Doctor Who 2.1: New Earth review

Review

New EarthNew Earth

The Doctor: New New Doctor!

Production Code: 2.1.
Doctor Who Season: S28 (Ep1).
Story Number: 168.

The Tenth Doctor’s second story though the first episode of the 13-episode run that began in Easter 2006…

Like the Ninth Doctor’s second story, it’s set just after the year Five Billion, and it’s a kind of sequel to that story The End of the World – as the title New Earth suggests, it’s the New Earth after the original Earth has “died”. There’s an obvious parallel to be made with the previous Doctor of that previous story having died and this is the new Doctor – indeed the story itself comments on this. Since the Eccleston Doctor was a new Doctor for a new century of television though, it’s only right that Tennant’s character describes himself as the “New New Doctor”.

The relationship between the companion and Doctor is quite different from the start of the previous year’s 13-episode run – obviously Rose knows the Doctor, and after The Christmas Invasion she’s gotten to know the New New Doctor, but the main difference is the way they, well, wallow in each other’s company.
New Earth

As well as the constancy of the companion, and the familiar setting of the year Five Billion – and the return of the Face of Boe – there’s also the return of the villain of that era, Cassandra, (who, like the Doctor, has a “new body”.) The other villains are the Nurse-Cat-Nuns, though Novice Hame gives some light and shade to them, so they are not just a monolithic block of unfeeling “bad guys”.

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Cassandra flitting between the bodies of Rose and the Doctor, possessing them in turn is very funny. It also allows Rose’s feelings for this new new Doctor to be vocalised in a way that the character would keep to herself usually:

“Oh, he’s slim. And a little bit foxy! You thought so, too. I’ve been inside your head, you’ve been looking… you like it.”

And so it begins, the “love affair” of Rose and the Tenth Doctor, though it’s rather more chaste than the enthusiastic “hello kiss” Cassandra-as-Rose gives the Doctor. This line from Cassandra-as-Rose makes sure were not mistaken about whether Rose does fancy this Doctor or not.

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So the story is funny, so why is this story so very less than great? It’s all to do with how the plot threads are resolved – the articial-humans have some sort of cornucopia of contagions, which are passed on by contact, fatal to regular humans, functioning much like contagions of actual science function.

How does the Doctor solve this problem? By mixing up the various cures, into one cure-all cure, which is – somehow – passed along in the same manner, like a game of tag. There’s two elements of “huh?” to this: the pat manner of the Doctor doing this; the cure somehow being contagious.

The story does end on more lyrical notes, first with the Face of Boe’s message, then with Blink-style causal loop shenanigans which allow a Cassandra of an earlier to be complimented by her dying self, which also shows she did have compassion – though the irony is she is, like the main narrative of the story, just caring for herself and no-one else.

It doesn’t alleviate the negative glow from the bucket-of-liquids resolution though. A fun story which has a plot that unravels and means it’s not a good start for the season.

The Face of Boe’s message that they’ll meet for a third and final time does give an aura of some sort of saga beginning, and indeed it is. These plot threads would continue into the next season, and really to the end of Tenth’s era too. So this light comedy with a not-very-good plot does have the start of a heavier saga within it.

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Rating: 2/5.
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(New Earth on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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