New series, new Doctor, new adventure, New New York on New Earth. The theme is “new”, but this is a familiar follow-up to season 1’s first out-of-this-world adventure, and sees the return of some old faces (literally). The Face of Boe, nearing the end of his life, is being treated in the hospital, where a previously splattered Cassandra, the last “pure” human, has been hiding out in secret when, surprise surprise, the Doctor and Rose turn up. It’s a mini-reunion!
There are two-and-a-half plotlines to follow here. Firstly, The Face of Boe having an important message for the Doctor, which ends up with a teasing “I’ll tell you next time” non-ending. Secondly, the hospital itself is suspiciously good at curing diseases because they’ve been secretly breeding vats of human test subjects and infecting them with every known disease, culminating in a sort of zombie horde roaming the hospital trying to hug everyone to death. Finally, we have brain-swapping shenanigans as Cassandra takes over Rose’s body, then the Doctor’s, and finally her assistant clone Chip. This is a bit silly but it means Billie Piper gets to stretch her acting muscle a bit and she’s actually quite good. David Tennant briefly acting like a woman in a man’s body is also pretty funny, and finally the closing scene where Cassandra in Chip’s body meets her past human self before (s)he dies is rather sweet and well handled.
The human test subjects are the main attraction, though, and a chance for the Doctor to get on his high horse and chastise the nurses for their cruelty, even if it meant curing millions more. The episode takes a very simplistic approach to medicine, never really explaining the benefit of giving thousands of humans every disease at once, nor how this would actually help with finding cures, which incidentally are all nice colourful concoctions that can be either be injected or tipped over your head or just rubbed on you. No future disease needs any other type of treatment. Colourful liquid is the full extent of it, apparently. And despite being artificially-grown and living in capsules all their lives, these new humans seem absolutely fine and perfectly functional.
I could criticise much of the plot, but actually I still rather enjoyed New Earth. It’s a nice enough self-contained adventure set on a far-off alien planet and has a good amount of humour and a sweet ending. David Tennant has taken immediately to the role, but already he’s got that cocky style that will begin to grate over time, and he already does his “I’m sorry” routine twice in this episode!