Bookmark and Share TARDIS Report: New Earth Press Reviews

4/18/2006 02:48:00 am - Reported by Shaun Lyon


April 18, 2006 • Posted By Shaun Lyon
A sampling of the reviews of "New Earth" from the British press:

The Daily Telegraph: "Back like lightning in a bottle, Doctor Who (BBC1) returned last night with David Tennant taking over from Christopher Eccleston as the quixotic spaceman in the plywood phone booth. It's often forgotten that, when it started in the Sixties, Doctor Who was an earnest, philosophical piece of sci-fi, before it slowly degenerated into an unwatchable pantomime featuring Bonnie Langford; and when jump leads were attached to the old warhorse last year, one worried that the burlesque might be too big a facet of the revival. In the event, the head writer, Russell T. Davies, embraced both sides of the tradition, cranked up the electrodes to 11, and somehow kept everything in balance with fearless, Frankensteinian brio. Davies's stories are equal parts waggish, decadent and penetrating, full of Broadway-style wordplay and moral outrage against the modern world, the whole mad carnival serenaded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The first of the new episodes targeted biotechnology, as a sisterhood of sinister cat-people (hospital nuns, actually) were caught running Porton Down-style experiments on hordes of pustular human lab-rats. As usual, the script stayed just this side of Douglas Adams and proceeded at warp speed, with explanations and plot fixes chucked in on the run. The Doctor managed to save the pustular human lab-rats by drenching them with disinfectant in a lift. OK, it wasn't a classic, but the main point of interest was Tennant, who has returned the Doctor more to the commedia dell'arte figure of his earlier lives. Where Eccleston was a northern mentalist in a leather jacket who menaced you with his teeth, the froggy-faced Tennant offers breezier possibilities. He wears a thrift-store pinstripe and is somewhere between a rumpled commodities trader, a Renaissance swain and Jarvis Cocker. Flirtation with his sidekick Rose (Billie Piper) is already higher up the agenda for the galaxy's most celebrated celibate, and the two even had a snog in last night's episode (though Rose was under alien control at the time). Less promising are Tennant's efforts to keep pace with Piper's street-girl backchat: his estuary English sounds decidedly off, halfway to slummed-down Ben Elton."

The Herald: "Bend space and time all you like, but Doctor Who is, and has always been, intended for children. Adults are allowed a small slice of nostalgia if they sit up straight and behave. They can have fun spotting the jokes put there - and how clever is this? - for them to find. But if you have a companion who is entitled to vote yet still regards the show as the week's high spot, find a real doctor. Tennant's qualifications were obvious, in any case, after his performance in the marvellous Casanova, though you probably shouldn't ask the kids to corroborate that claim. A talent for cheek is undervalued in acting, as is a sense of the absurd: Tennant has both. Equally, as in Casanova, he can do man-running-for-dear-life better than most. ... Nippy fiends remain a problem, nevertheless. During Saturday's contagious zombie jail-break five billion years 'and 23 days' in the future, I could have sworn the afflicted ones were slow on their feet, but not a bit of it. Down corridors, up ladders: wherever the Doctor and the Cassandra-possessed Rose scurried, zombies awaited. It was like being trapped in Ikea. ... Still, say this for the show: in the time-warp known as Easter weekend TV, it more than held its own. Russell T Davies knows his way around a script and the production values are, by the old standards, out of this world. Obsessives can, meanwhile, ponder another profound question. Forget Tennant: is Billie Piper the best assistant a doctor ever had?"

The Guardian: "It's scary sci-fi, camp humour and warm family viewing all in one - Star Trek, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and Carry On. And it's wonderful. Tennant turns out to be a splendid Doctor - likable, funny and sexy. Piper continues to be brilliant and gorgeous. And Russell T Davies' script has given Doctor Who a whole new injection of life. At last there's something to watch on a Saturday evening - apart from CSI and Match of the Day, obviously."

Lancashire Evening Telegraph: "I'm not sure you will agree, but I think the Doctor is in need of a bit of a tonic. Clearly all that rejuvenating has left the Time Lord feeling a little lacklustre or at least that was the indication after the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. After all the hype, where was the substance? Sure we had some typically hiding-behind-the-sofa moments when some plague ridden, zombie-like humans wandered around looking to be loved, but this wasn't a classic by any manner of means. David Tennant was all wild-eyed stares and ill-fitting suit. Given time one thing which Doctor Who always has the lad shows promise, to slip into footballing parlance but he's not totally convincing. For the writers, they are under the same pressure as a band trying to follow up a hugely successful debut album. A few cats dressed as nurses and Billie Piper getting raunchy won't be sufficient although dads across the nation are no doubt hoping that she does indeed stay raunchy for the next few weeks. Don't get me wrong, Doctor Who is still several galaxies ahead of the majority of fare being served up and the effects are getting better and better. But without a decent plot it will all be in vain. So come on Doc, pull yourself together and get to work saving the planet."

The Independent: "Shock, horror, then that there was a full-blown snog between the Doctor and his young sidekick in Saturday's episode, albeit that Rose's body was being inhabited at the time by an old foe of the duo's, the vampish Lady Cassandra. David Tennant's Doctor looked surprised but not entirely displeased, although the fact that Rose is supposed to be 19, while the Doctor is about 900, is enough to make Peter Stringfellow seem like love's young dream. For someone with Russell T Davies's bold imagination, the possibilities of a man with two hearts is surely too tempting not to explore. Imagine the tragic potential if it were revealed that, as an amorous youth of, say, 240, the Doctor had lost one of his hearts to one of the Cybermen. I use the gender advisedly, and actually there is something very disco-era Castro Street about the Cybermen's dress sense. Tennant, by the way, is inspired casting for the Doctor - mildly dotty but with a hint of danger. Hopefully, he will take a leaf out the Queen's book and feel duty bound to stay in the role."

The Daily Express: "At the risk of receiving death-threats from Doctor Who extremists, I'd like to say that David Tennant is the best Tardis captain in the history of the universe. Or at least the last few decades. He's funny, quirky and mischievous -- and the atmosphere between him and sidekick Rose (Billie Piper) just fizzes with the clever chemistry of a 1930s screwball comedy. ... To be honest, I don't remember the Doctor Who of the Seventies having such a well-developed moral conscience. But ever since the 2005 re-launch, it seems like every episode comes complete with a gentle sermon about global pollution or the evils of capitalism. But maybe there was just as much preaching going on 30 years ago -- we were just too busy hiding behind the sofa to notice."

The Northern Echo: "Doctor Who would just have jumped in the Tardis and travelled back to watch the original game. Instead he - now looking like David Tennant rather than Christopher Ecclestone - and Rose (Billie Piper) journeyed five billion years into the future, only to encounter old adversary Cassandra, who consists of a face in a piece of stretched skin. Tennant has swiftly settled into the doctor's skin and will, I reckon, make as good a Who as his predecessor."

Times Online: "The traditional checklist of the journalist is the mantra 'What? Why? When? Where? Who?' On Saturday, pleasingly, the answer became 'Who Who Who Who and Who!' -- for Doctor Who (BBC One) returned for its second series under the fabulous Russell T. Davies, and the entire medium of television immediately looked 50 per cent brighter and more fun. The key question of every episode of Doctor Who is -- what is the scary bit? In this case, the scary bit was a disease made of Rice Krispies, in which the secondary symptoms appeared to be 'mass hammery in serried ranks of extras'. God bless drama, but it's never yet cracked a convincing zombie. The great actors will tackle the most challenging of roles but none, as yet, has had a pop at the automaton corpse. Pacino's zombie, Hoffman's zombie, the zombie of Dench -- you've got to figure, if these titans of thespiana blench from rocking from foot to foot, arms outstretched, drooling 'Ooone of uuus', what hope has some kid fresh out of stage school got? Poor zombies aside, however, this was a great bit of cheap, imaginative television with perfect casting. Billie Piper became possessed with the spirit of Cassandra, the atomically coquettish Last Human Being, and showed a real skill for comedy -- like Lucille Ball, but with the teeth of a wolf. David Tennant, meanwhile, wore an extremely fetching pair of spectacles, and continued to project the aura of a phenomenally great lay with access to a Tardis -- in other words, the first Timephwoard."

The Mirror: "The TV event of the week by a million miles - by a billion light years - was, of course, Dr Who. Rarely has a British programme had so much expectation, or even excitement, riding on it. Two big questions dominated. Could it be as good as the last series? And could David Tennant cut the mustard replacing Christopher Eccleston, who - along with writer Russell T Davies - was the show's saviour last year? The answers: a resounding Yes to the first, and a surprising Mostly to the second. Yet Tennant's first five minutes were thoroughly irritating. ... With his long brown mac, jutting chin and cloying Mockney accent, Tennant came over as a cross between David Bowie circa Dancing In The Streets and Bruce Forsyth. Daft bordering on (don't say it) zany. Mostly, Tennant just ran around and grinned a lot. Luckily, when it came to the futuristic story that followed, Davies's imagination was on fine form. ... Davies's other speciality is humour. Rose was set upon by a stingray-faced wall-hanging called Lady Cassandra. ... As he showed with the last series, writer Russell T Davies is also a master of the modern-day political parable. Here he turned in a story that had parallels with vivisection, battery farming, even Aids. ... It was imaginative, energetic, highimpact, completely bonkers good fun - amusing, original entertainment that, uniquely for television these days, could appeal equally to viewers from eight to 88, although the chase scenes drag a bit. Compared with Eccleston, Tennant is pretty but vacant - too vapid to affect it much. The real star, happily, is the character himself, and then the writer."

Sunday Mirror: "Yup, Doctor Who is back. And, after the tricky manoeuvre of turning Christopher Ecclestone into David Tennant, normal service has been resumed. Silly schoolboy sci-fi plots, unconvincing special effects and badly conceived space monsters that look as though they've just shuffled out of the BBC's make-up department. Which they have. But Who cares! Everyone loves the Doctor and they always will. .. The Beeb's computer graphic boys must have been working under-time when they created that rubbish fake silver hospital by the sea. A kid with a laptop could have done better! But that's the charm of Doctor Who. This venerable national TV institution has always been endearingly amateurish. And long may it continue to be so! ... The stupid story may have been characteristically crap, but that classic Doctor Who feelgood factor was bang on target. The latest - err - tenant of the Tardis acquitted himself well. Tall, skinny and angular, Dr Dave has wild lunatic eyes and looks just a little bit creepy. But he's clearly revelling in landing one of TV's most iconic roles. And for the sheer exuberance it was hard to fault his first full episode as the man in the long brown coat. You get the feeling that - unlike his predecessor Ecclestone - Tennant will not cut and run after just one series. It remains unclear why the Scottish star chose a Mockney accent that too often sounds like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. But after the Doc's unexpected passionate kiss with ravishing Rose there should be no problems with on-screen chemistry. Fasten your seatbelts. We're in for one hell of a ride!"

Daily Star: "The mutual lust between these two is hotting up with every episode. But the snag is, it can never be allowed to reach boiling point. The Doc blatantly fancies the kecks off his sidekick (and no doubt loves her with both his hearts) but he knows it would wreck things between them if he made a move on her. Besides which, he's probably also got two willies which, surprisingly, girls can find a bit off-putting. Rose did, of course, plant a huge, plungerlike snog on the Doc in Saturday's episode, but she'd temporarily had her body hijacked by Cassandra, that old trampoline-face we met in the last series, so this didn't really count. Even so, this has become a strangely sexy series for a Saturday teatime, hasn't it? Probably for that very reason you know the pair can only go so far."

SyFy Portal: "As I sat on my couch clutching my Sonic Screwdriver (Yes, I proudly own a Sonic Screwdriver!), I was unexpectedly overcome with excitement as David Tennant made his 'proper' debut as the centuries old Time Lord. ... The episode is literally filled with the same slapstick comedy element of the first season, poking fun at Tennant for becoming the New-New Doctor and also Billie Piper for her chavtastic Rose Tyler. ... I haven't seen much of David Tennant (although he was astounding in 'Secret Smile'), but if 'New Earth' is any indication, then he might actually be the best Doctor yet. What I love about this New-New Doctor is the way in which he instantly takes moral-high ground. Eccleson had the same energy about him, but the difference is that his views tended to come off as slightly sarcastic and on occasion arrogant, not unexpected for someone who knows everything. Tennant however sends the Doctor off on a different direction, bringing a fresh voice to a classic character. The sheer level of emotion in his acting sends ripples throughout the episode.In particular, his scenes with The Face of Bo carried a heartbreaking overtone. It was quite a surprise to be honest, considering Bo is just a big rubber head in a jar. But nonetheless, it had a significant impact. It was actually something we never got to see on the same level with any of the previous Doctors so I have to say Tennant is the perfect man for the job."

Leicester Mercury: "Forgive me, dear reader, if today's review has the feel of a first draft. It's sunny outside, and I quite fancy nipping off to the pub, but the weather's not actually to blame. The real reason this column has the air of a work in progress is Doctor Who. More pointedly, it's down to Russell T Davies. After all, if submitting a script that seemed half-done is good enough for him and the BBC, well, then it's good enough for me. Like my kids, I was looking forward to this first episode of this new series. Like my kids, I was a bit underwhelmed."

TV Squad: "... 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."