Saturday, October 07, 2006

Everything New is Old Again?

In the next story, the first regular one-hour episode, the Doctor and Rose travel into the far future to the literal “New Earth.” It’s a period shortly after the time Rose visited in her first TARDIS journey with the 9th Doctor. Earth had been abandoned and was destroyed as the sun went nova in that story, and in this one, the far-flung human race decides to build a New Earth in a distant galaxy. (There is something of a Trek reference here, although it is really repeating a line from the old “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” TV show, when the Doctor says they are “going further than we’ve ever gone before.” “Farther” might be the correct word, but since they are traveling in both space and time, maybe not.)

But they are soon reunited with some characters from that story, and some similar characters—instead of human-type beings speaking perfect English but evolved from trees and made of wood, here there are nurse-nuns evolved from cats. Not an extrapolation I'd make from the cats I've known, although cats are often kept in hospices and give great comfort to the dying. They seem to know who needs them, so maybe there's the potential for nursing. For nuns, is a stretch. Anyway, the great cat makeup is excuse enough.

There is an ethical dilemma at the heart of this story that should be familiar to Trek fans--artificial beings, clones in this case I believe, who are treated as experimental animals to benefit humans--the Treklike question of means and ends and what constitutes inviolable life.

There's also a chance for this Doctor to repeat the joy of the 9th when he brings people back to life (“Everybody lives!”),or in this case, cures them: he really is the Doctor this time. There’s the “last human” from that first season episode, still just eyes and a mouth on stretched skin, but this time with the ability to transfer herself into other bodies. She moves from Rose to the Doctor and back again, providing Tennant the opportunity to camp it up as having a female inside (something it’s hard to imagine Eccelston doing); before that, when Rose is possessed, she and the Doctor share a steamy kiss—though of course it doesn’t quite count as it isn’t really Rose. (Tennant is 34, about a decade younger than Eccelston, and looks even younger, so it seems the producers thought they could get away with a more sexually charged relationship between the Doctor and his companion.)

It’s an elegant episode, with the same mood of a romp and an adventure. We see some change in Rose—she’s more assured, more experienced and capable. (And so is Billie Piper, not only in some fine acting moments, but in how she plays her expressions to the camera.) But apart from personality differences and Tennant’s acting and physical presence, the writing is emphasizing a new authority for the Doctor. In this episode, reference is made to a legend about “a lonely god” who is obviously the Doctor. And the Doctor tells the errant nurses not to appeal to a higher authority than him, because there is none. Those are very striking assertions, and may indicate a new interpretation of who the Doctor is and what his role is; a new meaning for what "Time Lord" means, maybe. All in all, these new stories show that the new Doctor Who can be very entertaining and also quite edgy and a little dangerous.

[continued after photo]

No comments: