New Earth

New Earth marks a new start for both Doctor Who and Whoflix. For the show, back in 2006, it was the first episode of David Tennant’s first series and our first chance to really see what he would do with role following the limited screen time he had in his debut story, The Christmas Invasion. For Whoflix in 2018 it’s marks the point at which there are now only Ten-Inch, Smiffy and YaldiCapaldi stories left to fan edit, barring any more Special Edition double dipping by the Beeb that is…

It also helps that this month sees the release of Tales From New Earth from Big Finish, the spin-off series that nobody except Anna Hope was hoping for. Whoflix quite enjoyed the Kaldor City audios but the Cat Nuns and Tree People of New Earth don’t have quite the same grab factor as our old mate Uvanov, deadly Art Deco Robots and Paul Darrow underacting… 

So of the seventy-odd edits left to do, I thought I might as well tie in with the release of the box set and edit this one first. 

I must be honest and say upfront that I’m not that much of a repeat viewer of the New Series, unlike certain stories from the Classic, some of which I’ve watched so many times I can do that fan thing of quoting them verbatim. So when it came to editing this one all I could recall was that the Cat Nuns were quite good, Zoe Wanna Make Ya was in it, and there was some humorous stuff on a ladder where Cassandra’s mind was flitting between the Doctor and Rose and… that was about it.

Part of the reason for my lack of recall is that it’s an otherwise unmemorable story, which does that thing of pairing a new Doctor with an old enemy. But in this case the old enemy they choose is Cassandra from The End of the World, which seems like a budgetary decision rather than a drama one.

That decision, to bring back a character who arguably didn’t need bringing back, has the effect of putting the narrative focus on the wrong character, as it means the episode isn’t about Rose finding her feet with the new Doctor, it’s all about old flat face as she alternates between taking them both over. While that gives the two leads some nice acting stuff to do it does mean that we still haven’t seen that much of the new Doctor. I would much rather RTD had come up with a new character instead of bringing Cassandra back. And I reckon this would have been better as the second episode of Series Two, with Tooth And Claw as the opener instead.

In terms of plot, the resurrection of Cassandra is problematic to say the least.

The only way it makes any sense, to me at any rate, is if Chip was one of her attendants on Platform One, who then managed to teleport back to the station to retrieve her eyeballs from the bin[!], take away her frame and her brain, stretch out her spare rear piece of skin from wherever she’s been keeping it[???] and then get her to New Earth. Otherwise who put Cassandra together again?

Of course that theory means that, since there were two attendants there was maybe a Chip 1 and a Chip 2. And if there was, what happened to Chip 2? Whatever the in-story explanation, Cassandra’s return is just nuts…

The first thing to go in the fan edit is the pre-titles departure scene where Rose says goodbye to Jackie and Mickey. We don’t need it and it has no bearing on the story we get after the titles so it gets the chop. After the titles the next thing we lose is the far too early giveaway that it’s Cassandra who’s spying on them outside the hospital.

Delaying her appearance in the story makes for more of a shock moment when she does turn up and holding back the reveal, such as Mr Razor being the Simm Master in World Enough And Time, is not only always a good idea, it’s a nice nod to the style of the Classic Series. So in this version the only hint we get is one of those little metal spiders spying on Ten & Rose before they go to the hospital. And we meet Cassandra at the same time as Rose does. 

For reasons of pace the start of the scene where Ten finds The Face of Boe gets trimmed as does the next scene with him and Novice Hame so we can concentrate on Cassandra’s possession of Rose, which is much more fun to watch. And speaking of Boe, he’s another problem with the story besides Cassandra. He’s just a plot device to draw Ten to the hospital. And once he’s got him there, what does he do? He tells him nothing and does a temporal shift to Series 3! So why did he summon Ten to the hospital in the first place? And how was he able to tune into the psychic paper? Why not just have Ten & Rose randomly turn up and encounter Cassandra? 

The fact that old Boe-face is completely irrelevant to the story once he’s got Ten to New Earth made me wonder if it would work any better without him since he has no effect on the plot once Ten turns up and worse still, plays no part in its resolution. It turns out that the story is much tighter and better for his loss, as we can concentrate on Cassandra, the one this is all really about. And so in this version there is no Face of Boe, and who sent the Doctor the message on the psychic paper remains a mystery…

Aside from a few audio patches to cover some of the cuts, the first real challenge of the edit was working around the Doctor’s phone call to Rose, a sequence I had to drop due to the cutaways to the long shot of the hospital ward. Those shots have Boe in them and masking him out would have been more trouble than it was worth. So I didn’t and cut the entire scene instead as well all the cutaways to Matron Cofelia’s stunt double and the Not Blue Duke of Manhattan.

I also cut the Cat Nun who appears from nowhere on the ladder behind Rose for no reason other than to provide a dramatic moment when she falls down the lift shaft after being grabbed by one of the plague zombies. Yawn. But the thing that caused me the most trouble was the Doctor’s slide down the steel lift shaft cable, or elevator cable if you’re American…

I’ve never been a great fan of scenes in drama that choose to simply defy the laws of physics in order to provide an action sequence. Much like the slide across the warehouse floor in The Next Doctor, if Ten had slid down that cable for real he would have no flesh left on the inside of his legs, and his hardly used body parts would be out of action completely. Cutting that cable slide was the hardest part of the edit, something it took me a good couple of hours of trial and error to fix by cutting stuff out, moving around what was left and patching the audio.

The only way to make it work was to have Ten load up with his little bags of coloured water, cut to Chip hiding in one of the cubicles than cut back to Ten already on top of the disinfectant bucket on top of the lift. It didn’t help matters that, unlike Evolution of the Daleks, the edit didn’t work with no music at all. Not only that, the way the 5.1 has been mixed, some of the sound effects are on the music track. So if you cut the music you are left with an aurally empty space where you don’t hear, for example, the sound of the lift going down. Dodgy audio will you pull you out of engaging with a story quicker than any visual ever will so I had to leave most of Mr Gold’s stuff in to get the edit to work.

2 thoughts on “New Earth

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