Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Reviews


List:
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Nathan Blunt
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Gareth Rafferty
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Michael McElwee
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Thomas Payne
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Dominic Smith
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Calum Corral
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Alan Fisher
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Alan McDonald
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Dawn Hollis
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Andy Turner
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Geoff Wessel
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Piers de Mel
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Gareth Thomas
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Joe Ford
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Darren Ball
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James Leach
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by John Byatt
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Mike Bull
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Matt Kimpton
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Paul O'Connor
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Michael Hickerson
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Douglas Edward Lambert
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Dean Akrill
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Chris Meadows
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James Main
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Mark Hain
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Erik Engman
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Paul Berry
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Dave Farmbrough
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Travis Grundke
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Angus Gulliver
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Kenneth Baxter
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Jason Hurr
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James Winstanley
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Gareth Tucker
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Richard Martin
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Richard Walter
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Daniel Clements
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Jason Wilson
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James Morrison
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James McLean
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by James Tricker
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Paul Hughes
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Anne Murray
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by David Carlile
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by William Egarr
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Paul Hayes
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by A.D. Morrison
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Billy Higgins
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Steve Manfred
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Eddy Wolverson
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Paul Clarke
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Andrew Hawnt
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Tavia Chalcraft
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Robert F.W. Smith
17 Apr 2006New Earth, by Simon Glasson
17 Oct 2006New Earth, by Jordan Wilson

I feel so mean criticising my favourite series. I feel even meaner criticising the man who single-handedly brought the Doctor back and set it off in completely the right direction for the situation to now be that people of all ages actually give a monkeys about Doctor Who. But I feel that I've given RTD an entire season's benefit of the doubt, I even defended the pig. So I don't feel so very bad for being very, very disappointed with the first episode of the new season (albeit on initial viewing and writing a review merely seconds after it's broadcast).

I don't think that Russell T Davies is a very funny man. I think that encapsulates my problem nicely. The jokes aren't funny. "Chavtastic!" Not funny, but the funniest of a long line of turds.

I don't think Russell T Davies has that much originality. Which is fine when it comes to doing a quick Nestene story rehash to (re)introduce this character called the Doctor (or was it about introducing Rose?) and get everything off to a flying start. But MORE ZOMBIES? 'The Unquiet Dead' did that nicely enough, even the Autons in Rose were pretty Zombie-like, recalling 'Dawn Of The Dead' in the shopping mall. I wonder if the makers of the Matrix (not the Timelords, you goon, the Bros. Wachowski) will be having a word with RTD about the vast expanses of cells filled with humans kept alive in order to keep something else alive. Mind you, Eric Saward might be on the phone too: Hospital? Everything clean and white and miraculous on the surface? Underneath there's something pretty unpleasant going on? I was so, so, so hoping that the Sisters Of Plenitude were going to be above board. The only chance this story had of a twist would have been the cat-nuns (where were the cat-monks, by the way?) were actually just there to help people (which, in a way, they were). And am I alone in being reminded of the first Scooby-Doo film by the repeated (and repetetive) migration of Cassandra's consciousness? Even down to all the "I've got boobs!"-schtick. Mind you 'Freaky Friday', 'Big', blah blah blah.

I know that Doctor Who has always been a bit of a hot-bed for border-line plagarism, but I thought that was one of the elements of the old series that the viewer looked upon affectionately, perhaps indulgently. I thought the people making the new series were as aware of this feature/quirk/failing of the old series. I thought they would try a little harder. And by 'they' I think I really mean 'RTD'.

And a final gripe: I don't think Russell T Davies actually thought very carefully about how he was going to get that kiss in there. Just me, I thought he'd earnt and worked up to the 9th Doctor and Rose's kiss. This just seemed a dumb thing for Cassandra's character to do. It was also the source of more misfiring humour.

I don't think Russell T Davies should write any more scripts. I wish he'd let people who are good do it.

Mind you, I thought 'The Christmas Invasion' was genuinely brilliant. So was 'The Parting Of The Ways'. Perhaps he can only be trusted when he's got something important to do. Please Russell, I know you'll read this if it gets put up on Outpost Gallifrey, not only because it's useful, but also because you think Jos Whedon's brilliant (which he undoubtedly is). Save yourself, get more people to write the stories. You're getting tired, you need a sit-down.

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Bring to mind everything that upset you about Russell T Davies' writing in last year's Doctor Who. The dreadful humour, the look-at-me-aren't-I-clever references, the way sexuality barged its way in where it was completely unnecessary. Now imagine that the BBC distilled it, and made a programme out of it.

Imagine 45 minutes of pure, unfiltered Russell T Davies.

I think I'm in Hell.

The premise is simple. The new Doctor takes Rose to see Earth's future - its even further future, because the half dozen glimpses we've already had weren't enough. It's a new planet entirely, but the human race lives on with it. But how? Who are the strange cat-woman nurses who offer their mysterious cure to all ailments, and what is the cure? Interesting questions anyway. It would have made a great episode for Sylvester McCoy.

Unfortunately Davies hasn't got a clue how to approach the issue. By the end of the episode it seems to mean something or other about the human race's will to survive, and our sympathies are geared towards marauding, disease-ridden zombies. But it all happens so fast that it doesn't work, particularly because about half a dozen things are confusing the issue.

For instance, Cassandra is back. Oh, Russell's very happy with that creation; isn't it just masturbatory that she's given such coverage, the same way Rose happened to mention the Slitheen every other episode last season? Zoe Wanamaker is largely wasted as her character body-swaps between characters. In the case of Rose, she uses the excuse to tart Billie Piper up to the nines, breasts heaving and hair tossed. It's frequently embarrassing to look at the screen, as passers by may assume that Doctor Who abandoned all subtlety and went with a scantily clad bimbo companion. Well, they'd be half right.

And then she possesses the Doctor, who is a pretty major issue I'm having at the moment. David Tennant is actually rather annoying. His dramatic rants come out of nowhere, and I kept trying to get a handle on him as the Doctor (it seemed so easy in "The Parting of the Ways", perhaps because it was just one short scene), but I can't. He's clearly enthusiastic, but he hasn't quite got it yet. He and Rose - who is gushing and falling over herself far too much, in a way that suggests Billie simply fancies Tennant - are in awe of everything around them, so they're not acting normally, so I can't tell what they're really like.

Yeah. That's the excuse I'll go with.

Let's try not to talk about the scene where Cassandra steals the Doctor's body, and the loathsome gag about "not using" several "parts" of himself rears its ugly Russell-T-Davies-shaped head. For God's sake man, we appreciate that you enjoy your job. Would it kill you to have just a little respect for the series you're proclaiming as your own?

And he does. All the humour is turned up to eleven, from vaguely funny but nonsensical gags ("I'm a chav!") to dire, lazy zingers ("Go and play with a ball of string"). This is Doctor Who in a punny, one-liner mood. You can just feel that series we know and love dying under the ridiculous talons of Davies. He's suffocating it in his idea of a good time.

There are good moments, of course. As the Doctor fiddles with the TARDIS in the opening moments, he smiles as the column rises and falls; it's beautiful, and it's completely the Doctor. Then the production falls on its arse, as the windy location of Wales forces the first five minutes of dialogue to be totally (and obviously) dubbed. It's horrendous. Then along comes Murray Gold's "sweet" theme from "The Parting of the Ways", suddenly dumped in a satirical context and ruining any emotive memories I have of that last episode. It's like they're laughing at everything that worked.

I think I'm in shock. Just about every good idea is missed. The cat-women, for example, could just as easily be fish, robots or normal women; it's completely irrelevent (their make-up is uniquely good-looking, improving ten-fold on the similar species in "Survival", but the quality of the story is such slurry that this counts for nothing). The Face of Boe's involvement is ultimately a cop-out, so he's useless, and the final moments suggest that we sympathise with Cassandra. She was hardly a deep character to begin with, merely a repository for sassy comebacks and cruelty. If Davies is so taken with her, let him write his own adventures. Why smother the series with this stuff?

Sigh. I want to say "perhaps it'll look up", or "perhaps another writer will tone down the humour and make it all okay", but I said that at the end of last season, and at the end of "The Christmas Invasion". There's no getting rid of this bloody man, as he has no intention of leaving Doctor Who alone. Woe is very certainly me.

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If the last series began by riffing on early Jon Pertwee then this one began by mainlining the Douglas Adams era. Idiosyncratic english space opera at it's unashamed best. I also detected some of Warren Ellis's deadpan 'so-preposterous-it-must-be-true' sci fi gigantisms (to wit-"what kinds of disease? "All of them"). It's great to see that this show- which only a few short years ago was little better than a dusty antiques fair populated by curious, ageing fans- has been reborn so wonderfully.

First off- Bille Piper. Bi-liee Piper. Dang! Ding-a-Dang! One almost despairs at how good she is, because it means that surely she's destined for bigger (would it be offensive to say greater?) things, and soon. Horny teenagers throughout the nation will doubtless have fumbled frantically for the record button during the scene where Cassandra inhabits Rose's body and starts examining her new figure. Those of us older but with the mind of a horny teenager and a little patience will wait sweaty handed for the dvd. Ripping my mind from the gutter and fixing my sights firmly on Ms Piper's art- ART I said! She was the best thing about the last series and she's the best thing here, plain and simple. It's high camp all the way when the evil Cassandra posesses the Doctor's body, utterly convincing character acting from line to line when she takes Rose for a joy ride. Which is not to slight David Tennant in any way, shape, form or thought- if Christopher Eccleston was this generation's Jon Pertwee, Tennant may well be the new Tom Baker. The wide eyes full of intergalactic boggle, the grand canyon grin adding Tardis-like dimensions to Tennant's elfin face. All Bakerisms to a man. An effortless comedian one moment and mysterious, star weary eternal the next. I'm very excited.

Secondly (secondly? Thirdly, surely), the effects. Shallow I know, but...is it now boring to say that mainstream sci fi on the telly has to compete with the likes of (repeat after me in Dalek tones) Buffyangelstargatestartrek? Well yes, but the first bite is with the eye so to speak, and what a banquet New Earth was. You could practically SMELL the apple grass! New New York was Coruscant from the Star Wars designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Jack Kirby. Alien races have taken a few leaps forward since the last series (I was never keen on the porridgey Slitheen) and the Cat Nuns are creepy patrons of a stark, futurist hospital. Brilliantly though, the imagery is rightly second fiddle to the characters and the plot. There return of old face Cassandra and big face the Face of Boa signal that the new Who is creating it's own mythos whilst honouring the old, which is more than I could have ever wished for. A shame Cassandra had to be killed off though- imagine her teaming up with Sil, or even the Master! Fans, start your fanwanking. A fine set up for the future series which, if it mirrors the last one, will get better and better with each episode. The trailer for round two has me salivating- Werewolves! Warrior Monks! With Queen Victoria! In Scotland!

Vworp Vworp!

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Look Who's back! On Saturday 15th April I sat through that dance program in sheer excitement waiting for the return of Doctor Who in it's second run - this time with a new Doctor.

After the simply amazing Christmas Invasion, New Earth seems slightly down in comparision to the christmas classic, which was arguably the best of the new generation of Doctor Who. As expected, David Tennant (the Doctor) was on fine form, delivering the part in such a way that makes most of the episode's flaws seem minor and almost unnecerssary to the whole structure. His sidekick Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) presents some problems toward the episode...

Unfortunately Piper is trying so hard to sound humourous, but fails miserably and sadly sounds very unlike Rose and actually more like herself when she's not possessed. Fortunately, Zoe Wannamaker (voice of Cassandra) is here to save the day! Her credits include many comedy's including the more recent My Family which give her a good boost during the belly-laugh scenes such as 'Oh my God! I'm a chav!' Which has caused laughs world-wide according to producer Phil Collinson.

Moving on from the characters, I'd like to present some slight niggles I had with New Earth's story. First of all, it has the potential and looks like a classic Doctor Who episode with freaky zombies in their hundreds creeping out of green tombs with a kind of "urghhh" noise (very reminiscent of The Tomb of the Cybermen).

However, the core audience for Doctor Who is children and for them to enjoy it they must understand the story. I think the story was delivered in a terrible way by the actors. An example of this is the confusion caused when Cassandra possessed Rose. There was no sign that Cassandra WAS Rose when not talking, and as the episode went on, I found myself believing that we were seeing the real Rose and not a possessed form. Another flaw in the story was the whole idea of the zombies and their purpose; which I must admit, I found confusing until watching the episode back.

Another surprising addition to the story was the Face of Boe. Many people have told me how pointless the scenes were, but I think they added a flair to the episode. My theory is that "the secret" has something to do with future episodes, as 'Boe did state the Doctor will meet him again. Not pointless, just mild hints.

Although the overall episode was average it is no change to last years Rose which featured a similar feeling to this episode, and thankfully last year things picked up as the series went on. Some of the acting was poor and delivered the story in a confusing way but other than that it was okay. I still think that Russell T. Davies cannot write Doctor Who. This is because most of his episodes have been average (except The Long Game). Let's face it, RTD really need's to start changing things in series three because series after series of mildly-entertaining Doctor Who will not suffice die-hard fans. My prediction is that after Tooth and Claw things will start to hot up and we will realise that this is a mere light-hearted opener to what will be a fantastic series.

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So Doctor Who is back, after months of waiting with baited breath, countless news reports and a build up that not-surprisingly outshone the new Wembley Stadium, the very first episode of Doctor Who Series 2, graced our screens.

Unhampered by the dulcet tones of Graham Norton the episode got off to an interesting start, with Rose saying another goodbye to Jackie and Mickey. The arrival on New Earth is to be honest a bit rushed, infact that plagues the episode throughout and really brings back some of the rather upsetting faults of 'Rose' form the previous season.

The only real thing that really made me cringe in this episode was the stomach-churning relationship between the Doctor and Rose. It just seemed to tacky and with a bit of luck won't develop much further. Fair enough character development is essential to television programmes these days it seems but one can't help but feel the Doctor-Rose 'love' relationship is undermining the programme and the main action. By all means let them travel the universe and have a laugh but all this mushy luvvy duvvy nonsense is...well...nonsense.

Despite this the rest of the episode is enjoyable. The Cat Nurse seemed a little spare to the plot at times, but it was wonderful to see Cassandra back, especially in human form. Chip is an interesting addition to proceedings and the mutants at the end of the episode might seem a bit cliche but are harmless enough (if you get my drift).

The drama could have done with a bit more time to develop but other than that it was an enjoyable romp, which started off the new series well. David Tennant seems to be finding his feet well and holds the episode up nicely. Billie Piper delivers a hilarious performance as the Cassandra-possessed Rose (and David Tennant's attempt is none too bad either)

The ending is a nice wind down moment and Zoe Wanamaker is wonderful in the final few scenes. The pathos is played well and David Tennant's last look at the unfolding scene is a good way to finish. The trailer for next week looks to be a good return to the more sinister and spooky side of Doctor Who, and with this episode a pretty much firm starting block (perhaps the humour could have been played down a little) the new series looks to be just as good as the first.

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What a smacker ... and the episode was pretty darn good too!

Was it just me or did that kiss not last ages? Billie Piper playing Cassandra certainly did not miss the target, that's for sure.

Chris Eccleston must have been raging he didn't hang about for a second series and missing out on the big kiss off after all that flirting in the last series (though he did get some lip action with Captain Jack in the end!).

Watching it in his Salford home, I wonder what he made of it all.

I was very impressed. The touching start as Rose says her goodbyes before joining the Doctor was a nice and somewhat understated introduction given all the whoo-hah and hype that has surrounded the show over the past week. It was a simple and effective start.

The arrival in New, New York couldn't have been much better and I loved the wee robot spiders returning and of course, Cassandra. That was good we actually got to see Zoe Wanamaker in the episode too. What with Anthony Head and Pauline Collins still to come, the show really has attracted some A-list actors to the series - something which was impossible when the show came to an end in 1989 when Bonnie Langford and Ken Dodd were the celebs we had come to expect. How times have changed!

The lift shower scenes were terrific and funny and I loved the references to the NHS and the Doctor's concern about the lack of a shop. The Sisters of Plentitude were absolutely terrific and terrifying in equal measure judging by the Tardisode which was very scary indeed.

The true purpose behind the sister's plan was well executed and even the Face of Boe speaking was worth the wait and gives a sense of mystery in the same vein as the Bad Wolf intrigue from the last series. It might have been good if a few clues were offered but he disappeared just like the Tardis!!!

Given that the team working behind Dr Who now know they have a lead actor who will stay for the course, it is interesting to note how much the BBC are supporting the show with "Totally Doctor Who" and even reference made on the Radio 5 Live News Bulletin this morning!

One thing that did strike me after the Christmas Invasion and New Earth is that we still haven't really seen the Doctor and Rose adjusting to each other yet though they seem to get on pretty well! With the Doctor being out of action for most of the first episode while Rose was taken over by Cassandra for the majority of New Earth, it has been an interesting dynamic on Russell T Davies part and we will have to wait until Tooth and Claw to really see the relationship grow.

A very satisfying start to the new series and one which Russell T Davies can take some pride in. I thought it was good that the Doctor took Cassandra back to when she was a human and the final end. You never usually find out what happens to some of the Dr's enemies at the end of episodes but it gave something of a human touch, with overtures to "Dalek".

Tennant is very much his own man with his new uniform, sense of humour and manic personality which is shaping up to be very exciting.

Perhaps the highest complement you can pay to him is that it did not really strike you at any point that he was not the Doctor and he seamlessly fit in to the role as if it had been his all along. A very polished performance by both Tennant and Piper and something which looks positively sparkling. Who-rah!!!

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It is a strange thing. I was eagerly awaiting the latest Dr Who episode, however my enthusiasm was mixed with a certain trepidation. Russell T Davies was the writer and I hadn’t been very impressed with his previous work. The rumours on the grapevine had further fuelled my anxiety. When I sat down to view this episode, I had no expectations of greatness.

Which is just as well. New Earth isn’t a bad story, it has a few good moments and Billie Piper puts in a decent performance. Sadly it shares the same flaws as it’s predecessor The End of the World.

The story is a collection of good ideas which are not cemented together with the glue of a good plot. I liked the idea of a hospital with secrets, it was also good to see Cassandra back. However it is marred by RTD’s inability to use simple logic.

The most troubling elements concern the guinea pigs in their closets. I can’t think of any reason why they knew language? How could they move when cooped up cells for all their lives? Why were they wearing clothes? Why not grow bodies without the thought processing parts of the brain. Surely the Sisters should have known better.

Strangest of all, why did all the ‘Flesh’ look like lepers. If they had been infected with every known disease, I’d expect them to show different symptoms. Instead they looked as if they had wandered off the set of Terminus

The worst part of the story though was the way in which it was concluded. The Doctor cures the lepers by spraying them with a mixture of all cures the Sisters have gathered. Intravenous cures. That is poor science and is more suitable for the realms of fantasy.

In the far future Modern faculties still use pulley operated lifts. I suppose RTD thought that would look cool, just like the improbable fan from TEOTW.

Cassandra is a character with an iron will to live. Well until the end anyway when she has a sudden change of heart and just goes quietly. What a cop-out.

Also the scenes where she complains about Rose being a Chav are jarring. Cassandra is a lady from 5 billion years in the future, she should have no idea what a Chav is. Then she starts mangling slang once in Rose’s body. This highlights a problem I have with RTD’s scripting, which is his insistence on cramming in contempary culture into every story. Bad Wolf was a good example of this.

The whole body swapping/possession element was hackneyed. How many times has this Sci Fi staple been used now. No new twist was added to the stereotype.

The Face of Boe doesn’t contribute much but I think that something is being set up for later, so I’ll let that pass.

The acting in this story was competent, though nothing stellar was on offer. Billie Piper was effective in portraying Zoe Wanamaker’s mannerisms, though my dislike of the Rose Tyler character prevents me from being too effusive in my praise. Zoe Wanamaker was decent as Cassandra, though I doubt it is really a role that tests her abilities.

David Tennant as the Doctor, hmmn. I’m still undecided. He gurns a little too much in this story and he hammed up his atheistic scenes near the end. He is pretty good when quieter though, he just needs to turn the volume down a bit.

The SFX was OK, apart from the opening scene on New Earth. The CGI’d flitters looked awful and totally artificial.

Murray Gold’s music was poor once again. His music never stops and the Bondish strains played during the dramatic scenes were very irritating.

OVERALL GRADE 5/10

A unaffecting opener, entertaining but full of holes.

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It’s back!

One ridiculously long wait later, and we have the Doctor and Rose all to ourselves for the next 12 weeks. This time, however, there’s nothing to prove – only to improve upon. And therein might lie the problem.

I was hoping that Russell T Davis would give us a premiere of delightful proportions, throw us into a new adventure and new arc which would bring all of last year’s fun and excitement back again. I have always admired him as writer and have previously noted that he was by far the best-qualified to bring the Doctor back. The success of the show has proven this to be true. The one issue with last season’s run, though, was that the Davis-penned episodes (or, at least, those without the built-in enjoyment of a season finale) were a little patchy at times. New Earth, then, was going to be an indication of what we could expect this year.

The verdict? Well, as ever, somewhat mixed.

Rose and the Doctor’s relationship, by far the strongest aspect of season 1 (or 27, blah, blah, blah), is present, correct, and just different enough to promise another year of televisual pleasure. The effects are, for the most part, even better than before and work just fine. As ever, the matte painting backgrounds were a little sketchy at times, and the plague CGI was kind of ropey, but this was balanced out by the astonishing New Earth backdrops.

The problem, then? Davis STILL has a problem meshing his excellent character work with the sci-fi adventure yarn that Doctor Who has to be. The premise, cloning beings for medical research, is a good one, with depth and resonance. It’s disappointing, then, that the adventure aspect of the episode is so by-the-numbers. The Doctor is captured, but escapes rather easily, the clones are released and act like dull, plague-ridden zombies, rather superfluous characters that we care little about are endangered. It is the B-plot which is the soul of ‘New Earth’. The return of Cassandra is slightly naff, but makes for some great body-swapping comedy and banter (a Davis strength that even his most bitter detractors cannot possibly deny). The episode’s conclusion, where Cassandra gives herself a last moment of pleasure, is bizarrely touching, and much more affecting than the one-dimensional zombies and shallow cat-nuns which had preceded it.

Davis is a self-confessed sci-fi fan and really needs to let loose with that influence, instead of rushing through bog-standard running around scenes in order to get to the next character moment. Still, it’s a lot stronger than ‘Rose’ as a start to the season.

As far as the cast go, Tennant is still settling in, but has done so a lot more quickly than Chris Ecclestone did – it wasn’t until ‘Dalek’ that I felt he was really ‘my’ Doctor. Tennant is almost there, though, and when completely comfortable will clearly be a wonderful Doctor. A few more opportunities to show the Doctor’s power will help.

Next week, Scotland, warrior monks (which I’m reserving judgment on until I see their role in the story – please don’t be a meaningless Matrix rip-off!) and a superb-looking werewolf.

We’re off – and not a sign of a new ‘Bad Wolf’. Although, what is the Face of Boe’s great secret ...

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Where to start? It's a new series, a new Doctor, and a new Earth...

First of all, I loved the last series, and couldn't quite understand why Christopher Eccleston left so soon into what promised to be a truly 'fantastic' era of Doctor Who. But then the news broke that David Tennant was to take over the role, and I promptly forgot my complaining. From his very first appearance ("new teeth!") he promised to be the best Doctor yet - or at least, my personal favourite. Then we got "The Christmas Invasion" and I was absolutely certain that this was the case.

Secondly, I think the scripts are wonderful. After all, wonderful acting is only a part of what goes into making a wonderful character - and every person who is saying "David Tennant is a wonderful Doctor" (like I am!) should give at least a little bit of credit to the script-writer - who, in this case, was the very same man who rescued Doctor Who from the realms of nostalgia and brought it into the 21st century bigger and better than ever before. Maybe it's because I've never seen the original series in any great depth, but I really can't find anything to complain about in regards to the script... apart from the fact that so far there have been no episodes scripted by women: it would be nice to show that girls can write sci-fi, too! In fact, I've a few ideas of my own for series three... but that's something else entirely.

My favourite aspect of "New Earth" has got to be the sub-plot involving the Face of Boe. Okay, I know some people found the Face floating in the giant jar a bit pointless, but I think he's great because - unlike every other alien we've met - he is the Doctor's superior, or at least elder. To the Doctor every other alien is just a child, considering his age of (apparently) 900 years, but Boe, it seems, tops that by entering the millions. What is this mysterious secret which he is to impart the Doctor? I have a feeling it may be a series or even several-series' long arc, which makes this series different from the first in that it brings in the 'arc' so early on - Bad Wolf did not appear in the first series until Episode Four, I believe.

Cassandra is a hilarious creation, and will hopefully put any viewers toying with the idea of plastic surgery off such things for life! The 'body-swapping' was very cleverly done, and actually quite funny - "I'm a chav!" - and it let Billie Piper and David Tennant show off a few unexpected talents. And no, by that I did not mean THE kiss, but that was certainly interesting to see - especially the Doctor's reaction to it!

The Cat-People were extremely well made-up, and I liked the way you had different 'characters' of cats - the kind nurse looking after Boe could be ascribed to one of those calm, stay-at-home cats, whilst the Matron-Cat is undoubtedly the cat who goes around getting into scraps with its neighbouring felines...

When I first heard that Billie Piper was to be the Doctor's companion I was rather unimpressed, which shows how much I know. She has been brilliant from start to finish, and the 'chemistry' between Rose and the Doctor has been beautifully done - a friendship which should be a romance but can never be. Unless, that is, the writers decide otherwise... but we'll see. In "New Earth" Rose is still getting used to the 'new' Doctor... shades of which there certainly are, especially in the disinfectant-lift scene, with the Doctor trying to shout to Rose and then eventually getting exasperated. I think Rose should keep a close eye on this Doctor, though... he seems to wander away from her a bit! Though he is, as ever, protective - and in my opinion the Doctor is always at his best when shouting down the villains in righteous anger...

And as for the trailer for the rest of the series... well, the Beeb are certainly pushing the new series an awful lot - one trailer I saw was almost five minutes long, and as my Dad said seemed to 'show the whole series'. Hopefully, unlike some films nowadays, they aren't showing all the good bits in the trailers... though the next episode, complete with Queen Victoria, Scottish accents and werewolves galore, promises to be brilliant... not to mention scary!

Hmm... 8/10 for New Earth, but only because I'm hoping the rest will be even better.

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Ok. I've never submitted a review before, as I've always thought that I would just end up rehashing what others have said. But the time has come.....

As a massive fan of series old and new I feel that I should come to the defense of New Earth, as from what I've read in the reviews so far is that it wasn't loved as much as i think it should be!

Firstly let's deal with the story. Fantastic! Russell T always has so many ideas, and I for one don't see this as a bad thing. As RTD has often said, he wants new Who to be fast paced and packed with adventure. Remember this is a FAMILY show, attention spans are short, and Doctor Who needs to grab by the throat and not let go! If the action stops for a moment, there go the kids. Do we need to know how long the Sisters Of Plenitude have been growing the 'flesh'? Not really - does it make a difference whether they've been experimenting for months, years, decades? Of course not - the point is that they're doing it, it's wrong and the Doctor's going to stop it. Cassandra's back and we get all the explanation that we need about it. On with the show! The Face of Boe drops hints about a secret that he'll tell the Doctor about next time they meet. Goody! We all like a bit of a mystery and I'm sure the resulting information will be shocking (and a very clever progression for the show come season 3). Zombies, Cats, a new planet and the 2 main characters having fun? Bring it on! The Doctor and Rose are friends. Friends have fun. Friendships ALWAYS have their problems (and if you read the Radio Times, RTD alludes to the fact that the Doctor and Rose start to get over-confident "which could be their downfall"). Russell T Davis is a very clever man who does all these thing for a reason. As for zombies dressed in clothes - it's a FAMILY show - we can't have them running around naked now can we?!

Next we'll move on to David and Billie. All I can say is FANTASTIC!! David brings a new spin to the role, which fans should be used to now. He is Doctor 10 after all. He has a fabulous energy that kids will love (much easier to play-act than Eccleston!) and because of this, his moments of fury at wrong-doing are all the more engaging. Billie continues to be brilliant in her portrayal of Rose, and clearly enjoying having Zoe Wanamaker make use of her mind!! The comedy aspects are perfect for a FAMILY show (that's the third time I've said FAMILY isn't it?!) and who really cares if Cassandra would never use the word "chav"? How does anyone know she wouldn't? Again the chemisty between the Doctor and Rose is great, and this is obvoiusly down to David and Billie getting on so well, and in response to those who feel that the relationship is a bit tacky, would we really want our 2 main characters bickering? Surely we've got the 6th Doctor and Peri for that (or Eastenders).

On to the special effects. Pretty damn good! Loving New New York, was great to see Cassandra's spider again, and the lift shaft - wow! No complaints from this man.

Murray Gold's music was again in turns beautiful, exciting and haunting.

On the whole I'm one very happy (30 year old) man, who believes that the show is most definately on the right track. New Earth may not be the best story ever, but we can't expect to have the best story ever, every week! My friends 8 year old loves it. And surely if the kids are happy, us old timers should be happy too. New Who was never intended as a "treat" for the fans. It's for this generations kids and their families (that word again) and I for one feel all the younger for it. Doctor who has always been my little sanctuary, my secret fantasy, where that strange man and his time machine are always close by and keeping thing safe. It never once bothered me if I didn't get a complete history of a bit player in one adventure or another, and it doesn't bother me now. It's a weekly escape from reality and I love it!

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First off, this is SEASON 2. Not Season 28 or whatever. Season TWO. The SECOND season of the NEW SERIES. Number TWO in a SERIES that is A NEW PRODUCTION with DIFFERENT PRODUCTION COMPANY.

Sorry, getting that off my chest.

Now then:

First off, if anyone noticed, this is the first time the new series has actually left Earth (or vicinity) and visited an alien world. So of course, they go to... New Earth. Um.

So we're at a hospital. Run by cats. I wonder if the "universal symbol" for hospitals being a crescent moon is some sort of commentary on the use of a red cross as it currently is in the Western world. Look closely at ambulances on the news when they're showing bodies blown apart in Iraq and you'll see a red crescent.

Ah ha! Two familiar faces now -- the Face of Boe and Lady Cassandra. Boe gets the plot moving but Cassandra figures into it a bit more.

"Oh my God, I'm a chav!" Oh come ON... yeah yeah, commentary on fandom, I know. Seems to me Rose is most chavish HERE being possessed.

And that's another thing -- the Doctor and Rose spend half the story being possessed by Cassandra. How does this show how the characters *themselves* are to new viewers? Remember, this is only the second story with the 10th Doctor, and he was incapacitated for most of "The Christmas Invasion." So, er... I'm not really getting any sense of what this Doctor is all about quite yet, beyond he's a bit bouncier and smiley than Eccleston, perhaps more conventionally attractive and Doctor-looking, and he's given to trying to shout like Keifer Sutherland at the odd moment. So is he still as haunted as the 9th Doctor? Would HE have quite as psychotic reaction to Daleks? There's a lot more that needs to be built up here, and so far spending 3/4 of one story incapacitated and part of another one possessed doesn't impress me much.

Not Tennant's fault by any means -- indeed, it's the same situation with Paul McGann's Doctor. I loved the actor's performance, but the story(ies) haven't really told me dick about the character. McGann turned in an excellent performance, but a) his Doctor came in only 1/4 through the story b) half of which was spent amnesiac [a common problem with regeneration stories, really] c) in the very end, the Doctor didn't really DO all that much. On this hand, Tennant is good so far, yet the Doctor is leaving me a bit blank at the moment.

...although maybe he needs to keep the glasses on.

Anyway.

Billie was great in this, having to play basically two different characters, one the embodiment of negative fan stereotypes about Rose. Fandom was all afluster about that kiss in the early trailers, but oh, wait, possession again!

Liked the cats, liked the Matrix-looking clone disease farm idea, but a "New Earth" with a "New New York" just seems, I dunno, done before. Even in Doctor Who, I can think of at least 2 novels with a New Earth.

And the Face of Boe is such a tease, innit he?

Overall... I liked the episode, but really wanted to love it. "Rose" was a bangstart, this one is a bit more steady, and I'm not sure it was the way to go. Still tho, 12 more episodes to go. Werewolves, ooo...

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"Fantastic?" - Not quite - As the first episode of the second series of Doctor Who premiered on UK terrestial television to an audience of 8.2 million viewers, it failed to deliver a story befitting the return of a much loved character. However, "New Earth" had its moments and there is no denying the chemistry between Tennant and Piper that exudes on screen. Tennant has yet to convince me he is in the same class as Eccleston, although he did a fairly decent job given the fact he appeared to have a script written in the mould of Eccleston's Doctor, despite RTD efforts to tidy up Tennants transition.

On the plus side the special effects were great - star warseque in standard for our first alien world adventure, and the new breed of diseased riddled humans would have have sent the kids running behind their sofas. The Face of Bo was a welcome return, now shrouded in even more mystery to be revealed in a later episode. Zoe Wannamaker was excellent as Lady Cassandra - shame about Tennant's and Piper's possession scenes - you either love it or hate it, and I hated it because it was a weak plot twist that detracted from the more sinister going ons with our feline Sisters of Mercy. RTD uses the characters of Cassandra and the Face of Bo to complete Tennants Transition as the 10th Doctor, but it just back-fires as you remember how great Eccleston's Doctor was.

It is early days for Tennant and glimpses of future episodes show real promise. I just hope RTD allows Tenants Doctor to reveal his own distinct querks that will enable us to love him in the same unique way we love his previous incarnations. - "Any one for a jelly baby?"

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Oh dear. As with other RTD stories, aren’t you just left with the feeling that it could have been so much better? There are tonnes of great ideas in this episode, and the hospital the setting is extremely well realised. But 45 minutes just isn’t enough time in which to develop them. In fact, it’s worse than not having enough time. The series feels constrained by the rhythm of the 45-minute format. You can almost predict how the pace of the show will change at any given moment. Star Trek TNG had the same problem, with the dramatic ebbs and flows timed around the commercial breaks. At 25 minutes gone, with most of the ideas introduced, I found myself looking at the clock and waiting for each of them to be wrapped up in the time remaining. This argues against making any emotional or intellectual investment in the story. The old four-episode structure allowed for a more thoughtful development of the ideas less predictability.

On the plus side, I was favourably impressed with Tennant. The Christmas Invasion left me very cold, but in this story we were shown the new Doctor’s serious side. He still can’t quite do angry (like McCoy), but he’s definitely got the hang of thoughtful. Those glasses probably helped. He lacks Ecclestone’s insecurity and accompanying arrogance, which is great. Hopefully, he will also lack the 9th Doctor’s questionable moral judgement.

RTD’s mixture of smutty, ironic humour isn’t to everyone’s taste, but he does bring it off very cleanly. I think it would certainly be a problem if he continues to dominate the series as he did last year. Doctor Who doesn’t belong to anyone – not even him. Its strength is in the flexibility of the format, which allows new writers and directors to come in and do their own thing in their own way. RTD’s obsession with referring to the mythology of his own episodes is a means of maintaining some continuity and familiarity from one week to the next (in the absence of multiple-episode stories), but he must be very careful not to undermine the very thing that makes Doctor Who so successful – and durable. Likewise, the smut and irony is used to gloss over the fact that the story is too short to sustain all those wonderful ideas – so it all comes back to format in the end.

Next week’s episode looks good, but let’s go further back in time! Think of the epic quality of Marco Polo: the historical setting, the time spent on the journey to Peking, the distance covered, the range of different setting, the changes of pace. Doctor Who in 2006 simply cannot so this anymore, and the series is the poorer for it.

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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 fourty-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 than the episode moves so fast you don’t have any time to consider anything that is going on. There is 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.

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Attention, especially these days, is always more heavily focused on season openers than most other episodes in a series, apart from maybe the concluding episode. After all, if the first show flops, then who’s going to watch the rest? In 2006, viewers don’t stay as loyal to a programme as they did in years gone by if it fails to live up to expectation. So, when watching the first show, the critical eye is more ready to spot possible flaws in a script, especially, it would seem, if that script is written by a certain Mr. Davies.

The episode gets off to a good start, Rose saying good-bye to her Mother and Mickey, while the Doctor fires up the TARDIS’ engines. Then they’re off, further than they’ve ever gone before, and into the titles. A nice little sequence that does well in whetting the appetite for the adventure to come.

As for the story, it’s good to see the TARDIS land the Doctor and Rose on an alien planet at last, and the effects by which this is achieved are pretty good. I can’t believe what I’ve read from some reviewers that the city of New New York, the hospital and the air cars aren’t convincing. Sure, I suppose if you watch this sequence frame by frame with a magnifying glass against the television screen, it will probably not stand up to scrutiny, and maybe it doesn’t compare to such earlier astounding effects such as the Doctor’s encounter with the Skarasen in the last episode of Terror of the Zygons, or the totally convincing planet of frighteningly realistic insects in The Web Planet, but they are pretty damned good. In fact the whole scale of the episode has moved up a notch from the last series, and the overall look is much more “Sci-Fi” than anything we saw in Christopher Eccleston’s series. Although in one scene, it’s apparent that the same location was used as for the Nestene lair in Rose. Surely some other location could have been found, or it could have been shot differently.

However, after a nice piece of reminiscing from the Doctor and Rose, they receive a summons, via the Doctor’s psychic paper, to the nearby hospital - which is where their troubles start. I’m not going to explain every detail of the plot, as there are many places on this site where you can read that, and the majority of people reading this will probably have seen the episode anyway, but as far as originality goes, the plot itself isn’t exactly new, even though, with recent events from our own hospitals concerning MRSA and the like, it does appear pretty up to date and topical. But Cat people, plague carriers, mind swaps - all have been done in Doctor Who before, although not in the same story. Here though, these elements are presented well, with the sort of originality that doesn’t make you question too much of what has gone before in the series. The story moves at a brisk pace, and never seems to lag, which isn’t difficult as add Cassandra to the mix, and you have a script that is almost heaving under the number of elements put into it. The downside of this being that, towards the middle of the story, things get a little bit manic, as not only are we presented with the threat of the escaped plague carriers, but we then have Cassandra swapping bodies left right and centre. Even though this is very humorously done, maybe we were presented with one body swap too many and the humour diffused somewhat the menace of the plague carriers.

The music of Murray Gold continues to be very good, and certainly, in parts, sounds more like a feature film score, and the beautiful, haunting piece of music for the scenes with the Face of Boe is particularly memorable (had the tune in my head all evening). I know many people are not fans of Murray Gold’s music, but it’s a far grander sound than a lot of the music from the old series. My only objection being to the tweaking of the theme tune, both beginning and end. There was nothing wrong with the theme in the last series and I believe that if something’s not broken, you don’t fix it.

As usual with Russell T Davies’ scripts, if watched on a superficial level, they appear to be full of plot holes, such as the plague carriers having speech and being able to think for themselves. But if you actually watch and listen to the dialogue, all of these issues are covered. Even the dodgy science of using intravenous solution, sprayed onto the carriers to cure them, suits the rest of the science of Doctor Who. After all, the series is about a man who can change his appearance, is 900 years old, travels time and space in a ship disguised as a telephone box and encounters monsters who, for the most part, want to take over the universe. If you accept that, then it’s slightly mad to then question other aspects of the series’ science, unless of course you decide on whether or not you’re going to like and accept a story based purely on who the writer is.

As for the supporting cast, again they rise to the challenge. The Cat nurses, while although guilty of a terrible crime against humanity, still allowed you to feel for them, because they truly believed that what they were doing was right. I really felt for the Novice as she was led away by the police at the end of the story, even though I knew I shouldn’t. And special mention must also go to Sean Gallagher as Chip, Cassandra’s loyal servant, who, having allowed his Mistress to inhabit him, meets with Cassandra as she used be, and in a beautiful piece of symmetry at the end of the episode, becomes to last person to tell her she was beautiful before dying in her arms. I had to admit, being the old softie that I am, to having a lump in my throat by this point, and was pleased to see that this series is obviously going to continue to trend that began in the last series of being more emotional.

The regulars are used well throughout this story, with Billie Piper showing that she has a good flair for humour. And what of David Tennant? Did he live up to expectations? The answer has to be yes! He manages to bring across a Doctor, who is humorous, ruthless, fun-loving and like a dog with a bone when something gets into his head “you should have a shop,” and manages to achieve all this within minutes of each other without it looking forced or unnatural. I loved Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, I think he managed to break the mould where the characterisation was concerned. But his portrayal did have one down point, and I found out what that was when I was watching New Earth for the first time - The Doctor is back! The ninth Doctor was so different, that for much of the last series, he didn’t feel like the Doctor. David Tennant does!

New Earth is basically a fun romp, a story that’s there to launch a series and to be enjoyed without being over analysed to the exclusion of all else. And in that, it succeeds.

8/10

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While not a huge fan of Russell T Davies' writing, I thought that 'New Earth' was up there with the 'The Parting of the Ways', 'Rose' and 'The End of the World' as one of his slightly better offerings. It was the first time that the new series had taken the Doctor and Rose to an alien planet as opposed to London, Cardiff or a space station and it was more akin to classic Who science fiction.

This episode was also a much better vehicle for David Tennant to impress as the Tenth Doctor than the self-indulgent and rather twee 'The Christmas Invasion'. He was more of a lead actor in his own right, as opposed to his appearance at Christmas, where I just found myself missing Christopher Eccleston. Billie Piper played a slightly more confident Rose Tyler, now more of an equal companion as opposed to the wide-eyed assistant to Christopher Eccleston's slightly more paternal Doctor. We did not actually see much of Rose in this episode. Instead, Davies treated the audience to seeing Billie Piper perform her take on Zoe Wanamaker's villainess Cassandra.

The return of Cassandra was good way of linking the second series in with the first and reminding viewers that this was the same Doctor Who. While this initally seemed like a straightforward sequel to 'The End of the World', the body-swap plot made Cassandra a slightly more three-dimensional character as she came to the realisation that it was time for her to die. Davies created an enjoyable story out of the combination of the dark plot line featuring the human plague carriers and the almost farcical scenario which had Cassandra body-leaping from Rose to the Doctor and back again. The popular culture references that Davies loves to insert into his scripts and which often serve to detract from the sense of Doctor Who's other-worldiness were kept to a minumum. I know a few other reviewers have complained that Cassandra, being from five billion years in the future would not know what a chav was. However, it is established several times that she as able to draw on the feelings and memories of the person she was controlling and knew what a chav was because Rose knew. The combination of Davies' writing, the direction of James Hawes and some nifty special effects helped to create a genuine futuristic sense to the surroundings and a pervading sense of danger which culminated in the dark scene where two of the nuns casually murdered a plague carrier begging for help. But then, I suppose it wouldn't be Doctor Who if the seemingly kindly cats weren't up to something fiendish.

The return of the face of Boe seemingly set up the long-term mystery for this series, like the 'Bad Wolf' idea did for Series One. The two scenes with the face of Boe where they talked about its knowledge of the universe helped to create the sense of a great and mysterious world going on outside the hospital set and reminded us that there are forces in the expanse of space that are beyond the Doctor. I am willing to bet that the Face of Boe was going to tell the Doctor that there are other Time Lords still alive. Then again, maybe not.

This was a good opening episode for the new series, introducing Doctor Number Ten properly and bringing back some familiar faces to make the viewers feel comfortable with the new Doctor. Thankfully, Russell T Davies usually smug and pop-culture ridden writing style was kept to a minimum making this one of his better adventures.

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I'm afraid I missed the teaser, which I understand had the goodbyes with Mickey, et al... But when the Doctor and Rose stepped out of the Tardis on to New Earth, I was pleasantly surprised that the landscape they emerged into really did look as good as the publicity stills which have already been published. I like the green circle as a future sign for hospitals, as a circle is a bit like a wedding ring, signifying continuity and life, something that never ends. I could almost smell the "apple grass" on which they lay in the sun, and then thought "Oh, Oh!" as one of Lady Cassandra O'Brien Dot Delta Seventeen's pet spiders espied Rose's blond hair and scurried along closer, prompted by Cassandra herself, but controlled by her slightly unusual sidekick, "Chip" who, we eventually discover is a "forced bred clone" and "worships his mistress".

As the Doctor and Rose walked into the Hospital Reception area, it reminded me uncannily - and with all due respect to those who were there - of the inside of the World Trade Centre that we saw in the documentary 9/11, coming across with the same kind of impresion of size and space, and because this was Doctor Who, with a sense that something was going to happen; but what?

Then, came one of the great moments that in my opinion brought out one of the most wonderful "Rose Tyler" facial expressions when she saw one of the Nuns with her face uncovered, and exclaimed to the Doctor, "They're Cats!" The Cats/Nuns/Nurses by the way are absolutely beautiful, extremely well done, and completely convincing in the way they look, move, speak, the way they are attired, and it is only a shame that we couldn't have got to know them a little more; although I really loved the one who explained to the Doctor about the legend of the Face of Boe, that one day he will impart a great secret to a wanderer without a home. Didn't the Doctor's face look a picture? Then towards the end when the Face of Boe spoke to the Doctor, it looked for a moment that the secret might come out. But this is evidently still early in this story-thread, and the Face of Boe tells the Doctor that they will yet meet for "a third and last time", leaving us to wonder just what..? Hmmm...

However, there was more to come before all this, and as the Doctor was walking around the hospital coming across people with all sorts of ailments - of which he seems to have an almost routine knowledge - we begin to see what the newly regenerated Doctor is really like. Is it just me, or did he really seem like the Doctor we once saw in "Resurrection of the Daleks"? At one particular point, when the Doctor was asking about the petrifying ailment the big bloke - the Duke of Manhattan - was suffering from, I really thought that I was watching Peter Davison at his very best. But, no, this was David Tennant at his very best, or at least the very best I have seen him since "Casanova".

Now then! To Rose's "possession" by Cassandra... This was superb. This was done in a way that metaphorically "killed two birds with one stone" so to speak. As well as seeing a brilliantly executed characterisation of Cassandra inside Rose's body, with the consequent crossover of mannerisms, and the wonderful line, "I'm a chav!" we also got the opportunity to see just what else this wonderous actress Billie Piper is really capable of... And Billie, to quote straight from the Ninth Doctor, "You were fantastic, absolutely fantastic."

But we were treated to more yet; because in those scenes where Cassandra spirited herself from Rose, to the Doctor, back to Rose, and at one point to one of the pursuant diseased clones as well, we were witnesses to some truly wonderful acting by David Tennant. The Doctor's rage at Matron Catz on discovering the horrific nature and extent of their human clone "lab rats" infected with "every disease in the galaxy", telling her that there is no higher authority, that "It stops here with me," really emphasises his status as a Time Lord, indeed, as far as we know the Only Time Lord. Or is he? I guess that only RTD knows that. And his underlying "calm" when questioning the Matron as to what had happened to Rose was a deep telltale sign that the Doctor does indeed care very much about his beautiful young companion.

Cassandra herself? It was nice to see Zoe Wanamaker in the flesh so to speak. Those outside the UK may not know, but in Zoe Wanamaker we have one of those rare creatures, an actress who can do serious, and who can do comedy, indeed almost anything, and do it well. In short, Cassandra does Zoe Wanamaker great credit, and vice-versa. And she is good looking as well. I still have half a feeling that we haven't seen the last of Cassandra; and the scene where Chip, with Cassandra's "spirit" in him tells the "human" Cassandra that she is beautiful and then "dies" in her own arms was touching. The fact that the Doctor was willing to do that for Cassandra showed us his compassionate side too...

But not half as much as the scene in the lift, when the Doctor and Cassandra - still in Rose's body - empties all the sachets of different coloured medicines into the "disinfectant shower" and at great risk that it might not work, entices the despondent diseased human clones into the shower of who knows what? "PASS IT ON." Yes indeed.

The joy in the Doctors exclamations as the people, "a new sub-species" the Doctor calls them, were miraculously healed, put me in mind of the ninth Doctors joy at the mass healing of the "gas mask heads" in "The Doctor Dances". What's more it was done with great originality, without seeming to be a good idea merely repeated in a different location, which I suppose it was really.

My only criticism of this new story is that there was so much happening in forty-five minutes. This really could have been a two parter to my mind, which would have allowed us to explore a little more in terms of the "New Earth" that the Doctor and Rose were visiting, and also for some deeper character exploration which would have enhanced the story without seeming to pad anything out. I think it will take a little time to get used to tthe new Doctor, for as Rose said, he is "so different", but as Rose also said at Christmas time in the Sycorax spaceship, "good different".

I am guessing that David is sandbagging at present, and that he will put things into the role of the Doctor, at which we will yet marvel. Rose is brilliant. The Cats are beautiful, and I think - hope even - we will see them in the future. New Earth was great. So next it's off to 19th Century Scotland, Queen Victoria, and a werewolf. That I've just gotta see... Effort 9/10. Quality 10/10.

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I grew up with Doctor Who from Tom Baker's hey-day onwards; overall I enjoyed last year's new series very much, and I've even built my own Dalek. I've bit my tongue, sat back and read other people's reviews for year, and haven't said much of anything myself.

Until now. Russell mate, this has got to stop; if there's one Doctor Who website you read, then surely it's this one, and if so, I truly hope that you take some notice of the reviews here.

Your episodes, while not always sucking, are certainly always the poorer ones. You're a great executive producer, maybe even a great script editor, and should remain in both of those roles, but it's time to hand ALL the individual episode writing out to other people.

'New Earth' has so much wrong with it it's hard to know where to start, from production difficulties that were obviously beyond the crew's control- namely, the Gower weather, leading to some very obvious dubbing, through to frankly embarrassing dialogue.

The opening powering-up of the TARDIS by the new Doctor was great; I'll even allow for the constant prescence of the reject cast of EastEnders to see Rose off again (Anyone else notice the 'Wolf' still written on the ground?) But by the time we've arrived on 'New Earth', with it's flat CG buildings and it's sub-Playstation quality flying cars, we're in trouble. The use of the Cardiff Millenium Centre as the shopless-hospital foyer was all too obviously just a building from 2006; another fault with this series. Despite what they say, there's not THAT much of Cardiff, you know.

Giving Rose a 'comedy episode' was a grave error of judgement, at least for a series opener; this episode should have been all about the new Doctor, his companions' breasts. (Nice as they undoubtedly were) David Tennant is clearly settling in well, and I look forward to the rest of the series- though not so much to the episodes written by Russell.

The zombies felt decidedly flat and unthreatening, and the ending- with the Doctor supposedly mixing up a multi-coloured cure for everything- was pure RTD stupidity and laziness. Likewise, Cassandra's instantaneous change of heart at the end was very rushed and unbelieveable.

Another big issue for me with this one was the music; seemingly patched-together from all sorts of pieces from last year, it was yet again too loud, and too constant. And the sound effects; in this one new episode alone, I heard many effects from throughout the last series. Cheap, and lazy.

It's wonderful to have Doctor Who back, but the 45 minute format rarely works...and neither does Russell.

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Talk about a tease. Parting of the Ways - at last, the new Doctor revealed! …for twenty seconds and a joke about teeth. Children In Need - at last, the new Doctor revealed! …for seven minutes and a lot of guff about hopping. The Christmas Invasion - at last, the new, no, hang on, he's still asleep, come back after three more months and a joke about the Lion King. Compared to this, those sixteen years post-McCoy went by in a flash.

I'll be honest, I was worried. Despite the wonders Russell T Davies has pulled in the past, surely all these peeks and glimpses would steal the thunder from the new series? David Tennant's already done the chat-show circuit back in December, so where's the big first episode ratings-boost from strangers wanting to know what the new guy's like? What's gonna make this feel like a big bold beginning instead of just another adventure? How can we be sure people will watch?

Well, shows how much I know. People watch it just 'cos it's Doctor Who, these days. And the most extraordinary thing about this episode – this in-itself very ordinary, 'just another' adventure – is exactly that there is no thunder to be stolen, at least on the new actor front. It's all jolly exciting, thrilling, action-adventure stuff: an alien world, an alien race, a lot of huggermugger sculduggery; things being plotted, stuff blowing up, the usual suspects – and there, you suddenly notice, in the middle of it, like he's been there all along, is the Doctor, having an adventure. No grand fanfare, no finally the new Doctor revealed!, just a sudden, subtle realisation that you've got used to him without even trying. Which of course was the whole point of all that teasing, and of all the thrills and spills and special effects around him. A mad, months-long conjuring trick filled with effusive patter and a great big cgi bucket of misdirection, all to slip that one bit of sleight-of-hand past you: that it's not the same guy.

The upside of this is that we get an absolute zinger of an episode, all-out belly laughs mixed with zips of fear and zaps of danger; comic turns with epic set-pieces; running for your life with running gags. The central gimmick of the story is something of a standard sci-fi trope, an excuse for a good old romp for the regulars, but combined with enough of a story to hold keep its momentum. The effects are ambitious and effective, turning a revolting day in Cardiff into a reasonable one on another planet; a series of attractive women into a matching set of attractive cats, and a large collection of extras into a particularly nasty bunch of Nasties of the Week. The performances are as usual fine throughout, with Billie Piper even more than usually superb as she's asked to pull off all the funniest lines without forgetting she's also carrying the plot, and managing both with aplomb. Even the music – if you can persuade the surround-sound not to bleach out the dialogue – is feisty, fun and exhilarating, with an Austin Powersesque action sequence taking the award for most daringly silly and enjoyable theme so far.

The downside, of course, is that a plot designed to be fluffily distracting does tend to be a bit, well, fluffy. And distracting. Gimmicks, effects, cats, and nasties add up to a bit of a noisy mess at times, all sound and fury signifying that the scriptwriter doesn't want you to pay too much attention to the details. Last year's lesson proves true once more, that if Russell T's scripts have a problem, it can be summed up in two words: "plot convenience." Never mind the fiddly explanations, just hit the button on the wall next to you! Never mind the logic, just do what's cool! Never mind the plot holes, just run for your life!

There's no denying that this story, fast-paced and full of explosions as it is, does lack a little coherence as it zips from one subplot to another, glossing over exactly who's doing what, for what, for why; how the solutions are reached, by whom, or when, or, bluntly, why the hell they'd work. "Who Cares if Doc is Drivel?" crowed the Mirror the next day, praising the show for being lovable despite its manifold, viciously-listed flaws, in surely the most backhandedly positive review ever published. Others were still less kind, pouring scorn on the oddly-paced, elongated ending (a trademark of Russell's scripts) and of the attempt to get the audience feeling joy at an uplifting ending (a trademark, rather too obviously, of Stephen Moffat's, where it works considerably better coming after two episodes of gritty, terrifying danger than it does here following nine minutes of what the BBFC witheringly refers to as 'mild peril'). Partly due its flaws, and partly to its impossible expectations, New Earth was always going to have trouble. And indeed, the initial feeling from audiences seems to be a less than startled 'oh right'.

We knew this would happen, of course. Last year Doctor Who was being compared to what people remembered of its death in the 80s: wobbling, cardboard, light-ent tripe, barely watchable even as a child – which much of it wasn't, but that's what sticks in the mind. This time round it's being compared to what they remember of last year, and just as unfairly: always the sheer, unparalleled brilliance of The Doctor Dances, of Dalek, of Father's Day , rather than the just-another adventures of The Long Game or Boom Town. Put this next to Rose , last year's season-opener, and there's simply no comparison – New Earth is quite, quite brilliant. But quite-brilliance isn't enough when people are comparing the new series (and we knew they would, we really knew it and were braced for it and still it's not enough) to only the very finest, utterly brilliant moments of Season One.

But you know what? I'm not going to write an apologetic review, because this story doesn't need one. There are flaws, but there are few. The opening seems somewhat stretched, with Rose uncharacteristically cloying in her admiration for the Doctor and their adventures (which unfortunately comes across as a sort of smug self-satisfaction with the series itself). The ending tries to crowbar the audience in a direction they're not emotionally ready to go; two crucial story elements not quite dovetailing together well enough to form a common theme. Arguably, where Eccleston had unplumbed depths of angst and fury, Tennant has pulling his lips back over his teeth. And the plot doesn't actually make sense. But that's it.

I watched this on Saturday, adult and analytical, and fretted madly about all those things. And then I watched it on Sunday with six shrieking and manically enthusiastic eight-year-olds, who'd been drinking coke for five hours straight and bouncing off the walls at an all-day party, suddenly silent and transfixed except for blurts of "Eww!" and "Woah!" and "This next bit's brilliant!" and "Shut up, I want to hear!", and realised it didn't matter. Whatever impossible, child-engrossing, attention-grabbing, silence-summoning magic Russell T conjured up with Christopher Eccleston (who?), he hasn't lost it now.

Logic is for wusses and grown-ups. This episode is fun. Just as fun as last year; just as funny; just as scary; just as silly; just as great. Just another adventure. Just enjoy.

(And next week - at last, the new Doctor, revealed!)

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Well it took me two screenings of the first episode to be able to write down how I felt. My anticipation was so high that I was a nervous wreck watching it. I watched it - thought it was OK - looked at the reviews later that night and was not surprised by the mixed reaction. I think everyone's expectation was very high. On the Monday I watched The Christmas Invasion and then calmly watched New Earth again. I loved it. I think there is the danger of becoming to analytical - about the CGI - The writing - Did The Doctor do this? - Did Rose do that? - Didn't like the make up! ENJOY IT. It is damn good.

It followed on from The Christmas Invasion and David Tennant has got it nailed. No point comparing him to Eccleston or anyone else - he is not the new Baker or Pertwee he is David Tennant and he is The Doctor. It works.

The opening was great - they left old comfortable earth and arrived at New Earth! It is Sci Fi - It is 5,000,000,023 and that is how it looks - Who are we to argue? The Doctor and Rose enjoy each others company and each other - and why not! They travel through time and space. Straight away there is intrigue - Chip and Cassandra - The Sisters of Plenitude - The Face of Bo. There are patients with every disease - the scene of all the pods was breathtaking. Rose gets possessed by Cassandra and she in turn then kisses the doctor - and do you blame her? Stuck with no body for ages. Like the zombies - she wanted physical contact. It was Cassandra and NOT Rose kissing the Doctor.

The Doctor knows this - and he in turn knows he has to save the day - Cassandra is a good sub plot but it all ties in. The Zombies are cured - Mankind lives on - Rose comes back and Cassandra realises this is a New Earth - not her earth of old and she lets go - and again why not? The beautiful scene at the end where she meets herself and tells herself she is beautiful - because for years she had not seen it and only had memories - but there she was face to face with it again. It was great.

Finally - The Face of Bo. What a great cliffhanger there - waiting to run with it throughout the series - what will he tell the Doctor? - I cannot wait.

Some people have quoted - Plot holes - CGI not good enough - Acting not good enough - Using the word Chavtastic! - Body swapping - !!!!! CHILL - It is Sci Fi. Russell T Davies will never please everyone - but to say he is no good is all wrong - he is the driving force behind this revival and we should get on our knees and thank him for it. He is not perfect - but then again neither are any of us.

So sit back and enjoy Series 2 - It is going to be a great ride!

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As a Doctor Who fan, I've often wondered what it was like to tune in and see "Robot" on its first airing. Did fans then have an inkling of what was to come? Did they know they were witnessing the birth of a what many fans consider to be the golden age of the show and they were seeing the first tentative steps of the man whose name, face and costume would become synonymous with the show not only in the United Kingdom but world-wide?

And now, over 20 years later are we at another crossroads for the show and witnesses the dawning of a new, golden age for Doctor Who.

It's hard to ignore the similiarities.

Jon Pertwee's era on Doctor Who had been, by all accounts, a huge success. In fact, I'd imagine if the Internet had existed back in the 70s there would be numerous debates on whether or not this new guy could live up to the consistency of the third Doctor. Now, here we are in a new century and we've just come off a successful run as the Doctor by Christopher Eccleston. Luckily, we have the Internet today so fans can wonder if this new guy will live up to the consistency of the ninth Doctor.

With Pertwee, I think history shows us exactly what Tom Baker did in the role. And while the book is still to written on David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor, I get this strange feeling we're on the verge of a new, golden age for Doctor Who. And I have a feeling that in a few weeks, we may all be saying, "Yes, Christopher Eccleston was good, but wow David Tennant is just fantastic as the Doctor."

(Please don't take this as a condemnation of Eccleston. I love what he brought to the role. He did a great job and I do wish we'd got more than one season with him in the role.)

So far, we've had two episodes featuring Tennant as Doctor. The preview of what's to come with "The Christmas Invasion" and now we've got the first episode of series two, "New Earth."

With the regeneration crisis past, we can jump back into the adventures through time and space that make Dr Who what it is. For their first adventure together, the new Doctor and Rose travel farther than they ever have before. The Doctor's received a message from the far-future, asking him to come to visit a hospital ward. Beyond that, he knows nothing else but this is the Doctor and he can't resist a good mystery. He and Rose head to New Earth, which is the planet that was created after the sun expanded in last year's "End of the World."

"New Earth" serves as backdrop to allow us to check in with some of the creatures we met last year in "End of the World." Whether that's good or bad depends on if you liked "End of the World" or not, I suppose. I like it, but I can honestly say I was't screaming for more of Cassandra. Which is what we got. Cassandra proves to be the Rani of the new series in that there is nothing she can't somehow survive.

The plot for "New Earth" is pretty jam-packed and complicated. It's one of those blink and you'll miss it type of stories in terms of plot twists and developments. Russell T. Davies seems to write stories that combine everything and the kitchen sink into the script. Visually it can be stunning as we see the alien vistas of New Earth, but when it comes to following the story or summarizing for a review, it can be a bit much. I will say that this script pays homage to a lot of elements from the classic series including the villain wanting the companion for some nefarious purpose, an army of "monster" skulking about and running down corridors.

Visually, the story has some callbacks to previous eras as well. I had to wonder if the medical pod set was somehow meant to invoke images of the tombs of the Cybermen that we've seen over the years.

But the real strength of "New Earth" is the work done on the characters. Russell T. Davies manages to make Cassandra a more realized character, to the point that when we got the final scene, I actually felt sympathy for Cassandra and her fate. Davies managed to make those last scenes bittersweet without being too cloying or over the top. Yes, it was tugging on the heart strings a bit, but it felt like an earned moment and not manipulative--as it easily could have been.

But the real heart and soul of this were David Tennant and Billie Piper. Tennant seems to be relishing the role and brought an almost Tom Baker like air. He was whimsical, wide-eyed enthusiasm and wonder we saw in the best of Tom Baker with the undercurrent of deadly seriousness when the situation called for it.

And Piper, as usual, continues to be a revelation. She's growing in the role of Rose. A year ago, I'm not sure she could have convincingly pulled off creating two separate personas as she does here. But now, she does it with style and is utterly convincing. The scenes with Cassandra trying to convince the Doctor she was really Rose were a delight. As were the first few scenes as Cassandra gets used to inhabiting Rose's body.

About my only real complaint is there are almost too many good ideas packed into a 45-minute storyline (a typical complaint with stories by Davies). But the program is a showcase for Piper as Rose and to a lesser extend Tennat's first steps as the Doctor. Hopefully as the series progresses, we'll get to see Tennant have a tour-de-forced like Piper does here. Because based on the glimpses I've seen, he's set to knock one out of the park.

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I felt rather let down by the previous season of Doctor Who and in particular by Russell T.Davies and Christopher Eccleston. I love their previous work but for some reason they just didn’t work for in the Doctor Who context. So when I found out the first episode of the new series was another Davies script I was more than a little worried.

We had yet another goodbye scene with Jackie and Mickey, how boring? Added nothing at all to the episode and didn’t need to be there. And when we last saw these two it was Christmas but judging by the weather this time around it was summertime. Surely Rose and the Doctor didn’t stay that long?

I don’t like the idea of the Doctor and Rose fancying each other, at all. It’s just wrong in my mind. The Doctor doesn’t fall in love with everyone to come through the Tardis otherwise he’d be a bit of man-slapper. And its such a boring and unoriginal plot as well. So why even bother? And all the sentimental crap surrounding it is so tedious. It almost makes me reach for the remote.

For the most part the special effects were good but the odd one brought the show down. Which is a great example of why storyline must come before effects! I get the feeling the production crew are trying to show off and amaze us all with these brand new special effects the old series never had. Problem is they actually look rather cheap and don’t stand up to the likes of Battlestar Galactica. Now there’s a show that has got the balance right. Yes they have very good special effects but they have excellent storylines to match, dark and moving. Doctor Who needs to look at this re-invented show and learn some lessons. I want to see story to the episodes and less showing off and far less humour. Doctor Who always worked best when it was scary and there was nothing scary about this episode.

On the plus side Billie Piper proved what an amazing actress she is during this episode. Switching between Rose and ‘Cassandra’ was brilliantly done. And the Lady Cassandra was a welcome return. She was by far one of the better things about the previous series. She’s so witty and bitchy, she’d be perfect for Footballers Wives. I do hope we see her again because there’s plenty of potential there. Her change of heart was rather sudden so I’m hoping it was all a trick on Cassandra’s part otherwise its just a little of a cop-out. The cats costumes were another high point as well as their characterisation. They’re another species I hope we see again. The Face of Boe added a little mystery to the episode, what does he have to say to the Doctor? Could it be a warning about the Cybermen or about his own people?

The dialogue for the most part was good. Although I doubt that Cassandra, five billion years in the future, would actually use the term chav it was all very funny. The plague victims looked a little…..dodgy. I couldn’t help but think of Terminus and how dodgy that make up was. And how on earth can they speak and why do they have clothes? The Sisterhood bred them for experiments and finding cures not to try out different fashions on them. Why bother clothing them? It’s pointless. And if they are bred for experimenting on, and kept isolated from each other, how do they possess the skill of speech? Children learn to speak by watching and listening to their parents and copying their behaviour.

Deep down under all the humour, special effects and bitchy comments there was actually some kind of moral to this storyline. It’s all about animal testing and human testing. It’s wrong. And in this case I can’t help but agree. Breeding animals just to experiment on them is totally and utterly wrong.

Overall not a bad episode really. An improvement on some of the direness of the previous season and a much better actor in the role. However, I’m still not sure of Davies and prefer other episodes to his.

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Just seen the first episode of the new series- a day late, sadly. Okay, postive comments first! David Tennant is looking good, he's funny, sharp and intense, and most importantly the on screen chemistry with Billie is bubbling away nicely. For this new series to work I think this had to be a major priority. Rose's character gives the programme an essential dose of humanity, an emotional depth which the show needs to maintain if Doctor Who is to continue to maintain both its quality of story telling and it's broad appeal. Somthing which Russel T will need to have in mind when searching for a new companion for the Doctor!

Billie was superb in this episode, she was both funny and sexy when "pocessed" by Cassandra- a lovely performance.

The Cat people were beautifully realised and the city scape was stunning. Efforts were made to dazzle in this first episode, but sadly the story wasn't really up to it. Up until the last twenty minutes "New Earth" was enjoyable enough, but it seemed to lack any real emotional depth. This ommision was fair enough, but when the story tried to reclaim lost ground it really lost its way.The "lepors" simply wearn't scary, nor did you feel any empathy for them; the acting was far too "pantomime" for my liking. The scene towards the end when the diseased people were "healed" was reminiscent of "The Doctor Dances" from the last series (my favourite episode by the way), but had none of the emotional punch. And the final scene with Cassandra was just plain silly.

Doctor Who works best when it's grounded in the world we know, when history and everyday life is subverted and becomes scary. This episode lacked those essential qualities, I just hope that future episodes will reclaim lost ground.

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You know, if there was ever any question that the Doctor plays with time and space, it's all cleared up now. At the end of the "Christmas Invasion" special, they're standing outside the Tardis getting ready to go, in the dead of winter in the middle of all that "snow"...and in the beginning of this episode, when they're actually going, it's a lovely spring day with no spaceship-ashes in sight.

Why does the Doctor have companions? Why does he drag people away from their otherwise ordinary lives (and often into terrible danger) to whirl around through time and space with him? I think I know why. It's like all of time and space is a movie, and the Doctor has seen it all before. Watching a movie you've seen before, even if it's the best movie in the world, can get really boring--but if you have someone else watching it with you, someone who's never seen the movie before, then it's like the movie becomes entirely new to you as you see it through their eyes.

And that's what the Doctor's companions are to him--an audience. But not just for him, for the rest of the universe too. As long as he's got a young friend or two along, he can savor their amazement, and sights he's seen a thousand times before can seem entirely new to him. The Eccleston Doctor was too brisk, too serious, too ridden with survivor's guilt from his part in a time war that ended the entire rest of his race to appreciate it. He was never able to lighten up very far; the burden of his survival was always with him like a dark cloud. But the Tennant Doctor seems to have regenerated his world-view along with his body--and that's immediately apparent as soon as the credits are over and the Doctor and Rose step out onto an entirely new world, with a gloriously-rendered CGI city in plain view. Rose is awed, and the Doctor basks in it. And then it's off to a hospital complex to see the face of Boe...and also the face of Zoe, as Zoe Wanamaker returns to her role as Cassandra, the last surviving human. The funny thing is, though, Zoe actually has a lot less screen time than we realize, when we think about it after it's over.

The mind-swap/possession schtick has been done many, many times over the course of science fiction--at least half a dozen times in _Star Trek_ alone. (You could always tell when Brent Spiner was getting frustrated in his role as Data, because along would come another "Data gets possessed or otherwise just plain acts all crazy" episode to give him a chance to show off his range.) I wouldn't be surprised if it had even been done before in _Doctor Who_, as they've already done just about everything else. The thing about a good mind-swap show is, it has to make us suspend our disbelief in a rather unusual way. We have to _believe_ that this character, played by one actor, has been somehow "infected" with the soul of the other actor--and isn't just the same actor putting on a different mannerism. It's one hell of an acting challenge--and for all that people were prone to pooh-pooh Billie Piper's acting ability early on, she did a heck of a job with it here. It was easy to forget, over the course of the episode, that this was still Billie, just putting on different mannerisms--I found it easy to believe that this was the ghost of Zoe Wanamaker inside her head. David Tennant had less of a chance to show off, but he managed the trick just as well. As for the fellow who played Chip, well, I never saw him enough to know for sure, but he seemed to do a passable job for the lines he had.

It was great to see Cassandra again, even for just a little while. Like the best villains, she was painted in not entirely unsympathetic tones. Ironically, her portrayal here seemed to be almost the opposite of how she was portrayed in "The End of the World". In that episode, we saw her dedication to life, doing whatever it took to survive right down to becoming little more than a brain in a tank, as having made her inhuman--a coldly conniving rhymes-with-witch who thought little of killing off a space station full of spectators for the sake of her business interests. And yet here she was painted as much more human--looking back wistfully at the last time someone had ever called her beautiful, and being so shaken by her time in the mind of the infected zombie that even the Doctor, who had only moments before been railing at her to get out of Rose's body, reached out a sympathetic hand in spite of himself.

At the beginning of the episode, we could hate her. By the time her blackmail scheme against the cats fell through, we could love to hate her. Then by the end of the episode we found ourselves hating to love her, as she actually became for a time a sort of surrogate companion, helping the Doctor in his scheme to cure the zombies. I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer who wished she could have found another body to continue living. (Why on earth she couldn't just have had another brainless zombie body cloned for her from her own surviving tissue, I don't know.) The only thing that really struck a sour note for me about her appearance was her sudden change of heart at the end: "don't wanna die, don't wanna die, don't wanna die...oops, I'm in a body that's dying. I guess I've outlived my time and so I'll go ahead and die after all." It wasn't really believable for me that after all this time of trying to stay alive, she would suddenly decide so quickly to chuck it all. But the ending, where she gets to go back in time and die in her own arms, did provide a sort of fitting grace note to the character. And you never know, time travel being what it is, maybe we'll see her again after all. (It would have been funny if she had actually, at the last moment, left Chip's body and possessed _herself_, but that would probably have opened up too many chronologically weird and paradoxical areas.) Since this was an external intervention in Cassandra's timeline, I wonder if that would have changed Cassandra enough that she ended up as a different person? But that would be paradox, and which is why thinking too much about time-travel stories tends to give one a headache.

I have to wonder, given the Doctor's speeches about how it's Cassandra's time to die and so forth, whether he will be quite so sanguine when he comes to the end of his own final regeneration. After all, some of the Doctor's past adversaries have been Time Lords who were out of Regenerations--the Master for one, and his own accuser in the Trial of a Time Lord arc (which was in fact _himself_ at the end of his regenerations) for another. But I can't imagine the BBC wanting to let the show end for the sake of a little thing like running out of regenerations.

I have to admit to being very impressed by the makeup effects for the cat people. I've often wondered what anthropomorphic felines would look like in live action (being a bit of a furry fan), and this episode of Doctor Who shows them off very well. I'm still not sure how much of it was makeup and how much was CGI, but they looked very believable and real, not just like people wearing furry masks. I would have rather liked to see more of them than just this episode. Perhaps, like the Slythene, they might return at some future time. It would be a pity if they didn't.

The Face of Boe continues to be an enigmatic presence in the series. I wonder if he was always intended to be thus; he started out as just a big animatronic face in a tank, appeared a couple more times in the series, but now...he's still a big anamatronic face in a tank, only much more mysterious. And the third time he meets the Doctor will be the last time. Like the Doctor, he is the last of his race--and although he had been dying, the Doctor's actions in saving all those clone humans somehow revitalized him and showed him there was still more to see in the universe. So, in the end, the Doctor acted for the Face of Boe much as his own companions have done for him.

The storyline of "New Earth" moved along at a very rapid pace--perhaps too rapid. There was so much story-stuff to fit in, what with two different sets of villains, a Matrix-like chamber full of clone zombies, the return of the Face of Boe, and so on, none of the ideas really had room to get fully-fleshed out, or even necessarily properly explained. This episode might have done better as a two-parter, with more explanatory and exploratory material stuck in. The solution to the zombie problem felt a bit rushed and deus-ex-machina, not to mention a trifle silly and unscientific in its execution. And then the ending with Cassandra dying in her own arms was a perhaps a trifle over-sentimental. But in the end, that's kind of what _Doctor Who_ is all about, so I suppose I can't knock it too much.

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I'll warn you, dear reader, I'm not happy. My short review is that that New Earth was childish, camp and lazy. The long version follows...

First good bits: It looked good most of the time. Billy and David are exceptionally good at what they do though neither of them made me laugh. (It's too early in the series to be trying comedy with the leads). The themes of clinicians' scientific detachment from patients in need of emotional contact were interesting (though virtually unexplored). The end was quite imaginitive.

Now my quibbles really begin...

Bipedal Cats as medical nuns is a very strange idea. It's a bit pantomimey, a bit simple and a bit easy. You could imagine them as incidental characters in a children's book populated by dog firemen and Duck taxi-drivers. However they're weird and outlandish enough to be really fantastic sci-fi/fantasy creations- but only if they are more than just nurses with cat faces. For some reason I'd expected some kind of interesting and imaginitive explanation for their existence- something a bit clever or a bit mysterious or maybe a bit allegorical. But no- they were just there. They are there ONLY because they're a bit weird and might look good- nothing to do with plot, nothing with any reason or thought behind it.

This is a bit symptomatic of this episode and RTD's Doctor Who writing in general. This is such a shame as he can be so good when he's on form- by the time we'd got to 'The Parting of the Ways' I'd completely fogotten how much I'd cringed at the burping bin and fart-driven plots in last year's series. The brilliant character work in the script and in the perfomances shone so brightly I'd completely forgotten everything that was awful. Whoops.

New Earth did have some good moments and ideas- the ending focussing on Cassandra was a lovely idea and could have been moving if it wasn't completely unbelievable given what we seen up to then. In fact the episode teemed with characters and themes that were supposed to be heart-wrenchinlgy profound but came across as vapid and camp...

The hordes of imprisoned disease-carriers were supposed to be so heart-breaking having spent their existence craving human contact and suffering from every disease possible. But the groups of pleading and beckoning extras looked awful- the performances were laughable. If you'd turned on half way through you might think it was a quirky comedy sketch show. Perhaps a Doctor Who spoof? And then one of them cuddles up to David Tennant after he's cured them with an unbelievably childish plot device.

It's as though RTD is saying all that matters is you have people who look needy and pathetic, they get sprayed with magic by the Doctor and are fixed so then we think the Doctor is wonderful. There- That's drama. Tick. It really seems as though he doesn't think anything else in the script matters and he can slip in the simplest and most childish explanation for anything and get away with it because somewhere there's some camp sparkling dialogue.

My real problem with this is that a very similar thing was going on in Steven Moffat's WWII two-parter last year where Christopher Eccleston showered broken people with what was effectively fairy dust for non-scifi fans but there was SO MUCH MORE going on behind it. The nano-gene premise, the issues of motherhood and guilt in the social context of 1940s Britain, the themes of redemption and forgiveness an these being what brings about change in a scene with amazing semi-religious imagery but an intelligent explanation about DNA hierarchies and re-programming the fairy-dust. How can you go from something that good to New Earth?

The previews of next week (and the big stretch of guest writers' episodes following it) look really good and there are some writers that we know produce brilliant scripts. I was looking forward to this series SO MUCH and I'm hoping that there's some truly wonderful Doctor Who coming out way.

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This show is simply magical.

Were there problems with the plot? Of course. Did it matter? Not a single bit. Ok so why did the humans have clothes? How did they know language? And there are about a billion questions about the nuns and New Earth. Still, the show is 45 mins long now and it's not going to change. More than anyone I miss the 6 part episodes where every character had a chance to shine but look at what they were able to do here! From the opening shot with flying cars and a huge New New York to gaze at, to Billie Piper steaming up the screen (and dare I say acting very well also!), to the flawless portrayal of David Tennant, this show is absolutely brilliant. It's just a wonder to watch!

I would go so far as to say that some of these plot holes and strange characterizations make it the classic Doctor Who redesigned as opposed to a brand new show with merely the Doctor Who name (which they easily could have done).

The Face of Boa is awesome! He looks cool, he gives great dialog and we will be seeing more of him! What more could you want? As for Cassandra, I admit that she was so incredibly evil and prepared to kill all aboard Satellite One that it's hard to swallow that she merely gives up. I was half hoping for her to jump into her younger self when the Doctor walked off but I feel like we had had enough of her anyway. She was good enough to visit again but not good enough to be a reoccuring character in my opinion.

Also in my opinion, this show rivals anything on television right now, plot holes or no. The effects are top notch, the acting is great, the Doctor has been recast superbly and we are in store for one hell of a ride. I can't wait for next weekend!!!

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The Doctor and Rose find themselves 23 years after the events in THE END OF THE WORLD on the planet New Earth. The Doctor has received a message from the Face of Boe and they travel to a hospital run by Cat Nuns where he is a patient. The Hospital seems to be able to cure everything and everyone. Meanwhile, Rose gets separated and finds herself at the mercy of the bad old trampoline herself – Cassandra, who did NOT die on Platform 5 apparently. As Cassandra implements her plan, the Doctor finds himself facing the terrible secret of the Cat Nuns and we find that there is a terrible price to making the sick well.

On the plus side, this episode is very fun and witty. The dialogue is top notch and very fun to listen to. David Tennant falls into the role of the Doctor with ease giving the character a much more energetic and manic Doctor than Eccleston gave us. Billie Piper is absolutely brilliant with what the story does to her character. It’s her best performance yet. And of course Cassandra is just a great, wonderful character and it’s good to see her back. The Special Effects are amazing and the make-up on the Cat Nuns is perfect. Or should I say purr-fect? Okay, I’ll stop.

On the negative, there are so many things going on that the plot falls by the wayside in many places. I had the same problem with this that I had with THE LONG GAME. I think the story concepts are bigger than the 45 minute time frame allows them to be. GAME had a great concept with a piece of meat controlling the populous through the news and there was a resistance to that which the never explore in depth, NEW EARTH with the concept of killing one creature so another can live, also not explored. But am I asking too much from a 45 minute episode? Maybe. At least those concepts are out and we can talk about them, which is something that the new series has that Big Finish does not have – commentary on social and societal issues. But when all is said and done, this is a really good episode. It is scary, funny and thought provoking. It’s good Doctor Who. It's good television.

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And so it finally arrives, the first episode of the second season of the brand new Doctor Who, something which only three years ago would have seemed unthinkable. It has been a hell of a year and I sometimes have trouble reconciling the fact that the Doctor Who I have known for the last twenty years, a guilty pleasure to be confessed to at your peril, the pillar of ridicule by tv and sci fi pundits and a series that has had to claw its way every last inch back to tv, is now gasp, the height of critical and commercial success. In short I should be doing cartwheels that twenty years of unswerving devotion has been paid off, many would say a Who fan has never had it so good. Unfortunately last year also brought the sobering revelation that this new series of Doctor Who was not produced as many would have hoped as a serious sci fi show that would take its rightful place alongside Star Trek, Babylon 5 etc, but as a piece of 2005 entertainment for kids designed squarely to sit alongside the playstation, Yu Gi Oh cards and the likes of Ant and Dec. That it has been such a sterling success goes to prove that Russell T Davies probably knows a lot more about popular tv than I will ever do, so I have become reconciled to the fact that I am going to have to agree to differ over this new series, many love it unconditionally, while I still remain uncomfortably sat on the fence being entertained and irritated in almost equal measure.

As a semi sequel to The End of the World, New Earth carried much of the same strengths and faults of the earlier story. The story once again boasted a superbly realised futuristic enviroment which was on a par with a lot of stuff offered in recent feature films, I can only take my hat off to the BBC for the slick look that they have given Doctor Who, which holds court with most of the modern US series. When one thinks about the cheapness of shows such as Neverwhere only 10 years ago, it is remarkable how far things have come. The location more than anything last year evoked the classic Doctor Who setup of something sinister going on under the surface, and with the enigmatic cat like nuns and some weird patients, I thought the story was going to be something pretty special. Unfortunately as was often the case last year, for me the story was marred by far too much camp silliness. The bodyswapping, the rather camp and annoying character of Chip, and various other quips and gags, placed the series once again as a show seemingly targeted at the very young. Many I am sure would disagree, but I still don’t think the humour drama balance is quite right, The Christmas Invasion seemed to be heading in the right direction, but once again the tomfoolery prevalent in this episode sat uncomfortably with the rather bleak nature of the underlying story.

The opening teaser got the story off to a rollicking start, and one could almost sense the anticipation as Rose and the Doctor once again set off into the great beyond. From the opening moments David Tennant filled the shoes of the Doctor effortlessly. While appreciating a lot of what Christopher Eccleston did with the character, at times he seemed to be struggling and when he went off mark he went off badly, sometimes creating a character that was scarcely recognisable as the Doctor. In contrast David Tennant strode through the whole story completely at ease, never for one minute having to try and convince the audience he is the Doctor. As yet he hasn’t had a really great standout script, but on the evidence of the Christmas Invasion and this episode I think the part is in safe hands and I think some of the stuff to come will give him a chance to really shine. Only in the possessed Cassandra scenes did he slightly lose credibility, but probably did the best anybody could with this material.

Billie Piper in contrast seemed somewhat weaker in this episode than usual. Probably because much of the episode was given over to her being possessed by Cassandra, Rose got very few standout moments in her own right.

The return of Cassandra herself was somewhat of a mixed blessing, she was one of the few genuinely amusing camp comic creations from the last series, and her few scenes in her trampoline form where a joy to behold, unfortunately the whole bodyswap idea became very tiresome as it went on and once again seemed to be too much of a divergence from the main thread of the story. The Face of Boe’s return seemed a deliberate setup for a future plot strand, but I for one was glad to see him back. He is without doubt a superbly realised alien creation and it is just a shame he wasn’t given a bit more to do, series 1 had a few false starts on the monster front (I wont mention the Slitheen) but we now seeming to be getting some pretty good and believable aliens, and the Sisters of Plenitude easily put the cheetah people from Survival to shame.

The basic premise of the plague farm and the birth of a new breed of humans was an interesting one, there seemed to be a real good germ of an idea somewhere underneath it all, but it never quite sprouted. Drowned under the frenetic pace and the constant cutting about from one idea and place to another, the poignancy of the message the story seemed to be trying to make about the nature of life and death was lost. This is where I get the notion that Russell T Davies thinks the whole country suffers from attention deficit disorder, he seems so frightened at the notion that the viewer may become bored or turn over to the other side, that there has to be new joke, special effect or big moment every few seconds. While I agree with a lot of his perceptions, it is this worry that is preventing the new series from having many well plotted involving stories. It more often than not feels like we are watching the edited highlights, there is never any chance to build up a sense of mystery, characters such as the Duke are introduced and then dispensed with as the story flits between disparate elements in an attempt to keep the viewer watching. If I am honest I get the impression Russell T Davies concocts his stories a bit like Terrance Dicks said he had to do on the five Doctors, he has a list of ingredients and big set piece moments and the rest is a case of joining up the dots, one very rarely gets the sense of a clear progression from point A to point B. Again Mr Davies probably knows more about modern tv than I do, but this approach is why we have never had a modern equivalent of Genesis of the Daleks or Inferno, these stories grew organically from their respective ideas, gradual unravelling plots not afraid to have a quiet moment or two, one didn’t feel the writers were checking off a list of crowd pleasing ingredients as they went along.

So a somewhat mixed start to the new series: a very confident turn from Tennant in his first full story, a basic solid Doctor Who setup with a great looking location, a good story idea and some interesting characters, all of which unfortunately failed to gell into a cohesive whole, and sprinkled with too much of a camp sugary overcoat to be the standout start to the series it could have been.

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The episode starts with a scene on the Powell Estate where Rose and the Doctor are saying goodbye to Jackie and Mickey. This would not be important, but it shows that the programme is still "grounded" in every day life. Although we may be visiting the year 5,000,000,000,023, where the grass smells of apples and the people fly about on hover cars, we don't forget that we have just left a very real council estate, where people have very real concerns about whether the washing is done, who will cook the chips and beans, and of course, where their teenage daughter is. This makes us care more about the characters, they are real people, not elements from a computer game or characters generated by the roll of dice. Mickey also elicits some sympathy as his "I love you" isn't reciprocated by Rose.

The theme music used is the re-vamped Christmas Invasion version, with its added orchestral parts and brief sound effects at the beginning. This therefore, must be David Tennant's version of the theme music. The CGI and/or model work (you can't tell what's what these days) is astonishing, whether it is the futuristic city of New New York, or the thousands of 'Tomb of The Cybermen'-like chambers, the perspective, lighting, and focus is all rendered perfectly. We can become blasé about effects we've seen before - We know they can 'do' Cassandra, so when we see her now we aren't gazing in wonder at the effect, we're listening to what she say, but it's still well done, however they do it. I had wondered whether she would have survived in a different form, having been left with just a brain at the end of her last appearance, but even though this might make logical sense, it is dramatically much better for us to see the "bitchy trampoline", so that we (and especially younger viewers) can realise that this is the same character returning.

The shape of this season seems similar to the last, if, that is, we take The Christmas Invasion as the first episode of the new series. If That was the debut episode, full of fast thrills and excitement, and then this is the comedy counterpart of the End Of The World, complete with two returning characters. The following episode is the historical story, etc., etc. But on to the returning characters. It is reassuring to see The Face Of Boe make another appearance, given how much he was spoken about in the last series, much anticipation has been built up. Here he is voiced by Chandler & Co.'s Struan Rodger (he played Barbara Flynn's husband) and he lends a dignified, unpretentious gravitas to the part. He has a final secret which he won't reveal until he and the Doctor meet for the third and last time. I only hope that that next time we see a bit more of him, because he's a great character and well-realised by both the actor and Neill Gorton's visual effect. The other 'plus' this gives the story is that there is an unanswered question; a Bad Wolf-style mini story arc, likely to run through the series. Like the inclusion of Cassandra, and the fact that the story follows on from The End Of The World, this rewards loyal viewers, but is not intrusive as to deter casual viewers (they may even be tempted into watching further episodes to find out the Face's secret).

David Tennant and Billie Piper both perform well, with the latter having a lot of comedy work to do, especially in the scenes where she is playing Cassandra. At times, the comedy and innuendo gets a little out of control, and this is perhaps evidence of a very confident production team. This undermines the realism in a couple of areas, mainly to do with the mind-transfer machine. A staple of science-fiction (having been used in Doctor Who several times before, but to better effect in The Prisoner), mind transfer machines are sometimes used as an excuse for actors to give OTT performances, and David Tennant probably oversteps the mark here. Tennant is his jolly self throughout most of the story, but does get a small chunk of steely moralising near the end of the episode, showing that his character probably has more dimensions than we have seen so far. He seems more mercurial than the ninth Doctor, and the fact that we have lost such a great Doctor as Christopher Eccleston makes it even more remarkable that Tennant has succeeded so well in stepping into his shoes. As for the supporting characters, Zoë Wannamaker makes the most of her limited screen time, even appearing as a beautiful, younger Cassandra in a couple of sequences, and I hope we see her again in whatever form. Her acolyte, Chip, is played with imagination by Sean Gallagher and again it would be a shame if we don't see him again. The cat nuns' facial expressions are all but hidden by their masks, but they have some good vocal performances, with Brothers and Sisters' Dona Croll appropriately playing a sister!

The cat nuns were very well realised. When you compare the effort that went into making them with the equal effort that went into 1989's cheetah people, and then see how much better 2006's results are, it gives a good if a of how technology has marched on in the last 17 years. If, presumably, they are a race of people and only some of them work as nuns/nurses, then it would be nice to see more of them in future stories. They were especially popular with my four year old, who was a little sad when the "naughty cat" fell down the lift shaft! That brings me to the most shocking aspect of this story; the make-up design used for the various visible ailments on the 'human guinea pigs' was almost unnecessarily realistic and I know older children (and adults!) who were also a bit distressed by this. That said, at least it was convincing, and when the visible skin complaints were seen to be healed, this acted as a reassurance to younger viewers. Having said that, I am not sure exactly how the medicines would have healed scarred skins so quickly, and why did just eight bags of coloured liquids cure thousands of disease when they're supposed to be taken intravenously anyway? But I digress and I nitpick. This was a great 'funny episode', and Doctor Who has to be able to laugh occasionally (nobody likes a sci-fi series which takes itself too seriously). And despite the comedy, there were serious moments, and quite a touching ending (which I won't reveal!). Altogether, this gets eight out of ten, and I can't wait for next Saturday to come round!

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I’ve read many reviews of New Earth, and while I will agree that there is much going on in the episode and it could use a few more minutes of exposition, much of the griping I see as a longing for the past format of the original series.

I say, ‘shut up and enjoy it!’ The “new” Doctor Who is all about rectifying the problems that the original series ran into beginning in the 1980s: taking itself far too seriously. While at times I wish that some of the stories had more depth, all in all they are great entertainment and have an absolutely wonderful feel to them. For the first time in Doctor Who television history one can actually relate to the characters. You can actually put yourself into the shoes of the characters and imagine what it would be like to be there, to feel and sense and be part of these adventures. Russell Davies has done a stupendous job of making Doctor Who fun again to the point where I find it hard sometimes to re-watch the original series due to the heavy-handedness and seriousness it sometimes took.

“New Earth” opponents have claimed that the story has too many ideas left unfulfilled and concepts that need more attention. Some say that the Cassandra body transfer concept needed more flushing out, or that the cat people should have been more thoroughly evolved as characters or the idea of the plague more expertly discussed. But why? That’s not the point of the story. The point of the story is that it is about renewal and humanity – with a dash of mystery as all good Doctor Who stories should be.

The story evokes the common themes of Doctor Who and the character of The Doctor: a love for life, a desire to understand and to explore. The ancillary concepts of the cat people and the virus were merely plot devices to help bring out those themes and having the Face of Boe around was to add some plausible mystery. None of this particularly bothered me as the themes came across clear as crystal and it was all great fun to watch! Great fun!

The original series would have spent the first 20 minutes explaining New Earth, the next 20 minutes with Cassandra and the body transfer, the following 20 minutes on the cat people and the disease and the final 20 minutes on the resolution. No doubt there would have been 40 minutes of unnecessary padding in that 80 minutes of television and the point of the story (renewal and love and enjoyment of life) would have become muddled in self-referential hubris and nonsense. Who needs that when a tightly written 45 minutes of fast paced action gets the message across just as clear with a very heart-warming ending where Cassandra bids goodbye to her future self in a scene one would never have expected from such a deliciously malevolent character.

New Earth is not without its flaws, but all in all, the core audience (which is not the old fanbase, but a 21st century cadre of smart young children) will find it wonderful fun with a solid message: life is important, life is beautiful and most of all, must be respected cherished and revered.

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Like some other fans, knowing this was written by RTD did little for my pre-broadcast expectations. But I bore it in mind that the Christmas Invasion suggested that RTD had, perhaps, listened and learned.

New Earth shows that RTD has learned a lot. My only criticism of this story is that it would have been better had it been longer. The tension could have built up, the secrets kept a little longer if it had been in the older format of three 25 minute installments. But in modern TV we probably can't have that so let's deal with what we do have.

Some of the ideas here are straight out of 70's Doctor Who...the Doctor and his companion visit a place that is apparently a benevolant hospital in a happy city, where cures for terrible diseases have been found and are routinely administered to patients who would otherwise die. But we find something is wrong, and not what it seems. That is central to "old style" Doctor Who, but RTD has cleverly made it all seem so contemporary.

We also have Cassandra, who has survived "The End Of The World" along with a servant, and is hiding in the basement of the mysterious hospital. She too wants to know what's so sinister and secret about the intensive care section. Crucially she is used as a character essential to the plot, not merely returning to guarantee ratings. And we learn more about her, fleshing out her character and even allowing some sympathy.

I won't give any more plot details away, but I will say it seemed illogical that Cassandra initially needed a machine to transfer herself into Rose's brain...but thereafter could move from person to person at will. This seemed silly at first, but served a great purpose later in the story.

Thankfully there is no deus ex machina ending. The Doctor himself (with help from Casandra, in Rose's body) saves the day. It may seem an all too simple solution but no more so than previous Doctor Who stories. Again, more time would have allowed for greater explanation. Nonetheless it was exciting.

So we have a good story, with Billie Piper putting in perhaps her best performance to date. Tennant is settling nicely into the role. The story, while quite contemporary in many ways, could have been acted just as successfully by Trouhgton or Tom Baker.

I thought all the ships flying overhead in the opening scenes were too much, amost FX for FX sake, but otherwise the visuals were of a high standard. Incidental music generally added to the atmosphere and was appropriate to the pacing of the direction.

Not one of the very best, but highly enjoyable and one I shall watch again. If this is the benchmark standard then we have a fantastic season to look forward to. My personal rating, 7.5/10

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Doctor Who has had its fair share of poor season openers over the years, but fortunately New Earth will not be remembered as one of them. The episode featured an enjoyable story, some good set pieces, and high quality acting and was visually colourful and brilliant. Some plot elements may not have been that original (i.e. the living dead, murderous goings on at a hospital and body swaps), but these elements – along with a few twists – were made interesting enough to keep the show entertaining for 45 minutes. The Face of Boe storyline was also clever as it hints at something interesting to come in the future, which should keep viewers watching.

The highlight among a series of good performances was undoubtedly Billie Piper’s portrayal of the Cassandra possessed Rose, which was frighteningly like the Zoë Wannamaker original. David Tennant’s performance was also very encouraging. He looked comfortable in the role of a Tenth Doctor who seems more eccentric than his immediate predecessor. Yet, Doctor Ten is a complex character who can be just as passionate about injustice as his forebears as his reactions to the Sister’s treatment of their ‘patients’ in ‘intensive care’ showed. The episode also proved the ‘new new Doctor’ is funny and retains the traditional mix of serious and humorous personality traits that have made the character so endurable. Tennant did well to so convincingly convey such a rounded character in his full adventure.

The design and effects work in the story must rank as some of the best in Doctor Who history. The futuristic landscape looked really impressive and showed a lot of imagination and creative talent. The Sisters were also well realised and it is clear that a lot of time and effort went into creating them. The make up used on the disease victims was very convincing and they looked like they were genuinely the victims of some horrific condition. It is also worth noting that the Face of Boe and Cassandra (the trampoline version) looked even better than they did last year. Even the music seemed to work well and fit in with the mood of the story. This is all indicative of the high production values established last season being raised even further.

All in all New Earth represents a solid start to the new season.

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A season opener, introducing a new Doctor. The return of a camp villainess, who assumes the identity of the Doctor's companion. A story which derives from popular science headlines, but which is not remotely scientifically plausible. Ring any bells? OK, so New Earth isn't as bad as Time and the Rani, but the fact that the comparison is possible is worrying.

What a curiously unengaging first episode. If you've not yet seen it, here's my advice: forget all the hype about this season being bigger and better, turn off your critical faculties, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle. Good points first: it's visually stunning (full marks to everyone in the production and design departments), well directed, and both lead actors are clearly having a ball. Anything else? Well, here's where the reservations start creeping in. We get our first visit to an alien planet (hurray!) - but not only is it a dead ringer for Earth (I know, the title tells us that much), complete with human extras who could've wandered in off the street, but most of the story is set indoors. Mystery is piled upon mystery (who has summoned the Doctor? who is spying on Rose? what is the Face of Boe's secret? etc.) - but we're either given the answer straight away, or not given an answer at all. Either way, no tension is generated. Oh, there was one other positive (in fact, the only time for the whole 45 minutes I felt gripped) - the trailer for next week looks great.

What went wrong? Is it just that expectations were too high, and that after the marvellous 'The Christmas Invasion', anything was going to be a disappointment? I don't think so. Sadly, the fault lies in the script. First, the pre-credits sequence. Rose's mum and boyfriend say goodbye to her as she catches the train to go off to university - or may as well do for the amount of excitement or emotion in the scene. (Actually, that would have been an improvement; it would at least have made us wander what was going on.) Second problem - in their first full episode together, Rose and the new Doctor get separated very early on and spend very little time with each other. Third problem - the attempts at comedy felt forced and (to this reviewer at least) just not funny. Everything had to be heavily signposted and laid on with a trowel - what happened to lightness and wit? There are quotable lines in 'The Christmas Invasion' that still make me laugh, so RTD can do humour; but when he gets it wrong, it seems to go badly wrong. (Cassandra-as-the-Doctor dancing and Cassandra-as-Rose's false Cockney speech particularly grated).

Other reviewers have commented on aspects of the plot that just didn't make sense (e.g. mixing the various intravenous drips and curing the Flesh by spraying them with the resulting mixture, and then having them transmit this cure by touching each other). I'll mention one more: how come, if the Flesh suffer from all (human) diseases, the plague is not airborne? (Answer: having it being transmitted by physical contact enables lots of running away down corridors, and also makes the AIDS symbolism stronger. Fine; so just don't say they have all diseases, then). It was also unclear how the different elements were connected. Was it just a coincidence that Cassandra and the Face of Boe ended up in the same location again? And why re-introduce them when neither had anything to do with the Cat-Nurse-Nun plot? RTD clearly loves his creation Lady Cassandra, but I'm afraid he didn't make me care about her in the slightest. Consequently, the ending just felt flat and dull, rather than emotional. Overall, it felt like plotting by numbers, formulaic and derivative. (Which is a concern, this early in the Who revival). Is the problem that the other producers and writers are so in awe of RTD that no-one submits his scripts to the same level of scrutiny as those from other writers?

Maybe I'll revise my opinion when I've seen it again, but my first impression was that this is the weakest of the 'New Whos' to date. I'm still looking forward to next week; but let's hope that along with the spectacle (Werewolf! Queen Victoria! Matrix-style Kung-Fu Monks!), there's also some excitement, wit and engaging characters.

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It's back, New Earth and New Doctor! Was it worth the wait? - God yes!

While I know there will be people out there complaining that it was another RTD script with echoes of The End Of The World, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the sinister nature of the Cat Nuns and the light hearted fun of Rose vs Cassandra, there was some subtle (and not so subtle) humour in the dialogue that I felt worked as well as the visual humour!

Billie Piper steps up another gear in her acting (is that possible?) and was fantastic while imitating Cassandra. We got to see the new Doctor show his darker side from the end of The Christmas Invasion, his speech about there being no other higher authority was chilling, this Doctor has balls! (as Cassandra pointed out when she took over his body)

David Tennant continues to grow on me apace, he draws your attention with his intense looks and cheeky smile and a brilliant balance of light and dark moods.

So what did New Earth give us?

The Doctor and Rose FINALLY on another planet, great effects with the flying ships and the futuristic buildings ... how many New's was it?? Not much relationship development between them but I expect that is to come, step forward Episode 3 I would think.

Cassandra back with a larger part in the proceedings, a contrived but satisfying end for her (note to RTD though - Margaret, Cassandra - not every character deserves such an ending)

The Face of Boe - did someone say Bad Wolf? Setting up the thread of the series in a slightly less subtle way. My only question is: in "The Long Game" he was pregnant - what happened to the child as he is now the only Boe left?

The Cat Nuns, oh how I wish they could have had more scenes! We got to see one clawed paw and that was all, surely we haven't seen the last of these feline creatures?

Overall a much stronger opener than in series 1, straight in with the action and setting an expectation that the next episodes will just get better. Having seen the 9th Doctor's relationship with Rose grow so strong last series it will be interesting to see how she adapts to the new one.

Having seen brief glimpes of the next few episodes I shall be willing the next 12 weeks to go as soon as possible .. Saturday nights are back in business!!

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Series two is back, but after three long months of waiting for more Tenth Doctor was it worth the wait? Quite frankly I felt not.

This was a disappointing story where everything but the storyline felt right. The acting was superb, especially the leads, the visuals were of the highest quality and I have no complaints about the sound. The locations had atmosphere and you could smell the hospital reception.

Everything that went wrong with this episode fell down exactly in the same places of RTDs efforts of season one. Notably the over the top writer self-indulgence with completely irrelevant, almost fetish, investigation of some characters and the taking of unwanted side tracks with plot threads. The latter were agonising as it took time away from what could have been a far deeper and more interesting plot. The death ridden flesh stock was a fantastic idea and could have been worked well, instead they instantly turned from lifeless corpses (a psuedo realistic hard line cure) to Joe Bloggs with a slight cold seemingly just to make a happy ending. The theory of them containing every disease was interesting, yet the Doctor took twentyish cures and instantly they are fine. As for the body-swapping, we've been there and done that; the "lets swap every couple of seconds" also made it painful to watch. Cassandra was bearable in series one and should have been left there. Her desire to live was the key to the character until the plot line said otherwise.

My idea on seeing the script would have Swap Cassandra for other more interesting points, for example the cat people, who were they and why did they care so much for selected humans?

The positive's were there. David Tennant's Doctor was excellent. The portrayal of the Doctor was moody yet controlled and consistent, something even Christopher Ecclestone took a while to do. Rose took a more mature approach, and I thought Billie handled the body swap well. The latter saved the episode from complete farce.

After such a long wait I was disappointed and even felt my self reaching for the remote after half an hour. I felt myself asking if RTD and the BBC team would accept such scripts from the third party writers. I think not!

RTD has proved in the climax of season one he can write, and the historic guest writing has been superb. Hopefully, and I also believe this will be the case, things will get better and this meaningless plot was a blip. Roll on the rest of season two, I've waited long enough...

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It's a generally accepted truth that fandom usually has a problem with the current incarnation of the show. Classic examples are the DWAS's Deadly Assassin demolition, the demonisation of Graham Williams and DWB's anti-JWB hate campaign.

While there is no denying that there are differences in quality and tone between the periods mentioned above, the fact remains that when the shouting died down fans realised that they actually quite liked the period they'd just been decrying. How does that work? Because now the show was silly / violent / not on the air anymore, and they didn't like that even more.

It's another generally accepted truth that those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Here we are in 2006, and the accepted orthodoxy is that Russell T Davis cannot write "good Doctor Who".

I have just finished watching New Earth, and I thought it was lovely. There was humour, action, some great acting, some medium-good effects and a perfectly good plot. Russell T Davis seemed to have taken heed of some of the criticisms of his plotting last year and carefully foreshadowed the things he'd need to hang turning points around - good for him.

It seemed to me that there would be plenty here to please even the grumpier sections of fandom - dingy, green-lit corridors. A Doctor who saves the day. The suggestion of a "story arc". A very "New Adventures" moment when the Doctor takes Cassandra back to meet her old self. All this and pustulent zombies too.

Yet, upon logging on to Outpost Gallifrey I find that the same old depressing sledging has started up again. Grumbling from people who think that Doctor Who should be a dark, adult show like it used to be, despite the fact that it has never been any such thing.

I would suggest that a portion of fandom isn't doing itself any favours here, and could probably do with a bit of a paradigm shift if it is going to walk proudly towards a happy future.

Firstly, Doctor Who is a children's show. Always has been, always will be. The books might have fooled a few folk into thinking that it was actually a textually dense sci-fi series with lots of intricate plotting and death and space battles and stuff - but the actual series was a bunch of ropey old nonsense with plot holes galore, that got across the line with jokes, the occasional scary set piece and a clutch of inspired performances from the leads.

So you guys making big lists of But It Just Doesn't Make Any Sense would be advised to check out Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood's excellent About Time series, and be comprehensively assured that it was ever thus.

The other problem that faces the weird mass mind of organised fandom is prejudice. It has become received wisdom in much of online fandom that "RTD's episodes are the weakest". Ideas like this have power to influence our expectations, and I genuinely think that a lot of people are sitting down to watch an RTD episode with a preconceived notion that they will not like it. With this mindest, they are more likely to nitpick than laugh, shiver or expirience all the good things.

New Earth was a great, fun piece of television. I reckon some of you know in your hearts than when Producer X is in charge in 2008 you might well dislike his vision too - if Producer X knows what he is doing, that is. Fans dislike change, and change and renewal are vital to a show's continued success - and a show that panders exclusively to its fans will die a death.

If that happens, you'll be desperately wishing you could have Doctor Who as good as New Earth every week. Why not enjoy it now? This is what Doctor Who is like in 2006, and it's wonderful.

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Well the waiting is over once again and David Tennant has made his first full entry into the folklore of Doctor Who. Whereas Chris Eccleston's opening season was almost all filmed in very dark and sombre backdrops, the first thing that is obvious about season two is how colourful it is going to be. From the moment Rose stepped into the Tardis on a bright old earth day (what has happened since Christmas I wonder??) to the arrival on New Earth with its rich blue skys and apple green grass, to the white and clean interior of the hospital - this was a new brighter Doctor Who.

A typical RTD script gave a generally light feel to the story, although the scene of the plague victims was pretty well Land of the Zombies stuff and quite scary for younger viewers. The humour was well paced with superb performances from David Tennant, Billie Piper (excelling herself as always) and Zoe Wannamaker. The plot was however somewhat rushed and left no time to explore the history of this wonderful (??) new earth and its inhabitants - in fact it moved along so quickly that when the Doctor and Rose took Cassandra back to her past, there was a feeling that the Doctor had very quickly abandoned the mutants - what was to become them - how would they be educated??? Indeed the character of Cassandra was far more interesting this time round - she was not the major villain we suspected from her first outing. But how had she got to be in the hospital - how had she still got spider spies and where did they disappear too? Many unanswered questions. I suspect that the first story was intended to "break the audience in" for what appears from the clips shown to be a rollercoaster of very exciting and fast paced adventures to come.

The air of mystery came from the returning Face of Boa - he spoke of a third encounter with the Doctor when a secret will be revealed - hmm stay tuned! All in all I enjoyed this first adventure. I suspect however that the best is yet to come and I have very high hopes for next week's "Tooth and Claw" which looks set to be a classic!! Oh - and every time I see a glimspe of the Cybermen it sends a shiver down my spine. What a great 12 weeks left!!!

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Looking at the early UK newspaper reviews, this hasnt been received too well...I loved it personally. Yes it was silly but what's wrong with that? It made the contrast with the sad ending to the episode so much better....

One review said that Billie Pipers cleavage would only get her so far....well, suffice to say it didnt bother me too much...It would have been nice to have a bit more Zoe Wanamaker..maybe had her voice over the Doctor's and Rose's and a trick was perhaps missed by not showing Cassandra/Rose's point of view when she changed.

As for the new Doctor, I enjoyed him immensley. David Tennant can obviously do the funny stuff but he showed that he has that steel needed for the role as well. This certainly shows with the Cat Nun scene.

I think the backlash to the hit first series has started now but not every episode is going to be emotional and upsetting a la Fathers Day or The Parting of The Ways. I think you have to have funny and sad, crying or glad as contrasts or you dont believe each of them when they come around.

You could definitely see it was a Russell T Davies script for exactly those contrasts. He walks that line of happy and sad more than any other writer on the show. Before the Anti-RTD crusade starts...just jump in the TARDIS and imagine when he leaves the show. Think about who might take his 'Dalek Emperor' role....the care and attention he brings to the show, the care and attention that he brings out in others....those will be big shoes to fill...

I think most importantly the kids will love New Earth and I'm actually going to agree with my missus for once...that Doctor Who is a kids show...as someone said the kids show that adults all adore...

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More than anything, this opener to season two (or 28! We may get to see season 30 yet!) made me long for the old days of longer stories. In 45 minutes it was OK- as a 4 parter it would have been superb.

To start at the beginning though- Rose kisses Mickey goodbye with affection , reaches new earth, and promptly talks about her and the Doctors first date. Ho hum. Mickey is indeed a tolerant boyfriend. Moving on.....the New Earth immediately presents as being effectively realised. Enter the hospital, and the mystery begins......the cat nurses are wonderfully different. The dominant species of a planet now colonised by humans, reaching out to them motivated by a mixture of philanthropy and profiteering- or not being infected by them perhaps. Not a hint of wanting to conquer the galaxy. A good change of breath.

Getting through the humorous disinfectant scene , things really kick off. Rose meets Cassandra! Who this time, in my view, gets a much better episode. END OF THE WORLD , for me, was likeable for the poignancy of the earths demise and the beginning of the Time War revelations, but the actual murder plot was too fast to be engaging or convincing. Here she gets a better plot. The hospital plot was good, and Cassandra's bit worked better.Partly, at least....

Her initial mind swap with Rose was okay, and allowed her liberty to roam. Yes, she probably wouldn't have known what a chav was, but oh well. Billie Piper acted it all well, but thereafter it became tedious. Halfway up a ladder she bodyswaps as easily as breathing- several times-cueing increasing camp reactions from Piper, Tennant and a plague-human. Unbeleivable and irritating, though her inherent "poshness" and consequent dislike of Rose was likeable humour. Less time on camp reactions and bodyswaps and more time to expand the main plot would have been better.

This said, I liked the fact that the fact she had released the bred humans from their cells (and didn't those cells look good? very cybermen!) unwillingly bonded them together for a while, and her understanding of one such human's loneliness was poignant. In really living again she learns to accept dying. Cue a nice, if treacly, ending for her. Nice. If only it had had more room to breathe.

Regarding the hospital plot itself, battery farmed humans is not a breathtakingly original concept but it works nontheless. The plight of these humans (where did they learn to talk however?), the Doctor's moral outrage, and their realease- all good stuff. But these scenes really could have been more horrifying- creeping infected humans need to scare the pants off us. James Hawes can do it, we know that from EMPTY CHILD. Maybe they are saving the scares for later......

And the Doctor saving the day? Good solution, if again way way fast. The Duke of Manhattan's secretary made a good foil at the end- it makes for good character drama when people are obsessed with their petty problems while there's a bigger picture at stake. The disinfectant bit worked but it was all over so quickly......

Not a bad starter, in the end a better one than ROSE for me. Just needed more time to breathe. TOOTH AND CLAW looks better though- and the Cybermen are back!!! Yeah!!!!Wrapping up, I really like David Tennant. He is commanding when he needs to be and grasps both the comedic and serious aspects of the role. His fianl "life will out!" was a bit OTT but fitted the episode's themes well- Natural evolution vs Cassandra's stagnation natural life vs the sister's experimetns, etc etc. And precisely what do we still have to learn from the Face of Boe?

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Having endured the flatulent self-indulgence of Aliens of London and the infantile pop culture references of The End of the World and Bad Wolf while somehow managing to bite my tongue, I can do so no longer after wincing my way through New Earth.

Was I watching a different programme to the one most Outpost Gallifrey reviewers saw last Saturday? Judging by many of the comments posted thus far, yes. To my mind, this was the episode that, more than any other, saw the light shine through the Emperor's New Clothes. Flabby, smug and erratically paced, it managed to squander some genuinely intriguing ideas amid a sea of painting-by-numbers CGI, ghastly incidental muzak, and gratuitous sexual innuendo.

Aside from some nauseating (if predictable) canoodling between Doctor and companion and a garbled, rather nonsensical 'explanation' of the new colony's origins by the former, the story started out reasonably enough, introducing some amusingly larger-than-life incidental characters and posing interesting questions about the true nature of the impressively realised hospital. The feline nurses were nicely underplayed, and there were some refreshingly subtle references to topical issues such as MRSA - proving RTD does have it in him to use allegory to make a point about the present, rather than simply transplanting Big Brother wholesale to an implausibly far-flung future.

For a good 15 minutes or so it trots along merrily, with our hero letting his curiosity lead him, headfirst, into trouble in refreshingly traditional Who vein. But then it all goes terribly wrong...

I won't bother itemising everything that, in my view, lets this episode down. If I simply confine myself to saying that the whole experience left me with a tremendous sense of deja-vu related to uncomfortable memories of Time and the Rani, I'm sure readers will get my drift. Villainous diva with doting grotesque as sidekick poses as Doctor's companion; otherwise decent Doc forced to ham it up in crassly scripted 'instability' scenes; garishly colourful costumes and effects; frenetic 'rent-a-score' drum beats undermine any iota of tension...Need I go on? Hell, even the Centre of Leisure made an appearance near the end, when Cassandra appeared in her evening dress at that chintzy nightclub. (Incidentally, the dinner suits were 'sooo Five Billion', weren't they?)

To be honest, I am sure this episode was a genuine misfire and that far better is to come later in the season. Next week's trailer looked promising (though I, for one, hope the much-vaunted "Tarantino" camerawork is kept to a minimum to allow the tale itself room to breathe), and the clips of School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace bode well. Sooner or later, though, questions must surely be asked about why it is that RTD's own episodes have been so comparatively sub-standard? With the exception of the surprisingly thoughtful Boom Town, none of his episodes have paused for breath. And this "restlessness" (as Nick Courtney describes it incisively in his new autobiography) is starting to become, at best, exhausting and, at worst, tedious.

Yes, RTD deserves praise and gratitude for resurrecting this beloved show and attracting writers and actors of calibre to bring it back to life. Yes, he is a good dialogue writer (though the extent to which this is demonstrated in his Who scripts is open to debate). But look beyond the surface sheen of Saturday's episode (and, let's face it, with the money and technology now at the production team's disposal, they have little excuse for it to look anything but polished) and is there really much there of substance? Referring to the Doctor and Rose, RTD commented in his recent Radio Times interview that there is "an overconfidence" about them at times which could prove "their downfall". On the evidence of New Earth, he'd be wise to bear these words in mind himself...

Twenty years ago, fans were ready to lynch JN-T for the slightest concession to slapstick - or even, dare I say it, popular culture. Today, some are deifying RTD for doing much the same thing. Devoid of today's budget, though, would the wilder excesses of his 'new vision' for Who really compare any more favourably with the work of his predecessor? I think not.

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“New Earth” requires a couple of viewings. Before moving on, I suggest that viewers looking for an objective opinion on the story are best to give the episode a repeat look. Why? Because there is a great deal going on, arguably a little too much for a 45 minute slot, but personally I would rather a Who episode brimming with ideas than the old fashioned four episode story that consists of the Doctor running back and forth up and down wobbly corridors.

“New Earth” is a tale that combines a heavy mixture of storylines and ideas. We are introduced to a future planet and society that in turn opens up a curious medical mystery. We have the welcome return of the Face Of Boe who is preparing to pass on a major secret to the Doctor. Another past character pops up in the form of Cassandra who is back from the dead plotting revenge. On top of all this, we have new humans; deep dark experiments breaking out unleashing havoc. With a rather large dabble of mind swapping to boot; it’s a busy story.

The story is the first new televised Doctor Who to be set on a different planet. The opening shots of New Earth are beautiful and the use of outside location combined with computer imagery gives the future planet a very honest and believable ambience.

The hospital is nicely designed, using a mix of studio, CGI and Cardiff architecture to create this key location. Like the planet itself, it works well. The lower levels may slap ardent fans with memories of the Nestene lair in “Rose” because, well, that’s what it is. Personally I’m okay with location reuse. As a Doctor Who fan I’m used to a lot worse and Blake’s 7 used the same area of the same quarry a good 4-5 times through the series. Veteran fans can’t grumble, the location is redressed and works well within the context of the story. In the end, that’s what is important.

The return of Cassandra is a surprisingly welcome one. Moving Cassandra away from the living skin trampoline allows the character to be reused without rehash; she isn’t just back for more of the same, she’s back to cause havoc in an entirely different way. This time Cassandra is jumping bodies in the hope of finding a new vessel for her snobbish persona. Given how well this works in context to the story, I can forgive Mr Davies for using such an old sci-fi cliché. The mind swap truly injects new life into an old character. Furthermore her reintroduction serves as a bridge the series divide for the new audiences, reminding them this is still the same show and operates as strong comic relief to a rather visually nasty story.

The mind swap also gives Billie Piper and to a lesser extent, David Tennant, something new to play with. Wisely, the mind swapping is kept mostly with Piper; the tenth Doctor needs space to expand on his own without too much mind control interference. However, when the Lady Cassandra possesses the Doctor, Tennant doesn’t shy from the chance to have some real fun.

Piper is excellent as Cassandra, and it’s nice to see her getting a chance to have some laughs. Piper has proved she can do drama on several occasions in Series One, but aside from acting as a humour foil, she never got a really proactive comic role. In “New Earth” Piper is virtually flawless. You really believe she’s Cassandra and it’s rare to see such versatility in young TV actresses, being they are so often picked for the aesthetic than broad acting ability. Once again, I must doff my hat to Miss Piper, from her shallow pop star roots she has come far.

“New Earth” has a script full of both comedy and drama that should keep the casual and ardent fan watching. The supporting cast give a solid performance, and the make-up throughout the episode is exceptional. The feline Sisters of Plenitude look super and it’s a pity that the TARDIS doesn’t actually work because a bit of time travel back to 1989 could have done wonders for the Cat People in Survival.

So let’s look at the new fangled Doctor. Not quite as show stopping as he was in “The Christmas Invasion”, Tennant’s Doctor is a little more subdued in comparison. Probably a good thing in retrospect as there is always a danger of the show being suffocated if it’s lead man hogs the spotlight. Tom Baker’s era suffered from precisely this problem in the later years of his tenure.

Nevertheless, Tennant has the chance to portray some comedy, drama and serious Doctor energy throughout the episode. His character retains those elements quintessential to the Doctor; he’s compassionate, eccentric, dynamic and heroic. As with his seventh and ninth regenerations, he has a nasty temper when people cross his ideology and he is still willing to risk his own skin if it will saves others. Certainly a more charming Doctor than the more sorrowful ninth Doctor, and not as in control as the seventh. He has the sparkle of the forth and the dashing dynamic of the fifth. He’s a good mix of what’s come before with a dab of something new. Tennant is very different to Eccleston yet unlike previous regenerations, say between Baker and Davison or Troughton and Pertwee, the character of ‘The Doctor’ feels less challenged. He’s a different man once more, yet he retains far more consistency than many of the previous transitions.

So what’s wrong with “New Earth”? First off, let’s dispel some fan criticism. In “New Earth”, there is what some people would call ‘serious plot holes’, which to me, can be translated as ‘aspects of the plot which aren’t explained because they really aren’t that important’. Strangely, we still live in a time where sci-fi shows are meant to punctuate every last aspect of the plot. People are still looking for the “What’s going on Doctor?” or “What is it Doctor?” or “What are you doing Doctor?” type of explanations. The frustrating thing is, that any fiction that creates such a futuristic Earth is all made up anyhow. Any explanations that are forthcoming are no more than technobabble, yet for some reason, fans still feel cheated without it. “How do the drug compounds work?” “How does mixing the drugs make them more potent?” “How did Cassandra move her essence from one being to another?” It all boils down to needless babble, wasteful babble and dull, dull techno babble. We are told what the drugs will do in the same way we used to be constantly told that “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow” would remove a force field. We know Cassandra can jump bodies, we also know such a feat is physically impossible, so why do we need to have it made pseudo-factual by some technowaffle? We don’t need to waste valuable story time with superfluous explanations, yet if the fans don’t get these answers they condemn the story. After years of complaints about excess technoyawn from Star Trek, I’d hoped fans would have moved on from expecting explanations at every corner - clearly not.

It’s a pity that there are such wasteful demands on the show as it’s real focus is the drama, not the sci-fi pokery. Television and it’s audience are slowly learning that no matter how much we move fiction into future or onto other planets, the drama always remains contemporary. Only be being contemporary in it’s dramatic elements can a story create the audience empathy it requires. Nowadays, science fiction dialogue and plots are trying less and less to be “out of this world” fearing sounding silly. I far rather that Cassandra and her ilk use contemporary terms like “chav”, offer dialogue with relevance to contemporary satire or play 21st century pop music than continually attempt to create new sci-fi jargon. It’s those pop culture and topical elements that help give the series a stronger rapport with a greater audience. I don’t mind people not liking this writing approach, but it’s a pity the writer gets attacked for “terrible writing” when it’s simply using a specific writing technique.

While I appreciate sci-fi does have a more natural requirement for explanation than contemporary drama, I don’t think it needs to waste valuable character and plot time explaining what makes no sense anyway. With Buffy, Battlestar Galactica and now Doctor Who moving in this direction in the sci-fi genre, fans need to move on too. It’s not just perceptions of sci-fi that are changing, it’s sci-fi as a whole. We are no longer being spoon-fed – get used to it.

That said, there are still a few glitches here. The Rose and Doctor connection is laid on a little thick for my taste. Not an objective criticism for as we all know, sexual tension sells to mainstream markets and it’s mainstream interest which justifies budget. Doctor Who exists comfortably because of mainstream support, not fan loyalty. Personally, I found the dialogue outside the TARDIS a little icky but I know I just have to like it or lump it – it has to be there for the shows continual broad success.

Also in regards to such mainstream contexts, Rose does spend an awful amount of time touching herself in front of a mirror. Certainly, this works within the context of the plot but does feel a little ‘for the dads’ and that is an element of ‘old Doctor Who’ I hoped we were moving past. Most likely this was simply a character requirement to the episode, but it did feel slightly overdone and Piper has had a large makeover for this season. I just hope there is no attempt to move Rose into sex symbol territory. Keeping mainstream interest is one thing, but I’d hate Doctor Who to lose the dignity it has created for itself.

That said, such “show concerns” from fans like myself are amusing mocked by the writer, who seems to enjoy adding references that seem there just to irritate our anal fandom. Such references to certain Doctor body parts being “hardly used” are bound to create fury by purists. Good on you Davies, keep on pushing the boundaries. Doctor Who should never be safe, no matter how much many fans would like it to remain within certain boundaries.

Another minor gripe is the music, some of which is a return to the “End Of The World” motif. It’s not bad at all, but a little heavy at times. This has always been a problem in the new series, feels it could be pushed back a bit in the mix.

On the first watch of “New Earth” I was a little dissatisfied. There is a lot going on and as such it does sometimes feel as the story is screaming for some space to expand certain scenes. The contagion’s final cure in the finale feels a little rushed. The episode made a big issue of the amount of human containers opened in the basement, yet we see only a roomful of humans cured and that doesn’t give the impression of how fast this cure must be spreading through the diseased humans. It’s not a major issue, but the episode suffers from a few similar minor quibbles that on a first viewing seem bigger than they actually are.

Overall, this was a nice journey into the future and proof the show has come far from “Rose”. It’s not perfect; it’s a little over crammed with plots and ideas which in turn do take a slight toil on the pacing, but in comparison to the old show, it’s still miles out there in terms of script, production and drama. A good watch, an even better second viewing, this is far better than some of fandom will admit to. This is good New Who and while I fear for it’s critical success, with the media looking for a time to knock down what they’ve spend a year to build up, I think the production can be proud of this entrance into the second series. Well done – ignore the old school thinking from the sci-fi community and keeping moving forwards. My grandfather always used to say things were better in the old days and now I fear, it’s turn for my generation to start declaring the same.

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New Earth, same RTD mixture. For those new viewers tempted to tune in by reports of an award winning series which had restored the concept of family viewing and made people care again about a series which was fading long before its demise in 1989 I’m not sure this offering will persuade them to watch again. This would have sat better as a mid season filler perhaps but as ever there’s so much to enjoy that to overly criticise seems a little mean….

After Tennant’s magnificent debut in the Christmas Invasion he seems at times to have taken a step back here, almost trying too hard at times. But I remain convinced he is an excellent choice to play the Doctor and I’m sure he will settle into the role perfectly well- and very often the quality of the scripts bring out the best in the actors, as in Christopher Eccleston’s brilliant confrontations with the Daleks. On the plus side, although the Doctor’s “cure” at the end was an extremely rushed and poor resolution it did at least show a Doctor sorting a situation rather than relying on others, a trend started in the Christmas Invasion and it was again noticeable that the balance of the Doctor/Rose relationship continues to swing in favour of the Doctor with Rose at times seeming to be in dreamy-eyed awe of him in this story.

By contrast Billie Piper is given a chance to shed her Mockney accent and have a ball as the Cassandra-possessed Rose, and she shines in this episode. Interestingly whilst there has been a deliberate attempt to restore the Doctor as the central figure it’s noticeable how confident and settled Piper has become so that she was again the main attraction anyway.

I don’t get as wound up as some do about Davies’ love of innuendo but for those who loath his scripts I can only suggest they don’t watch this again as it encapsulates all that some find so offensive about new Who. However the overall success of the show at the moment outweighs such anxieties. Like him or loath him RTD does seem to be more in touch with what a modern audience will respond to than some of us will ever admit.

Self confessed “deeply atheist” Davies has his customary pop at religion as the Doctor tells the Cat Nun in no uncertain terms that there’s no higher authority than him. If he carries on like this he might as well invite Richard Dawkins to write a story for the series- what a great title the Blind Watchmaker would have made and we would get better science than we’re getting at the moment-but that aspect doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others. Strange then how a man who can’t possibly believe in anything that smacks of the mystical can conveniently employ mystic endings when it suits, as in Rose’s god-like powers in the Parting of the Ways.

The sisters of plenitude are beautifully realised, and the effects generally good, but even allowing for the fact that mankind is starting over on a new planet with a nostalgia for all things retro I’m a little concerned by the continued existence of pulley-operated lifts and disinfectant in the year what was it?Five billion and 23?Come on.

As for whatever plot there is, as usual RTD tries to do too much at once, so mixed in with the mystery of what lies within the bowels of the hospital(nods to the Tomb of the Cybermen and the Ark in Space there) we have the whole Cassandra thing and the Face of Boe threatening to appear once more and reveal something profoundly significant. Whatever sense of poignancy the ending might have otherwise induced is surely diluted by the mystery of why, after all those long years of struggling to stay alive, Cassandra should wish now to end it all without a whimper.

An entertaining but unengaging romp which sits uneasily as a season opener. Judging from next week’s clip we haven’t quite escaped Bad Wolf!

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After what seemed endless trailers and previews, mentions in newspapers , and interviews the new series was back. Having read other reviews, I do feel that it is unfair to criticize RTD , the man who brought back the best TV series in the world and made it good.

It was alright. What does get me though, is why he needs to constantly bring back characters , which were not that good in the first place. The slitheen made an unwelcome appearance last year, and no Cassandra and the The face of Bo. Harriet Jones was the only return that in my opinion worked. The only saving grace with Cassandra was the brilliant voice of Zoe Wannamaker , which brings such life and humor to a fairly plain character. The body swapping was quite funny, but after the fourth time got annoying. The snog, which he said in confidential will ( paraphrase) 'Have funs up in arms'. It seemed pointless to the plot, and a bit of titillation was completely unnecessary.

The story heavily relied on the CGI and prosthetics . This is not Doctor Who, it should be character based, and I feel it went to far and relying on the effects. The zombie like creations were uninteresting and boring and predictable, similar to the traditional zombie, but also the Unquiet dead creations.

As for Mr Tennant, well I think there is no doubt that he is miles better than Eccleston. Having seen him , it all comes so naturally, where as Eccleston performance , with hindsight seemed force to put on the eccentric qualities. But maybe if he went into it, not liking it, just to get a career jump, well what was the point? But then that’s another matter. DT is superb, and thankfully he is sticking around, although I wish he went to Specsavers for the glasses!.

I only hope this is the flaw in the series and we shall see a rise to the glory heights , Pauline Collins as Queen Victoria looks good, although the werewolf’s don’t look that excting. Can’t wait for the Lis Sladen to return , and bring some marvelous talent to the show, not to sure on K9 or the cyberman, but then the proof of the pudding.

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After waiting what feels like a lifetime IT’S BACK and what re-entrance it made back on to our Saturday Night TV screens, but first before I discuss the first episode I must just say that I only started watching Dr Who last year and because of that Christopher Eccleston will always be my Doctor and I will always believe he left the show way too early.

Right back to Saturday (Yes, Can I go back and watch it again). I had very mixed feelings about the series returning. I, like everyone else, watch The Christmas Invasion, which I thought was quite lacklustre but had some great moments in it, like Rose’s grief and The Doctor’s trauma in getting over his re-generating, so I was almost dreading Saturday, hoping to god that the BBC and RTD had not turned the whole thing into a circus with the Rose/Doctor relationship being the focus of everything and every episode being about them getting together and sleeping together (don’t we have Torchwood for the sex). But New Earth set my mind at rest. I think it was the perfect opening for this new series. It the time when we really get to meet the new Doctor (really it should be the “new new new new new new new new new Doctor” and what a guy. He will never be better than Chris Eccleston but he does bring something new to the role. He brings a slightly different humor to the Doctor and he is definitely more relaxed as if Rose/Bad wolf bringing an end to the time war in POTW has allowed him to release some of the pain and guilt that he had been holding on to, but you still get glimpses of a dark side (“HOW MANY!!!!”). I had also wondered if Billie could grow and develop the character of Rose or whether we would be subjected to an emotionally stunted nineteen year old girl who had not learned anything but I could not be more wrong. Billie has returned fresh as a daisy and her characterization of a Cassandra-possessed Rose was to use a ninth Doctor term FANTASTIC. It was amazing to see the change from her being just normal Rose to Cassandra-Rose without resorting to visual trickery, you could just tell that she had changed, her mannerisms changed, her voice changed, her whole stance changed and her performance was excellent, putting her on a total par with her leading-man.

I think the visual effects team deserves an award for bringing the city of New New York to life. It seems the team has got better since last year and made our first visit to an alien planet very believable. I also things the costume and make-up department need a big round of applause as well for the Cat Nurses, The Sisters of Plentitude, they were amazing and spooky and a lot better than the all the monsters and aliens from the last series but together apart from the Daleks of course.

My only complaint or comment was that there was not enough back-story. I don’t mean about the Doctor and Rose, you could tell at the beginning of the episode that it picked up straight after the Christmas Invasion and that they had not been on any other adventures in-between. But I feel that there was not enough back-story or any explanation given as to how Cassandra got off Platform One. How did Chip get her into the hospital and how did she create him because I think that would be a bit hard if she was holey piece of skin and she is also missing vital things such as arms and why would anyone want to save her and also my other comment (ok I have two comments) is the end of the episode and the Doctor taking Cassandra/Chip back to meet herself, why did that not cause a paradox because even though Cassandra was in the body of Chip she was still essentially the same person. Also wouldn’t it change Cassandra’s history, what if now by being told by Chip/Cassandra that she is “So Beautiful” she does not become a flat skinny bitch who tries to kill everyone on Platform One, wouldn’t that then change the Doctor’s and Rose’s history as well. Ok now I am nit-picking and probably being stupid, so I will say that the episode was an excellent starting block for the new series and if then last series is anything to go by then it can only get better from here.

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So series Two began with hope
That the Who would not begin
A downward slide
Down that slippery slope
Where familiarity sets in
And comparisons are as regular as the tide.

So Number Ten smiled forth with pride
That belied menace within
Like ‘god’ to act
With power to decide
The fate of Spotties –the new human-
And procrastinate His ordination as a fact!

So effects vivid and profuse
Nicely shaping a city
Of great advance,
Which made strangely obtuse
Elevators of my century
And basement corridors; the new quarries perchance?

So Russell delivered once more
A script of charm and ideas
Logically
Linking secrets in store,
Zombies to inject fears,
And under-using felines made-up brilliantly.

So too many themes, too briefly
Explored with little detail,
And break-neck speed
Sequences, too quickly
Flashing by, makes us think of the tail
Pandering to youth, setting Who’s agenda indeed?

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Interesting to note the tendency of some Who fans to contract Russell T. Davies' name to RTD, forging an unconscious connection with his somewhat inferior predecessor, arch-murderer of a once-great series. The comparison is extremely limited, in my opinion. Contrast series opener 'New Earth' with its amateurish counterparts 'The Leisure Hive' or 'Battlefield' and this instantly becomes apparent (imagine - people actually used to have to live like that!)

'New Earth', even the most ardent Davies acolyte must be forced to admit, has numerous unfortunate flaws, but it is still, at a rough estimate, about a million and three times better than anything ever written or conceived by Turner, Bidmead, Saward and Cartmel combined during the woeful 1980s. The script positively crackles with relentlessly clever wit, and strains throughout under the weight of an entire series' worth of highly original and inventive ideas.

Davies is a risk-taker, confining the Doctor to bed for much of 'The Christmas Invasion', then wilfully disrupting further development of his relationship with Rose by having both characters alternately possessed by returning villain Cassandra for most of 'New Earth'. This proves to be a very successful device, by and large, although Billie Piper's usually-spellbinding acting strains ever so slightly in her first scene as Cassandra, particularly when expected to declare, somewhat incongruously, "I'm a chav!" (references to popular culture are far from my favourite things).

This was a very demanding departure from Rose to foist upon Piper, and illustrates Davies' justified confidence in his cast, but she generally copes with it admirably. Her interplay with David Tennant once the plague carriers have been released from their cells is one of the most entertaining aspects of the episode, with both actors turning in fine comedy performances. Indeed, all four actors who play Cassandra are to be congratulated for sustaining the character throughout the episode - a considerable achievement, if you stop and think about it. Sean Gallagher, in particular, should be praised for his genuinely moving portrayal of her eventual acceptance of death at the episode's conclusion - another risky subversion of audience expectations which, happily, paid off.

If only the same could be said for all of them. The resolution of the main plot, for example, has the pungent whiff of deus ex machina about it. It's hard enough to swallow the fact that ten or so plague carriers can be cured by spraying them liberally with food colouring, let alone that they can then pass this cure on to their fellow-sufferers with their hands, assisted by a special effect bussed in from 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. The reason this is a ridiculous bit of pilfering on Davies' part is that the Holy Grail is, at least, holy, and therefore likely to be able to cure grievous illnesses at a stroke, whereas the cat-sisters' solutions are anything but, and should surely at the very least have had to be administered intravenously (although this would, admittedly, have taken considerably longer and been far less exciting).

Come to think of it, the sight of David Tennant at the heart of this, hugging awe-struck clones, grinning widely and shouting joyful platitudes such as "life will out!" was ever so slightly embarrassing. His inaugural performance proper as the Doctor is generally highly promising, but here he is more Messiah than Time Lord. This is a comparison that Davies seems to be making more and more as the series progresses: this is a Doctor who cures people by seemingly miraculous means; he is referred to in connection with the Face of Boe as "the lonely god"; the words Bad Wolf and their appearance through space and time are related by the Dalek Emperor to "the truth of God", and Rose's Time Vortex-charged alter-ego also seems to have something of the divine about her. It's an interesting theme to be exploring, however tentatively, although it is perhaps worryingly reminiscent of the fabled Cartmel Masterplan.

Any other complaints are comparatively trivial, although the CGI effect for the infection of various characters and extras by the plague carriers is poor enough to be worthy of mention. It has to be asked whether it was necessary to show this on screen, especially given that the actors quite obviously had to stand very still in the shot in order for the effect to be inserted. One lesson Davies should learn well from the legacy of the classic series is that genuinely unsettling effects can be created entirely through the power of suggestion.

After seeing 'New Earth' for the first time, I have to confess I felt slightly dejected, because it was just so different from what I was expecting, but repeated viewings have convinced me that this is actually a good thing! Risk-taking makes for exciting television, and all of the flaws evident in this episode can be generously forgiven on account of the fact that, as a non-Who fan I know put it to me over the weekend, it was still better than practically anything else broadcast on terrestrial television so far this year. And, to conclude somewhat triumphantly, and with a frisson of cliche, roll on 'Tooth and Claw'!

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A good, solid start to the season – not spectacular, and not as good as The End of the World, but then again sequels never do live up to the original. There was a lot of fun to be had, however, and Tennant and Piper were both on top form. Tennant can do flippancy and anger very well, and although comparisons to Tom Baker are often thrown around casually they do seem to be bearing out, albeit with the Tenth Doctor being rather more human and less aloof than the Fourth. Piper’s moments as Cassandra excelled, and she didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the entire episode whether she was being Rose or her possessor. The kiss scene – well, that was a throwaway bit of fun, although the Doctor’s reaction was intriguing – “still got it”, eh?

The central idea of the plot was interesting, but I’m not sure it was brilliantly executed. I didn’t take to the lumbering zombie-type patients, but some of the hospital stuff was very good, particularly the cat nuns, who looked absolutely stunning, a wonderful prosthetic and make-up job that has to rank as one of the best we have seen in all of the new series episodes so far. The characterisation of the nurses was also well done, in that you could see why desperation to cope with all of the diseases they had to deal with had led them to this point. It’s not a new idea, by any means – something similar was even done using clone humans for vampire food in Jon Blum and Kate Orman’s Who novel Vampire Science – but it was quite chilling. Having said that, the fact that the plague clones seemed to have been able to learn to walk and talk and think purely through a kind of process of osmosis was far too convenient for my liking, a bit of a shortcut to enable us to feel more sympathetic towards them, perhaps.

Speaking of plot devices being a little too convenient for the plot’s own good, all the body-swapping all seemed a little too easily done. Cassandra needs a massive great machine to get into Rose the first time, but then after that she can just spit herself into and out of anybody in the immediate vicinity at will? I realise that we’re not really supposed to question these things too closely, and it did of course make for the hugely entertaining shenanigans of having Piper and Tenannt playing Cassandra, but think there could have been a better way to do it.

Although it was a shame Zoe Wannamaker didn’t actually feature more she was very good, as previously, at getting across Cassandra’s character without having an actual physical presence, although of course this time we did get to see her in the flesh at an earlier period where she seems rather more sympathetic. The rest of the cast didn’t really have very much to do, with the exception of Sean Gallagher as Chip, who I thought came across very well indeed. He too had to play Cassandra eventually, and his touching little moment when she/he/it goes back in time at the end and meets her former self was very well played, although you have to wonder if giving Cassandra a heart back at that moment changes her future actions in any way, and if so would her previous actions in terms of what we’ve seen in the series still have happened? She’d already mentioned the occasion as being the last one upon which she’d been told she was beautiful, but she remembered that before she’d actually gone back and done it.

Definitely best not to think about that one too hard!

Enigma and mystery has always been one of my favourite parts of the show, so having the Face of Boe suddenly decide to get better and not impart his message after all was a nice little teaser. Irritating for the Doctor, of course, but we’ll find out eventually – Davies said a while back in DWM that when he was told of the series three commission he immediately moved one line from this episode to the beginning of series three, and it has to be this one, surely?

Visually, the episode only fell down for me a couple of times – the first lift shot looked a little old-fashioned for the year five billion and seemed to have been taken from Rose, and I could have sworn that the gantry in the intensive care unit was the same paper mill location as the Nestene Lair from that episode, or at least looked very similar to it indeed. (A listen to the commentary download confirms that it was indeed the same location). But then again, I don’t suppose it really matters, and only sad fans like us would notice such things!

Aside from that, it was stunning – the futuristic cityscape laid across the Gower Peninsula, and particularly the massed ranks of the intensive care pods showed The Mill at their very finest. Davies seems to enjoy setting them challenges and they always manage to rise to them, and with that opening scene on New Earth with its wonderful landscape you can see why they wanted to open the second series with this.

Last year the theme of the year five billion plus was everything has its time and everything dies. Now, in the wake of New Who’s great success, the caveat seems to have been added that sometimes, these endings aren’t quite as set in stone as they might previously have appeared.

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Hardly an intriguing title or indeed concept, New Earth for me committed the ultimate sin of being very boring. I actually left the room to make a cup of tea about half way through it (I tend to get itchy feet during most RTD stories), round about when the Doctor's confronting one of the Sisters of Plenitude outside the human guinea-pig banks. And I lost all my interest a bit later on (despite the revivification of my cup of tea) after the cringe-inducing scene in which the Doctor is possessed by Cassandra, contorting his gangly frame in a very Kenneth Williams-esque moment – I’d half expected an ‘Oh Matron!’ to ring out from a pair of flaring nostrils. Given the camp hospital setting replete with – inexplicably cat-faced – nurses, this might have fitted the bill. The aforementioned scenes with the alternately Cassandra-ised Rose and Doctor smacked instantly of the equally atrociously executed scenes in the abysmal McCoy debut, Time and the Rani; I hate to say it, but I’d probably still rather trawl through the latter story than New Earth which, as with the first episode of last season, Rose, does not hold up to a second viewing and will be an episode I’ll probably never view a third time. Why? Because there’s absolutely no depth to it whatsoever, and not even any vague sub-text or sense of potential hidden layers either in plot or script promised by re-viewings to give me the incentive to stare somnolently through it more than twice. Detail was the key ingredient to the classic series, even in the worst ever stories such as Nightmare of Eden or Paradise Towers, there was still always an almost tangible collage of ‘detail’, layers of it to excavate through each time one viewed the story. RTD sadly offers us pretty much none in any of his episodes bar possibly The Long Game. End of the World just about staggers up to a couple of re-viewings but not much more than that, and is poisoned by its ‘Toxic’ intrusion. Funnily enough I didn’t mind Boom Town – despite its Rent-A-Ghost/Tomorrow People-style shenanigans and utterly ridiculous plot, as in this episode alone RTD wrote some truly affecting dialogue, in the restaurant scene. The woefully unimaginative, non-juxtaposition of two TV programmes that have somehow miraculously survived for thousands of years (i.e. Big Brother and The Weakest Link) in Bad Wolf was only just rescued from the realms of inexcusable absurdity by the more imaginative interpretation of Trinnie and Suzannah, and a fairly eventful and climactic final episode in Parting of the Ways. Only in the second episode did RTD deliver anything resembling polemical satire with the new religious fanaticism of the Daleks, the best contribution he’s made yet to the development of the series.

RTD’s scriptural scatter-gun tactics produce sporadic bouts of good scripting in New Earth, particularly relating to the hospital policies discussed between the Sisterhood, but again, as in his previous offerings, he misses a golden opportunity for genuine topical satire: a comment on our new PPP Trust hospitals would have been nice, and the Doctor’s witty quandary about the lack of a ‘shop’ on the ground floor and the palatial superficiality of the hospital itself, cue Rose’s line ‘hardly the NHS’, only qualify as schoolboy level satire, but not as the genuine article. Similar opportunities were missed in The Long Game (bar a couple of vaguely satirical lines from the Nurse) especially; and any topical tags in the End of the World fell completely flat on their faces, in particular the Earth being run by the National Trust when the logical progression would have been International Trust. Oh well, not everyone can be Robert Holmes I suppose. But most people can at least be Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and RTD even falls short of their scriptural standards. He is genuinely good at dialogue when he puts his mind to it, but one gets the impression he loses interest easily, even in his own story lines.

As with The Christmas Invasion, New Earth’s visual spectacle – bar the highly unconvincing spaceship graphics and obviously superimposed hospital exterior – is not enough to keep it afloat, and the plot simply fails to inspire or even particularly interest. Nothing new is being said or done that hasn’t been said or done in a Who story before. The zombies were very reminiscent of the freeze-dried corpses in Dragonfire, a comparable story in many ways, though even more preferable I feel to New Earth’s rather sterile, gimmicky filmic schlock. This music is really grating on me now too – apart from a fairly well orchestrated, though wholly inappropriate John Barry-esque score halfway through, the rest of the irritatingly tinny music either end of the episode was tacky to the ear. The music needs more menace and atmosphere; as does the direction in general.

A new smugness is forming already between Rose and the Tenth Doctor, which simply has to be abandoned. The Doctor must take the series by the scruff of its neck from now on and dominate it. Tenant is beginning to show signs of this here and there but his sudden moralistic outbursts sit oddly on his generally laidback persona, as they did with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor too, an incarnation best suited to the polarities of clowning or introspective brooding as typified in The Curse of Fenric, but not to the face-contorting outbursts of Battlefield and Ghost Light. Let’s hope Tenant is more carefully handled. He’s a good actor, he has charisma to an extent, but I’m still not convinced by him yet. He’s one step up in suitability from Eccleston but he still would have fallen far short of my own shortlist. Nevertheless, he has the potential to make the part his own for a memorable tenure, and could well prove a fairly distinctive Doctor in time.

From what I’ve read about the next episode, Tooth and Claw, it could very well provide the redemption as a Who writer that RTD presently needs. We’ll see…

New Earth score: 4/10

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There’s an album by Roxette called “Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus”, and that very much sums up Russell T Davies’ “Doctor Who” – which is very much what this is, lest anyone still be in any doubt.

Admittedly, there’s little time for foreplay in 45-minute, self-contained episodes – and, to continue the metaphor, Davies has everyone’s kit off (almost literally in “New Earth”!) and down to business minutes into the episode.

One of the most-appreciable differences between the classic series and the 21st-century version is the lightning-quick pace at which the current vintage is generally delivered. And, if “New Earth” is anything to go by, Series Two is not only going to continue that trend – it’s going to be an even-faster ride.

On the story, had you read any of the previews or even paid a cursory visit to any spoiler sections, you’d have pretty much worked out what it was about and more or less how it was going to pan out.

At least the Doctor Who fan would have – I think the “average” viewer coming to the episode unfettered by too much knowledge (which is so much the best way, shame so few of us can wait) would have found the basics hugely entertaining.

A zip through to the Year Five Billion 23, a hospital run by cat nurses, an encounter with a familiar and popular enemy from the previous series, who body-swapped with both Rose and the Doctor, the revelation that the cats are in fact farming humans for medical research, a few chase scenes, and the Doctor cures the plague-ridden. “Everybody lives”, you might say – well, almost everybody . . .

Sounds great as a précis, and worked pretty well on screen. Having said that, I had a pre-series pecking order of the episodes I thought I’d enjoy and would fare best, and “New Earth” was quite low on it – lowest, actually.

Whether that holds true, only viewing of the next 12 episodes (none of which I have seen as I write) will tell. To equate it with an episode from last season in terms of popularity, I’d liken it most to “Rose” – erring towards style over substance, and you’d be surprised if better episodes weren’t on the way.

Yet, like “Rose”, “New Earth” was a tasty hors d’oevres.

The visuals were amazing – well up to, and I think well in excess of last year’s triumphant efforts. Loved the early scenes of New Earth, and the sheer scale of the hospital’s human “pens” was breathtaking for a TV series rather than a big-budget movie.

A huge bonus was the cameo of the Face of Boe. What an absolutely-stunning piece of visual effects that is, and well worth the return visit from last season’s “End Of The World”. Reminds me of a giant Yoda, except the voice has more - and the correct amount of - gravitas!

OK, you could argue the point about why did he feel the need to pull The Doctor all the way to the year Five Billion and 23, only to tell him . . . well, that he had something of great magnitude to tell him, but he wasn’t going to tell him after all.

Hopefully, the denouement will be fitting for a character which I’m sure originally was only a bit part, but has grown into the potential for something more substantial – both metaphorically as well as literally.

Is Boe going to be this season’s Bad Wolf? Possibly not quite – but I can’t wait for his “third” meeting with The Doctor, and it’ll be a great shame if, as he said, it is also the “last”. There is much I, for one, would like to know about Boe . . .

And what of the stars of the show? Hard to imagine anything less than excellence from David Tennant and Billie Piper, and they had loads of good moments here, courtesy of Davies, of course.

I preferred Tennant in “The Christmas Invasion” where, in retrospect, he set far too high a standard – he made a sensational debut in that, and really stole the show.

Of the big two, “New Earth” certainly belonged to Piper. Rose has grown a lot since her first meeting with The Doctor, and looked fabulous here. Piper’s portrayal of the Cassandra-possessed Rose was excellent, bringing Zoe Wanamaker’s character to life perfectly, changing her voice and mannerisms to suit.

Tennant also made a fine job of portraying the Cassandra-possessed Doctor. I’m not sure Davies would have written those scenes for Christopher Eccleston. Tennant would be the better of the two at “camp”!

Great snog between the Cassandra/Rose and the Doctor – and line of the show, “I’ve still got it”, from David Tennant. He really does deliver those plum lines!

I thought the “curing” of the disease-riddled humans by dousing one in the Five Billion equivalent of Dettol and having them “pass it on” was a quick way out rather than a particularly-clever way out.

And, the sudden acceptance of Cassandra that her time was up didn’t really reconcile with anything in the character up until that point – although it did make for a fairly-poignant ending.

I could see the logic in bringing back Cassandra as a link to the previous series and, although it was a pity the “trampoline” version didn’t have much screen time (understandable for cost reasons) she was really brought to life by Piper particularly and Tennant, based on Wanamaker’s original interpretation, of course.

All in all, “New Earth” wasn’t a classic, but a satisfactory season opener, with enough good moments to ensure it’ll be worth the odd revisit.

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I believe I said last year at this time that the relatively lightweight story "Rose" was exactly what the series needed to start with, using the golden mantra of drama that goes "start small and build." I feel somewhat the same about this story, "New Earth." It's too early for a big emotional wringer sort of story like a "Father's Day" or a "Parting of the Ways," and it also sort of seems too early for a classic machinations sort of story ala "Empty Child." Instead we start with a bit of a romp, which as romps go is pretty entertaining, which is then lifted big time by some eye-popping direction and special effects work. This is the best "Doctor Who" has ever looked (bar one very glaring sore thumb of a moment I'll get to below)... up until next week anyway, and the week after that, and so on, as I have a feeling this high level is going to be maintained through the rest of the season. I might as well start there...

And my goodness those effects looked nifty. New New York and its air traffic was a spectacular outdoor vista of the sort we don't often see in TV or movie s.f. in that it looks amazing and cool and is at the same time a really great-looking place to live. Most of the time we're stuck looking at gorgeous enormous cities that look like they've forgotten how to maintain septic systems. This... wow... it looks like the sort of place saintly realtors go when they die, only much more crowded. Then we get inside the hospital and the interiors seem to match that look very well indeed, and then the Sisters of Plentitude turn up sporting what must be the best prosthetic make-up I've ever seen in anything. People who work on scifi shows that have a lot of this all seem worried about making it look good enough for the switchover to HD-TV, and based on this, "Doctor Who" shouldn't have to worry one little bit. I also very much liked the actress playing the Sister who was tending to the Face of Boe. Her voice and her performance made her character really come alive. And then on top of that there's loads and loads of extras all with boils on their faces during the plague zombie bits, and there's Cassandra again, and there's that sequence of zooming up and down the liftshaft. That all looked fantastic and at least as good as anything being done on any other show anywhere at the moment... certainly in these quantities.

The only thing about the look of the show that didn't work (which I alluded to earlier) is the scene when the Doctor and Rose/Cassandra head down into the "intensive care" area where all the zombie plague people are. It's extraordinarily obvious to me that they are reusing the same stairway in the paper mill that they used last year on "Rose" for the confrontation with the Nestene, and I can't believe they thought they could get away with it simply by painting the railings white. It completely wrenched me out of the moment and the plot. It's a gaffe in production worthy of those in the original series, and I really hope we don't see anything like this happening again. The reuse (for the second time!) of the above-the-lift footage shot for "Rose" for the lift here on New Earth should likewise be retired.

Now then... what about that story itself? Well, the best thing about it was that I couldn't spot how the Doctor was going to solve it until he did. There were all sorts of little things peppered throughout the episode that seemed to be just there for laughs or just details that filled out the world we're in, but most of these were in fact brought back at the end in the solution. Examples of this include the winch that's needed to hoist up the big fat man which gets used to get the Doctor down the lift and the disinfectant shower that's in the lifts. Cassandra's plot had this too, what with the film she's showing us at the start where she mentions the last time she was called beautiful, which turns out to have been herself doing so thanks to a lift in the TARDIS at the end. Another very good thing about the story was the medical plot with the plague zombies, and how for once, we get to hear just _why_ zombies go around trying to grab and fondle people... it's because this lot have never touched a human before in their lives and long for physical contact. That's very neat, as is the "laying on of hands" Christ-like solution to the plague which is very in keeping with an Easter weekend broadcast. The general premise of the hospital was OK too... not too original (the Big Finish audio "Project: Twilight" has a similar set-up in it), but topical. It reminded me a bit of "Terminus," only not nearly so depressing. And there were other nice little touches and details in names that Russell often drops in which I quite liked, like the Duke of Manhattan or calling Chip "Gollum" at one point, or the "NNYPD," or Cassandra's antique film projector, and especially the apple grass. Is it specially imported from Steve Jobs' front lawn? I do also like the legend surrounding the Face of Boe and how he'll tell the Doctor his secret someday... but not just yet.

The "average" thing about the story was the body-swapping stuff with Cassandra projecting her mind into Rose and the Doctor and others and possessing them. This is a very by-the-numbers s.f. cliche, which come to think of it the original series never actually did, but as these things go, it was made pretty entertaining, not so much by the writing but by the performances and impression skills of Billie Piper and David Tennant. I do wonder at Cassandra apparently being able to do this even when she's away from her equipment, and I especially wonder at how she takes over the Doctor, who is after all supposed to be able to place a barrier around his mind. He's no pushover when it comes to possession, but Cassandra's able to march in there and run him like she's Sutekh? There's also one enormous plot hole right off the bat where we're never told exactly why Chip and Cassandra were scanning the countryside with a spider-bot in the first place.... was it just on the off chance that Rose and the Doctor were going to turn up? It's a little depressing to see since it's a hole that could be so easily plugged as well.

Like I said earlier, there isn't really any big emotional journey for the Doctor and Rose (and the viewers) this week... just an average adventure for them, but that's exactly what we need in the first episode of the season before the meatier stuff comes later. And bar just a few gaffes here and there, it was a very fun adventure, and certainly wonderful to just stare at.

8 out of 10 for "New Earth" I think.

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It feels like such a long time since we first met David Tennant’s tenth Doctor properly in “The Christmas Invasion,” and even then we were only really given fifteen minutes or so to see what he could do. I have to say I’m incredibly impressed with him and “New Earth” gives him the opportunity to play the Doctor on so many different levels. For example, we see him calmly and softly talking to the dying Face of Boe; we see his ready wit and charm as he bangs on about the hospital not having a shop and warns Rose to watch out for the disinfectant; we hear his utterly flat and emotionless voice as he discovers the Sisters’ sentient lab rats and most importantly of all, we see the anger burning his eyes as he threatens the Novice.

“I’m the Doctor and if you don’t like it… if you want to take it to a higher authority there isn’t one! It stops with me!”

“New Earth” begins with a short pre-credit sequence just to re-enforce to viewers all that Rose is leaving behind at home, and it doesn’t seem like any time at all before the Doctor and Rose are laid on a hillside in the galaxy M87 in the year 5,000,000,000,023 talking about how much they love travelling with each other and how they had chips on their first date at the end of the world! Brilliant! Outside the mind of Douglas Adams, where else could you have a scene like that? Russell T. Davies need only use a few carefully selected words to sum up just who the Doctor and Rose are and just exactly what they do. A 5-year old kid who has never seen or heard of Doctor Who (and I’m very happy to say that’s not likely these days!) could tune into this episode and ‘get it’ within just a couple of scenes. In the same vein, casual viewers (let’s face it… there must be a regular audience of about 7 million of ‘em) could just flick over to BBC1 and be back into these characters within the blink of an eye. Superb writing.

This episode also reminded me just how incredibly fast the show is nowadays. The pace is absolutely frenetic; Chip, “The End of the World” spiders, Cassandra and the Sisters of Plenitude are all established within five minutes of the episode’s start! Were this the classic series, it would be the remit of the first two or even three episodes just to introduce these characters and we would have to dutifully while away hours of our lives watching the Sisters shiftily skulk about until the Doctor finally uncovers their evil machinations. Cassandra, for example, wouldn’t even be revealed until (at the earliest!) the Part 1 cliffhanger. I couldn’t believe some of the early reviews that were posted on Outpost Gallifrey that said the episode was too fast. I mean, how can it be? If it makes sense (which it does) and it’s entertaining (which it undoubtedly is) then where is the problem? It took Russell T. Davies just two lines of dialogue to set up the shady goings on in the hospital – one from Cassandra to Rose, and the aside between the two Sisters about one of the patients being conscious! Personally, I’d rather sit and be thoroughly entertained for forty-five minutes than to merely be mildly entertained for over a hundred.

I was also pleased that Davies had opted to finally send the Doctor and Rose right out there into the universe; to a new planet in another galaxy. I had very few complaints about the first series, but the one thing I would have liked to have seen was an alien world. Well, this time around it happens in the very first episode, and it’s absolutely beautiful. New Earth successfully combines the essential elements that make our Earth what it is (for Earth, read Britain) – green grass, rocky shores, blue sky – but it also has just that hint of the fantastic; those huge moons and planets in the skyline, the futuristic city of New, New York. Moreover, we weren’t show it for long – it wasn’t necessary. A few quick snapshots of the vista were all that was needed to establish the episode’s setting; for the most part it was a very traditional studio-based corridor romp.

From the start “New Earth” set itself up to be a sequel to “The End of the World”, and although it reused so many characters and elements from that story (even the incidental music) the episode was different enough to be fresh and entertaining. Aside from the new Doctor (which in itself makes the whole thing a brand new ball game), Davies used Cassandra very differently. The whole ‘body swap’ notion is one that is constantly done to death in science fiction, and why? Because it works! It creates tension, humour and it’s a brilliant storytelling device. It’s also, I cynically noted, a way to do Cassandra on the cheap! Billie Piper really excelled herself in this episode. When Cassandra took over her body, I had to really listen to make sure that Zoe Wanamaker hadn’t overdubbed the lines as it sounded so much like her.

“New Earth” is definitely one of Davies’ funniest scripts, and whilst it might not have anything like the dramatic weight of “The Parting of the Ways” or “The Christmas Invasion,” it’s incredibly entertaining… and filthy! Rose’s scene with Chip and Cassandra has to hold the series record for the most double entendres ever; it had me in stitches! I also really like the little details in there, for example, how Rose picks up a pipe as soon as she realises that she’s not where she’s meant to be. She’s learning. So is Davies – I bet there isn’t a ‘Dad’ in the country who wasn’t grateful for his “Curves! It’s like living inside a bouncy castle… nice rear bumper!” scene. Move aside Peri, we have a new champion… well, nearly! I don’t think any story will ever manage to top “Planet of Fire”…

It’s also very effective how the writer kills two birds with one stone as it were. Once again, very economically with just one line he establishes that Rose is still alive inside Cassandra and that as Cassandra has access to Rose’s recent memories, she knows who the Doctor is. There’s even a laugh to boot with the “he’s changed his face! The hypocrite!” gag – not many writers could do all that with such few words.

And then, of course, we come to the kiss, and just like all the Captain Jack stuff in “The Parting of the Ways,” it’s a load of fuss about nought. It’s not even Rose who kisses the Doctor; it’s Cassandra! She been living as a piece of skin for who knows how long, so it’s no real surprise that she’s a bit frustrated! Moreover, it felt very natural and in keeping with the light-hearted nature of the episode, and even gave David Tennant a chance to further demonstrate his versatility as an actor. It’s evident that the tenth Doctor has a ready wit and is generally very funny in a “I’m cool” sort of way, but the kiss gave Tennant a chance to be funny in more of a slapstick manner with his incredibly high-pitched “Yep… still got it”, the straightening of the tie and the puzzled (but not appalled, I noticed – he loved it!) look he had on his face. Being the Doctor though, he’s back on the ball almost instantly and he knows that this isn’t Rose. Her lack of interest in the lab-rat patients that they discover is the final nail in the coffin.

Most of Davies’ Doctor Who stories seem to have some sort of statement to make, never more noticeably than in “The Christmas Invasion” with all the Harriett Jones / Belgrano stuff. In “New Earth,” he uses the hot topics of cloning and medical experimentation to form the basis of his story. Such issues are wonderful fodder for Doctor Who because the Doctor is such a profound, unwavering moral force. In this episode, for example, one the one side of the fence sit the Sisters of Plenitude, who would argue that their experiments are for the greater good, and on the other side of the fence sits the Doctor, who basically says “bollocks, it’s not reet!” And then, just for fun, we have Cassandra in the middle who just wants to live forever and make a fat pile of cash into the bargain! With such interesting issues explored, Davies is in a way going right back to the show’s fundamental tenets of educating as well as entertaining, albeit a bit cynically. The year 5 billion and it’s the 21st century all over again!

I only have one real gripe with “New Earth,” there is just one scene towards the middle of the episode that I thought was a bit weak. Cassandra has knocked the Doctor out with her perfume, and has him locked up, ready to give him every disease in the book as revenge for ‘murdering’ her in “The End of the World.” I didn’t like the way how the Doctor didn’t escape, he just sort of got swept up in events as Cassandra is forced by the Sisters to go to “Plan B” – it was a bit too fifth Doctor for my liking. Especially in an early episode, I felt the Doctor needed more to do to win the audience over, as it were. Instead, he gets to mince about with Cassandra in his head – “ooh baby! I’m beating out a Samba!” – saying things that I found amusing but are really gonna wind some fans up – “so many parts… and hardly used!” – although in his defence, when he’s in control of his own body he’s tough. He steadfastly refuses to help Cassandra escape – “Give her back to me!” - in the end forcing her into the body of one of the lab-rat people, setting up the story’s conclusion.

“I’m the Doctor and I cured them… pass it on!”

After a lot of running about in corridors being chased (Doctor Who heaven!) the Doctor and Rose / Cassandra reach the relative safety of the top floor of the hospital. The Doctor’s solution to the situation is very much in the style of the “anti-plastic” get-out in “Rose”, here the Doctor quickly cooking up a cocktail of different intravenous cures and showering the lab-rats with it using the ‘disinfectant shower’ introduced at the start of the episode. This got absolutely torn to shreds in the initial batch of reviews on Outpost Gallifrey; much to my amusement someone even called it “weak science.” They are watching a TV show about a man from outer space with two hearts and thirteen lives who travels around the universe in a phone box fighting monsters (who for the most part are suspiciously humanoid) and they nit-pick about him administering a cure which is meant to be delivered intravenously as a shower! I mean, come on! It’s magic, innit? He’s the Doctor. He’s nearly a thousand years old. A bit of medical jiggery-pokery is nought to him; he’s a Time Lord! For all we know it could have been the saliva that he secreted when he opened the bags of cures with his mouth that cured these people!

If Russell T. Davies and co. listen to such trivial complaints (though I’m sure they’re to sensible to) Doctor Who will end up going the way it did in 1989. It’s like I said earlier; I’d much rather watch 30 seconds of the genius Doctor create an almost magical cure from whatever he has to hand than watch some scientist quietly shuffle about in a lab for ages tediously coming up with a cure the boring sciencey way! This is Saturday night prime time!

The resolution of Cassandra’s story gave the episode quite a touching ending. Having taken over the willing but dying body of Chip, her loyal ‘half-life’ clone, Cassandra is finally prepared to die. Her experience in the body of one of the lab-rats, privy to their intense suffering, had somehow changed her, and so the Doctor allowed her the privilege of visiting herself in the past (at the last moment she can ever remember being happy) and dying in her own arms, a very sombre ending to a very upbeat and amusing episode. Oh, for those of you that want to nit-pick – where are the Reapers, hm? It’s lucky that moment didn’t happen to be a “weak point in time”…

On a side note, I found the Face of Boe scenes very interesting. Just as it was in the first series, the first hint of the show’s mythology in series two is incredibly well done, the Novice’s dialogue is almost poetic. “… he will speak these words only to one like himself. It is said he’ll talk to a wanderer… to the man without a home. The lonely God.” It was also quite an event in itself to have the Face of Boe speak; I think that they got his ‘voice’ just right – very soft, very wise… nothing too over the top. What this big ‘secret’ is exactly is something which I’m sure will be widely speculated about until he meets the Doctor for the “third and last” time. I loved the Doctor’s childish reaction to being told that it will have to wait – “Oh! Does it have to!” Fantastic stuff.

Here’s my theory on it, if anyone is interested. “… the man without a home. The lonely God” made me think about how the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, and as the penultimate episode is entitled “Army of Ghosts”, maybe some of them survived the Time War, for some reason the secret of their survival known only to the Face of Boe. I’m sure that when this ‘secret’ is revealed in the next 12 weeks (or perhaps even next year) I’ll look like a complete idiot, but still…

In all, David Tennant’s Doctor had without question the best opening story of all the Doctors with “The Christmas Invasion,” and so “New Earth” inevitably suffers from that ‘difficult second album’ syndrome. It’s not that it wasn’t good, it’s that people wouldn’t give it chance to be. It’s light and it’s fun, it happens fast and it’s over quick. Tennant and Piper are both phenomenal, and Russell T. Davies’ writing is right up there with them. For me, he could single-handedly run Doctor Who forever… unless he regenerates the Doctor into a woman. Then he’s dead.

Seriously though, “New Earth” has been the best thing on TV since “The Christmas Invasion” and I don’t see any reason why this series shouldn’t be every bit as good as the last, if not better. Remember the slating “Rose” got and look how well things turned out there...

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After the two-part plot-hole riddled exercise in pompous self-indulgence that comprised the finale of season one of the new series of Doctor Who, my faith in Russell T. Davies’ scripts was, to say the least, somewhat lacking. Having rather enjoyed ‘The Christmas Invasion’, I was feeling more optimistic about the Davies-penned season two opener ‘New Earth’, but was still rather cautious; fortunately, despite some criticisms, I found myself largely relieved.

‘New Earth’ sees Russell T. Davies juggling his new Doctor, Rose, an old enemy, an old acquaintance, Cat Nuns, zombies, and two distinct subplots, as well the series’ first on-screen alien planet, within the constricting time frame of a single forty-five minute episode, and for the most part he pulls it off. To start with the last of these first, the planet in question is New Earth, and whilst it’s closely based on the old one and is, blatantly, the Welsh coastline with some CGI added, the simple fact that the Doctor takes Rose out of Earth’s space and indeed to a different galaxy automatically broadens the scope of the series in a way that feels rather refreshing. It helps that ‘New Earth’ looks rather good; the CGI is obviously CGI, but it’s easy on the eye, and the hospital exterior meshes convincingly with the studio and location work used for the interior. As for the occupants of the hospital, the Sisters of Plenitude are a far cry from the Puss-in-Boots misfortune of the Cheetah People and look great, and as Davies manages to admirably restrain himself from making cheap pussy jokes, then I shall do the same. The Face of Boe looks just as striking as it did in ‘The End of the World’ and having apparently decided to reuse the character because the creative juices started flowing whilst he was writing its profile for the Monsters and Villains book, Davies puts it to good use here. The secret that the Face of Boe will reveal to the Doctor just before it dies is suitably intriguing, although so too were the various Bad Wolf references in season one, and that turned out to be narrative- and dramatic excrement.

‘New Earth’ tangles the Doctor and Rose up in two subplots, both of which are moderately, but not wholly successful. The first of these is the secret of the Sisterhood, who it turns out have managed to discover cures for every known disease by creating large numbers of supposedly mindless human clones on which to perform laboratory tests for their various drugs and therapies. If this sounds like a thinly veiled and ham-fisted attack on the controversial topic of animal experimentation with a few pot shots at cloning technology thrown in without a great deal of thought, this is because it is. I wouldn’t mind, but Davies has nothing intelligent to say about the subject, either for or against; there is a general message that animal testing is a bad thing, but the reasons given by the Doctor, who is thrust into the position of moral mouthpiece, tend to revolve around the more specific message that if you are going to use cloned humans as test animals, it is best to ensure that don’t develop sentience and go on rampages. The rampage in question results in a blatant homage to the works of George A. Romero, which works reasonably well, as plague-ridden zombies lurch around the hospital slowly infecting and killing everyone they come into contact with. Director James Hawes does a good job of depicting the claustrophobic horror of these scenes; the pustule-covered zombies look as effective as they could do within the limitations of the episode’s time slot, and they have a certain remorselessness of purpose common to the genre. The problems with this subplot, which are admittedly fairly easy to live with, lie with the plot; the Doctor’s solution to the problem is to mix all of the Sisterhood’s cures together, reasoning that if the clones have been used to develop cures for every possibly disease, then combining the cures will free the clones from their curse. This does rather raise the question of why the Sisters have already realised this before him, and why they even bother with separate cures; the Doctor only has a dozen or so bags of coloured water around his neck when he slides down the lift shaft to confront the horde, so each must already contain a potent cocktail effective on several diseases (think carefully about the ramifications of the phrase “every disease”). It might help too if Davies was prepared to add a dose of realism by mentioning some genuine disease, but instead we get pulp science fiction rot such as petrifold regression. Given that the Sisters have measures in place to quarantine the hospital, one might also ask why they haven’t developed fail safes to stop all of the cells opening at once and rather easily, since all it takes is Chip to pull a lever, and for one of the handful of clones thus released to jam his arm into a junction box.

Mention of Chip brings me to the second subplot, which sees the return of Cassandra, last seen in ‘The End of the World’. The incessantly bitchy last human works quite well, although this is as much to do with Zoe Wanamaker’s performance as it is to the script, and her decision to transplant her mind into Rose’s body results in some of the funniest lines in the episode, including, “Oh my god, I’m a chav!” The kiss is also highly amusing, especially the Doctor’s speechless response to it, but the best aspect of this subplot is that it gives Billie Piper a chance to show off her acting skills, which turn out to be even better than I had expected; she manages to sound like Zoe Wanamaker and act like Cassandra with remarkable ease, and far more so in fact than David Tennant does. Although Tennant gets the worst lines, including “I’m beating out a samba!” and his brief verbal drag act comes perilously close to crossing the line between funny and irritating. The whole subplot falls apart at the end, firstly as Cassandra enters the body of one of the clones, and immediately shrieks, “I look disgusting!” Mere seconds later however, she’s emotionally telling the Doctor, “All their lives they’ve never been touched”, a small shift in character which might have been more convincing if this had been her first reaction. She is, admittedly, monumentally, shallow but this only makes the episode’s ending feel more forced, as she switches from callous mass murderer, extortionist and black mailer to tragic figure accepting, rather rapidly, that it is time for her to die. Personally, I’d have been more convinced if she’d abandoned Chip and leapt into the body of one the nuns. The ending, as the Doctor and Rose take her back in time to tell herself that she is beautiful, is nauseatingly sentimental. It says a great deal for the Doctor’s character that he’s willing to do favours for someone who has just tried to steal his companion’s body, but it is a bit hard to swallow. I also find myself wondering why Cassandra blames Rose, “that dirty blonde assassin”, for her apparent death in ‘The End of the World’, when it was clearly the Doctor’s doing. You’d think the man who wrote both that episode and this would know what he was doing, wouldn’t you?

But in terms of the lead character, ‘New Earth’ works very well as a season opener. Tennant, and the Doctor, is markedly less manic than in ‘The Christmas Invasion’, and having settled into the role does a fine job of it. He shifts effortlessly between comedy, whimsy, and drama, and conveys the Doctor’s anger when required with ease. As in ‘The Christmas Invasion’, he immediately feels like the Doctor in a way that Christopher Eccleston often didn’t quite manage and for the second episode in a row, Davies allows the character to be proactive and save the day through a combination of ingenuity and bravery rather than leaving it to Rose. He gets one or two dodgy lines, Davies still demonstrating a tendency to let the Doctor self-mythologize, such as when he announces that there is no higher authority, and when he rather awkwardly tells the Mayor of New New York’s bespectacled harridan, “So I’ll have to stop you lot as well then. Suits me”, but for the most part the character works brilliantly. Tennant also conveys a great deal through facial acting, especially when he confirms that Rose isn’t in her right mind by asking, “What if the sub-frame’s blocked?”

I have other criticisms of ‘New Earth’. Rose seems fine whenever Cassandra leaves her body, which is fortunate considering that one at least one occasion she’s very high up a ladder, but when Cassandra leaves her for Chip, she conveniently faints into the Doctor’s arms, which is remarkably contrived. The fey and obsequious Chip, who might as well be wearing a gimp suit, is astoundingly irritating. The most annoying aspect of the episode however is Murray Gold’s abominable incidental score which veers from pompous melodrama to forced wackiness to cloying sentiment with all the subtlety of, well, Keff McCulloch. Despite these criticisms however, and it may seem that I’m being rather harsh, ‘New Earth’ succeeds in being entertaining, engaging, and thus a suitable season opener. I suspect however, that as with Season One, the first episode will not be typical, and that the best is yet to come.

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The wait is over, the Doctor is back, and, erm, the season seems to have opened with a pantomime. The 45 minute format should be a canvas for creating richer stories than the 25 minute format of yore, with greater emphasis on characters and their plight, not an excuse to fill the show with bad jokes and improbable set pieces. I was looking forward to having my fears about David Tennant proved wrong, but after watching him gurn, shout and simper for the duration of the episode, I'm still to like him at all as the Doctor. Every single previous Doctor has been played with some weight, a distinct feeling that this character is ancient and that behind his humourous nature there lies a huge alien intelligence. Instead, here we get him saying 'I've still got it' when Rose/Cassandra kisses him, and generally being a bit damp for the whole episode (and not just during the disinfectant shower). Once he settles into the part and decides on a coherent portrayal I'm sure he'll be many people's favourite Doc, but for now, to me at least, he's David Tennant playing dress-up.

Thematically this episode not so much borrows as steals outright from other sources. It's a shame that Doctor Who, of all shows, is reduced to stealing ideas from lesser programmes. I spotted elements of Farscape, The Matrix, Star Trek and The Outer Limits that had been lifted outright. Suspending disbelief was a chore throughout, with dodgy CG vehicles, worryingly contemporary sets and garb, and something of a cop-out ending. RTD is a wonderful ideas man, and has brought the Doctor back in such a way that a current audience will accept him, but after the superb Christmas Invasion, New Earth is an enormous let down. The episode has already instantly dated thanks to the use of the term 'Chav'.

Its one saving grace, for me at least, is the gorgeous Billie Piper. What a girl! She handled the hackneyed possession subplot and cringe-inducing dialogue really well, and no doubt made Dads up and down the country grin while 'examining' herself when possessed by Cassandra.

Actually, it did have another saving grace, and that was the onscreen appearence of Zoe Wanamaker as the human form of Cassandra. I was very impressed with the final scene, not just her performance, which was spot on, but also the scripting of the scene; the kind of scene where RTD really shines. This pleased me immensely.

Maybe I am being a little harsh about the episode. No doubt kids loved it, and I am ecstatic that the BBC and the crew have put so much blood, sweat and tears into making the Doctor an icon all over again, its just that they can do so much better than this. SO much better. They have some of the finest talent in the world, and this is their chance to show those damn Americans how to make original science fiction. They did it it the last series, here's hoping that this one improves rapidly.

However... The teaser for next week's episode looks utterly brilliant (not to mention the looped trailer on BBCi- the rest of the series looks superb). Here's hoping.

New Earth- 4/10 for the story, 10/10 for Billie.

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With 'New Earth', the TARDIS finally lives up to the DIS part of its name, a long-running gripe of mine about the reincarnated series. New Earth itself looked a bit painted to me, but the set up of the feline-run hospital with a secret was intriguing, and I enjoyed the gentle pace of the first half as the series explored a new location & the viewers explored a new Doctor. A reprise of Cassandra, one of the most interesting creations of last year, was welcome -- though RTD seems to be developing positively Whedonian resurrection capabilities.

But... the plot, once it eventually kicked in, was not so much holey as absent (and haven't we seen those one-track-mind zombies before, once or twice?), and all that body swapping got old rather quickly. The Face of Boe teaser was just annoying -- last year's Bad Wolf breadcrumbs worked so well because they were crumbs: this was more like a sandwich where someone had nicked the filling. Like many eps last year, 'New Earth' really suffered from the single 45-minute format: several shorter episodes would have given the abundant ideas here time to breathe.

I'm withholding judgement on Tennant's Doctor for now: so far he's not really grabbing me, but it took me half the season to warm to Eccleston's portrayal. A Rose-lite episode, though Piper got to show her acting chops, outshining Tennant much of the time.

Amusing in places, but so many wasted opportunities.

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On initial inspection, ‘New Earth’ rather seems to have continued the upward trend in Russell T Davis’ writing for the series; this is a busy and blisteringly fast story (almost too fast – other reviewers have mentioned various components of the storyline such as the Doctor’s winch and the planets in the sky which I didn’t spot and have no memory of).

Nevertheless, the sound is still overly brash, bordering on incoherent, and the obligatory ‘cringe’ moments are still there, all right. Boy, are they there. This time around we have a fresh outbreak of Russell’s taste for mythic-sounding SF schlock (“the wanderer… the man without a home… the lonely God” – I don’t mind writers “bigging up” the Doctor, but not like this: with the subtlety of an atom bomb), capped with an almost masturbatory scene as Cassandra, invading Rose’s body using a psycho-graft, “inspects” herself. Poor old Russell – he just can’t seem to help himself. But the way this scene is lingered over when there’s such an overwhelming weight of plot and incident (this episode is surely more crammed with stuff than any before it) is not only crass, it’s a bit odd. And the effects remain gaudy masterpieces of unrealism, although I must concede that in their way they are attractive.

The one thing I was hoping against hope not be disappointed by in the week before ‘New Earth’ screened (and it’s a measure of how far Series 1 let me down that unlike in the pre-Rose furore of last year, I didn’t even think about Series 2 until a few days prior to the launch, and even then my pulse hardly spiked!) was David Tennant – the Tenth Doctor! Was I? Well, yes and no. From thinking that he’d be as bad as Eccleston in the final moments of the nightmare that was ‘The Parting of the Ways’, to suddenly realising during CiN that he could actually be brilliant, and then watching the Christmas Invasion coming to the conclusion that “he could do great things, if only he’d tone it down a bit in episodes to come”, I now find myself thinking – well, “he could still do great things, if only he’d tone it down a bit… etc.

This was DT’s least distinctive performance so far. It was by no means bad. In fact it was good. This Doctor is a lot closer to being ‘nice’ that Eccles, that’s for sure. But I’m a little uneasy about his tendency to chop and change between cheeky smirking and serious rage. I get the impression that the Tenth Doctor is meant to be scary, but there’s a clear line between moral outrage and madness: the Tenth Doctor, in ‘New Earth’, comes across as slightly unhinged.

Picture, particularly, his confrontation with the poor novice, whose good intentions, whether misguided or not, were plain to see: “I’m the Doctor and if you don’t like it, if you want to take it to a higher authority there isn’t one! It stops with me!”. This is more than eccentricity – the Doctor is talking the language of megalomania!

It’s not Tennant’s fault, of course, it’s Russell’s; it’s part and parcel of his ‘big idea’ of characterising the Doctor as the most arrogant man alive: “I’m the Doctor and I cured them. Pass it on”. In the Ninth Doctor, a Time Lord not exactly notable for his good qualities, this was unbearable – in the Tenth, it remains to be seen whether or not it can be sustained.

No actor can make a completely good impression without good lines and characterisation, and if David Tennant’s incarnation does end up falling as flat as Christopher Eccleston’s, it will, like as not, be Russell T Davis’ – if you don’t like it, if you want to take it to a higher authority, there isn’t one, it stops with him.

But what of the good? The most startling part of the story for me, apart from its engorged plot, was the proactive nature of the resolution – and, for the second time in a row – count them, TWO! – the Doctor does the work. And in style. This is big stuff; it sets a new record for the ‘Doctor Who’ revival. Never before has the Doctor played a decisive role in the story’s conclusion for two consecutive episodes. It is primarily because of this that I am willing to forgive the story its faults. If only they can keep it up, I will be quite happy, barring any unforgivable howlers such as, ooh, I don’t know, killing off Sarah Jane Smith or making the Cybermen stupid/comic/unthreatening.

The Doctor’s ability to “pull the cat out of the bag”, as one essayist put in relation to ‘Robot’, is seen again here, as he uses already-introduced plot devices and his own special ingenuity to achieve victory, providing the most extraordinary and welcome twist that RTD has given us so far: he takes an apparently irretrievable situation, and a bog-standard rampage of ‘plague zombies’, and gives us ‘The Doctor Dances’ Mk II (the not-nearly-so-effective-but-still-good sequel!). Not everybody lives; we don’t know or care for the incidental characters; and coming from a plot which replaces Steven Moffat’s sheer skill with RTD’s trademark breathless about-faces, the resolution isn’t so touchingly brilliant… but you have to admit, having the Doctor cure – not destroy, but CURE – the poor zombies was classic Doctor Who.

Fitz said of the Eighth Doctor, “God, you’re cool!” when he resurrected millions of people in ‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’. This was a comparable moment.

Cassandra, of course, warrants a mention. Her bizarre powers of mind-swapping without the psycho-graft needed a little thought, but it isn’t really important. What is important is that Russell’s compassion for the villains reappears (arguably, he cares more about the Cassandras and Blon Fel Fotches than he does the ‘good guys’!) – and strangely enough the apparent paradox of Cassandra meeting herself and dying in her own arms was far from cringeworthy. Instead it was a great idea, touchingly and not over-statedly redeeming Cassandra, as the Doctor, Rose, and the viewers see what could very well be the last spark of humanity and tenderness in her entire life. The moody final shot of the Doctor was great too, and helped the feeling that he is more in the centre of things than Eccleston was.

Redemption. I would rhapsodise about how beautifully appropriate it was for Easter, if only I thought that atheist Russell meant it that way.

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Preposterous. Absolutely out of this world, unbelievably preposterous. In other words ‘New Earth’ is Doctor Who as it always was and should always be. The science maybe questionable (and hands up if you’re an expert on the year 5 Billion and 23?) but critics will be aware that this is children’s television and if they are entertained then Mr Davies and his team have simply succeeded where a number of other pretenders to the family programming crown have bravely failed. The reaction from my two children (9 and 6 respectively) gave the episode a firm thumbs up. Yes, they didn’t quite understand all of the sub-plots and yes, they had plenty of questions regarding certain themes, but they were thoroughly enthralled from the pre-title sequence right up to the end of the ‘Tooth and Claw’ trailer.

A new Earth and a new, new doctor accompanied by a surfeit of computer generated eye candy. The wide angle shot of the transporters homing in on the hospital of the future took my breath away and reminded everyone of how far Doctor Who has travelled, quite literally. When Rose gushed the words “I’ll never get used to this” you felt that 8 million viewers were probably sharing the same sentiments; at last the images on screen truly realise the ideas drafted on paper.

Tennant is a revelation. It may be premature to say so, but he has already stamped his authority on this most iconic of roles. A whole gamut of emotions were covered in forty five minutes and anticipation is high regarding what he can achieve during the course of Season Two. His interplay with Piper is just natural; they are both at ease with each other and clearly are having the time of their lives. Adding to the mix Wanamaker’s sardonically cruel Lady Cassandra was inspired and helps to give the story a welcomed lift. The turns from each of the three leads during the ‘body snatching’ sequences highlighted the talents on display. Absurb it may have been but as entertainment second to none.

The Sisters of Plenitude, with their utterly sinister and misguided mission, contributed to the spectacle. Full credit must go to the design team for producing aliens that Star Trek would have struggled to create so plausibly. Add to this the duped ‘patients’, carrying every known disease in the universe, breaking free and turning on their captors, you are already gripped by the ambition of this new series. It appears to be doing what it promised in the trailers and taking us further than before.

And that ending was poignant without being too wistful. Chip, as Cassandra, finally brings out the true human in his mistress. The Doctor and Rose linger for a moment witnessing the final embrace but have the dignity to take their leave and set the TARDIS co-ordinates for 1979; just in time for that Ian Dury gig……….

The sparky, sharply observed script confirms Davies’ credentials as a top-drawer writer (as if there were any doubts). It would be churlish to criticize references to 'Chavs' and hospital shops; it simply communicates seamlessly to the contemporary audience. Doctor Who has never professed to be serious high brow, up it's own derriere science-fiction. It is preposterous, however, highly entertaining fantasy made for children; on those notes it ticks all the boxes. Overall, a ‘text book enigmatic’ episode that bodes well for Season Two and indeed for the new, new doctor.

My nine year old son says:

“It’s a very good opening episode. The visual effects were fantastic. I especially liked the way in which Cassandra was re-introduced along with the Face of Boe. I find it interesting to see characters who were in Season One again; it makes for excellent continuity and the familiarity helps me to relate to the stories more immediately. The doctor’s new, the planet is new and even the city is new, new – this theme really made me feel that we were witnessing an exciting new stage in the series – I liked the pattern involved here. I loved the fact that Cassandra took over other bodies. The fear factor was high because the infected people and the Sisters of Plenitude gave me the creeps! But ‘Tooth and Claw” looks even scarier...

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“Oh my God! I’m a chav!”

Notes: Unless intuitively obvious or otherwise noted, what follows is opinion; as the ‘in my humble opinion…’ tag rapidly grows tedious. Some spoilers follow.

There’s no messing about. Doctor Who: New Earth is the first in the 2006 thirteen-part run of 45-minute episodes comprising Series 2. In the fleeting and welcome pre-credits montage, the latest Doctor (David Tennant) fires up his TARDIS. This is juxtaposed with shots of companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) bidding au revoir (?) to her loved ones – all two of them: Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler (Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri). And then our two travelers are off, “further then we’ve ever gone before” promises the Time Lord. What ensues is a sequel of sorts to The End of the World (2005), and arguably one of writer Russell T. Davies’ strongest entries to date. It is, unsurprisingly, hurriedly-paced, effectively injecting the viewer with their weekly ‘hit’ of Doctor Who. By the outcome, one might very well feel visually fatigued. Indeed, largely due to this, New Earth feels like a mid-series story. There is no pause for an extended celebratory re-introduction, as the brisk opener readily attests.

In reciprocation to a mysterious message, from a familiar Face (voiced by Struan Rodger), our protagonists materialize in a distant and decidedly Welsh future, after the year five billion. There, they must contend with two primary plots, touchy-feely ‘zombies’, and various other story elements. The colloquialism ‘bursting at the seams’ springs to mind. Effectively, this is also Rose’s first televised visit to an alien planet (see suggested by Boom Town, 2005). By this point, I had almost forgotten that they existed in the Doctor Who universe.

Plot A, if you will, pertains to (at least) a trio of cats dressed as nuns. Go figure. In their clinic, the Sisters of Plentitude subject home-grown human vegetables to various interstellar illnesses and diseases, so as to devise illicit cures for their genuine patient population. Cue some old-school self-righteous indignation from the Doctor. Plot B concerns the return of another familiar character, Lady Cassandra [O’Brien] (Zoë Wanamaker), who is out for revenge (well… money). Her method? Possessing Rose’s body! During the course of the show, we witness Cassandra’s ever-changing form; she switches between human, a “bitchy trampoline”, an ethereal body-swapping vapour, and a mind-stealing entity. In the previous series, I felt Piper’s acting was very sincere and plausible (in stark contrast to the Doctor and his universe). Here, she impresses us further; with her depiction of “Cassandrose”1 (“I’m a chav!”) – suggestive of a fairly broad range. This extends to some amusing scenarios, although unfortunate lines akin to “it’s like living inside a bouncy castle” (and “Oh, baby! I’m beating out a samba!”) will, undoubtedly, remind avid viewers who penned the screenplay. Nonetheless, Piper’s performance is a highlight of this week’s episode. Her depiction of Rose is circumscribed to the very first few scenes, where – aside from an amusing elevator incident – she summarizes for us that she loves universe-trotting with her companion.

Wanamaker is also on form, although her Cassandra appears somewhat more ‘on the attack’ than interpreted previously, largely due to the dialogue. Referring to Rose as “that dirty blonde assassin” implies either warped rationalization, or Davies’ poor recollection of his own screenplays – the Doctor was the “blonde assassain” in The End of the World. Arguably, Rose is guilty by association, a scapegoat; as Cassandra does not recognize the “new new” Doctor.

Tennant is promising. As with the untitled Children in Need special and The Christmas Invasion (2005), my primary, trivial, criticism at this point in time, is that I find his occasionally-high-pitched voice irritating. Here, he is as quirky and eccentric as his previous outings implied; and morally self-righteous (“HOW MANY?!”) and self-mythologizing (“There is no higher authority”). I do not care for this “lonely God” business, though. Unfortunately, his outraged scenes do not develop the traditional ‘animal experimentation’ debate. From the given information, the moral of the story is ‘don’t keep zombies in cells in your basement detained via a simple and collective open-close switch’. Or something. However, as I noted in my Christmas review, this ‘superficial’ presentation of moral issues does allow the individual viewer to interpret them as he/she pleases. Regardless, a third fine and enjoyable performance from Tennant.

Unfortunately, our introduction to the detained ‘zombies’ heralds the onset of major absurdities in plotting. For instance, Cassandra no longer requires her “psychograft” for body-swapping. Furthermore, the Doctor’s solution to The Night of the Living Dead, as you will see, is blatantly impractical (whereas, of course, the rest of Doctor Who is not…). Nonetheless, it is all entertaining and engaging, with fine performances from the primary dramatis personae, and the supporting cast: Cassandra’s Welsh sidekick Chip (Sean Gallagher); and the Sisters Matron Casp, Sister Jatt, and Novice Hame (respectively: Dona Croll, Adjoa Andoh, and Anna Hope). As are the petrifold regression-ailed Duke of Manhattan and bespectacled Frau Clovis (Michael Fitzgerald and Lucy Robinson). James Hawes directs.

Is this production suitable for you?

The verdict: 3/5. Relentless, surreal, well-acted, engaging, and sometimes amusing; New Earth requires the suspension of disbelief. Not perfect, but another fun romp from the regular writer. An appropriate series-starter.

Target audience(s): General. Based upon my experiences, it is light-hearted and watchable enough for most viewers.

Certificate recommendation: U-PG. ‘Zombies’. A few minor sexual allusions children will overlook. Nothing major, and given today’s desensitized audiences, I feel PG is probably pushing it. Colourful atmosphere. (Being cheeky, that probably equates with an ‘18’ from the BBFC, who have not been desensitized since the Fifties… [But, then I am stereotyping somewhat])

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