.
Of course, the story starts on 'original'
Earth to remind viewers that this drama is about family bonded and then broken
apart so many times. The balance shifting where once the Doctor was the wanderer
through time and space but now it is jilted and abandoned Mickey Smith. Is it
time to redeem his adoration and escalate him to saviour or hero?
Arriving, through a request received on his psychic paper (still a wonderful
story concept), the Doctor introduces Rose Tyler to a replacement Earth (almost
a twin of its previously expired namesake. See THE END OF THE WORLD).
The BBC WALES vision of this new world is, whilst a little flat as if it was
(new) Constable's version of HAY WAIN, nonetheless substantial. The first televised
vision of another planet on a budget exceedingly stretched would always be scrutinised
by ardent fans; fortunately, it succeeded. Just. DOCTOR WHO will
never match the 'alien' vision created by the STAR TREK later
Was it me or was the incidental music over-mixed (i.e. loud) at times during
the opening scenes as the Doctor generously re-caps a previous adventure?
Reclining on the apple grass, this tenth Doctor seems as reinvigorated (seemingly,
with a toothy grim surgically applied to his face) and raring to put right what
once was wrong (or is that QUANTUM LEAP?), and to continue
to demonstrate to Rose that there is more to her life (or any life) than sleep,
and work, and chips.
Even in this opening scene, and I make no apologies to his fans, David Tennant
has started to grate. Is he trying to hard to act, to make an impression after
Eccleston's tour de force ? Russell T Davies has said that he hasn't
changed how he actually scripts the tenth Doctor compared to the ninth, but sometimes
an aside glance can sum up a line of script or a major monologue. However, my
kids love Tennant's wide-eyed verve and have accepted him without question. For
me, I should accept Tenant in the way that fans accepted Troughton after the
Hartnell. Let him settle in.
Seemingly, the villain of the piece is Cassandra
(again voiced by Zoë Wanamaker),
languishing in a cellar beneath the Sister of Plenitude's Hospital and, like
a can of Campbell's' Tomato Soup, reconstituted after her apparent 'death' on
Platform 1.Sphyphoning off drugs to maintain her existence (and like 1920s film
star, Norma Desmond, reminiscing her past life as a hostess or aging debutante
through cine film), she aims to exploit the hospital 'charity' for her own financial
gain, but she needs help. Enter Rose Tyler.
Cassandra (talking of Rose Tyler): This
is destiny. At last, I can be revenged on this little.
(Quick cut: next scene)
Rose Tyler: ...bit rich.
Body swapping (with the aid of Cassandra's
psychograft machine) is an age-old dramatic device. It takes deft acting to carry
it through successfully. Silencing, once again, critics (and even this website)
with her skill, Billie Piper embraces the characterisation of Cassandra once 'inhabited'.
The voice is subtly manipulated, the face twitches with arrogance, and the body
slinks guile. Superb.
Separated from Rose, the Doctor uncovers
the true extent of the Sister's healing power - the hospital can cure an y
disease of the galaxy. Marconi's Disease, Pallidrone Pancrosis, Petrifold Regression - all
fatal but curable. Impossible? Not so, but how?
After a marvellously comic moment that echoes the lustful embrace Hattie Jacques
and Kenny Williams share in CARRY
The Doctor (after the kiss - falsetto):
Yup, still got it.
.The Doctor and Rose-Cassandra uncover a hidden vast chamber of hermetically
sealed compartments (tomb like) within which exist infected humanoids. An uncompromising
laboratory with human "lab rats" that are "born sick with every infection of
the galaxy" - a human petri dish (or "flesh" as the Sisters name them) genetically
designed and grown to develop viral strains and to create suitable anti-virals.
With the "flesh" released by Rose-Cassandra,
the threat to New Earth is incalculable and sets up a chain of DOCTOR WHO action-adventure scenarios
on a scale previously not realised. Once again, The MILL has provided a series
of visual effects that witnesses the transmission of infection; free-fall of
our heroes through a lift shaft; and a reprise of the wonderfully inventive Lift
Disinfectant scene (a simple solution to the crisis that echoes the resolution
at the end of series 1's ROSE re: anti-plastic).
The Doctor (after curing the infected): A brand new form of life. Life will
Tennant's over ebullience with this key
scene (in effect Tennant's equivalent of Eccleston's "Just this once, everyone lives!" from THE DOCTOR DANCES )
was superficially amateur. Director, James Hawes, should have realised that Tennant
was trying too hard.
Dying of old age, the Face of Boe reappears (from THE
END OF THE WORLD)
for no reason than to set up a third and final meeting with the Doctor later
in series 2 to reveal his/its "final secret" (that the Time Lord Planet exists,
Novice Hame (of The Face of Boe): It's said that he'll talk to a wanderer,
to the man without a home - The lonely god.
Viewers will have to wait (this series' "Bad Wolf" linking
storyline? Or will it be New Earth being a twin of the original Earth? Or genetically
The Cassandra storyline was wrapped up with
greater satisfaction. Now borrowing her aides (Chip) body, which, as a 'half-life' creation, is dying, the flawed & dismissive
Cassandra is transported back in time. A time when she was fleshed-out (literally!),
and wherein redeems any misgivings the viewer had as she cradles the terminal
Chip-Cassandra. Beneath that taut, powdered skin, she was compassionate, caring
and non-judgmental - human.
In NEW EARTH we see demonstrated a breadth of vision and
visual capacity not seen before and reassures DOCTOR WHO viewers
that series 2 will be epic on scale, yet defined by morality and purpose that
In parts, this episode tried too hard to 'out
score' series 1 and at times it did. Any fault that the production demonstrated
must be the responsibility of both the Director and Editor, and not the writer.