Doctor Who – New Earth

Well, the long wait is finally over. Doctor Who is back for a second[1] run of thirteen episodes. Now this is where it can get tricky: following up a very successful series with a new actor in the title role was always going to be a challenge. You can easily imagine the critics starting off with their “not as good as last time” routines, and drawing unfavourable comparisons between David Tennant and Chris Eccleston. Of course, any critics doing that would have to be complete idiots, but that’s never been a barrier to a career in journalism before. So, what do we have in David’s first full episode[2]?

The Doctor takes Rose to New Earth. It’s a planet founded by people filled with nostalgia after the final destruction of the Earth in The End of the World, and includes a Metropolis style[3] New New York, or as the Doctor suggests, New New New……New (you get the idea) New York, as it’s the fifteenth one. But that’s not where the Doctor wants to go. He’s received a message asking him to visit someone in an impressive-looking hospital nearby.

The hospital is staffed by the Sisters of Plenitude, who appear to be highly-evolved cats[4]. They can cure any disease. The Doctor goes to find out who sent him the message, while Rose is diverted to the basement, where she meets an old adversary – The Lady Cassandra[5], the self-styled “Last Human”, in reality a sheet of skin with her brain in a tank. Cassandra transfers her personality into Rose’s body. This gives Billie Piper some lovely comedy to perform as Cassandra takes control.

Cassandra goes up to meet the Doctor, talking in a bizarre Mockney accent, which immediately alerts the Doctor that something is wrong. But as ever, he’s got bigger problems. Once he finds out the dreadful secret of just how the Sisters are curing everyone, his moral outrage bursts forth in classic style. Telling the Sisters that they have to stop, he tells them

If you want to take it to a higher authority, there isn’t one!

Lots of excitement, danger and humour follow. When Cassandra temporarily transfers into the Doctor’s body, David gives a delightfully camp performance[6] of Cassandra finding herself in a male body.

In the end, the Doctor performs his usual magic, saving people and causing chaos in the finest traditions of the series. And even Cassandra finds some kind of redemption.

Overall, a good start to the new series. Judging by what’s to come, it was more of a gentle warm-up than a blockbuster, but none the worse for that. Viewers will be getting used to a Doctor who talks a lot more than he used to, but who still has that deeply moral core. Looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun: next week we have Queen Victoria and a werewolf, which looks very impressive from the trailers….

[1] Or is it twenty-seventh?
[2] He did spend at least half of The Christmas Invasion unconscious, you might recall
[3] Only more shiny and nice looking :tongue:
[4] Much more refined than Red Dwarf’s Cat, before you ask :laugh:
[5] Returning from The End of the World and again voiced by Zoë Wannamaker
[6] Interviewed on Doctor Who Confidential he did say that Zoë would probably kill him the next time she sees him…