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Doctor Who "Bigger on the inside..."

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Old August 12 2013, 05:13 AM   #1
TJ Sinclair
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The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

Just finished "The Christmas Invasion" and "New Earth," as part of my NuWhu rewatch, anticipating the anniversary. I was dreading getting to this point, as these two are among my absolute least favorite episodes.

Still not really impressed by either of them, though "New Earth" didn't bug me too much this time around. On the other hand, I still find "The Christmas Invasion" to be one of the biggest letdowns in Doctor Who history. The writing is absolutely terrible. It's a very inauspicious start for the new Doctor, there's very little for Tennant to actually do, and the swashbuckling sword-fight set piece is perhaps the worst thing in the entire series. RTD amps up Rose's annoying factor in this one, and it keeps increasing as the series progresses. And the sudden about face for Harriet Jones is an utter corruption of an otherwise great character. "The Christmas Invasion" is just an absolute mess. No wonder it took me a few episodes to warm to Tennant. He's absolutely wasted here.

"New Earth" isn't much better, either. The design of the cat-nuns is the best thing about the episode. It works as an okay follow-up to "The End of the World," but just "okay," nothing more. The gravitas and meaning of the former story is gone here, in favor of picking up on the least interesting aspect, Cassandra. Proving once again that when something he writes works, Davies usually doesn't understand why. Unlike "Christmas Invasion," Tennant does have a few moments in which he can do something, but it's still not great. It's just...bleh. At least, he gets much better next episode, and then the stories themselves start to get better in the episode following. If that hadn't happened, I probably would have written off the show by halfway through the season.

These two episodes, though, perhaps the worst start to an era of Doctor Who. Period. Ugh.
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Last edited by TJ Sinclair; August 12 2013 at 06:13 AM.
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Old August 12 2013, 07:27 AM   #2
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I'll agree with you on "New Earth" but I recently rewatched Christmas Invasion and quite liked it. Rose at the time was at least still tolerable as a character.

I do agree that making us wait to meet the Doctor got a bit intolerable after awhile. Of cours eI had similar problems with Spearhead from Space, and The Twin Dilemma.

And I dunno about you, but I think the show needs more swordfights.
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Old August 12 2013, 08:45 AM   #3
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I don't have a problem with The Christmas Invasion at all, and honestly, when the Doctor does finally wake up and reveal himself, I absolutely loved the way that Tennant portrayed him.
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Old August 12 2013, 08:53 AM   #4
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I still love The Christmas Invasion, but 10 should have maybe woken a little earlier. Still when he does he's excellent.

New Earth though? New Earth is bad, really bad. Though in line with a lot of RTD's work even when he's bad there's a hint of gold dust there. Cassandra dying in her own arms is a moment that deserves to be in a much better episode.
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Old August 12 2013, 11:29 AM   #5
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

Well re: "The Christmas Invasion" it's not the first time the Doctor has had problems following a regeneration i.e. "Castrovalva".

But yes they weren't the best episodes of the Tennant era.
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Old August 12 2013, 11:40 AM   #6
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I thought New Earth was rotten, as were many of RTD's own episodes, but liked Christmas Invasion.

RTD did a great job bringing back Who, but he's not exactly a great sci-fi scriptwriter.
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Old August 12 2013, 11:59 AM   #7
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I think the Budsey Cutaway is a great start to Tennant's Doctor.
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Old August 12 2013, 12:50 PM   #8
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I rewatched New Earth recently, and it was better than I remembered. I think when it didn't have the weight of introducing a new Doctor to me, it turned out to be a fun little episode.
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Old August 12 2013, 01:15 PM   #9
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

The Christmas Invasion is pretty good, for a bland modern day London outing. New Earth is a serious disgrace though.

Both have deus ex machina endings.
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Old August 12 2013, 02:16 PM   #10
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

DalekJim wrote: View Post
Both have deus ex machina endings.
Do you actually know what that phrase means? Because people using that phrase to describe something they just don't like, regardless of whether it actually applies, is far worse a cliche these days than any amount of technobabble or hand-waving.

Deus ex machina means that a previously unannounced and in-no-way set-up external force comes in at the end of a story to solve all the problems, by no agency of any of the established characters. What exactly in either "The Christmas Invasion" or "New Earth" fulfils that description?

If you're talking about the Torchwood weapon destroying the Sycorax ship, that does not apply in two different ways. First, the crisis was already over so it didn't solve the problem. Second, Harriet Jones had been in touch with Torchwood and preparing this contingency since her first scene in the episode. That is the very opposite of a deus ex machina.

If you're talking about the Doctor's hand regrowing after it's been cut off, it is very clear that he is still in regeneration mode and it has been established since about the 1970s that when in regeneration mode and for some period after, the Doctor's physical and mental make-up is still in flux. His regrowing a hand is only a logical extension of that, and not something pulled out of thin air at all.

If you're talking about using the medical solutions to cure all the patients in the hospital, might I point out that the entire episode is set in a hospital, whose very purpose is to find cures to diseases. I fail to see how anything could possibly be more of a set-up for that conclusion.

If I've misunderstood your meaning, then please, elaborate. But if all your really doing is saying that you don't like the episodes, at least be honest about it.

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Old August 12 2013, 02:28 PM   #11
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

Eh, I never had a particular affection for the Autons (Though, I have in the last few years gained a new appreciation for them), and I thought Cassandra was about the stupidest villain ever, when NuWho debuted in America, so, I wasn't particularly impressed with either of Eccelston's first two episodes, it was only because it was SciFi and Doctor Who at that, that I stuck around after those first two episodes (And the farting Slitheens certainly didn't any prizes from me). So, I don't really see how Tennant's start is much different then Eccelston's start, except that I actually enjoyed The Christmas Invasion.

I've just watched The McGann Movie, Eccelston's Series, and Tennant's first Series, And up through The Lazarus Experiment and I have enjoyed the episodes I thought were pretty bad when I originally saw them. Love and Monsters, particularly I have gained a new appreciation for, in the way it shows the impact on "The Little People's Lives" that the Doctor has and how well it developed Jackie's character's loneliness and protectiveness of Rose.

I enjoy Jackie (as much of a shrew as she is, she's also quite fun at times), though Martha's mom, I still want to airlock.

So, yea, I don't think Tennant's start was any worse then Eccelston's start, and it's much better when you simply flow with the show and accept what it is, rather than getting wound up because it's not what you think it should be (I did this with ST:ENT also, hated the first couple seasons, because they weren't what I believed they should be like, but, a rewatch with a different mindset made it much better, even if some of the episodes in those first two seasons are a bit pedestrian)
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Old August 12 2013, 02:33 PM   #12
Alidar Jarok
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

I think it's a stretch to say that the hand-regrowing was a logical extension of what we'd seen before, but, on the other hand, I don't recall it being essential to resolving the plot (just essential to ensuring the Doctor had two hands). I agree that the Torchwood thing didn't resolve the episode, though, and clearly doesn't qualify as a Deus-ex-Machina.
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Old August 12 2013, 02:39 PM   #13
Brendan Moody
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

They're not among my personal favorites, but "The Christmas Invasion" and "New Earth" are pretty far from disastrous. They just depend on aspects of New Who that broad swathes of fandom have never liked: domestic drama, blockbuster-style action, and broad comedy. In terms of executing their concepts credibly, they're better than many episodes that fandom worships because they play up horror, timey-wimey storytelling, and quippy banter.
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Old August 12 2013, 02:40 PM   #14
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

Their both okay episodes. The Christmas Invasion's problem was that it's a high profile episode, Christmas special introducing the new Doctor which falls on the trope of having the new Doctor spend most his first episode asleep. New Earth is just misplaced. The new Doctor's first proper appearance where he isn't sleeping and it's spent on body swaps.

Tooth and Claw is probably when the Tennant era truly begins, as that is a pretty cool episode.
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Old August 12 2013, 02:55 PM   #15
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Re: The Nearly-Disastrous Start to the David Tennant Era

When I watched both the first time around, I thought Christmas Invasion was OK, and New Earth was bad. On a recent rewatch, the first since the original airing, they're both OK.

They have good elements to them, but ultimately they can't support the story. There's just nothing to sustain anything other than an "OK" rating. There is a bit of banter and fun, but that only gets you so far.

For me, RTD was great at characters, not so good at plotting.

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