“New Earth” – Review Redux

Face of Boe “There are better things to do today. Dying can wait.”

New Earth

The waiting had finally ended. The much anticipated “difficult second album” debuted on BBC1 in the middle of April 2006 and picked up exactly where Series One left off. Last year, Christopher Eccleston’s debut was heralded with fanfare and the full force of Auntie’s media blitz and then, surprising almost everyone, it delivered what was promised and became a critical and commercial success. The path was far from simple and there were many instances when this show found itself talked about on the front pages and even on the TV news. However, it succeeded in reclaiming and reinventing the concept of family viewing, getting huge viewing figures (over 8 million each week on average), huge audience share and huge audience appreciation. It even seemed to appease the notoriously fickle world of Doctor Who fans. So the gauntlet was thrown to RTD and his merry men with a simple challenge…. “Follow that!!”

David Tennant literally burst onto the scene in the closing moments of “Parting of the Waves” and, while 99% of people knew it was coming, we all wondered what the future held. It’s hard to recall a time when the mainstream British audience didn’t have much of a clue who David Tennant was; Blackpool and Casanova being his only main roles prior to 2006. The gap between the end of the last series and the start of this one was replete with extra Who-ish stuff with the Children in Need seven-minute special, the Christmas Day one-hour special, and even an interactive episode “Attack of the Graske” that had all been on our screens, albeit behind the red button, during the interim. So we kind of knew what sort of Doctor we were in for. He’s more… ‘Doctor-ish’ than his predecessor and he seemed to me to approach the role with a Troughton-esque energy and twinkle in his eye. Gone was the rough diamond, Northern soul battling to be redeemed from the effects of the Time War, and in it’s place a younger, more exuberant model, and someone with whom Rose could (more) easily fall in love. However, what we were treated to in this Series Two premiere was the more over-arching them of everything being “new” in this sequel to “The End of the World”.

We had a new Doctor arriving on New Earth, in a place where new cures for diseases were being discovered, while our old friend Lady Cassandra lay in hiding in the basement waiting for a new lease of life.  The story seemed to be nice and tightly plotted, although a few bits of pseudo-science seemed to be slightly too easily explained away.  All well and good if you’re going for a light-hearted romp but a bit of a distraction to those (like me) who’ll study it in meticulous detail over multiple viewings.  For example, the disinfectant scene was seemingly a throw-away comedy moment upon first viewing and then played a critical role in the story’s resolution but quite how the random concoction mixed up by the Doctor to cure the new-humans is anyone’s guess.  However. there was more than plenty to admire from this script with its suitably jovial dialogue.  Most of the jokes worked for me at least, and I remember when I first watched this, that I was on the lookout for the this year’s ‘Bad Wolf’ arc, which turned out to be Torchwood (a meme that actually first showed up in Series One’s “Bad Wolf”). It was good to see the Face of Boe back and given more to do as well.

Performances were pretty solid all round.  The three actresses playing the catnuns did splendid jobs under their rather marvelous prosthetics, and Sean Gallagher gave an entertaining performance as Chip.  David Tennant seemed to be finding his feet a little although there were some sublime touches.  Final word though, must go to Billie Piper whose turn as Rose-possessed-by-Cassandra was near perfection.  James Hawes’ direction was as good as we’ve come to expect, while Murray Gold’s gorgeous musical accompaniment continued in its wonderful way. For those of you who haven’t added the official soundtracks to your music collections, I can tell you that you’re really missing out – it is a shame that Series One and Two are shared over a double CD release, rather than having a double CD per season as has followed. As I’ve re-watched the stories over the last couple of weeks I’ve found a few musical pieces that are worthy of a place in anyone’s iTunes library. Overall though, it was a good start to proceedings and 8 million more tuned in to lend weight to the hope that Doctor Who was here to stay for quite some time. New series, new Doctor, same old success.

Highlight: Billie Piper giving her best performance to date

Lowlight: The disinfectant scene

Talking Point: What were your first impressions of David Tennant?

Demon’s Run Rating: 11 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 15th April 2006

Marathon Status: Series Two: Here we go!

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  1. LOL — Parting of the Waves? Wasn’t that Moses, not the Doctor? ; )

    I’m still keeping pace with you. I’ve seen some of these episodes so many times, but I still keep noticing little bits that I either never noticed or else forgot about. Greatly enjoying it all again!

    • Haha…. well spotted. I was just about to correct the typo but I quite like it 😀

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