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TV Review: Doctor Who – “New Earth”

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With a bigger budget and a much younger actor, can Doctor Who still tell great stories? To answer that question based on “New Earth”, the first episode of Series 2, the answer would be no. Can David Tennant make the Doctor his own? The answer is a simple yes, which makes it a nice watcher for the curious.

Rose and the Doctor land on New Earth, which is a more futuristic version of the old one. In New New York, a hospital large in scope heals thousands and thousands of patients of all different races. The Doctor, of course, wants to know the secret that no one is willing to tell him. Meanwhile, Rose encounters Cassandra O’Brian, whom we last saw in Series 1’s “End Of The World”. Tired of her existence as a mere sheet of skin, she transports herself into the mind of Rose. Meanwhile, the Doctor encounters a dying Face Of Boe, also from Series 1’s “End Of The World”. He apparently has a secret, but can only tell someone who is a wanderer with no home a la the Doctor.

Before long Cassandra begins to utilize her feminine ways as Rose to get the Doctor to reveal the hospital’s secret. In a separate part of the hospital, human patients are grown to be experiments to help cure diseases for all races. Knowing this, she releases the infected humans test subjects who wander the hospital in search of someone to help them. Unfortunately, on contact they transfer their diseases to the people that touch them.

Eventually, the Doctor figures out the cure. In the elevators of the hospital, there are showers that cleanse the body before heading into the wards. Taking all of the experimental drugs in the IVs, he dumps them into the sprinkler system of an elevator and draws the sick humans in. Once it turns on, the cure rids them of their diseases, and in turn, they transfer the cure to others by the mere touch of a hand.

After the staff of the hospital are arrested and taken away, the Doctor finally meets the Face of Boe for his secret. That secret however, as he tells the Doctor, will have to wait until another time, to which he disappears. Meanwhile, Cassandra transfers herself out of Rose and into her assistant, who as it turns out, is dying. Leaving New Earth, the Doctor returns Cassandra to Old Earth where she confronts her former self. Dying in the real Cassandra’s arms, she learns the art of human compassion.

David Tennant’s first outings (“Children In Need” and “The Christmas Invasion”) were plagued by the obsession with post-regeneration. When The Doctor changes, his body gets used to its new form. This can cause erratic behavior and personality conflicts with his previous selves. This is cute for one episode, but not two. “New Earth” manages to avoid that.

If only one can say that about the writing. My biggest beef is with Russell T. Davies. Yes, he brought the program back, but he still writes like he’s unsure of his ability. His dialogue is a little thick and hard to understand. His comedy seems to be forced, especially with the Cassandra sub-plot and the “New New Earth” jokes. Speaking of the sub-plot, that was a story within itself. As the human-like zombies were attempting to invade the hospital, it seemed the writer needed to stop and get that joke out whenever he could. Concentrate, Russell — please.

The nano-technology bit with “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” was good for Series 1. Here, it feels like a retread of that same thing. The showcase of aliens also makes its first appearance since Series 1’s “End Of The World”. I wouldn’t have minded the latter as “New Earth” had an opportunity to develop itself with The Face Of Boe character. The former, however, looked more like a George A. Romero film than Doctor Who.

If you are going to do an episode to introduce the series, the zombie-like plot of “New Earth” would be better suited to a separate episode. The Face Of Boe would have been better used in an episode in the middle of the season, much like the surprise return of the Daleks in Series 1’s “Dalek”. Despite this rather flat entry in Series 2, Doctor Who allows the writers to take the show to beyond the likes of Russell Davies. With this, I have hope that they will treat this season better than they treated the last, especially with the upcoming Cybermen two-parter on the horizon.

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About Matthew Milam