Doctor Who series two: further than you've ever been before
While Richard Keller reviews series one of the new Doctor Who (now showing on Sci-Fi in the U.S.A.), I'm reviewing the latest series to be shown in the U.K. -- with a whole new Doctor, and 13 more episodes of top-notch Saturday night entertainment.
"Where are we going this time?" said Rose Tyler at the start of New Earth, the first episode of the new series -- and our new Doctor, David Tennant, kicked off by taking Rose and the viewers further than we've ever been before -- and to a much scarier place altogether.
The destination for the series two opener was the farthest point in the future of our galaxy; to the city of New-New York on New Earth.
The Doctor had received a message on his psychic paper to pay a visit to ward 26 of an ultra-modern hospital run by an order of cat-like nuns called The Sisters of Plenitude, where every known disease in the galaxy is capable of being cured.
Warning: Spoilers after the jump.
Before the story had even started, Rose found herself drawn into a trap which involved an unwelcome mind-swap with
the last surviving human, Cassandra (whom we witnessed being killed in the previous series), a woman so vain and
image-conscious, that she has been reduced to a talking sheet of skin controlled by a disembodied brain.
Meanwhile, the Doctor set about uncovering the mysterious origins of the multitude of cures on offer at the hospital, finding a massive underground clone farm where human subjects were being individually exposed to every known disease in order to establish definitive cures for each one.
Of course, being the Doctor, he wasn't prepared to allow the cloning to continue and set about exposing the nuns and their horrifying experiments -- but the Cassandra-possessed Rose made the fatal blunder of accidentally freeing the clones to wander zombie-like around the hospital, killing any living thing they came into contact with.
At this point in the show, my four-year-old son decided he didn't like watching disease-infected zombies stalking the living, and the pause button on my Sky Plus box was promptly called into action while he was safely tucked into his bed.
Executive Producer Russell T. Davies promised us an upping of the scare factor in this series, and judging by the opening episode, he's started with a horrifying bang -- although I've always felt that the episodes of Doctor Who that set themselves in an unimaginable (not to mention unbelievable) future, tend to be weaker than the others, often calling on overacting from the principles in order to carry off a typical run-and-scream plot. This one was no exception, and didn't quite manage to beat The Christmas Invasion on the enjoyment factor, but still succeeded in giving me the heebie-jeebies for 60 minutes.
It soon fell to the Doctor to devise a cure for the multi-infected army of the sick, as he set about in a Matrix-style elevator stunt -- with saline bags strapped to his body -- and sprayed a concoction of cures over the helpless clones, using the hospital's automatic disinfection sprinkler system to distribute it. All of which was peppered with light-hearted sprinklings of Cassandra's spirit regularly swapping bodies between Rose and the Doctor; suitably amusing results ensued.
The episode wound down with the Face of Boe (another character from last season, who happened to be dying in the hospital) promising to meet with the Doctor for a third and final time at some point in their future, in order to pass on the "most important secret in the galaxy"...
The epilogue saw the Doctor take Cassandra's spirit -- now trapped inside the cloned body of her devoted manservant -- back to her own past to gaze upon her face for one final time, before dying.
The preview for next week's show gave us a glimpse of Queen Victoria, a werewolf, a Scottish castle and the Doctor speaking in a Scots accent, actor David Tennant's native tongue.