With Rose outfitted like a real trekker outside the TARDIS, saying goodbye to Mickey and Jackie, the Doctor reacquaints himself rather lovingly with the TARDIS’s console. Grinning, they take off for “further than we’ve ever gone before” and land in the year five billion and twenty-three on New Earth’s New New York (which looks quite like a space-age Oz with flying cars). “Different ground beneath my feet, different sky!” Rose exults, jumping up and down as she tells the doctor, “Can I just say, traveling with you, I love it.” “Me too,” he says, and we’re left to decide whether he loves traveling with her (probably) or traveling with himself (most assuredly).
Okay, Russell T. Davies definitely wanted the Oz-vibe with this one, as flying monkeys scurrying spider-bots send images of Rose and the Doctor into a crystal-ball-ish sphere for none other than Cassandra “The Face” “Wicked Witch of New Earth” Trampoline. Hey, didn’t she get destroyed in 1.02, The End of the World? Apparently not, because she’s back, with a whole new tattooed minion and a thirst for revenge on none other than our Rose Tyler!
The Doctor fesses up he didn’t bring Rose here for an apple-grass appreciation party. He got a Psychic Paper message summoning him to Ward 26 of NNY’s hospital. He and Rose head in, while she questions how people get sick in this jet-pack “We get up at twelve and start to work at one/Take an hour for lunch, and then at two we’re done/Jolly good fun!” age. “The human race moves on, but so do the viruses,” the Doctor notes, scolding Rose when she’s freaked out by the Cat Nurses strolling about. “Think what you look like to them, all pink and yellow!”
“Watch out for the disinfectant,” the Doctor calls as he and Rose are separated on different lifts. While Cassandra’s minion performs an override of the controls, the Doctor preens in his sanitizing shower and Rose shrieks in hers. She gets out on the wrong floor, but though she seems to trustingly follow Tattooed Minion, she surreptitiously grabs a metal rod to whack someone with should it all go apple-and-pear shaped.
At Ward 26, the Doctor meets the Sisters of Plenitude (let’s call them the Sisters of Raowr!) and spots the Duke of Manhattan, who is suffering from Petrifold Regression, an incurable disease gradually turning its victims to stone. After being shooed away by the Duke’s sassy assistant, he realizes who summoned him here: the Face of Boe, dying of old age.
Rose enters a quarantined area where a film shows Cassandra the last time someone told her she was beautiful. “Peakaboo!” Cassandra surprises her, explaining Tattooed Minion is Chip, “my pet”, a force-grown clone who worships and moisturizes her (and possibly does other things, but how filthy can you really get with a strip of skin?). How did Cassandra survive despite getting ripped apart on Platform One? Her brain lived, and luckily there was spare backside skin. “Right, so you’re talking out your–” Rose exclaims joyfully as Cassandra cuts her off.
Cassandra bewails her lonely fate as the last human, while Rose objects there are millions of humans. Mutants, dismisses Cassandra. She has another concern, though: “the sisters are hiding something…those cats have secrets.” She asks Rose to come close so she can whisper details. Rose backs up, and backs right into the trap Cassandra’s set for her. “Goodbye trampoline, and hello blondie!” Cassandra sneers, and Chip throws a switch.
Over at Ward 26, the Doctor chats with the young cat nurse who keeps the Face of Boe company (dying of old age is one of the few things the Sisters of Raowr! can’t cure). There’s a superstition just before his death, the Face of Boe will “impart his great secrets to one like himself, “a wanderer, a man without a home, a lonely God.” Aww, clearly it’s the Doctor, who seems slightly unnerved and anticipatory both at realizing he fits this description.
Cassandra stands, fully possessing Rose. Viewing her shiny new-to-her body she moans, “Oh god, I’m a chav!” However, there are advantages, like Rose’s bootylicious curves: “it’s like living inside a bouncy castle,” Cassandra observes, admiring her “rear bumper.” Funny how Cassandra was, as Rose pointed out, literally talking out her own arse; now finds herself gleeful at possessing Rose’s caboose, hoo hah! It’s such fun to see Billie Piper play with Cassandra’s affects and way of speaking (and wriggle her own bum at herself).
Dismissing Rose as tucked away inside her mind, she delves and realizes the Doctor’s there. “With a new face — that hypocrite!” Cassandra fumes, remembering how he berated her surgically induced flatness. Summoned on the Suepr Cell Phone, Cassandra employs what Chip reminds her is an Old Earth Cockney accent to slyly greet the Doctor with “Wotcher,” and announce she’s “on my way, Guvnah!”
The Doctor puzzles over how the Sisters of Raowr! cure complicated cases like the Duke of Manhattan’s. “Tender application of science,” they claim, with a “simple remedy” that can’t be revealed. When he introduces himself as the Doctor, one snaps, “I think you’ll find we’re the Doctors here.” Miffed, he hovers nearby to hear a nurse arriving with news: “One of the patients is conscious.” “Well, we can’t have that,” the matron murmurs. Raowr!
“Never trust a nun,” and “Never trust a cat,” Cassandra points out as she adjusts Rose’s cleavage to hold a little bottle (and show off the goods effectively, oomph). She vows to find out what the Sisterhood is hiding, which seems bizarrely focused on something not-Cassandra (so her driving rationale must be entirely focused on Cassandra).
In a restricted area, coldly-clinical matrons observe a helpless “patient” in a green-lit pod. “It” started crying after having “a perfectly normal blood wash.” Okay, ew. He pleads for help. “The echo of life,” the matron explains, prescribing standard incineration. Man, those are some stone cold kitty cats!
When “Rose” reaches Ward 26, the spectacles-wearing Doctor (what’s up with that?) explains the hospital’s unbelievable recovery time from supposedly incurable diseases. “If they’ve got the best medicine in the world, why is it such a secret?” he wonders. “I can’t Adam and Eve it,” Cassandra coos with phrase-book cockney rhyming slang. Uh, what’s with the posh-ish voice? Just larking about, “New Earth, new me,” she explains. He jokes he’s one to talk, being the New New Doctor. “Aren’t you just?” she agrees, grabbing him for an intense kiss. “Yep, still got it,” the Doctor manages to stammer out.
While the Doctor complains again how the hospital has no shop (I mean, where are you supposed to buy creepy get-well plushies and find an astonishing array of tasteless sugarless candy?), Cassandra-as-Rose says something more important is missing: the hidden “intensive care”. “Well done,” the Doctor says, and hops to it when “Rose” tells him to search the sub-frame, and then apologizes when she points out he ought to try the “installation protocol.” So obviously Rose herself is fab at pinning down the pertinent issue with questions, but the informed quick-thinking is all Cassandra. It’s fun to see her thinking in action; what a formidable slinky force she is when she’s mobile and not flat as a crepe!
They enter “Intensive” care, finding the Matrix-like multi-levels of green glowing pods filled with patients infected with every disease out there. “That’s disgusting,” Cassandra!Rose sniffs, while the Doctor feelingly tells one of the “patients,” “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Are they safe from the putrescent patients, she demands. Yes, as long as they don’t touch them. A Raowr!Sister surprises them, explaining these are specially grown people: “they exist to be sick”. The Sisterhood “grew its own flesh” for the greater good (“the greater good,” the inhabitants of Sandford repeat mindlessly) when the human arrived. It’s screwy that the “Plenitude” of their actual order seems to refer to a plentiful supply of human lab-rats. .
The Doctor shouts he can understand the bodies, he can understand the vows, but “one thing I can’t understand is, what have you done to Rose?” “Rose” insists she’s fine while the nurse disavows involvement. “These people are dying, and Rose would care!” the Doctor exclaims. That is the essence of Rose, but funny you didn’t notice it wasn’t Rose when her tongue was in your mouth, Doctor. All right, Cassandra!Rose says crossly, “Clever clogs. Smarty pants. Lady killer”; but she needed Rose’s body to discover the Sisters’s secrets. She sprays him with her cleavage-concealed perfume and knocks him out just as he realizes she’s Cassandra.
The Doctor awakes to discover Cassandra’s shunted him into one of the pods, about three minutes before the next disease-spraying. “Just let Rose go,” he orders her. Of course, Cassandra agrees; as soon as she finds someone younger (than 19 or 20? Sheesh) and less common (a good jab at all the viewers who objected to Rose being common). “Then I’ll junk her with the waste; now, hush-a-bye! It’s showtime!” Gah, I love Billie Piper doing Cassandra’s ruthlessness! When the matrons show, she barks, “Straight to the point, Whiskers! I want money.” That definitely explains everything. If they pay her, she won’t tell New Earth their ailments are cured by suffering clones. They sweetly decline, then swipe at her, because those kittens have claws!
Cassandra yells for Chip to go to Plan B. They release the pods, letting the diseased people (and the Doctor) go free. The decomposing clones crowd the matrons, saying, “Please, save us!” They understand what happened because they were part of the machine. “It’s actually constructing an argument!” one matron marvels. “We will end this,” one of the suffering “patients” declares and sticks his hands into a socket. He’s electrocuted, but frees the remaining diseased people. “The flesh is free!” one matron yells, sickening and dying when she’s touched.
“I want that body safe,” the Doctor orders Cassandra!Rose, “so don’t touch!” the ailing clones. The hospital goes under quarantine, glass shields blocking all exits. Some of the diseased reach the lobby, where the healthy people they touch sicken. When they surround Chip, Cassandra snaps, “Leave him, he’s a clone thing!”; the Doctor is forced to abandon him as they escape.
“We’re trapped! What are we going to do?” Cassandra!Rose shrieks, conveniently forgetting she unleashed the plague-infested krawken. “You’re going to leave that body,” the Doctor demands, before she compresses Rose to death. But her original skin is dead. That’s “not my problem…give her back to me!” the Doctor yells. Cassandra retorts, “You asked for it!” and breathes herself into the Doctor. “Goodness me, I’m a man! Yum!” Cassandra!Doctor purrs. “So many parts, and hardly used!” Awww, the Doctor tries to get laid, but his love interests are always bursting into flames or being sucked into the vacuum of space. Also, he is brand-new; he’ll use those parts yet! Anyway, I love how entirely gender-flexible Cassandra is here — it reminds me of her mistake/ambiguity “when I was a little boy” story from Platform One. Given various bodies and time, how very happily screwed six ways from Sunday she’d be!
“Two hearts!” s/he realizes; “Oh baby, I’m beating out a samba!” “Get out of him!” Rose cries. Cassandra taunts her (after all, she’s been inside Rose’s head): “You’ve been looking [at the Doctor’s “foxy” body]. You like it!” Hey, if only Cassandra could occupy both the Doctor and Rose at the same time; think of all the hot sex she’d have with him/herself! Unfortunately the diseased interrupt more sexy talk, and Cassandra!Doctor runs like hell.
Rose orders Cassandra to leave the Doctor “so he can think of something!” When Cassandra!Doctor has no idea how to use the Sonic Screwdriver (somehow, the Doctor has hidden his thoughts from her, which is pretty freaking cool), she jumps back into Rose, complaining, “Oh, chav-tastic.” “I order you to leave her,” the Doctor demands. Cassandra soul-hops back into him, peevishly saying, “No matter how difficult the situation, there is no need to shout!” Back and forth between the two of them she goes while the ailing zombies creep ever closer. Finally Cassandra sighs, “I’m going to regret this,” and breathes into the body of one of the diseased girls gaining on them.
At last they reach safety, a stricken Cassandra (again possessing Rose) startled by what she now understands. For just that moment in the diseased “impure” human woman’s head, she realized how alone they are. “All their lives, and they’ve never been touched.” It’s a good reinforcement that the “flesh” aren’t reaching out to infect people, but because they yearn to be held. Cassandra’s very human realization makes the Doctor extend a hand to her to help her up.
At Ward 26, the Doctor yells for every single intravenous solution for all the diseases, stat! “Here we go,” he cries, IV solutions clipped to him, leaping onto the lift cable after putting the Sonic Screwdriver in his mouth. “You’re so desperate to stay alive,” he calls to a reluctant Cassandra. “Why don’t you live a little?” “You’re completely mad,” she says as she jumps on him. “I can see why she likes you.”
Using a pulley device, they whiz down the lift cable so the Doctor can mix up a medical cocktail the likes of which have never been seen on New New York! Instructing Cassandra!Rose to hold on to the release lever with everything she’s got, he calls the diseased people to him. When they approach him, he orders Cassandra to activate the spray, and those closest to the Doctor become healed. “Pass it on!” he yells, and the diseased prisoners of the Sisterhood of Raowr! cure one another as they touch. “Did you kill them?” Cassandra yells. “No, that’s your way of doing things…I’m the Doctor and I cured them!” Now there’s a new sub-species of human life, one that Cassandra (however inadvertently) helped create.
“And now for you,” the Doctor says, approaching a weeping Cassandra. “You’ve lived long enough.” “I don’t want to die,” she cries. Chip springs up, a willing volunteer who welcomes Cassandra possessing him. Rose’s body is released back to her. “Hello!” she greets the Doctor (very Ninth Doctor-esque of her). “Sweet Lord, I’m a walking doodle,” Cassandra murmurs at the tattooed minion-y body of Chip she’s inhabited.
The Doctor’s all for bringing Cassandra to trial. Though that would be “possibly my finest hour,” it seems Chip is dying; she’s dying. “There’s no place for Chip and me anymore,” she realizes. Everything’s new on this planet. “You’re right Doctor. It’s time to die,” she says, finally coming to terms with her mortality. “There’s one last thing I can do,” the Doctor says seriously. He takes him/her back to that moment, the last night where Cassandra felt beautiful.
Disembarking from the TARDIS, Cassandra!Chip approaches herself that fateful night. Hi, hi, Zoë Wanamaker, you charmer! <3 At first, previous-age Cassandra dismisses his compliments with a “that’s very kind, you strange little thing.” But she pauses, answering, “Thank you,” earnestly; she’s made an emotional connection with a lesser being, but also with herself. “I think he’s dying,” the previous-age Cassandra cries when Chip falls to the ground, holding him/herself, surprisingly sympathetic at the very end.
It’s a wonderful kind of narcissistic realization (Cassandra embodying that last person who told her she was pretty). But really, it’s another chance for Cassandra to be human, to look at herself with clarity as Chip, and to comfort herself and act humanely, as that previous-age Cassandra.
Oooh-wee-ooooh-oooh! Join me for tomorrow’s recap of 2.02 “Tooth and Claw”, when we meet Queen Victoria, a gaggle of scary monks, and, I know you’ve been waiting for this one, werewolves! See you then!