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Apr 18, 2006

New New Doctor

I just sat down and watched New Earth once more, hoping that a second viewing would endear me to the story. Sadly it didn’t.

After the episode had finished on Saturday I just felt so disappointed. All that build up and everything and then we get a mediocre opening episode that wasn’t nearly as exciting as the opening episode of the first series had been. I would have expected them to start with a bang rather than with a whimper!

It looked very nice (some of establishing shots of the new Earth and the hospital complete with flying cars and everything were lovely) and the story was directed with some verve and style (the opening TARDIS scenes with Tennant flicking switches and pulling levers were well directed).

The dialogue was also very good. If there is one thing you cannot fault RTD on, it’s the ability to write funny, quotable dialogue.

The story was ok but it suffered from having to be told in one single forty-five minute episode. There was quite a lot of interesting stuff in this story, and one does wonder what it would have been like told over two episodes. For instance, the scene when the Doctor was shut into that pod thing and was told that he had just three minutes to live. I am sure quite a lot of tension could have been wrung from that scene but no, a few seconds later and he was just let out again.

And what the hell was the point of the Face of Boe? There was this big thing about him wanting to tell the Doctor something, and then at the end he just goes and disappears, saying that it wasn’t all that important and could wait. I mean what was that all about? Is it something that is not going to be resolved until series 3? You had the return of Cassandra in this episode. Wasn’t that enough? Obviously, it was not.

On the subject of Cassandra, she was one of the things that I did like about the episode. She had some of the best dialogue and was really what the episode was all about. Well, it was by the end of the story anyway. The Reformation of Cassandra as a friend of mine said. The plot about the diseases and the cat nurses wasn’t really what the episode was about at all. It was about Cassandra.

Now after watching this episode for a second time I still don’t like David Tennant as the Doctor. I just don’t like the way he plays the part. There were a number of times during this episode when he just shouted at people in an attempt to appear more commanding. You don’t need to shout to be commanding at all.

I hope to god that I will like his portrayal soon but at the moment I would place him on par with Sylvester McCoy, mainly because when he shouts he reminds me of McCoy. 

Billie on the other hand was simply fantastic in the episode, which is saying something considering she spends the majority of the episode playing Cassandra. She was much better as the Cassandra-Rose than David Tennant was as the Cassandra-Doctor who was just silly and over the top (the samba scene in particular). Billie is a definite talent and I, for one, am glad that she is going to be in the show for a little while longer.

It did come to my attention though watching the episode how familiar with each other the Doctor and Rose were, far more so than she was with the ninth Doctor. I am not too sure what I think about that but, from what I can gather, a lot of fans have no problem with that. Whether that is because David Tennant is the Doctor and that everything he does is just so “doctorish” that anything goes I am not sure. It’s just that quite a few of the fans who were not all that impressed with the relationship between the Doctor and Rose last year, seem to have absolutely no problem with it this year. 

One person on here pointed out how similar the conclusion of this story was to the conclusion of The Doctor Dances. Well, after watching the episode again I can concur that it is just like the end of The Doctor Dances only not half as good.

I wanted to enjoy this episode, I really did. I was just left with the feeling that it could have been so much better.

Hopefully the next episode will be better, and, judging from the next week trailer, it is going to be.

4/10.

Comments

After the anticipation building up to this, (less than last year, but still) it really comes across worse than it would, say, in the slot Idiot's Lantern has.

Not an excuse of course - it would have made much more sense to start with a really good episode, developing their relationship more and not have both inhabited by someone else for most of the time.

OG has the audience appreciation figures for New Earth - 85, which means that this episode was more broadly popular than anything in season one apart from 'Bad Wolf' (86) and 'The Parting of the Ways' (89). The great British public has different tastes to us geeks, it seems.

Personally, I thought it was a bit of a mess but still enjoyed it. It wasn't bad, just not the best. I reckon we're getting spoilt.

[I certainly got spoiled at the weekend anyway - a Dalek and a Tardis easter egg! I am, quite pathetically, keeping the boxes alongside my c1983 Peter Davison one.)

New Earth may be a quite disappointing instalment, but it's likely to prove fascinating years from now as a 'training ground' for Tennant in his first full outing as the Doctor, as he experiments with ways of playing the role before he settles on a portrayal he's most comfortable with. Here he's up, down, low-key, shouty, over the top, subtle, serious, camp, sarcastic, warm, distant, bad-tempered and eccentric all within the space of 45 minutes. His quiet 'i'm so sorry' to the plague carrier in the pod is affecting, as is the 'i'm being very very calm' speech, but the 'life will out! Ha!' exclamations were less convincing. This has happened before - it can be argued that Eccleston didn't really settle in the part until 'Dalek' and look at Davison in 'Four To Doomsday' (his first story to be shot)if you can stomach it - he's as varied in his performance as Tennant in 'New Earth' and there are some aspects of his performance in that story (such as the way he's narky with his companions in a way he never was again) that could have provided a very different Fifth Doctor if they were taken further.

You're right about the attempt to re-enact The Doctor Dances ending at the end of the episode, and it really didn't work here. Here's why I reckon it didn't work...

1) Unconvincing rationale - while the nano-genes back story for Empty Child was quite convincing, it was a lot harder to suspend disbelief for the IV drugs that cure on contact rationale - besides I'd assumed that these plague carriers were zombie-like because they'd spent their entire life in pods and were starved of social contact and stimulation, and not because they were riddled with disease; so why did they stop being zombies once the diseases were cured (unconvincingly)?

2) Lack of emotional investment - the mother/son reunion was part of the reason The Empty Child conclusion was so emotional, but I had no reason to care for these zombies; they were just a bunch of zombies - so what?

3) too easy - which of course is the problem with one episode stories - there just isn't the time for us to see the solution develop - this felt like just another of RTD's dei ex machina.

Beside these zombies weren't remotely scary - compare to the zombies from Empty Child or Unquiet Dead, and you realise how far they failed to meet their potential. Again this is partly due to the unconvincingness of the rationale.

The body-swap comedy was entertaining but the story itself was very weak - and this is a season opener?

I agree with all your points about the Doctor Dances comparison, I think it was an inferior imitation. And reminds me a bit of the Boom Town/Parting of the Ways situation as well.

But I would say that as a season opener it's not too shabby. It's basically a light runabout with some good lines. Not exactly something that'll stay in the memory long but a harmless bit of fluff, before the 'big and important' stories to come.

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