Wednesday 16 November 2016

Story 168 - New Earth

In which the new, tenth, incarnation of the Doctor takes Rose on their first trip together. The TARDIS takes them to the year 5,000,000,023, and the planet of New Earth. The Doctor explains that this is where the human race has made its new home. They have arrived close to the city of New New York, which the Doctor claims is actually the fifteenth version of that metropolis. Their arrival has been noticed, as they are spied on by a robotic spider. The Doctor reveals that their destination was not random. He has received a message on his psychic paper to visit a ward in the hospital nearby. The robot spider is feeding images of the pair to a basement of the hospital, where it is being viewed by the Lady Cassandra, and her servant Chip.When the Doctor and Rose enter the hospital, Chip arranges for Rose's elevator to descend rather than go up to the wards. Rose finds herself in the basement where she confronts the "last human" whom she thought had been killed. Cassandra reveals that this stretch of skin is from her back, and Chip had been able to salvage her brain.

Cassandra is aware of some conspiracy going on in the hospital and intends to find out what it is - to steer it to her own advantage. She has a device which allows her mind to transfer itself into Rose - a psycho-graft. The old body and brain matter die - so she cannot transfer back. The Doctor, meanwhile, has discovered that the message he received came from the Face of Boe, who is a patient here. He is being tended by Novice Hame, one of the cat-like Sisters of Plenitude who form the nursing staff of the institution. Hame tells the Doctor of a legend that the Face will impart a message to a lonely traveler before he dies. The Doctor is shocked to find that the Sisters seem to be able to cure many supposedly incurable diseases. The Duke of Manhattan, for instance, is being treated for the usually fatal Petrifold Regression, where the patient turns to stone. He is rejoined by Rose, and immediately notices that she is behaving strangely. Even her accent is different. She prompts him into investigating what is going on in the hospital. He discovers that there is a secret area known as the Intensive Care Unit. They break in and find thousands of cubicles. Within each is a diseased human being. Matron Casp and Sister Jatt arrive. They reveal that the humans are mindless clones - bred to be deliberately infected so that cures can be derived from them.

They had earlier discovered that some of the subjects have been developing sentience. The Doctor informs them that he is going to put a stop to their activities, and then demands to know what they have done to Rose. They deny touching her, and she reveals that she now has the mind of Cassandra. She knocks the Doctor out, and he comes to locked in a cubicle, which is about to be sprayed by a toxic mix of diseases. Cassandra sabotages the systems - inadvertently releasing all of the patients, including the Doctor. One touch from the patients transmits disease which kills in seconds. Casp and Jatt are killed as the patients pursue the Doctor, Rose and Chip. They begin to break out of the Intensive Care section and threaten the rest of the hospital. The Doctor realises that they could spread infection to the nearby city within hours. A quarantine is automatically established.

The patients represent a new form of life, so the Doctor must strive to save everyone without harming them. He insists Cassandra leave Rose. She does - only to enter the Doctor. Rose then insists that she release the Doctor, as he is needed to solve the problem. Cassandra renters Rose after briefly inhabiting one of the patients. The Doctor realises a cocktail of all the cures will be effective against the patients. The elevators have disinfectant spray mechanisms in the ceilings. The Doctor fills one of the tanks with the cure solutions and allows himself to be drenched by them. He then allows some of the patients to touch him. This cures them, and they pass the cure on through further contact. The quarantine is lifted, and the NNYPD arrest the remaining Sisters. Novice Hame tries to justify their actions, but the Doctor refuses to listen. The Face of Boe decides that he still has more life to live, and says that he will meet the Doctor one more time, when he will impart his message. He teleports away. Cassandra has been affected by her brief time in the patient, shocked by their loneliness. Chip reappears but collapses, dying. He is a clone who only has a short lifespan. He remains totally devoted to his mistress. She explains that he was modeled on the last person who ever told her she was beautiful. As a new human species is born, the Doctor convinces Cassandra that her time must come to an end. Chip elects to take her consciousness. The Doctor and Rose take her to the party where she met the person whom Chip was modeled on. This was Chip himself, inhabited by Cassandra.

New Earth was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 15th April, 2006. It opens the second series of the revamped show, and acts as a sequel to Series 1's The End of the World. The Face of Boe, Cassandra, and the robotic spiders return from that story. It is the first alien planet to be seen in the new series. Davies avoids a totally alien world, and so has it another version of the Earth, still concerned that viewers are still not willing to accept "planet Zog".
For this season, each episode will be previewed with a short "Tardisode", written by Gareth Roberts.
Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler are seen briefly at the start, and it is implied that this is the first trip in the TARDIS since the Doctor regenerated at Christmas. Rose will later confirm this, by describing it as their first date.
Billie Piper spends much of the episode inhabited by Cassandra's mind, and affects a posher voice. David Tennant, in his first full episode, also spends some of it channeling Zoe Wanamaker.
We have a body-swap episode, set in a hospital. Hospitals have featured in the show in the past - but usually the cottage variety threatened during alien invasions of the Home Counties.

As it is a season opener, the pace is fast, and there is a lot of humour - despite the horrible premise of human experimentation. It comes across as slightly inconsequential, even though it has one big signifier for future major developments in the series.
The guest cast mostly comprise the Cat Nuns. Novice Hame is played by Anna Hope. Casp is Dona Croll. Jatt is Adjoa Andoh, who we'll be seeing a lot more of in the next series. Sean Gallagher plays Chip, and Michael Fitzgerald plays the portly Duke of Manhattan. Davies had loved the Face of Boe prop made for Series 1, and had felt that it hadn't featured enough. He decided to bring it back as part of a grander scheme. It was refurbished with new animatronics, and this time it speaks - voiced by Struan Rodger.
Story Arc:

  • The Face of Boe legend. It has a message that it will impart to a lonely traveler before it dies.
  • The Doctor has a thing about hospitals having little shops.
The Tardisode:
  • An advert for the hospital and the services offered by the Sisters of Plenitude - presented by Novice Hame. A female voice is heard to scream, and the advert cuts out...

Overall, a perfectly adequate first episode for a series. The ending is a little bit cloying. The Cat Nun masks are fantastic, and there is some great CGI on view as we see the city and the hospital.
Things you might like to know:
  • The filming on the Gower Peninsula for the TARDIS arrival site was ruined by heavy rain. What was filmed had to be redubbed, as the soundtrack was unusable. One shot lost was for the conclusion, as the Doctor, Rose and Cassandra-Chip watched a sunset before gong to the party.
  • There were to have been a lot more scenes with the Duke of Manhattan. The Duke refers to the Doctor as his lucky charm at one point, for no obvious reason. This is because one scene left unfilmed had the Doctor repair his traction winch.
  • Producer Phil Collinson did not like the initial design for the hospital, and the Mill were asked late in the day to come up with an alternative. What we get wouldn't look out of place in Dubai.
  • Once again, Zoe Wanamaker's availability was limited, so Cassandra only appears briefly. Wanamaker does get to appear as herself on screen at the conclusion, as she meets Chip and is then inspired to later create him as a clone servant. Wanamaker was appearing as a recurring character in the final episodes of ITV's Poirot at this time. Her one on screen appearance was filmed during the recording of The Christmas Invasion at Cardiff's Bar Orient.
  • The reception hall for the hospital - filmed in the Cardiff Millennium Centre - will feature as another medical facility in Series 6. It was used as the reception for the Two Streams complex in The Girl Who Waited.
  • When Rose says goodbye to her mother and Mickey before departing with the Doctor, faded "Bad Wolf" graffiti can be seen.
  • The clip of Rose snogging the Doctor was included in the series trailer, causing some annoyance to those fans who are not happy with the Doctor being a sexualised person. All the Doctors will kiss from Eccleston onwards - but always there will be an explanation that reveals that he is never the instigator. The Ninth Doctor was sucking out the Vortex from Rose to save her life, and it was Jack who kissed him. With Martha, it will be a genetic transfer to confuse the Judoon. Donna will kiss him to shock him when he needs an anti-toxin to work. Amy throws herself at him on the eve of her wedding, and it will be Missy who launches herself at the Twelfth Doctor.
  • There is other naughtiness present. When inhabited by Cassandra, the Doctor mentions parts of his anatomy that haven't been used much. Billie Piper wears a padded bra for when she is inhabited by Cassandra, making reference to like being inside a bouncy castle. A couple of swear words are neatly avoided thanks to the neat editing of conversations. Cassandra calls Rose "a little -" and it jumps to the Doctor saying "a bit rich", and when Rose realises that Cassandra is using skin from her back, she accuses her of speaking out of her - "Ask not!" butts in Cassandra (pardon the pun).
  • In the original version of the scripts, the Face of Boe was going to die, and the Doctor was not going to save the new humans. Davies changed these in order to prove Steven Moffat wrong, as he had claimed Davies tended to create characters just to kill them off in nasty ways.
  • Many of the Sisters have veiled faces. This was because only the three lead Cat Nuns had the proper prosthetics. The extras wore basic inflexible cat masks under those veils.
  • A new script editor arrives with this story - Simon Winstone. He had been involved in the Virgin Books New Adventures.
  • One of the Tenth Doctor's catchphrases is heard here for the first time - "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
  • There's a continuity error, as Rose gets into the left hand lift, but exits the right hand one.
  • A thing that don't make no sense. The Cats have the cure for every known disease, because we see the Doctor mix it up in a few minutes. Why then need the ICU patients?
  • The Doctor Who story with the most Carry On references? Some people see it that way. For a start, the illness being treated in the Tardisode is "Hawtrey's Disease". Cassandra inhabiting the Doctor certainly makes him sound like Kenneth Williams, whose doctor characters often had trouble from Matrons. "Ooh, Matron!" indeed.

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