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We’ve been calling all manner of space rotters ‘rogues’ in this roundup ever since it started, from the Daleks to the Rani, and for the most part that term has been an understatement, a way of avoiding having to give this feature a more judgemental name like ‘Swine Gumbo’ or ‘Sod Hall.’ But in the case of Lady Cassandra the term is exactly right. She’s a rogue, a rascal. Her only vices are vanity, snobbery and the drive to stay alive (and beautiful) for as long as possible, and if she has to resort to hugely unethical means to indulge these vices, well so be it.
Here’s her first appearance, as the self-proclaimed Last Human (in The End of the World), in front of a baffled Rose and a giggling Ninth Doctor:
The idea being that Cassandra represents a continuity of human frailty over the millennia, appearing five billion years into our future, at the end of the solar system, with a body taken to the logical extreme of plastic surgery, and a very recognisable form of self-interest. Lady Cassandra O’Brien Dot Delta Seventeen is the direct descendant of the ghastly toff who doesn’t understand why political correctness prevents her from thrashing her minions, who divides her time attending to the needs of two camps, hers, and no one else’s.
She’s an overbearing, snobby, spoilt mini-tyrant who likes to get her own way and doesn’t understand that she looks weird. For some reason, Donald Trump has just entered my mind. Can’t imagine why.
Anyway, her plan to hold an entire spaceshipful of aristocrats to ransom, in order to pay for more beauty treatments, is foiled by the Doctor. Her plan to kill everyone aboard the spaceship in order to make a fortune from her rivals on the stock market is also foiled by the Doctor. And her plan to escape, by transmatting to another ship, is foiled by the Doctor, who simply transmats her back again. He’s cross, and in the hot spaceship, under that withering gaze, her body dries out and pops. Her brain, however, remains locked in the jar underneath.
23 years later, and the Tenth Doctor and Rose pop back to the future to visit New Earth. The Sisters of Plenitude have managed to stitch her body back together, like a ripped jacket, but she’s developed a new trick, the ability to push her consciousness into someone else’s body, whether they like it or not. At first she makes a home for herself in Rose, causing something of a kissy moment with the Doctor that only she seems happy about. Then the Doctor realises what’s going on and demands she leave, so she has a go in him too:
After this, there’s a bit of back and forth business while escaping from factory-farmed lab-rat humans chasing both of the three of them (if you get what I mean) up a ladder. Eventually Cassandra has to enter one of the infected humans, and is immediately chastened by how lonely they feel. It’s at this point the other side of her personality, her previously hidden humanity and empathy, begins to emerge.
Once the Doctor has cured everyone, and order is restored, Cassandra is given the chance to enter the body of her loyal servant Chip, but he’s not strong enough to contain her, and so, having broken one of her vices already, she chooses to break the other, and die. But, as she’s not really evil, the Doctor gives her the chance to go out with dignity, looking into her younger, more beautiful face in awe, one last time.
The fact that he would’ve probably done the same thing for Davros (or Donald Trump), is neither here nor there.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic