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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “New Earth”

(intro to my Who blogging, please read before commenting / previous: Episode 0: “The Christmas Invasion”)

“Where we going?” Rose asks. “Further than we’ve ever gone before,” the Doctor replies, with a grin. Oh boy.

Lying on his coat, on the applegrass, gazing at the ridiculously romantic skyline of New New York, that’s the time, Rose. I want to shout at her, at that moment, every time I watch this episode: “Kiss him, you fool!”

But the moment’s still not right, I guess. She can hold his hand and stare right into his eyes and tell him how much she loves, er, traveling with him, and it’s still not right. An icebreaker — that’s what they need. Like, say, the consciousness of a demented, plastic-surgery-obsessed monster jumping back and forth between their bodies.
There’s no denying now (if there ever really was) the genuine attraction between them. Via Cassandra, they’ve been in each other’s heads — him probably more in her head than vice versa, since Cassandra seems to indicate that the Doctor can block her access to his mind. But when Cassandra is checking out the Doctor, and knows Rose has been too — “Slim and a little bit foxy. You thought so too. I’ve been inside your head. You’ve been looking. You like it.” — Rose can’t deny it. She’s embarrassed, but she can’t deny it. Apparently, it’s “hormone city” in Rose’s head. And who can blame her?

Cassandra-in-the-Doctor’s-body is probably the first time I sat up and said to myself, “Okay, wow: David Tennant is an amazing actor.” He’s so funny, doing Cassandra’s little I’m-a-man-yum dance. But Billie Piper, also… who’da thunk she’d be so fantastic? The look on her face when she’s faced with Doctor-Cassandra is priceless, and complicated. And Tennant and Piper are wonderful together in a different way that Eccelston and Piper were: the Doctor is still all mysterious and alien and strange and unpredictable, but there’s something more accessible about him… which forces you to wonder just how much of his true self he may be sublimating or denying, however unconsciously, in order to connect with, let’s face it, someone who is, from his perspective, a primitive and impossibly young alien. Could someone like her ever really satisfy someone like him emotionally or intellectually? And how sad is it for him that someone like her is perhaps his only option at this point?

One of my favorite things about this episode: figuring out when the Doctor figures out that Rose is no longer in control of her body. I think it’s possible that it’s not before the kiss — though it’s interesting that he does not return her kiss, and that his hands never leave his pockets, though that could be attributable to pure (if delighted) shock as much as anything else. When she points the way to the terminal, he may be suspicious then — would Rose have even noticed things like terminals in her wanderings around the hospital? Certainly, by the time she’s giving him technical advice, and he’s confirmed his doubt by asking her a question about the computer system Rose couldn’t possibly know the answer to, he’s on to the fact that there’s a problem. I love watching Tennant’s performance and all the little flutters of uncertainty and agitation that flitter across his face through the whole sequence where he meets up with Rose again. I love it. He’s brilliant. And when I remember not to let myself be distracted, I watch Piper, too, because she’s pretty brilliant, too, at playing two characters at once.

Who is the Face of Boe? Is he, indeed, Jack Harkness is some distant-future incarnation? Why would Face of Boe call for the Doctor, here in New New York, after (apparently) only one meeting? It’s obvious, I think, that the Face of Boe feels that there’s a connection between him and the Doctor. Why would the Face of Boe call the Doctor “the wanderer, the man without a home, the lonely god”? Mustn’t that come from a much deeper understanding of the Doctor than one brief meeting could have inspired? Or are there mythic tales about the Doctor floating around galactic culture in the year five billion just as there are, clearly, about the Face of Boe? Why does the Doctor say to the Face of Boe, “There are legends that you’re millions of years old” in such a way that suggests that the Doctor believes that these are mere legends when the Doctor knows that the Face of Boe is, in fact, billions of years old? He first saw the Face on Boe on TV on Platform Five in the year 200,000 or so, in the episode “The Long Game,” after all. Or is “the Face of Boe” merely a title that is passed from one being to another? So many questions…

Random thoughts on “New Earth”:

• “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Tennant’s Doctor says that a lot

• “One touch and you get every disease in the world…” “How on Earth…” You’d think the Doctor would have some turns of phrase that serve the same purpose yet also show him to be a citizen of the universe, not of one measly little backwater planet that supposes it is the center of the universe…

• “No shop? I like a little shop.” And later: “A shop does some people a world of good. Not me. Other people.” Is the Doctor a secret shopaholic? (He gets his desired hospital shop later at Martha’s workplace…)

• The disinfectant in the elevator? This may be as close as we’ll ever get to seeing the Doctor in the shower. Well, we did get to see Jon Pertwee in the shower in “Spearhead from Space”

• “Yup, still got it.” Just in case anyone wonder: yeah, the Doctor’s had it before, and likes having it. Yes, the Doctor, ahem, dances.

• That sad little almost-smile that the Doctor gives the Duke of Manhattan, that’s very Peter Davison-Doctor…

• Cassandra-in-the-Doctor goes right through trampoline-Cassandra’s frame to get to the ladder. Eww.

• The Doctor says to Cassandra-in-Rose, “Give her back to me!” Not “Let her go” or “Leave her alone” or “Get out of her” but “Give her back to me.” Hmmm…

• “All their lives, and they’ve never been touched”: the plight, or part of the plight, of the “new humans.” Touch. Pass it on. Contact saves you. It’s all the Doctor wants now, and it’s really all Cassandra wanted, too. And how sweet did the old Cassandra turn out to be, startling and moved by the kindness of the “strange little thing” dying in her arms? “He” touched her so much that she later modeled Chip on that, her “favorite pattern.” She wasn’t always a villain.

• Has the Doctor ever been taken over by an alien entity before? He was sorta zombiefied by Sutekh, but that was different. Here’s yet another new vulnerability for the Doctor, not just his heart but his mind as well.

• Favorite lines: The Doctor’s “I like impossible,” partly because it slips by almost unnoticed, and is one of the best encapsulations of his character. And Cassandra’s “You’re completely mad — I can see why she likes you,” which perfectly encapsulates why we all like him. Though it’s hard to beat “The brain meat expired” for sheer hilarious ickiness.

(next: Episode 2: “Tooth and Claw”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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  • jakob1978

    That sad little almost-smile that the Doctor gives the Duke of Manhattan, that’s very Peter Davison-Doctor…

    Speaking of which…..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/news/cult/news/drwho/2007/10/21/50016.shtml

    and another pic

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article369972.ece

  • This one was okay, but I felt the return of Cassandra was contrived and I didn’t quite understand why it was necessarily to have sympathy for him/her . . . he/she was an ass.

    Plus, marauding zombies weren’t too exciting after the parade of them over the previous season and the Christmas special. Both the New New York episodes have struck me as half-realized and rather slapped together in order to get the Face of Boe into the story.

    Tennant and Piper were both terrific in this one, though.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not crazy about the idea of New New York, either.

    Hoorah for Tennant and Davison together — Davison’s my second favorite Doctor… though he used to be the first.

  • Melinda

    “And Tennant and Piper are wonderful together in a different way that Eccelston and Piper were”

    I am just watching the Eccleston season and i thought the exact same thing! I was trying to explain the difference to my flatmate though… It has a lot to do with the connection between the two. I think there is way more sexual tension between Tennant and Piper than there was with Eccelston. Sure he was still the Doctor, but like you said, unaccessable. Tennant is more real and, well touchable (or, perhaps, um, lickable… but that might just be me) and that changes the relationship he has with Rose.
    There’s less foreign about this Doctor.

  • Rosalind

    A brilliant concept, but how will they explain why Peter Davidson has aged so much in what must be merely a heartbeat in the life of the Doctor?!

  • They may be clever . . .or they may just go the route of The Two Doctors, where 6 met 2 (and 2 had a head of gray hair and his sidekick Jamie was noticeably more mature than when we last saw him) and everyone was expected to suspend their disbelief.

  • Oh no, ‘lickable’ works for me.

  • MaryAnn

    There’s less foreign about this Doctor.

    I think it’s more that there’s less *immediately apparently* alien about Tennant’s Doctor… so that when he does do or say something manifestly alien, it’s all the more shocking.

    how will they explain why Peter Davidson has aged so much

    Obviously, the John Simm Master has carelessly left his aging-the-Doctor thingie laying about across the spacetime continuum.

  • This was the first full “Who” I saw. It was probably the worst episode to see out of context. I was pretty “meh” about it. I’m so happy I took everyone’s suggestions to watch the show anyhow. Even so, I saved watching this ep until just before the last one of the second series, not wanting to wreck my viewing enjoyment with something I remembered as a bit cheezy.

    I just watched it again, and it all made sense, and was funny and sweet in all the right ways. Rose’s wide-eyed giddiness, which I read originally as dizzy blonde-ness, was one of the biggest differences in my two viewings. And the Doctor seemed more daring, less arbitrarily bossy once I “got” the show, and Tennant’s Doctor. I’ve even gotten pretty fond of Cassandra (the “bitchy trampoline”). Still not nuts about the nun cat nurses and zombies, but they’re certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever seen in sci-fi.

    I still find Eccleston’s Dr. a little sexier (always did have a thing for damaged, angsty, unattainable men), but Tennant’s is more romantic. By the last ep of this season, I was sniffling along with him. Maryann, were you ever right about adoring this character. And as the proud owner of a couple of choice RSC tix for next season I can indulge in my Shakespeare and Tennant fangirling simultaneously.

  • Well, cats always did think they were God and now they have a “Dr. Who” episode that proves it…

    Since my best friend is a rmt (registered massage therapist), I’d like to be able to endorse that “touch is the sure cure for everything that ails you” notion. However, even on Earth, there are so many obvious exceptions…not to mention all the diseases that are actually spread by physical contact…

    Then again cat nurses and Billie Piper being outed as a chav almost makes up for that.

    But not quite.

  • JSW

    They may be clever . . .or they may just go the route of The Two Doctors, where 6 met 2 (and 2 had a head of gray hair and his sidekick Jamie was noticeably more mature than when we last saw him) and everyone was expected to suspend their disbelief.

    Only if you assume that the Second Doctor regenerated immediately after The War Games. There’s a theory, first proposed by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell and supported by The War Games’ co-writer, that the Doctor spent an extended period of time working for the Time Lords after The War Games and before he got Pertweefied for Spearhead from Space, which would account for his aging in The Two Doctors.

    Unfortunately, we saw Five regenerate on-screen, so it’ll be a bit more difficult to fit his appearance into continuity.

  • MaryAnn

    I’d like to be able to endorse that “touch is the sure cure for everything that ails you” notion.

    Nah, it’s not a cure-all. It’s more like water, so essential to life that life without it is not possible.

  • Jakob1978

    Only if you assume that the Second Doctor regenerated immediately after The War Games. There’s a theory, first proposed by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell and supported by The War Games’ co-writer, that the Doctor spent an extended period of time working for the Time Lords after The War Games and before he got Pertweefied for Spearhead from Space, which would account for his aging in The Two Doctors.

    Ah, the Season 6B idea, one of my favourite ideas (although to fit the Two Doctors into it, you have to suppose he picked up Jamie, then picked up Victoria again, before dropping her off just before the adventure begins)…I’m pretty sure it’s been around as an idea for a long time, and i’m not sure that Cornell was the first to propose it (although he, along with Keith Topping and Martin Day were probably the first to really go into it in detail in their book “The Discontinuity Guide”). In fact you could say that an idea like that, was first created by the writers of “TV Comic” who did comic strip adventures throughout the First to Fourth Doctor eras. In order to bridge the gap between the end of S6 & begining of S7 (particularly when they didn’t know who the 3rd Doctor was going to be), they had the Second Doctor escape his punishment and go on the run, before being recaptured by the Time Lords and having his regeneration forced upon him.

    Wow…that was off topic for this episode lol.

  • I’m not crazy about the idea of New New York either.
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam.

    Why they changed it, I can’t say.

    People just liked it better that way…

  • MaryAnn

    It’s not the name: it’s the idea that the human race has barely changed in 5 billion years. That seems unlikely.

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