The End of the World
|Production Code||Series Two Episode One|
|Dates||April 15 2006|
With David Tennant, Billie Piper,
Camile Coduri, Noel Clarke
Written by Russell T. Davies Directed by James Hawes
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.
|Synopsis: The Doctor answers a mysterious summons bringing him to New New York in the year 5 billion and twenty-three.|
Moggy madness! by Joe Ford 16/4/06
Mixed emotions about this one if I'm perfectly frank but the positives still far outweighed the negatives. It was a typical RTD story, crammed with ideas, imagination, fantastic dialogue, excellent characterisation... no complaints on any of those scores. It also had some murderously funny moments too, which for once are entirely performance-driven rather than inherent in the script.
My biggest problem was with what we didn't see. This felt like a much longer story squeezed into forty-five minutes, you can literally feel the plot bursting to be free of that minute time frame and allowed to breathe. The plot isn't, so the viewer isn't either and the episode moves so fast you don't have any time to consider anything that is going on. There are just far too many ideas here for any of them to be dealt with satisfyingly; the mind invasion, the sinister nuns, New Earth itself, Cassandra's return, the mutant rampage... any one of these concepts could have held the episode up but instead they all command your attention. What is it like to have your mind taken over in such a perverse manner? Why did the citizens of New Earth come to this particular planet? What is their culture like? How long have the Nuns been experimenting on humans? How did Cassandra end up under the hospital? What happened to the mutant population after their release from the diseases? There is so much potential here, so much to explore that this would probably have been better had it been one of the books, with their unlimited running time and chance to get inside the characters' heads.
But what about everything we did get...?
The look of the episode was fantastic, as we have come to expect, but to actually have the Doctor and Rose step out onto a new planet with spaceships whizzing by and a whopping great alien city in the background is marvellous and proves the show is willing to go much further this year now they have won over their audience. What with the Sycorax and now the Cat Nuns, they are clearly ready to experiment with some more imaginative-looking aliens too and the Nuns look painstakingly realistic, and shockingly beautiful. Add to this some stylish sets (aren't they huge?), some clever visuals (such as the expanse of mutant cells) and a foot-tapping (if repeated from last year) score from Murray Gold.
I can say with my hand on my heart I know I am going to absolutely adore David Tennant as the Doctor; a far more laid back and fun loving Doctor than Christopher Eccleston's exciting portrayal. He creates a great deal of entertainment just being on screen, regardless of the story and director James Hawkes' comments that Tennant is bounding with energy in each shoot is apparent with every take. Whilst he clearly hasn't forgotten his past, he is far more willing to let go; with the ninth Doctor it was more like he needed to show Rose wonders to convince himself the universe is still a marvellous place but with the tenth it is like he is re-discovering that joy for himself. That great image of him lying back on the apple grass, hands behind his head, spaceships floating by, flirting like mad with Rose... he is clearly loving every second of his life. Which is what makes his stronger moments all the more shocking and his reaction to the Nuns' mutant battery farm is astonishingly good ("HOW MANY?"). Unpredictable, just as he should always be. Even better is his ecstatic reaction to curing the diseased humans and brilliantly, cuddling up to one of them.
I'm sure there will be people out there who are horrified at the whole mind-swap plot but for me this was the best part of the episode, a chance for Billie Piper to truly let her hair down and show us what she is made of. I expressed my dissatisfaction at Rose's characterisation in The Christmas Invasion because she was a bit useless (I know, I know, that was the point, but it still rankled) but here she is right back on top. Her excitement at stepping out of the TARDIS onto an alien planet is affecting and the relax atmosphere between herself and the Doctor bodes very well for the future. But surely she steals the episode with her interpretation of Cassandra ("I'm a chav!"). Who ever knew Billie was capable of being such a bitch! It's brilliantly funny (especially when she snogs the Doctor... oo-er!) and things get even more slapstick when Cassandra dives into the Doctor, allowing Tennant to really do some scenery-chewing of his own. Frankly Cassandra in these two is so much fun I wanted her to stick around at the end.
Once again I am amazed at RTD's skill at making something so insanely absurd extremely poignant. He pulls it off a few times here. The whole mind invasion is clearly being played for laughs until suddenly Cassandra jumps into one of the diseased and back into Rose and her description of their loneliness and desperation to be touched is real reality booster. But even more compelling is the ending, which sees Cassandra (a totally ridiculous character) travel back in time and visit herself when she was still flesh and blood and tell herself she is beautiful before dying in her own arms. It is written and performed beautifully and if I'm perfectly honest I found this ending more affecting than the end of Parting of the Ways. Something about the way the shallow human Cassandra suddenly realises what she is being told and her selfless attempt to save the life of somebody she has never met. Plus it is great to see Zoe Wanamaker in the flesh.
So what we've got here is a fast-paced, enormously entertaining and surprising episode, leaving you feeling shortchanged only because as a two-parter it could have been so much more. It is a confident and stylish opener, rich with performances and special FX and is more than enough to keep the kids happy.
Not bad. Not bad at all. by Damon Didcott 24/4/06
Pretty much what I expected from the season opener.
And really, what I expected from an RTD script. There are lots of chases and running about and yelling, some snappy one-liners, good chemistry between the Doctor and Rose, and then the more unfortunate problem of a thin story and weak resolution.
First up, even though we now expect it all the time, a word for the quality special effects work. Modern Who is most definitely not something that's going to be mocked for wobbly walls any time soon. The opening scene on the (apple) grassland is beautifully rendered. The cat nurses in particular, both in design and realisation, were very good indeed. Having seen Survival again recently (still like it), you can really see the improvements in facial prosthetics over the years. It makes it easier for the actresses to put over the emotion.
Tennant is already very comfortable in the role. The Doctor is a little calmer since The Christmas Invasion; it's not quite the same mile-a-minute gags and references and that's probably for the best. Having that for 45 minutes solid could get very tiresome. It's best in short bursts, little stream of consciousness ramblings at odd moments. I loved his continual moping about the lack of a shop. Not sure about the main angry outburst when he uncovers what's going on, but for the moment I'll chalk that down to a lack of proper build-up in the script. It's a bit of an abrupt switch from him being quietly disgusted to SUDDENLY SHOUTING with mad eyes. This aside, it's another endearing performance. There's a lovely sense of amusement and enthusiasm, and the Doctor's angst about the Time War seems, for the moment, to be behind him. We'll see if that remains the case...
Cassandra's return is given an almost Moffat-like lack of dramatic build and they naturally have to fudge around the reason why she survived, given that they never planned for this. It does actually take away a bit from End of the World, thinking about it. Still, nice to hear Zoe Wannamaker voicing such a bitchy character again and she has some great interplay with Billie Piper. Piper has a lot of confidence in her role now. With the character nailed down she's able to have some fun with it, sending up both herself and Rose at times. It looks like it was a fun story to do for her; she even gets to vamp it up a little. More than anything it's her interplay with Tennant that carries the story along.
What lets it down is some very dodgy science and a bit of a deja vu ending. Suspension of disbelief is always a necessary quality for watching Who, but there are a couple of real whoppers here that are hard to ignore. Intravenous does mean you have to take it through the bloodstream rather than merely skin contact, right? Some plot elements and characters are introduced then just dwindle away. And the ending most definitely cribs a lot from a previous Eccleston finale, from the solution right down to the Doctor's reaction. It's a bit like Boom Town/Parting of the Ways all over again if you see what I mean. The nurses also take a very scattergun approach to developing cures as well.
I doubt it'll be particularly high on my list come the end of the season; it's not top-level interesting or exciting enough for that and there are some big-hitters coming that should overshadow it. It's basically a runaround with nice visuals and some good lines. But as a start for the season it's perfectly acceptable Who, running along smoothly and with a confidence that helps carry it through some wobbly bits.
And am I the only one that wanted Cassandra to make one last hop at the end and give us all an evil grin?
Rating - 6/10 (above average)
A Review by Steve Ressel 9/5/06
Another new season begins, and hopes are high that RusselL T Davies might pull the series out of the doldrums it suffered in the first season. Christmas Invasion had sadly delivered the tenth Doctor into viewers laps with a lack of logic and lack of screen time. Hopefully New Earth would get some kinks out.
Nope. Sadly New Earth corrected almost nothing on the problems of writing. Upsides were the wonderful new Doctor played by Tennant, the wonderful filming and editing, the lighting, design, and imagination. Music in the series has been rich, but too forceful and too highly mixed to the point of drowning dialogue, as well as forcing us to notice it above all else (is the musician in on the final mix??). But all of this disguised a flimsy core of logic which permeates almost every Doctor Who adventure since the RTD series began. Most specifically found through the climax; most climaxes will tie up a story, but in this episode it just unraveled everything by displaying the flaws of the writer (and producer). When the Doctor concocts an instant cure to all these surrogate human disease bags, it staggers the imagination that anything so cure-all and lame wasn't used before. Basically the Doctor has now cured all diseases for all time, despite a cure for petrifal regression not being developed for 500 odd years. This however masks further questions...
Why was Cassandra in the basement? Why wasn't she ever seen and thrown out? Why is she watching a cruddy 16 mm film in the far future? If secreted from Chip how did they get that 16mm film? Why do they have that machine to trap Rose when anyone could have done? They could have had someone down there far before this episode. Why do they have a robot wandering in the grass where no one obviously lives when there is a hospital filled with people? Should I continue? Sure, l was thoroughly confused. How did Cassandra know they had the lepers in the basement when other, more able people, never knew? Why does the hospital douse people in streams of disinfectant when they could just irradiate like in Ark In Space? If people can't be cured of diseases, how can they swap out disease into others? Why would they incinerate an obviously useful lump of flesh because it is crying when you have thousands in chambers you need alive? I could understand incinerating a dead one. How does a human bred and raised in a tiny chamber learn to speak English? How do tons of humans bred and raised in tiny chambers suddenly have the muscles and energy to walk? Why are these humans grasping for people? Wouldn't humans bred in captivity be almost like animals, and not need hugging and other modern and clingy signs of need? Why do these diseases spread so quickly onto people touched when it takes longer for these diseases to work in real life? When the humans are released, how does one suddenly speak for everyone as if they were talking together in the cafeteria? Where did they get humans from when humans were dead? What is the scientific basis for how a human, Cassandra, can transfer herself as some energy form? Why does Cassandra suddenly sacrifice herself?
When you think about this story for about 10 seconds it really doesn't make any sense. It was written as a basic idea and then the logic to tie it together was left to drift.
In terms of social commentary, it was disturbing that ill people were treated like zombies. Sure, they needed a monster of sorts, but using ill people as grasping, shambling zombies out to kill? It is reminiscent of Terminus, except Terminus was slightly better written since the lepers were grasping toward their cure and not just trying to infect others. Even worse, it is a grossly negligent attitude toward the ill and deformed.
New Earth was a very, very sad start for the season. It was typical of the RTD method of writing. Though the next few stories didn't help much, there was an excellent story coming up behind the first few of Tennant's Doctor. I still miss the serial cliffhanger format, and these stories are written in a format too limiting. Old Doctor Who before the 80's was four episodes becoming about 90 minutes of story, but they tended to fail or be flabby because of the third episode making a writer's dilemma as an extra act. If they worked the show into half hour cliffhangers, 3 per season, they could probably provide a need for story structure as well as added excitement from the cliffhangers.
A Review by Finn Clark 14/8/06
It obviously suffered from becoming the season opener when The Christmas Invasion invaded Christmas, but it's still great. It's complex, interesting, funny and thematically deep. It certainly has more to discuss than does the likes of Tooth and Claw.
Most obviously, it's saying things. It's thinking instead of just feeling, raising issues sufficiently complicated that it's possible to argue that the villains were right. The cat-nuns cure incurable diseases. The Doctor claims that "if they live because of this, then life is worthless," but that's pushing his argument a bit far. One cat-nun claims that their efforts saved humanity. What if she's right? I don't believe it for a moment, but what if the human race really had been on the verge of extinction? Would that justify their actions? Nevertheless the problem with "greatest good of the greatest number" arguments is that they allow oppression of minorities for everyone else's sake, which the Doctor explicitly rejects. It's certainly not a straightforward issue... but New Earth adds an additional SF dimension with its vat-grown clones. Is it okay to kill one person to save two? No? Then what about half a person? "That's just Chip, he's my pet. He's not even a proper life-form."
Then there's the other side of the issue. What if that one person is you?
"Now turn that off."The woman saying that is precisely the kind of person who'd have cheerfully accepted a hundred people being tortured to death for the sake of saving a million. Then, in the end, the Doctor and Cassandra see the birth of a new species. Does that change the issue? It's a lovely moment, but also the existence of a species is unlike an individual's. The latter is inevitably finite (yet another theme thrown into the mix here), while the former has limitless possibility.
"Not if it gets me out."
Amusingly this moves the debate into areas more normally associated with newspaper articles about endangered dolphins in the Yangtze river. Suddenly we're a rare kind of gerbil. Or, in the Doctor's words, lab rat.
Of course in practice the cat-nuns' "greatest good of the greatest number" arguments are undermined by the fact that they appear to be interested not in saving humanity, but merely in raking in cash as "donations". If you want to live, it'll cost you. They haven't publicised their discoveries but instead keep their operations secret, which isn't surprising given their serum's almost magical properties. I've seen scientifically-minded fans getting hot under the collar at that bit, but it's not hard to invent theories based on the circumstances under which it was generated and the nature of the people being cured.
This brings me to the episode's biggest problem. One feels the need for fan theories. Almost all of the necessary explanations are provided, but at such breathless speed that you'll probably catch them all only on rewatching. First time around, it feels perhaps a little unconvincing. Admittedly one criticism of the Eccleston season was that its plotting could be spread a little thin, but with New Earth I think they overcompensated. Personally I don't mind that. I like rich, complicated stories. I don't even mind the fact that one feels as if one's being left to fill in the gaps, with fan theories about Cassandra's psychograph or the cat-nuns' serum, but look at the following exchange:
"That psychograph is banned on every civilised planet. You're compressing Rose to death."The most important line there isn't the explanation of what Cassandra's about to do. Admittedly the SF justifications worried many people (though not me), but reread that exchange. Cassandra's killing Rose! The process is unstable! That adds a huge extra dimension to the story, raising the stakes and completely changing the implications of what happens later... and I only noticed it when I was transcribing the dialogue for this review. It's fascinating to consider which lines stay in the mind. The most unlikely-looking throwaways can stick like glue ("that was the last time someone told me I was beautiful"), but on many points New Earth definitely goes too fast.
"But I've got nowhere to go. My original skin's dead."
"Not my problem. You can float as atoms in the air."
Similarly the resolutions of both the A and B plots feel rushed. Just a few carefully-chosen moments might have made the difference, but what we get feels undercooked. The resolution of the zombie problem and Cassandra's change of mind feel convenient in their suddenness, although in neither case are the objections hard to rationalise away. Note for instance that Chip is what changes Cassandra's mind. We already know that she's affected by the inside of people's heads and Chip's overriding characteristic had been his selflessness. He lived for her, not himself. In a similar way Rose had seemed to overturn Cassandra's previous ideas of beauty, although it's possible that the stated opinions in The End Of The World had been Cassandra's way of living with alterations she'd made partly for medical reasons. She's certainly in bad shape here.
Leaving aside its pacing problems, this is one of my favourite scripts of the season. For starters, its A and B plots are well integrated on both a structural and a thematic level. I love School Reunion for example, but it feels like two unrelated stories crudely stapled together. Here however we have two sets of antagonists who are even allowed to interact with each other, instead of just alternating The Bad Guys and The Emotional Stuff. Yes, Cassandra's subplot is basically a Red Dwarf episode, but it's fantastic. She's a villain, she's hysterically funny and she provides the emotional ending.
The cat-nuns and the zombies are bog-standard SF horror cliches, albeit with impressive thematic depth, but Cassandra makes the episode special. Nevertheless despite everything I've extolled so far about the themes, I still haven't reached the bottom of them. The A and B plots are contrasting views of the same essential questions. What is the meaning of life and death? Furthermore Cassandra and the cat-nuns are denying other people's humanity, both through the SF conceit of force-grown clones and through their fundamental disinterest in the human race in the first place. We've known about Cassandra's prejudices since last year, while the cat-nuns are treating medicine as a cash crop rather than ever showing real compassion. The keystone of their ethical argument is the claim that clones aren't proper people, but when one shows signs of intelligence they just tut and incinerate it.
That's the clever stuff, but the lowbrow stuff works too. Alien planet! It's an alien planet! There's also some great comedy, especially all those overlapping lines that are nearly but not quite rude. It's full of dirty jokes! Fortunately it's only in this one episode, but as a one-off it's great.
The performances are a lot of fun too. Tennant doesn't exactly underplay it, grinning like a loon and then putting a lot into being pissed off, but both extremes are justifiable. The Doctor's been given a new lease of life with his Eccleston-era demons off his back. A reborn Doctor visits a reborn New Earth, meets a reborn enemy and saves a reborn mankind. However the obvious acting highlight is the Cassandras. She's hysterical in all her forms, surprisingly camp as a male but at least consistently so. Sean Gallagher does beautiful work at the end.
I liked this story when I first watched it, but rewatching it made me love it. The rushed bits stop being a problem. One's questions are answered, solidifying the less convincing moments and freeing one up to notice the little things. The ending only gets more powerful, and it's something that you could only do in Doctor Who to boot. I'd love to see a re-edited longer version on DVD with more room to breathe, but even as broadcast I think this story is fantastic. I had the wrong expectations when I first watched it, since it wasn't meant to be the season opener. It got the season off on the wrong foot.
But here's a final irony for you. Cassandra admits that she patterned Chip after someone special... Chip himself?
A Review by Ron Mallett 19/8/06
As so often is the case with RTD, with this story we have gone from chalk to cheese. New Earth (despite its rather cliched title) was certainly a welcome new direction in new Who. By all means it would have made a better opening story for the new Doctor than The Christmas Invasion (well even The Twin Dilemma would have been preferable!). Yes, it had the typical soap opera moments between Mickey and Rose and then Rose and the Doctor. For those still in denial I'm referring to lines like: "That was our first date... we had chips!" Still, the most promising thing about the whole endeavour this time out, was that this was a story full of ideas. It wasn't the "regeneration story I've always wanted to write" but rather a very neatly-structured and serious work and the show was all the better for it.
When you strip it down to its most basic elements, this was a story about medical ethics and perhaps also personal esteem problems. In addition to these themes, one of the more promising aspects of the new series in general that also reared its head this episode was the portrayal of the Doctor as a life-affirming force. One of the other most notable examples was The Doctor Dances (which despite its naff title and obvious editorial intrusions, was a great story). The manner in which the Doctor cures all the zombies, giving them a true life, was much better than say the sorts of resolutions we grew up on at the end of Warriors of the Deep - which had a body count so large at the end that even Shakespeare might have thought it was overkill! Even though some of the dialogue is rather obvious ("That's your way of doing things. I'm the Doctor and I cured them!") it's a rather nice, albeit slightly concerning, development.
I think RTD strays a little close to "Doctor worship" at times (the prophecy referring to the god who wanders alone and the way in which the infected were cured by touch for example) and I think any suggestion that the Doctor is a messiah-type substitute should be nipped in the bud from the outset; the world is full misguided religions after all. Actually, there's another striking parallel! There are some similarities with what's been done to Who in the new series and what Saint Peter and Paul and Constantine did with Christianity it seems all dumbed-down to the point where it's just an inch above ritual sun worship.
There were (and this is full-on fan criticism here) a number of continuity gaffs. If Cassandra was meant to be the last human (see The End of the World), born to the last two full blooded male and females then, when she was watching the film of her youth, who were the others? They looked like full-blooded humans to me. And how could film have survived that long? Why would the Doctor refer to himself as the new new Doctor? Wouldn't he just be the latest model in his own mind? If Cassandra needed a "psychlatron" to get into Rose's mind at first, how is it that she can swap between bodies at will later on? Weren't the Time Lords shocked that such a machine was built at the end of Mindwarp in the old series?
The production values are again flawless. Has anyone been able to criticise the basic production at all? It is clear that a lot of money has been spent on everything from sets to make-up. By the way am I the only one or were the cats awfully attractive? My own cat hasn't got anything to worry about of course but damn... Was it my imagination or did those "flesh" chambers look a lot like something the Cybermen could use? Perhaps they might be recycled at a later date? Maybe I'm just cynical. Although I've kept away from all sites and other media with spoilers, it was hard to miss from the childish trailers they run on the ABC in Australia that those monsters make a return this season. What a shame it must have been for those that respond to such drivel and come in search of a mindless soap-opera were instead made to watch something quite though-provoking. WHAT? You mean they turned off as soon as something meaningful started to happen? Now you're being cynical!
A Review by Donna Bratley 27/11/06
The first episode of the new series. The One Where The Writer Was Saved By His Stars. Although, by the look of it, it's also where pandering to one of said stars might have created the problem.
Russell T Davies promised Billie Piper some comedy. Great. She's a brilliant actress. Cassandra-possessed Rose was so much fun, I almost wanted her to stick around. But to accommodate Billie's comic turn (and David Tennant's, too - more on both later) our Head Writer had to concoct a script that's sufficiently disconnected, it needs outstanding performances to save it.
Am I going in circles? I'm in good company. So was RTD when he wrote body swap plus zombies equals great Doctor Who story. Oops.
What is it all for? Far future, humanity's new home, terrific. I loved the retro-sci-fi New New York skyline, and while the whole New x 15 York speech might have been silly, it made me laugh. Like the disinfection sequence. It's a bit low-tech for the year five billion and twenty three, but it's entertaining.
Which brings me to my biggest problem with the whole episode. I ought to be really harsh about its shoddy storytelling and its implausible ending, its glaring re-use of a former location (not usually something I'd pick up on, but the lair of the Nestene Consciousness was so obvious, even I winced) and its misuse of the show's greatest assets, its central characters. But I can't be. Because, deep down, I still enjoyed it.
Come on! It's entertainment, pure and simple. "I'm a chav!" "Goodness me, I'm a man - yum!" "Watch out for the disinfectant!" "What do you think I'm going to do, flap you to death?" They're laugh-out-loud moments. The Sister of Plenitude are beautifully realised (why is it always cats? Why not a race of evil dog-people?) and the chilling sincerity of Novice Hame's explanation of the "greater cause" gives them a genuine menace. While I have my reservations about the Doctor casting himself as the ultimate moral authority, he's dead right. Life at that price? No, thanks.
Rose has recovered her sense of adventure here, following Chip when she plainly knows the lift hasn't delivered her where she wanted to go, and her exchange with Cassandra is great fun. The eyes being salvaged from the bin is gruesome and, in the midst of the more showy lines, only jumped out at me on a second viewing. And Cassandra/Chip being the last person to tell the fully human Cassandra she looked beautiful is a neat wrap-up out of keeping with the rest of the script.
It's when she manages to escape her frame that the fun really starts, and what a time Billie has with it! Even her facial expression changes, and that clipped, upper-crust accent she assumes, even in the rhyming slang, makes a sharp contrast with the usual Rose. Obviously the Doctor's distracted by the miracles of futuristic healthcare, not to start questioning sooner.
I fell about at the kiss. Cassandra's flustered, the Doctor, for once, is speechless. He may be alien, but he's still male. "Still got it!" Typical.
Once down in Intensive Care, with the full horror of the Sisters' plans laid bare, it's Cassandra who dominates. "Straight to the point, Whiskers." Whatever I may say of the script, Russell T's dialogue crackles. The look of pure delight on Billie's face as she sounds the alarm is infectious, while her malice toward the Doctor in his pod chills. Yet once she has created chaos, Cassandra has no idea of how to save herself, and the focus shifts back to the Doctor
Doctor Ten is obviously one of the naturally mercurial incarnations, able to shift gear from clowning to deadly anger in a second. The flat, furious way he explains the lab rats' position to his companion, the painfully sincere "so sorry" to the first victim he sees, contrast brilliantly with the flippant soul wittering about the absence of a shop in the foyer. It's the easy eccentricity I remember from Troughton and Tom Baker. That makes it a pity we're sidetracked by the body-swap plot, although it does allow David Tennant to camp it up hilariously. My absolute favourite moment comes on the ladder as Matron Casp hisses her fury at Rose. "Go and play with a ball of string!"
From the moment of arrival back in Ward 26, things unravel, and not even Tennant and Piper can gloss over it. Frau Clovis is a nuisance, though her selfish determination to survive allows the Doctor a nice moment: "Now turn that off!" Good to know even in the future, the nabobs will have their hangers-on. The Doctor saves the day, and that's to be applauded, but how simplistic was that? It's on the anti-plastic level. If it's that easy, why didn't the Sisters think of it themselves?
Still, it gives the Doctor a chance to reaffirm his belief in humanity, something much needed after Series One. I sat through that speech thinking, I should be cringing, yet I wasn't.
As for the Face of Boe; what was he actually doing there? Setting up something for a future episode? It's going to be at least a series in coming, this great secret of his. It had better be worth it!
Overall, 10 out of 10 for David and Billie, 4 out of 10 for the script and 7 out of 10 for making me smile after a tough day.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 9/10/07
New Earth is a schizophrenic mess. It can't seem to make up its mind whether it's a campy comedy, a diatribe about animal testing, the first part of the overt Doc/Rose romance, or the starter of the season-long character and story arcs.
Methinks the biggest miracle is that New Earth holds itself together longer than it realistically should. Everything falls apart once Cassandra hops into Tennant and our hero starts overacting like a mad drag queen.
But the biggest problem with New Earth is that it is the opening story for the new season. Now I'm not all that bothered with starting a new run of stories with something frivolous, but I do think that a story like this would be better served tucked into the middle, a break in the action. Placed after Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, it would be a better fit.
Anyhoo, the other big problem is that there's too many ideas being thrown around for just 42 minutes. Events and character bit just slam into each other with any break or pacing. And, as stated before, once Cassandra starts hopping bodies all willy nilly, the story just fall off a cliff.
Performances all around are a bit uneven, with Tennant coming off the worst. Piper is all right, but she even slips up in the possession scenes.
To sum up, New Earth is a debacle. An entertaining one at times, but a debacle nevertheless. Best watched on a few pints.
You've certainly got a knack for survival, I'll give you that by Evan Weston 24/11/13
She's baaaack... but we'll get to her.
New Earth is the first of several "kind of sequels" Doctor Who attempts in its second season. The others all merely adopt the setting and go with an original story, but this one is more or less a direct continuation of Series 1's phenomenal The End of the World. Unfortunately, New Earth doesn't have nearly the narrative skill or the thematic depth of its predecessor, but it does let the leads have some fun while providing a mostly fun romp around a futuristic hospital.
And how much fun they have! I haven't talked at great length about Billie Piper since the first couple episodes, and you could argue that The End of the World was her best performance of Series 1. It's impossible not to talk about her in New Earth. She's clearly having an absolute ball when she's inhabited by the evil skin-flap Cassandra, twisting her face into all sorts of hilarious pouts and contortions, changing her voice almost entirely into two distinct variations. Piper as a villain should be both hysterical and sexy, and she's more than up to the challenge. Russell T. Davies isn't making his lead actress pull off heavy emotional scenes, as he does in The End of the World. Here, she's supposed to be entertaining. She's both crucial to the plot and comic relief, and her best moments - notably her steamy kiss with the Doctor and her confrontation with the sisters in intensive care - are extraordinarily fun to watch. Piper gets less to do as a whole in Series 2 than she does in her first series (in which she was the central focus), and never again is she the total scene-stealing star that she is here. It's more proof that Billie Piper is probably the best actress to play a companion maybe ever, and certainly until Karen Gillan comes around as the fascinating Amy Pond in Series 5.
David Tennant also mostly rises to meet his co-lead. He also gets to play Cassandra for a bit, in a scene that's been called some variation of off-putting by more than a few Whovians. I, for one, think it's the absolute comic highlight of the season and maybe Tennant's career, a hilarious sequence full of ridiculous faces and physical acting ("skinny chicken") combined with a wonderfully silly vocal component that sends me into gut-busting laughter every time. Tennant also has serious parts to play, and those are at times less convincing. He's definitely not quite at home in the role yet, and he's visibly uncomfortable with some of the heavier lifting he has to do - though his first of many "I'm so sorry" deliveries is still very good here.
The expected highlight of New Earth is, of course, the return of the vicious Lady Cassandra from The End of the World. This should be awesome, but her redemption arc isn't really believable. While Cassandra was a much better choice to revive for another go than Blon Slitheen from Series 1's Boom Town, not making her the primary antagonist takes away the bite that made the character so much fun in her first appearance. Instead, she's played mainly for comic relief, and while I've spent two paragraphs above talking about how funny she is inside Rose, it doesn't really do much to push the story into territory that's even remotely interesting. The final five minutes also end up being more sappy than sentimental, and Cassandra's goodbye ends up being mawkish after she got such a great send-off in The End of the World. Overall, there are laughs, but it's a missed opportunity.
That pretty much sums up the episode, too. The concept of New Earth is interesting, but I'd much rather the hospital be on a distant planet if it's going to be the main setting. Why set up New New York if we're not going to explore it at all? Series 3's Gridlock cleans up that issue somewhat, but there's really nothing here that justifies the setting. The production design is also largely uninspired for such a futuristic concept. The hallways are just a sanitized white with no real character whatsoever - this could be a hospital from the year 2,200 just as easily as it could be from the year 5,000,000,023, and we have another case of Russell T. Davies overshooting his capabilities with scale. Beyond that, some elements just look ridiculous. The "every disease ever" zombies just resemble teenagers with bad acne who rolled around in the mud for an hour, and the IV fluid looks like the entire flavor array of Kool-Aid. The original concept was intriguing, but the execution is probably the worst thus far in the new series.
There are other enjoyments besides the humor, though. I just ripped the production design, but the cat nurses look really great, and they serve their purpose as decent enough villains. Of particular note is Mother Casp, who has a more sinister air about her than the others and ends up being a better main villain than I remembered. Novice Haim, who returns in Gridlock, is established here as a sympathetic if flawed character, and I appreciate the groundwork being laid for her. The story is thin, but allows for some really great set-pieces - the Doctor and Rose-Cassandra flying down an elevator shaft is totally awesome, and the thousands of green lockers opening all at once to reveal the zombies is an "oh shit" moment.
The problem with New Earth is that its main strength lies in its funny moments, and that's not a good thing to say about a Doctor Who episode. This is probably the weakest episode of the new series so far, and while Series 2 is only occasionally worse, it does highlight the overall drop in quality from Series 1. Bringing Cassandra back is fun but not executed well, and the whole thing is frustrating in general. This is a classic example of a Davies let's-throw-a-concept-at-a-wall-and-hope-it-sticks episode, and it falls pretty flat on its face here. I thought I'd have nicer things to say about it, but it's not one I'll re-watch time and again.