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New Who Openers In Perspective: New Earth

Lewis Hurst continues the series looking at past New Who openers with Series 2’s.

doctor-who-new-earth-2006-tennant-piper

The feature-length first episode of Series 8 is coming. Aptly titled Deep Breath, it matches the general feeling of the fandom with everyone on the edge of their seats with excitement. But don’t hold your breath too deep, otherwise it’ll be a medical emergency. Thankfully I know a very good hospital to deal with that: a little place on New Earth.

New Earth I feel is the most overlooked of series openers. The general reaction by the fandom when it’s brought up is a slightly underwhelming “meh”. What was it that turned fans against it so? Was it the return of Cassandra, a villain that probably wasn’t very high up on fans “most wanted returning villains” list? The body swap comedy? The cat nuns? The plague zombies? Whatever it was, it seems to have New Earth at the bottom of many “best” lists. Indeed, in Doctor Who TV’s “Series 1-7 Face-Off” it came out as Episode 1 of the “Nightmare Run” making it the least liked series opener. Sure it had strong competition from episodes such as The Eleventh Hour and The Impossible Astronaut, it’s still a shame that a rather strong episode came out at the bottom.

New EarthI personally love New Earth. In retrospect, it may not have been the perfect choice of adventure for the Tenth Doctor’s second outing. Perhaps Tooth and Claw would have been a better choice of opening episode considering it kicks off the arc. Regardless, New Earth is a brilliant episode.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about New Earth is how it juggles two separate plotlines. Both of them receive equal treatment and focus. While any other episode would have chosen one to be the main plot and pushed the other storyline out of focus, so it’s to New Earth’s credit that both are treated fairly. Not once did I feel cheated out of the plague zombie storyline when we focused on Cassandra.

Speaking of Cassandra, I must commend the episode for redeeming what was previously a despicable character. It’s hard to think that in Series 1 Cassandra was willing to leave everyone aboard Platform One to die and then at the end of New Earth, rather reluctantly, risks her life to save others. It really hammers home the Tenth Doctor’s moral of giving his enemies their “one chance”. Cassandra took hers and emerged a better person, even if she did not get to live long afterwards.

doctor-who-new-earth-zombie-patientsThe plague zombie storyline is pretty interesting. The idea of a hospital so desperate to cure it’s patients that they’ll grow their own flesh to create new cures is fascinating. The Sisters of Plentitude are stuck in a morally grey area. You can neither objectively call them good or evil. Yes, growing the new humans to test cures was wrong, but they were doing it (in their eyes) for the greater good. I bet if you got into a lengthy conversation with one of the Sisters, the phrase “The Needs Of The Many Outweigh The Needs Of The Few” would have cropped up at some point. It’s a shame we never got to see the trials the Sisters went on. It’d be interesting to see if they all went down or if several of them got off. We know Novice Hame had to carry on caring for the Face of Boe as punishment. I’d like to know what happened to the rest of the sisters. Their fates, however mundane, would shed some light on the rather dull “They were all arrested” we’re stuck with.

The Plague Zombies themselves are great “monsters”. I loathe calling them monsters because they aren’t. But anyway, they are pretty scary. I remember being scared of them on first viewing. People infected with every disease known to man (and then some) that can kill with a touch but only wish to touch as they’ve never been touched. It’s pretty tragic as well as horrifying. And I have to commend the production team for doing a bang up job with the makeup on the zombies. Really sold it.

doctor-rose-kiss-new-earthThe body swap comedy I know irks a lot of fans, but I personally find it rather funny. It’s all harmless fun really. And it allows David Tennant and Billie Piper to dip into straight out comedy which I’m thankful for as it gives us some of the most quotable lines in the entire series. From Cassandra/Rose’s panicked cry of “I’m a chav!” to Cassandra/Doctor’s “You’ve been looking… you like it.” There’s tons of lines in this episode to make you laugh. In fact I’m going to call it the funniest episode of Series 2 overall. Well… apart from Love and Monsters and Fear Her, but they’re hilarious for a whole different reason.

It surprises me that New Earth does not seem to be ranked as highly as it should by fans. But perhaps this follows on with the general mixed reaction to Series 2 in general, with everyone agreeing The Girl in the Fireplace and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit to be masterpieces and then being divided on everything else. New Earth was what it was, a nice fun episode to set off a brand new series of Doctor Who. Perhaps the general mixed reaction to it is due to it not being an “event” episode like other series openers. Other openers introduce either a new Doctor, a new companion or kick off the series arc in a massive way. New Earth does none of these things.

It is a typical “filler” episode so maybe it didn’t stick out as much in fan’s memories as much as the others. But I stand by my opinions. New Earth may not be a remarkable episode, nor indeed one that is particularly memorable, but it is a great one. It’s fast paced, funny and full of intrigue. The best way to start a new series. So in the run up to Series 8, why not make a return to New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York before the New New New New Doctor blasts onto screens in August? I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Rating

Throughout this series of In Perspective articles we are going to provide a rating for the episode to allow for some comparisons and to see what elements are actually important to making a good opener. The following ratings were produced by taking the individual ratings of five contributors (David Selby, Jack Hudson, Lewis Hurst, Simon Mitchell and Tomas Edwards). These ratings were then averaged to provide a number which should be relatively free of individual bias. The results are as follows:

  • Episode Rating: 7.4/10
  • Effectiveness as an Opener: 6.2/10
  • Monster Rating: 7.1/10
  • Character Rating: 7.7/10

This gives the episode a total score of 28.4/40.So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Rose: 34/40
  2. New Earth: 28.4/40
Step back in time...

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107 comments
The Finn
The Finn

When I recently watched it I gave the episode an 8.5/10.

quetzalfp
quetzalfp

Nice article, but a little off topic, is it me or Tennant doesn't have his "I'm the Doctor" moment in his firsts episodes? He have that moment until the 3rd christmas special, am I right?

TheDaleksDaughter
TheDaleksDaughter

The body swap comedy is what I like the most in this episode. "You've been looking... You like it." is how DT won my heart. ^^ 

mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

See, New Earth might have been fine as a mid season bit of fluff. As an opener for a new Doctor (I realise there was the Christmas story but Tennant spent most of it asleep) this one really didn't work as a statement of intent.

I would have liked to see School Reunion as the first episode, so you have a Doctor at the beginning of his new life being brought face to face with the effects of his old one.

Timeywimey Stuff
Timeywimey Stuff

This is my least favourite series opener but it still is prettty good (IMO). Was surprised to see Cassandra and overall I don't think it deserve the hate it recieves so it's nice to see fans of this episode.


Polyphase
Polyphase

If there's any Australians out there, Don't forget that When Julia Met the Doctor is on the ABC tonight 20/8 :)

MaddyKika
MaddyKika

I enjoy this episode so much! Didn't expect to see Cassandra again, yet it was interesting. And I love the Face of Boe!


Plus Tennant and Piper go from drama to comedy really well. I think it was a fine episode. 

stargazer0118
stargazer0118

I'm in the minority here, I love New Earth! I find it such a fun and relevant episode (we see Boe again) with a very poignant and touching finale. Both Billie and David show other sides of their characters (comedy) and they do it so well. But like I said, I just find the finale with Casandra dying in her own arms so beautiful. It's not one of the best episodes, but it's a solid and very rewatchable one for me.

 Rating 8.5 

That said, I still consider The Christmas Invasion the true opener of series 2.

Switcharoo
Switcharoo

The best thing to come out of 'New Earth'.....apart from the Face of Boe's lovely warm tones.....is Novice Hame. 

I love Novice Hame. She's great. As duplicitous cat nuns go she's really rather likable, and Anna Hope imbues the character with a beguiling credibility. She's interesting, natural, with that beautifully soothing voice, so I was more than a little chuffed when she returned a year later in a far better story. 

'New Earth' is unfortunately the weakest of the year 5 billion trilogy, a sterling effort that fell flat on its allegories. The plight of the proto-human lab rats could have made for a potentially dark and thought provoking yarn, but such possibilities are stymied by an overly obtrusive comedy body swap subplot. Taken on its own this corporeal leap frogging would have been perfectly serviceable - it certainly provides the leads with amusing detours aplenty, which they clearly relish - but it jars somewhat when coupled with the story's darker medical shenanigans. 

The fact that the production team lost a weeks filming time is noticeable as some scenes do feel a little rushed and awkwardly handled.....but at least Cassandra's brain tank bubbled away perfectly on this occasion.....and the full-on orchestral version of her theme is a joy. 

It was nice to hear it again. In fact it was nice that so many elements from 'The End of The World' were once again on display.....it helped to ease in the new Doctor, connecting him to events experienced by his predecessor, which in turn reinforced a nice new sense of internal continuity. 21st century 'Who' had new worlds to explore and revisit.....and 'New Earth' is merely part of a larger journey.



Huknar
Huknar

New Earth is a beautiful little episode. It's a low key, fun Doctor Who story that doesn't weigh down the episodes that come after. (The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon is incredible, but you cannot deny they make most of the resulting series frustrating to watch.) 

I think perhaps the body-swapping is hated because this is Ten's first full outing and they spent valuable moments with him playing a different character, when all viewers want to do is to see this new Doctor in action. Not that I mind the scenes, they are rather funny and let Piper and Tennant flex their muscles. It is the second lowest of my list of openers, but to be honest, every one is so good they might as well occupy more or less the same three slots.

NineTenElevenTwelve
NineTenElevenTwelve

I like "New Earth". It's not the best opener but it's certainly nowhere near close to a horrendous episode. And I have to admit that I find the final scene with Cassandra dying in the arms of her past self to be an amazingly emotional moment. It's definitely my favorite scene in the episode and one of my favorite scenes in Series 2 in general.

G_Unitt
G_Unitt

I don't like New Earth as an opener, but it's not horrendous. However, compared to the competition, it's pants. Rose, Smith & Jones, Eleventh Hour, Impossible Astronaut, and Asylum are some of my favourite episodes (Even Series 4's opener was better!). When you don't compare it to the astonishingly good competition, it's an okay episode. Not one I'd sing about, but I wouldn't switch over if it popped up on TV.

G_Unitt
G_Unitt

Is it just me that never really loved The Impossible Planet? I've tried watching it so many times, but it just never grabs me.

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

It's an okay episode. My biggest problem with it lies with the zombie people. It may sound silly, but I consider them to be too...gruesome looking. Watching this episode makes me feel replused by the sight of them. Not only that, but there is a logic gap concerning them. Considering they were infected with every disease in the universe, why would they want to infect and kill everyone they could get their hands on? They're not evil in any way. Okay, they are lonely after being kept locked up in a cell for an unknown amount of time, and so want to reach out and have contact with people, but surely they would not want to wish their fate on others? They could at least socialise with each other. Now it's time for my ratings:

  • Episode Rating6.5/10
  • Effectiveness as an Opener: 4/10
  • Monster Rating: 5/10
  • Character Rating: 7/10

This gives the episode a total score of 28.4/40.So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Rose34/40
  2. New Earth22.5/40



Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

Bits if the story aren't bad, but the silly bits are too silly for a series opener, which should capture the imagination, especially with a new Doctor/Companion combo. The humour of the body swap would have worked better once we got to know 10/Rose's dynamic more, preferably after a couple of darker episodes.

Oodkind is foretold...
Oodkind is foretold...

First, I'd like to say I don't consider New Earth to be an opener. I think that goes to The Christmas Invasion, which introduced a new Doctor and a new arc (Torchwood). In my opinion, New Earth does nothing to kick off the series-- it is simply an average episode. 

As for my opinion of it, it's not high. Out of an average rating of all New Who of 5.2 (I tried to get as close to 5 as possible), New Earth comes in at 4/10, in 64th place (out of 84 stories).

Here's the reason for my below average rating: I simply didn't like it. First, as the herds of teenage fangirls would call it, Tenrose. I was never a fan. Sure, they were sort of cute, but I watch Doctor Who for the old alien, not a seemingly teenage boyfriend. In some episodes Tennant impressed me, but this was not one of them. The dynamic seemed too immature and awkward. Secondly, Cassandra. Everyone has different senses of humor, and this wasn't mine. The body swap thing was just ridiculous, and it seemed like a gimmick to introduce the Ten/Rose love story, by showing their protection of each other and the "you look at him" thing. The Zombies were an interesting concept and Cassandra was a good-ish concept in End of the World, so the episode had the potential to be a dark, morally-troubling story, but that was killed by the silly overtones. 

Episode Rating: 4/10

Effectiveness as an Opener: 2/10

Monster Rating: 3/10

Character Rating: 5/10

Overall, 14/40. Not too good, but I think it fits the episode pretty well.

OncomingStorm in a Brownoat with a stake
OncomingStorm in a Brownoat with a stake

Great article. As most people know, I adore New Earth, and I thought after this article I'd end up defending it, but as it happens I agree with everything in the article. I think it is brilliant, massively underrated, very clever, very funny and with a great ending and interesting villain. My favourite series opener 10/10

Polyphase
Polyphase

Episode Rating: 5/10

Effectiveness as an Opener: 3/10

Monster Rating: 1/10

Character Rating: 5/10

My least favorite series opener by far, Gets 14 from me and that's generous :)

ConnorWhite
ConnorWhite

You focused more on good points than bad points, I love New earth but I'd have liked to have seen more of the bad points. Anyway, great article.

LGwalchmai95
LGwalchmai95

Well I think New Earth is a brilliant episode personally, a great series opener. A nice end to Cassandra's story, albeit at the cost of poor Chip! I feel sorry for the patients, as you're supposed to! It's quite depressing to imagine never being touched (not making a rude joke there, before you start!), it must have been such a lonely life, until the Doctor saved them. David and Billie are really good, and show their chemistry right from the off. Tennant slips into the role seamlessly. His Doctor is very good, as is Tennant's performance. He's very likeable, funny, and does really well with the dramatic material. He also plays the ending to Cassandra well, after all she'd done, he was still kind to her in the end, and let her have a peaceful death. The visuals are stunning too; New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York looks awesome! I think Rose is good here, when she's not got Cassandra in her head! Her reaction to the Cat hospital staff will never fail to make me laugh! XD  All in all a really good episode and it gets a 9/10 from me!

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@TheDaleksDaughter Me he had won with his first post-regeneration words at the end of Parting of the Ways "Hello. Okay. Ooo, new teeth. That's weird. So, where was I? Oh, that's right. Barcelona."



mrpaddy1984
mrpaddy1984

I wouldn't call it a masterpiece as the article did. It started well but tailed off a bit further in, for me. That being said, it's still one of the stronger stories in series 2.

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

Whoops, forgot to change the "This gives the episode a total score of ____" part. Where's the edit button got to?

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

@Planet of the Deaf I agree with this. It's not a problem for regular viewers, but for first-time viewers, the silly moments could lose their interest. Considering it's the first episode of a new series, there would be a considerable amount of first-time viewers, and therefore I think my point stands.

Polyphase
Polyphase

@Mikeyboss182 Don't hold back, Tell us what you really think ?

When I first saw it I thought it was the winning entry of a Blue Peter competition

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@stargazer0118 @quetzalfp  Yeah, he has one in Christmas Invasion when he exits the TARDIS, before he sees the big red button. And in New Earth, too, I think when he confronts Novice Hame in intensive care ("...If they live because of this, then life is worthless." - "And who are you to decide that?" - "I'm the Doctor. And if you don't like it, if you want to take it to a higher authority, there isn't one. It stops with me.") . 



TheNightmareChild will ascertain its true nature
TheNightmareChild will ascertain its true nature

@ahunter8056 It got fed up with Livefyre's screwy formatting and proclivity for giving certain comments the "malformed content" middle finger and took off.  It just couldn't deal with the nonsense anymore.  Especially after the wonderful working relationship it had with Disqus.



sontaran17
sontaran17

@stargazer0118 @sontaran17 I understand why you'd think that - Introduction to a New Doctor and a New Arc - But for Openers its not a matter of opinion its a fact in the template of the Series- The Episode Regarded as Episode 1 is New Earth

MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme
MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme

@TheNightmareChild redecorated (You better like it) @MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier @ahunter8056 It's when a moderator has to check your comments before letting them appear for everyone. Basically the way to get on it is to have your comments reported a lot in a short space of time! I wouldn't recommend it to be honest, I think our moderators have a lot of stuff to be doing as it is (and I think I probably make up a fair bit of that work alone!) - and sometimes the delays can be very long (the moderators are only human... I hope!). And of course the way to end up on it is not a great one, I don't want anyone to think I in any way condone flouting the comment guidlines