The Doctor and Rose leave present-day Earth behind for adventures on a new Earth – namely, a planet called New Earth that the human race colonized following the destruction of humanity’s homeworld. A mysterious message has brought the Doctor to ward 26 of a hospital operated by the catlike Sisters of Plentitude, but along the way he is separated from Rose. She is diverted to an underground hideaway, where she is subjected to a psychograft by none other than Cassandra, who she thought had died on Platform One. Cassandra is indeed still alive, but wants to resume life in a human body, even if Rose’s is the best she can manage. The Doctor becomes suspicious about the hospital’s seeming ability to conquer any disease, and with the strangely-behaving Rose back at his side, he discovers that the Sisters of Plentitude have bred a new kind of lab rat to help them cultivate and devise cures to these diseases. But the Doctor knows these unfortunate, caged creatures by another name: homo sapiens.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by James Hawes
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Zoe Wanamaker (Cassandra), Sean Gallagher (Chip), Dona Croll (Matron Casp), Michael Fitzgerald (Duke of Manhattan), Lucy Robinson (Frau Clovis), Adjoa Andoh (Sister Jatt), Anna Hope (Novice Hame), Simon Ludders (Patient), Struan Rodger (Face of Boe)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: New Earth is a fun little romp, but there is no way, no way at all, that if I happened to be sitting in an executive producer’s chair, I would ever have chosen it to kick off a season of Doctor Who, especially not right after a regeneration. My complaint with this story is much that same as the one I leveled at whoever thought The Naked Now should be the second episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – it fundamentally screws around with the basic nature of one of our two regular characters, throwing the audience off-balance as to who they really are. I’m not accusing the audience of being so thick that they need their hands held here, but c’mon, we’d just completely changed the Doctor. New Earth would’ve been fun to have about 3 or 4 episodes into the season.
I’m a little torn on the value of bringing back Cassandra, but I can let that go for the very odd time loop that it suggests: by taking Cassandra, stuck in Chip’s dying body, back to meet herself in human form (Zoe Wanamaker in the flesh this time), the Doctor may very well have set in motion the hyper-vanity that led Cassandra to abandon her human form. This is barely even touched on in the epiosde, and yet it’s such an interesting notion that I can’t let it go. Another holdover from The End Of The World shows up, and this time it’s the Face of Boe, and this time he’s talking. “Textbook cryptic” is about right – and hopefully it pays off a little better than all of last season’s “bad wolf” howling.
I don’t normally take up review time talking about music – we’ve got a whole music section for that, after all – but in this case I’m also torn about Murray Gold‘s score for this episode. On the one hand, he draws almost the entire score from music that had already been created to depict other situations – the fast-paced introduction from Rose, the somewhat overused “emotional” theme that originated in End Of The World…and yet on the other hand, it’s elevated to a new level by being recorded from scratch by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Gold also seems to be able to spoof himself, turning that music from Rose into a balls-to-the-wall, brassy, James Bond-esque action theme for one of the episode’s big setpieces. That said, it wouldn’t break my heart if this marks the retirement of some of the extremely well-worn season 1 music.
A fun little episode, but the first of the season? You’ve gotta be kidding me.