Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: New Earth

By Eddie Robson on 17 April 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

For those of us who retained a keen interest in ‘Doctor Who’ when it was a fusty old dead thing, it’s still difficult to get used to it being something that comes and goes like any other TV programme. The first night nerves that accompanied the broadcast of ‘Rose’ last year haven’t entirely abated: in fact, with the comeback having been more successful than anybody could have hoped, they’ve taken on a different form. The worry now is that the show has set such high standards that it’s going to struggle to match them.

This sort of worrying is pretty absurd, really, because if you’re worrying you’re probably not enjoying it, and if you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point? I feel that one of the things that killed ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1980s was that it was continually compared to what it used to be, and in those situations the past usually has the upper hand on the present. As this is a show that embraces change on a weekly basis, it’s arguably better to judge each episode on its own terms.

And there are many good things about ‘New Earth’. Russell T Davies has noted that during his first series he sometimes forgot to bring the scary, and so he rectifies this with a mob of plague zombies. He also shows his awareness that David Tennant’s more knockabout Doctor needs to show a steely edge from time to time, and Tennant proves himself versatile enough to display that. Best of all is Billie Piper: a body-swap plotline is always a good showcase for an actor and she throws herself into it. All right, so the voice is actually closer to her natural voice, but look at how she moves – it’s worth watching the episode again just to watch her in the background.

The one problem I’ve had with Davies’ scripts is that I feel he sometimes takes plotting shortcuts when resolving a situation. In ‘New Earth’ this takes the form of a cure for the plague zombies that involves drenching them in a cocktail of medicine, which cures on contact (even though the medicine is designed to be taken via an IV). It seems like a slightly shonky plan for the Doctor to take such massive risks to carry out. Then again, I suppose that having the Doctor shoot the zombies with hypodermics of the stuff would have been a no-no in a family show.

Nevertheless, ‘New Earth’ is a strong statement of intent, a story with a big scale that still features the sparkly dialogue and moments of emotional resonance that made the first series such a… damn, I said I wouldn’t do that. Well, let’s just say it’s good. And next week’s looks even better.

Line Break

By Eddie Robson

Comments are closed.