Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x01: "New Earth"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Hawes

Cassandra (as Rose to Chip): “Oh my God, I’m a chav.”

Sorry, I heard about this line before I even seen this episode and thanks to its neat delivery by Zoë Wanamaker, I just had to use it to start my opening paragraph to this review. In an episode dealing with diseases, body swapping and human lab rats, there was certainly an interesting mixture of terror and fun in one here.

Having Rose briefly say goodbye to Jackie and Mickey, both she and our not quite so new Doctor then took their usual bout of TARDIS fun to another place. Not yet keeping the promise of taking her to Barcelona the planet, our debut time travel mission was on all too familiar turf.

If in Season One’s “The End Of The World”, The Doctor and Rose saw the Earth being blown to smithereens, then it seems incredibly fitting that their first date in the Doctor’s newish guise should be on a newly restored Earth. I liked the reference Rose had made and one of her earlier comments in the premiere nicely touches on a taboo subject for this series. More on that later!

Naturally enough, this episode wasn’t going to be a case of the Time Lord and his trusted right hand woman checking out all the advantages of the newly refurbished home planet as they are drawn to a creepy hospital run by the Sisters Of Plenitude, who are basically cats who are nurses and nuns at the same. Which is a sentence I never thought I would utter or write, but hey, something new to do every day! However this is a little creepy for me.

First off all, although I don’t hate cats, I will admit to preferring dogs much more but the combination of them being nurses and nuns at the same just threw me off, even for this show. When we meet them, it happens just as The Doctor and Rose get conveniently separated and disinfected in separate lifts.

The Sisters Of Plenitude appear benevolent and after all, who would suspect anything foul about a bunch of overgrown cats that are curing their patients of previously incurable diseases? Oh, that right, that would be me of course. Thankfully my suspicions of them are confirmed and justified thanks to an unlikely and assumed long dead foe of The Doctor.

Because this episode is in many ways a sequel to “The End Of The World”, it wasn’t a major shock to see anti Nip/Tuck ad campaign Cassandra (who’s back survived) is underground with a dim-witted and all too eager to please slave Chip at her beck and call. Seeing as I liked her in her last outing, I had to admit she was a lot more fun here than in Season One and it didn’t take her very long to outsmart Rose and take over her body, now did it? Her reaction to being Rose (and my opening paragraph) had me in hysterics and the rest of Cassandra’s capers weren’t short on the laughs either.

The Doctor is usually such a perceptive guy, I found myself surprised that it took him seemingly long to cop on to the fact that Rose literally wasn’t herself. I mean, look at the way she started shouting out old Cockney rhyming and slang. Since when has The Doctor ever heard Rose say the likes of “Adam and Eve it” or “apples and pears”?

Even when he did realise it (or maybe he just know all along and confronted it over the debacle with the human lab rats), Cassandra did literally have to spell out who she was and what she wanted, which again was pretty simplistic and greedy. Some people just don’t change.

Cassandra is quite the vain piece of parchment and is happy to go body swapping until she finds the right fit and as for the revelation of the menacing moggies using human clones as lab rats to test drive cures for fatal diseases? It felt right for the episodes content and it came as no shock that Cassandra only wanted money from the Sisters Of Plenitude rather than to sabotage their operation. Of course, taking away any opportunity of redemption they just attacked left, right and centre and tried to justify their extreme experiments.

Certainly a water cooler and discussion worthy topic is human cloning, this episode shows the pros and cons of this as well as that dark side of The Doctor that David Tennant is determined we get acquainted with. I’m obviously going to take The Doctor’s side on the topic but I felt the battle between the infected clones and uninfected had a little hit and miss action at first.

Things didn’t really liven up until The Doctor had strapped on all those fatal diseases and lured them into the disinfectant lift. As for the human civilians, some of them were just quite stupid in this episode, including that annoying PA girl to the Duke Of Manhattan but sadly though she survived the ordeal.

Aside from the cloning and diseases issue, there was also the nature of Cassandra’s body hijacking antics to deal with and boy, did this episode keep us going. Cassandra literally refused to leave Rose’s body and having the parchment inside her gave Billie Piper the chance to play a posh bad girl, which she clearly enjoyed doing and wasn’t she great?

Body possession is such a cliché that most of the time it requires really stellar performances to pull it off and when Cassandra briefly inhabited The Doctor and Chip, there was some real fun to be had. Watching David Tennant and guest star Sean Gallagher as Chip camping it up was hysterical, more so with The Doctor and especially when Cassandra started bating Rose about the way she looks at The Doctor. Sheer comic genius!

It took a lot to get Cassandra to leave Rose’s body for good and when she did, she only jumped into Chip’s at the end. This episode added some sympathy to the character whose obsession with vanity has been her downfall. The Doctor and Rose did a nice thing by bringing her back to a time where she was the most happy in her life before she officially died. It was a bittersweet way of ending the episode.

As for the second and most taboo of them all, there’s certainly an attraction between The Doctor and Rose that is increasingly building up. The nature of their relationship is certainly getting more intense and although it was Cassandra kissing The Doctor and not really Rose, it was certainly one of the hottest screen kisses I’ve seen this year.

Also before I forget and keeping with reminders from “The End Of The World”, The Face Of Boe made an appearance where at first it appeared to be dying and then to tell The Doctor a secret, except for the fact that The Doctor has to meet him once more before disclosing it? Would it be a stretch to wonder if this big secret has something to do with the Time War?

Also in “New Earth”

We got no previously bit, which was a little strange, considering the continuity from “The End Of The World” in this episode.

Rose: “Can I just tell you that travelling with you, I love it.”
The Doctor: “Me too.”

Anybody else notice that Mickey took a long time to leave as Rose and The Doctor departed at the start of the episode? I’m getting the feeling that he’s changing his mind about time travelling.

The Doctor (to Rose): “The human race moves but so does viruses.”

Time/Date/Location in this episode: 5,000,000,023 in New New York. Actually there were fifteen New York’s, the grass smells of apples and the psychic paper intercepted a distress signal.

Sister Of Plenitude: “Some say that’s impossible.”
The Doctor: “I don’t know. I like impossible.”

Cassandra (to Rose): “It’s goodbye to trampoline, hello to Blondie.”

Patients who were cured by the Sisters Of Plenitude were the Duke of Manhattan who had Petrified Regression and unknown people with Paladoma Psychosis etc. It’s funny how they can’t cure old age though.

Novice: “The Sisters are sworn to help.”
The Doctor: “What? By killing?”

The Doctor (to Cassandra): “You can float as atoms in the air, now get out.”

Cassandra’s lists of insults to Rose include “Chav”, “Blondie”, “Dirty Blonde Assassin” and “Common”, while The Doctor got “Clever Clogs”, “Smarty-pants” and “Ladykiller”.

Cassandra (to Rose): “I’ve been inside your head. You’ve been looking. You like it.”

The Doctor: “You’re so desperate to stay alive, why don’t you live a little?”
Cassandra (re Rose): “You’re completely mad. I can see why she likes you.”

Did anyone find the music for Doctor Who: Confidential at the end a little annoying?

This was fun! For an episode that raises issues on beauty, racism, cloning, humanity, medical morals and even sexuality, Russell T Davies certainly knows how to blend serious debates with a fun, lively romp and “New Earth” is certainly that. David Tennant and Billie Piper are wonderful to watch and this series is in safe hands.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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