New Earth

New Earth

Writer: Russell T Davies (9th episode)

Director: James Hawes (4th episode)

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), 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 (Fran Clovis), Andjoa Andoh (Sister Jatt), Anna Hope (Novice Hame), Struan Rodger (Face of Boe)

Synopsis

The Tenth Doctor and Rose travel to the distant future, where an order of cat nuns are able to cure all illnesses.  The Doctor must investigate their shady operations in the hospital and save Rose from his old enemy, Lady Cassandra.

Behind the Scenes

New Earth 1

This story is notable in the revived series to see the Doctor and his companion visit an alien planet – for the entirety of the first series, adventures had been set on Earth or on satellites orbiting the Earth.  The episode came about because Billie Piper had asked Russell T Davies to be in an episode where she could be funnier.

In story terms, this is a debut for New Earth, which would reappear in Gridlock in the following series.  This story is set 23 years after The End of the World, and 30 years before Gridlock.  When writing this story, Russell T Davies originally had the Face of Boe delivering his “You are not alone” message, and the Face of Boe would also have died.  However, when the production team were told that series 3 had been commissioned, Davies postponed this plot strand until the following year.  Originally the infected would have all been killed off at the end, but was influenced by an introduction written by Steven Moffat in The Shooting Scripts, good-naturedly mocking him for “(creating) interesting characters and (melting) them”.

Additionally, there seems to be a gap between this story and the preceding story, The Christmas Invasion, which could either suggest that the Doctor has been staying on the Powell Estate for a while between stories, or that the Doctor and Rose have been on other adventures in the meantime.  This is due to the fact that the seasons have obviously changed and the TARDIS has moved since the conclusion of the Christmas special.

Location-wise, the intensive care unit of the hospital was previously used in Rose as the Nestene base.  Casting wise, Andjoa Andoh would go on to play Francine Jones, Martha’s mother in series 3.

Review

New Earth zombies

David Tennant’s first fully conscious episode of Doctor Who is a mixed bag and is a bit bizarre as a series opener here.  I am going to talk about the positives as I see them before moving onto the weaker sides of the episode.

The main positive of this story is the prosthetics and make-up, especially on the cat nuns, which looks fantastic.  There are fantastic effects used here, such as on the Duke of Manhattan with Petrifold Regression, but all of the practical effects used on the patients and the infected are fantastic.  I also feel that, by and large, David Tennant’s performance in this episode is strong, especially in the scene where he finds out the truth of the hospital.  He absolutely bristles with righteous anger and rage and it is the undoubted highlight of the episode for me.  I do have a minor qualm about an element of his performance, but I’ll come onto that later.  Additionally, I feel that the story is quite well balanced, as we seem to spend an appropriate amount of time on the two elements of the plot: Cassandra and the hospital.

This is quite a flawed story, however, and really stands out as quite a bonkers plot for a first episode of the series, due to the body swapping element. Usually, a series debut will re-establish the returning characters in order to aid new viewers into the programme.  On the other hand, this story seems to assume a certain amount of knowledge of the characters. There is also a plot hole in the fact that the jumping of bodies by Cassandra seems to initially require a device, but then can just happen spontaneously.  This body swapping also contributes to another of my problems with this episode – Tennant’s acting when he’s being possessed by Cassandra.  He really hams it up and it absolutely undermines his first performance as the Doctor.  He looks really uncomfortable performing this aspect of the character and this really magnifies the issues in this story.

The test subject zombies are also a bizarre choice of villain for a Doctor Who story.  As mentioned above, the prosthetics are fantastic and the idea of getting infected by just one touch is really effective, but they don’t really fit in here.  The technique of transferring an infection through one touch is used far more effectively in a later episode, The Waters of Mars, ironically, the Tenth Doctor’s penultimate story.  Speaking of the main issue with the infected patients, I feel that one of the story’s biggest issues is the resolution.  THe magic cocktail of remedies that the Doctor and Rose/Cassandra make is a bit of a rushed job, and you can certainly tell that this wasn’t the original direction that Davies wanted the story to go in.  Although I don’t necessarily believe that Doctor Who needs to include a whole load of death, it is ultimately necessary for the stakes to remain high and for there to be any real sense of dramatic tension and believe in that week’s threat.

Verdict: A flawed second episode for David Tennant, which includes a good premise, but is let down by its execution.  Tennant’s performance is largely good, except when the body swap happens, and his charisma makes this a watchable if not entirely memorable episode. 4/10

Best Moment: The Doctor’s rage when he discovers the truth of the hospital.

Best Quote

“You were supposed to be dying.”

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

The Tenth Doctor and the Face of Boe

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

The Highlanders

This story does not exist due to the wiping of old films by the BBC in the 1970s. As such, I’ll have a look at what the story entailed and talk about the important elements for Patrick Troughton’s time in the TARDIS.

The Highlanders was written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis, and directed by Hugh David. Elwyn Jones, although commissioned to write a script, carried out no work on the script, and the story in its entirety was written by script editor, Gerry Davis.  Normally in situations where the script editor rewrote or wrote the majority of the script, they were not credited, however, in this case, Davis received an on-screen credit. Hugh David was amongst the actors considered to portray the First Doctor by Rex Tucker, however, Verity Lambert rejected him on the grounds that, at the age of 38, he was too young to play the Doctor.  David would also direct a further Troughton story, Fury From The Deep, which at the time of writing remains missing.

It was made up of four parts and would be the last ‘pure historical’ story of Doctor Who until 1982’s Black Orchid.  However, as The Highlanders is based around true historical events, unlike Black Orchid, it can be seen to be the last ‘true’ historical event.  The only character included in this story who actually existed is the villainous Solicitor Grey, though.

This episode sees the introduction of Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, who would remain with the programme until The War Games in 1969. Jamie is a fan favourite companion and would cameo in The Five Doctors and reappear again in The Two Doctors. Due to the vast amount of Doctor Who made in this era, Jamie McCrimmon is the companion with the most appearances, with 113 episodes under his belt.  He also narrowly misses out on appearing in every Troughton episode.  Hines himself now plays the Second Doctor for Big Finish Productions, as well as continuing in the role of Jamie.

Synopsis

The TARDIS team arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the Battle of Culloden, where the Doctor tends to the wounds of a Laird of the Jacobites, Colin McLaren, and gains the trust of a small band of Jacobites.  All of them are captured by the Redcoat troops, except for Polly and the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, and are put into the custody of Solicitor Grey, who plans to sell his prisoners into slavery in the West Indies.

Polly and Kirsty blackmail the leader of the Redcoats, Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch, to help them, and they smuggle weapons onto the stolen ship where the prisoners are being held, the Annabelle. Solicitor Grey and the captain, Trask, are overpowered, and the stolen ship is returned to it’s rightful owner, Willie Mackay, who agrees to take the rebels to France.  At the end of the story, Jamie joins the TARDIS crew.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly), Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), William Dysart (Alexander McLaren), Donald Bissert (The Laird), Hannah Gordon (Kirsty McLaren), Michael Elwyn (Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch), David Garth (Grey), Dallas Cavell (Trask).