Doc and Rose see a familiar face each, and then square off against cat-nun-nurses and a horde of gross zombies
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When the 10th Doctor receives an odd message literally appearing in text across his psychic paper, there’s no time to make a big deal out of this obviously awesome phenomenon, and instead he and Rose head to the planet of New Earth, the city of New New York, and the year 5,000,000,023.
After the destruction of the Earth in N002 The End of the World, what was left of mankind made a new home for itself on New Earth, which sounds idyllic enough, but all is not as it seems:
The Doctor has been texted by The Face of Boe; Rose is about to get body-snatched by an old foe; and the anthropomorphic cat-nun-nurses that run the hospital appear to be a little too good at their job.
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Ah, the joys of the NHS. This episode has everything. Action, comedy, body swapping and cat nun nurses. This cautionary tale penned by Russell T Davis appears to be a light hearted romp at the start, but it is soon apparent that all is not as it seems…
Old friends return in the form of Cassandra, again played with aplomb by the awesome Zoe Wanamaker and the enigmatic Face of Boe. Mind you, when in later series you learn about the true identity of the Face of Boe having him surrounded by cat women seems to make purrfect sense (sorry about that).
There were several places that did make me laugh. Billie Piper is clearly enjoying herself taking on the Cassandra persona, but the line ‘Oh my God, I’m a chav!’ is one of the things that start to date the episode. At first the villain seems to be Cassandra but when the truth is revealed about the hospital Russell tries to bring in a dark secret of medical ethics gone horribly, horribly wrong. The grand reveal of the horrific truth behind the hospital is very well done, but there was something about the pustulant zombies that rang hollow for me. All that shambling zombie walking put me off a little, it made them seem less human, more shuffling trope.
So the positives. Performances. From the first minute where you see Noel Clarke ACTING, without saying a word. That look he gives as Rose goes into the TARDIS says a hundred things. David Tennant is settling in nicely now and Billie Piper pulls in a very strong performance, not only as Rose, but as Cassandra. The costumes are excellent. The prosthetics of the cats are seamless and the design of the Sisterhood very strong and striking. The design of the other patients is also well realised and excellently executed.
However, this episode seems unsure of what it wants to be. You can have contrasts between suspense and humour but it could have been done better on this occasion. Also the music, especially at the start WAS JUST TOO LOUD! I found it detracted, rather than enhanced the opening scenes on New Earth. Some of the CGI disease effects were not too good either. It also marks a start in the Rose/Doctor flirting thing which I was never a fan of.
How did Cassandra talk? Where was her larynx? Still can’t work that bit out.
Overall a good episode that I enjoyed watching again, but with some niggles. 3.8.
How can anyone fail to love this heart-warming tale of how the ultimate narcissist died gazing raptly at her younger self, who would forever after remember fondly the last time her beauty had caused someone literally to expire?
Yet the bigger problem with this episode, dare I say it, is that it’s so. much. FUN. It’s a freewheeling caper through an insane future; hence I loved it. The campery from everyone possessed by Lady Cassandra was exquisite; when Tennant’s finished with Ducktales maybe he can sub for Biggins on the pantomime circuit. Billie Piper redeems last week’s performance with one of her best. I even buy Rose’s lovestruck cognitive rewiring. She thought she’d lost Doc forever – now he’s not only back, but younger, handsomer and not northern too! When, possessed, she smooches Doc, his reaction’s five billion and twenty-three times more believable than when another Lady, Christina, mouth-molests him in Planet of the Dead. That’s what chemistry looks like, Michelle Ryan. Chip’s a great future Igor too. Overall a fantastic mix of crackling dialogue, rapid action and sudden horror, when the Sister incinerates the sentient Flesh. Just don’t stop to think.
Show Notes: 1) The disease that kills carriers off in 10 minutes is ‘pallidome pancrosis’. 2) Cassandra’s consciousness, having been psycho-grafted once, is freed for further body-swaps. 3) Women have way more bits. Ovaries, fallopian tubes, wombs, etc. Grow up, RTD. 4) If all the viruses ever spread by touch, so can inoculation (except: bullshit). 5) Fun.