New Earth

* Each Series 2 episode was preceded by a minute-long “Tardisode”. As this project covers everything, I will of course be watching those alongside each main ep. I hoovered these up at the time – this was the period where I was really into consuming as much Who as possible; I was at university and therefore had an incredible amount of free time. I even watched every episode of Totally Doctor Who on Friday afternoons. Anyway, this Tardisode was a little sales pitch for the hospital, and seemed to hinge on the notion that the cat people are scary. They are in fact just big old cats.

* I hadn’t realised just how many episodes Jackie and Mickey appear in, even if it’s just for a few seconds at a time as it is here. My memory was that they just turn up whenever the episode is set in the present day, but there’s constant reminders of Rose’s roots throughout other stories too.

* This was a self-consciously funny episode, which is code for not very scary or interesting or important. I liked the Doctor’s obsession with little shops, and the substituted swearword gags, but despite a decent performance by Billie Piper, as soon as Cassandra jumped into Rose’s body, it all felt a bit forced and self-indulgent. The kiss feels somewhat gratuitous, like they just wanted to have Tennant and Piper snog at the earliest opportunity after the minor hoohah when it was her and Eccles.

* This is also the episode where the Face of Boe is established as being all knowing and a bit magic, and they set up the big secret that he has to pass on. I lapped this stuff up at the time, but now that we know how it ends, why is it his big secret that The Master is alive? The way the cat nurse talks about the legend, it sounds like it should be a secret about Boe himself, but instead his identity is tossed off as a gag at the end of the following series. Maybe. Also, it was very rude of The Face of Boe to bugger off like that at the end of their conversation. It reminded me of the Cobbles victim from Look Around You.

* It’s just all a bit meh this episode, almost like a series of vignettes and set pieces with nothing holding it together. It’s the kind of thing that was done every now and then in the classic series where you’d have lots of little bitty plots going on, none of which would be substantial enough to sustain an episode on their own. It’s not awful – there are far worse episodes coming up this series – but it’s not one I’m ever likely to revisit again.


The End of the World

* The ultimate destruction of Earth is an odd choice for Rose’s first trip – you’d think the Doctor would want to ease her in a little more gently, or maybe it was a test to see how she’d cope. The Ninth Doctor seems more thoughtless and insensitive than most of his successors, but he could well be moulding Rose like McCoy did with Ace.

* The psychic paper makes so much sense as a narrative device that when I first saw this episode, I’d assumed that it was something that had been carried over from the original series. Now that the average story has to be told in 45 minutes rather than 4×25, it really is a necessity.

* So much stuff is introduced in this episode; it totally makes sense that RTD wanted it to go out in a double bill with Rose. We learn about the TARDIS translation circuits, and The Doctor supercharges Rose’s phone, which makes for a neat little scene with Jackie to re-emphasise that this fantastical adventure is happening to a real, everyday person. After 26 years, the original show took its situation for granted – one of RTD’s best moves was to point out that a mad man in a box, taking people on adventures in time and space, is something truly remarkable.

* The parade of weird and wonderful aliens really felt like a statement of intent for the series. As did the Doctor flirting with a tree. The use of contemporary pop culture references is established in style, not only with the brilliantly fun appearances of Tainted Love and Toxic, but with the superb throwaway reference to Newsround Extra, of all things.

* I’d forgotten that Cassandra was a big old racist, none too subtly analogising human/alien hybrids with interracial relationships. I’m not a huge fan of the character – she’s well performed, but a bit dull, and I think the basic idea is a little too on-the-nose.

* Yes, that really is a stupid place to put an important “fix everything” switch, isn’t it? It’s a complete contrivance in order to serve the drama, but kind of worth it considering the results are so well done. As is Jabe, bless her.

* Lots of people die and stay dead – this isn’t the light and fluffy getting-to-know-you adventure I remembered. The Doctor basically executes Cassandra at the end, complete with Rose pleading him to stop.

* That final scene back on Earth is brilliant – absolutely vital that The Doctor opens up to Rose at this stage, to cement their relationship. It only takes a few lines to kick off the whole Time War backstory, which would fuel so many key moments over the next eight years.

* However, the one thing that I’ve always remembered above everything else from this story is the way Billie Piper says “I want chips” right at the end. I say it every time I have chips. AH WANT CHAAAPS.