Nu-View #20: Brave New Worlds

New Earth / Tooth and Claw (Series Two, Eps. 1-2; 2006)
Viewed 05 Aug 2014

Doctor/Companion: Ten, Rose Tyler
Stars: David Tennant, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: The Christmas Invasion (Ten, Rose)
Succeeding Story: School Reunion (Ten, Rose, Sarah Jane Smith)

    Our latest WhoFest was meant to be the first in my new home. The depressing fact that it wasn't (and that our move is rapidly receding into the realm of myth) was somewhat alleviated by jO's return to the fold after an extended absence.

    The early, jaunty Ten had been similarly absent from all of our Who viewing in recent years. "Look how young he looks!" exclaims jO. "When was this?"

    I remind the Ladies that Series Two went out in 2006, and jE summarizes our common reaction perfectly: "We're getting old."

    Old we may be, but at least we're not hanging onto our youth in sheer desperation like Cassandra. And she's a crafty one, redirecting Rose to her lair for her own nefarious purposes. "[Rose] knows she's not on Ward 26," observes jE. "Why doesn't she just get right back in the lift?" It's one of several plotting flaws we notice this evening.

    I found it interesting to realize how I always think of this story as having a lot of Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra) in it, when she actually only plays the character for a few minutes. With all the body-swapping, even Sean Gallagher (Chip) spent nearly as much time as Cassandra as Wanamaker did. And, by the way, kudos to Gallagher; Chip was a physically awkward character to play, especially running through corridors with his arms straight down at his sides.

    But I digress. Comedic body-swaps aside, the supposed main storyline of the episode is about the mass of humanity that's been vat-grown to use as medical guinea pigs. The Matrix-y vibe of the endless rows of pods in the Intensive Care ward is stronger this time around than I've previously noted. Then another precognitive similarity stands out. Defending her order's actions, Novice Hame explains that these creatures aren't real people. "The Sisterhood grew its own flesh," she tells the Doctor. "That's all they are. Flesh." Why do I get the feeling Moffat found some inspiration in that moment?

    Sadly, the resolution neatly shears the mental bracers suspending my disbelief. Granted, it's been set up in the way the infection passes immediately from one person to another ("That's a quick-acting disease," jO even noted), but the instant-cure-by-touch just doesn't satisfy the science geek in me, and I can't enjoy the supposed cleverness. But the Doctor and Rose waltz off in the TARDIS again, and we're on to another adventure.

    This time, we're in Victoria's Scotland. With Shaolin monks. Seriously, what the actual fuck? This pre-credits sequence freaks me out every time. That's not to say I don't think it's beautifully executed, but it's pretty much the most incongruous opening ever.

    Once we get back to the Doctor and Rose, we find Ten having gone off course by a century, blatantly stealing a former Companion's name as his pseudonym, and quoting Robbie Burns. In Tennant's natural accent. (Yum.) Par for the course, though their little side bet is exceedingly irritating. (But I love Pauline Collins as Queen Victoria. She'd have been a fabulous Companion to Two, had she actually accepted the invitation to come on board the TARDIS.)

    Soon we're right into the werewolfy goodness. Our alien-in-a-human-body baddie spouts scary nonsense at the captives. "You burnt like the sun, but all I require is the moon!"

    "And a toothbrush..." mutters jO.

    Once the creature is loose and our heroes, the Queen, and unwitting host to the festivities Sir Robert are on the run, we get both some of the best and some of the worst of the season. On the good side of the ledger, we've got the Doctor and Sir Robert partaking in full-on buddy movie action, we've got the Queen protesting that there "can't be an actual wolf" ("Well, not an actual wolf," jE corrects. "More of an alien wolf."), and we've got the Doctor's observation that books are "the best weapons in the world!"

    On the other end of the scale are the women of the house huddling in a corner of the kitchen waiting to be slaughtered, averting their eyes from the coming terror. "Because hiding your face means you're safe," jE snarks. And once the beast has found another way into the library and chased the gang out, he's soon chasing them again. jO is rightfully confused. "I don't get how it got out of the doors if it couldn't get in..."

    Worst of all, though, is Rose and the Doctor's insufferable smugness. "I'll tell you what, though." Rose eases over to the Doctor. "Werewolf!" Her Majesty was perfectly justified in banishing them. I, for one, want to smack them both.

    The upshot, of course, is the beginning of the season-long plot arc: Torchwood. For better or for worse, the Queen's decision has long-reaching effects on the Whoniverse. Though I'll bet Her Majesty never envisioned someone like Captain Jack defending the realm.

    General reactions:

    • jE - Great fun
    • jO - New Earth: "I like that one." Tooth and Claw: "I love that one."
    • mrfranklin - Better than I tend to remember them

    There are things to love and loathe about both New Earth and Tooth and Claw, although the Ladies landed firmly on the love side at the end of the night. The thing that has stuck with me, though, was from the latter, when the Doctor realized that the wolf wanted the throne: "Imagine it. The Victorian Age accelerated. Starships and missiles fueled by coal and driven by steam, leaving history devastated in its wake."

    Alien werewolves love steampunk. Who'd've guessed?

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: School Reunion

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