If there is one thing that I’ve observed in the new series, it’s the improvement in the production of its episodes. There’s no denying the fact that “Doctor Who” has expanded its horizons to present its fans with a seemingly more modern approach of the plotline. This is evidently clear if you compare the first official episode of series 2 with that of series 1. In my opinion, the production team of “New Earth” relied on the available technology more (and used it better) than they did with the “Rose” episode.

Taking this difference aside, “Doctor Who” being a cultural phenomenon for 26 years has yet again established a sense of continuity amongst its episodes. The most immediate technique that its creators used was the episode’s title. In the literal sense, “New Earth”, out of nostalgia, is a world that humans created as a replica of Planet Earth years after the inevitable end of the world. It picks up after the “Christmas Invasion” where Rose, Jackie, Mickey and Harriet Jones slowly adjusted to the drastic shift in the episode as the writers played with the show’s foundation of familiarity and unfamiliarity. Here, “New Earth” signifies the acceptance of the other actors on the new Doctor. It is also the fans’ acceptance of the consequences of the 10th regeneration as they plunge into the new series; leaving series 1 as its point of reference for future episodes. This allows the show to continue having the sense of continuity between series 1 and series 2 which promises bigger and better adventures.

To further establish this continuity, series 2 took advantage of the character development between Rose Tyler and the Doctor. Once again, this establishes the viewers’ familiarity with the show as it serenades the audiences with its distinctive humor and iconic characters. We first see this in the character development of Rose Tyler. Back in the “End of the World”, Rose’s anxiety in conversing with Cassandra was quite obvious. This stands in direct contrast to Rose’s confidence while conversing with Cassandra in “New Earth. In this scene, I found her confidence refreshing as she even dared to poke fun at Cassandra as she learns how Cassandra regained her form.

Likewise, it takes advantage of the show’s privilege as an episodic serial where its characters are capable of returning for future episodes. Cassandra who we first encountered in “The End of the World” returned to provide us with a sense of closure whilst highlighting the similarities between the two series. As annoying she is, I like how her character’s reintroduction reintroduced vanity and greed as the episode’s focus. Much like series 1, Cassandra is the conceited, manipulative and greedy character that implants herself into Rose’s consciousness in order to carry out her devious plan. Wrongly assuming that she had tricked the Doctor, she attempts to act like Rose as she helps him find the secret of the Sisters of Plenitude which she uses to blackmail them.

It’s interesting though to see a redeeming quality in her in the scene where she finally accepts death after almost an hour’s worth of desperation and manipulation. This earns her kindness from the Doctor who brings her back to a time that she once overlooked. This scene features the future correcting the past as she begins to accept her present. With her last breathe, she tells her “You’re beautiful” before she collapses into her arms. I still don’t like Cassandra’s character but she was given quite a good ending. I found closure in her character as I learned the reason behind her endless surgeries. Once, she longed for perfection only to realize after thousands of surgeries that she had it all along. But the damage has been done. There’s nothing else to do but try to find happiness in her former notion of perfection.

Subsequently, the writers used the general plotline to re-establish our familiarity with the show. In this regard, the episode chronologically does come after “The End of the World. The 10th Doctor reached New New York because the 9th Doctor had already witnessed the planet’s end. The difference is that in “The End of the World”, he is the only familiar aspect amongst a pool of unfamiliar elements while “New Earth” presented everything all things familiar, except the Doctor. Nevertheless, he keeps his role as the hero by the time the “human race’s” imminent doom comes.

Another detail that I like is its similarity with “The Doctor Dances” because I think Steven Moffat did a great job in creating its narrative. For one, “New Earth” adopts its army zombies from 1941 London. Both episodes make the zombies the carriers of a virus/disease. They were avoided at all costs as they were capable of transferring their diseases and converting their victims into their own species with a single touch. They were the plagues that everyone ran away from although they meant no harm. Because both were only desperate for love and affection, the zombies from “New Earth” were as empty as the gas-masked zombies (or even more) for they lived a life free of human contact. The nuns deprived them of their lives in exchange for their success. Moreover, “New Earth” adopts the resolution of “The Doctor Dances” where the Doctor resolves the problem by teaching the plagues to pay their blessings forward. In “The Doctor Dances”, Eccleston programmed the nanogenes in order to pass on the correct structure of human DNA from one victim to the other. Similarly, “New Earth” Tennant disinfected a few plague carriers who he encouraged to “pass on” the chemicals. In effect, “New Earth” deviates from the ending of “The End of the World” where Eccleston claims that “Everything has its time and everything dies”. It goes with Tennant rejoicing because “Just this once. Everybody lives!”

To make up for disrupting the stable actor-character-viewer relationship that we had, the returning characters gave us a treat by revealing more about a returning character. At one point of the episode, the Doctor has this conversation with Novice Hame while waiting for the Face of Boe towake up:

    Novice Hame: The rest of Boe-kind became extinct. Long ago. He’s the only one left.
    Legend says that the Face of Boe has watched the universe grow old.
    There’s all sorts of superstitions around him. One story says that just
    before his death, the Face of Boe will impart his great secret. That he
    will speak those words only to one like himself.
    The Doctor: What does that mean?
    Novice Hame: It’s just a story.
    The Doctor: Tell me the rest.
    Novice Hame: It’s said that he’ll talk to a wanderer. To the man without a home. The
    lonely God.

I really like this conversation because it shows the similarities between the Face of Boe and the Doctor. They are lords of the alien race who have everything yet own nothing thus showing the cursed life of these immortals. Their only constant companion is eternal loneliness yet these are the stars that Rose wishes to be with and the stars that we wish to be. But Rose chooses to stay with the Doctor even after learning about their secret. Will we do the same if we learn about the real secret of the true immortals of our world?

In watching television programs, I’ve always loved TV shows that played with familiar concepts such as the idea of loneliness and regret because it makes the episode relatable. Because it’s familiar, it’s easier to believe and appreciate the narrative. Moreover, I like seeing how writers play with these basic ideas to produce thought-provoking scenes that echo reality. In effect, the conversation between the two characters piqued my interest.

But the episode annoyingly used this as an early cliffhanger. It chose to build the anticipation for the end of Tennant’s journey as the last remaining Time Lord. As annoying as it was, I didn’t really expect that the conversation would push through because it seemed as an odd way of cutting off the Face of Boe in the show. Although I have to admit, after watching the episode, his message became such a strong cliffhanger that I wanted to watch series 2 to series 4 of “Doctor Who”.

In the same manner, the adoption of elements from previous episodes reveals the conventional irony in good narratives. For example, “New Earth” presented a utopia in New New York whose hospital had a dark secret. Developments within the plot slowly revealed that this “perfect” hospital secretly relied on the inequality of the social hierarchy in order to achieve its success. The nuns of Plenitude built a human farm where they kept the plague carriers. They were deprived of their lives because the nuns imprisoned them in the Intensive Care Unit. They became the nuns’ guinea pigs.

This conventional ironic foundation of utopians raises the issue of the triviality of human life, an issue established in “The Doctor Dances”. In “The Doctor Dances”, the nanogenes are accidentally fed the wrong information which causes the modification of the human DNA. This shows how human life is perceived as trivial amidst the advanced lifestyles of these alien life forms. In “New Earth”, the nun’s hunger for prestige led them to believe that curing people from their diseases using the plague carriers were acceptable. In reality, they were replacing the lives of their patients with the lives of the plague carriers. But doing so shows the neglected importance of every human life. Hence, the nuns lose any form of justification for their degrading methods.

Again, I like how the episode raised this issue because it questions the basic definition of humanity. What does it take to be human? The nuns referred to the plagues as “flesh” rather than human beings because they were their guinea pigs. But does being human merely mean good health? Could being human mean choosing your own functions rather than forced to live a life you hate? If this is so, the nuns aren’t fit to be nuns because they stripped the humanity of innocent people. In effect, they’re no better than the other villains of the show. Whatever the exact definition of humanity is, I’m sure I won’t find it in watching a few episodes of the show. It’s a discussion that taps into other fields of study.

On a lighter note, I found my favorite scenes in the episode simply because of their humor. For one, I love the comedic scenes with the body-swap between Rose, Cassandra and the Doctor. It was fun to see the comedic side to Billie Piper and David Tennant as these add to the show’s distinctive humor which is known to provide comic relief to serious scenes. In the chaos of the body-swap, I will not forget the Doctor’s lines as Cassandra where he says “Oh, baby, I’m beating out a samba!” and “…a little bit foxy. You’ve thought so too. I’ve been inside your head…” Second, I also like the disinfectant scene where it showed the difference in the Doctor’s reaction with Rose’s reaction. The Doctor, familiar with the process, goes along with it while Rose tries to resist. Eventually, she uses this opportunity to look presentable for the Doctor. Third, I find the Doctor’s reaction to Cassandra/Rose’s kiss. He says nonchalantly while fixing his hair, “Yep. Still got it.”

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