World War Three
Aliens of London/World War Three
Aliens of London
|Production Code||Series One Episode Four|
|Dates||April 16, 2005|
With Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper,
Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke
Written by Russell T. Davis Directed by Keith Boak.
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young.
|Synopsis: An alien ship crashes into London.|
Piggss... innnnn... Sppaceeeeeee... by Steve Cassidy 21/4/05
My word, fandom is up in arms about this one.
We had been used to good ones. From the first bowl of Rose, followed by some excellent batting in The End of the World and The Unquiet Dead, to listen to some people you'd think we had been bowled a googly with Aliens of London.
In many ways it was the most eagerly awaited. A return to The Invasion or Spearhead from Space alien takeover stories of yore. Trailers appeared on the BBC showing a smoking alien spacecraft clip Big Ben with a resounding bong and expectations were high. There had been slight leaks, even weeks before on ACIN, about farting politicians and "pigs in space", but on the whole the entire nation sat down on Saturday night. Well, actually, not the entire nation as sacrilege happened - it was beaten by Ant and Dec in the ratings...". Oh woe is me, the end of the world is nigh. Yes, the Geordie equivalents of Mr Sin beat Aliens of London by not a great margin but enough to set alarm bells ringing with some fans. They had become complacent, they had so revelled in their show's success that defeat was unthinkable. Accusations were hurled at RTD. Had the script been too juvenile? Had their been too many adult intonations that Ant and Dec was a safer bet for Saturday night viewing?
Fear not my young padawans, Aliens of London is wonderful
I tend to like the oddbeat stories the most anyway. But I have a sneaking admirations for big canvases and anything that tries to do anything different. And this one was different? I don't remember an alien invason story this enjoyable since, well, The Android Invasion - and that story has its detractors. It was the sheer audacity of this story which won me over. The sheer cheek of modern London with all its pretensions and problems having to cope with a spaceship landing on the Prime Minister's lawn (or at least seen out of his window, yes, I know - only if you moved the MOD building out of the way). And what truly made this stand out was the modern British media's take on an alien invasion.
I'd often wondered how the tabloids would handle such a situation. The channel flicking in Rose's mum's flat gave a good taste of what would happen - news details handled overseriously by SKY news, the BBC dragging Andew Marr in front of Number 10 (inspired idea) and of course Blue Peter making a cake to look like the alien spacecraft (even more inspired idea) and the average cynical Londoner in the street blaming the entire thing on "Ken Livingstone". This section felt edgy, contemporary and what's more it was very funny. The new series of Doctor Who once again grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and the premise of a damaged alien spaceship bobbing outside County Hall was almost credible.
And then it bowled you a couple of other wickets.
The number one has to be the idea of how it the disappearance of a companion affects those they leave behind. This had never been covered before? What did Jo Grant's parents say when she went off to Uxarius in Colony in Space? Who fed Sarah's cat when she joined up with the fourth Doctor? Surely some of Peri's rich parents must have missed Peri not spending on her credit card when she climbed aboard the TARDIS in Planet of Fire. Maybe thats why he kept finding orphans or dysfunctonals to come along with him (Nyssa, Ace, Adric). But we have never, until now, seen the affect that their leaving has on the those they left behind. Many people have decried the "soap opera" element of the new series and the characters of Jackie Tyler and Mickey being rather shallow. Here they are fleshed out - especially Mickey. And even at the end of the adventure I found myself looking at him rather sympathetically at what he had gone through for twelve months (usually due to the loose tongue of Jackie). The damaging effect of someone disappearing into thin air for twelve months and then coming back with a strange man and no explanation was ripe for dramatic effect. Top marks for these scenes.
And then there is the use of politics. No other programme would have the audacity to have the Prime Minister. Dead. In a cupboard. The mind boggles! The scenes of the British government dealing (or not?) with a crisis of alien invasion were thoroughly enjoyable. Number 10 was recreated with some of the best production design I have yet seen on Who. From the grand staircase to the cabinet room - the bustle of the heart of Britain's government was utterly enthralling. There are those who have decried the farting scenes and "Ain't It Cool News" run by that fat f**k Harry Knowles sneered at it a month before. One of his many spies let this be known to his royal geekiness in Austin, and lo a savaging article about the new series was spawned. Personally, I didn't mind these scenes. Actors of ample girth were cast as the Slitheen posing as the British cabinet and the alieness of their transmutation was explained as their bodies couldn't contain the excess gas. Certainly it doesn't sink the episode as some have claimed. It's done well and in good humour - and it works
Other commentators have mentioned the other twist: the pig. RTD has been very clever in giving us an emotional death in most episodes so far (Gwyneth, Jabe) etc but this one is so bizarre but it still pulls at the heart strings. Every iota of suspense was created into the build up to the alien piloting the downed spacecraft. The audience was allowed its own imaginings at what was at the controls of the craft, but to have it a pig was to switch around expectations. A pig in a spacesuit has tickled the funnybone of some. It is not hard to giggle at the sight reminding you of the old Muppet Show staple "Pigs in Space." But just as the sight of it running down the corridors becomes comic - it is then just as quickly removed from the story-. Eccleston's reaction to this is nothing less then superb. The futility of seeing an animal that was simply scared get killed upsets him as much as it does the audience. It's a moving scene - and I can't help thinking that a new generation of fans will remember this as much as previous generations remember Jo's reaction to Barnham's death or Adric's sacrifice.
Eccleston and Piper aquit themselves with the usual aplomb. I'm not so gushing of Piper's performance as others have been and I find the character of Rose Tyler rather restricting due to her educational shortcomings (sorry, but I like my companions brainy ala Romana) but here they do well. In fact there are scenes, especially when we find out the ordeal that Mickey has gone through in the last twelve months, that are not so sympathetic to Rose. Billie Piper gives her all as usual and is exceptionally good at conjuring emotion at the right times. Eccleston, as much as he irritates me when he decries the paternalism/sexism/snobbery of those who come before him, rarely gives a bad performance. And his taking control of the government meeting was so Doctorish it had me grinning with pleasure.
I'm not going to give this one a clean bill of health - there was one line which should have been cut. It, in fact, had me sitting up in disbelief - the "Oh, you're so gay, Doctor..." line The net message boards were buzzing with responses about this. Its proponents saying RTD was just reflecting the youth slang of 2005 and it was a term of affection, its detractors decrying its casual throwaway homophobia. I slip into the second camp I'm afraid. After "Bob and Rose" I'm not as gushing about Russell T Davies' gay credentials as others. If television is the medium in which we learn our language? Then is this something which should be broadcast? Would he be quick to use rascism so casually? RTD may move in a liberal media world but most others don't - whether the man was trying to stir up controvsersy I don't know. But it shocked me out of my seat..
As you can see I am rather fond of Aliens of London. The sheer scale and spectacle won me over. The modern day setting with Council estate rooftops within sight of the Palace of Westminster worked very well for me, combined with a story with lots of twists and turns and a stellar supporting cast. In fact kudos must be given to Navin Chowdary, Annette Badlands, Penelope Wilton, Naoko Mori, and Rupert Vannissartt. Each one a "name" the programme would have never had attracted in its declining days of the late eighties. Dr Who has become hip again. It's modern, edgy and exciting. I can't wait for the second part, World War Three, and I haven't even mentioned the Slitheens.
My favourite so far? Absolutely...
An interesting start by Michael Hickerson 4/5/05
Back in the 60s some of the most memorable episode of Doctor Who were those that featured images of alien invaders stalking the streets of then-modern day London. Images of the Cybermen and the Daleks roaming the streets, attempting to conquer the Earth are some that have been burned into the collective memory of Doctor Who fans.
With Aliens of London the new Doctor Who attempts to burn images of alien invasions in modern times into the hearts and minds of viewers. But instead of seeing Cybermen emerge from the sewers, we have greater technology today. Now we can see an alien space craft flying over London and have the memorable moment of Big Ben being destroyed by an alien ship etched into our collective memories.
But is this alien invasion story one that ranks up there with those classic stories like The Invasion or The Dalek Invasion of Earth?
For me the answer is... no, not yet.
Mainly because right now we've only seen the first half of the events to unfold on screen, Imagine trying to judge The Invasion after only seeing the first four episodes and determining if it's a classic or memorable. You couldn't honestly do it. And I don't think we can jump to conclusions about Aliens of London just yet. As the first half of a story, I think it succeeded in what it needed to do... set up events, characters and situations for the Doctor and company to resolve in the second half of things.
For the first time in the series, a storyline has 90 minutes to set up and resolve itself. And I think that Russell T. Davies took great advantage of the first half of the storyline to set things up.
For one thing, I loved the time spent examining the consequences of Rose's decision to travel with the Doctor. To see her come back after vanishing for a year (she thinks it's twelve hours) was nicely done. Her mother's reaction, what happened to Mickey, et... all of that worked well. To find out that Mickey was suspected of murdering Rose was a nice touch. This is one of those things that was never really given much time or thought in the original series... companions jumped on board and may or may not have returned to the time and place they left. So, to see some time devoted to this here was a nice little touch. Also, to see the effect it had on Rose... her dilemma of wanting to tell her family but not being able to for fear of not being believed was a nice touch to her character.
But then aliens fall upon London, crashing into Big Ben before sinking in the Thames. But it's not an invasion from without. Instead, we find out the aliens are already among us. Borrowing a plot from the Cylons or the Dominion, Doctor Who shows us that aliens are walking among us, looking like us and taking positions in high ranking government offices. Why, we're just not quite sure yet. I found we had some echoes of Terror of the Zygons or either of the early Auton stories with aliens that could look and sound like human beings. And were ready with a plan to take over the highest corridors of power for whatever reason they saw fit.
Of course, the difference between the Zygons and our new found alien friends is that our new found aliens have a side-effect of being in human form. Their gas-exchange systems result in them farting a lot, thus giving away that they are aliens. Now, I know a lot of Doctor Who fans out there are pretty upset about this and think it's juvenile humor. But from where I sit, it honestly didn't bother me that much. I found the flatulent aliens to work. You have to remember that it's Doctor Who we're talking about here. It's supposed to be fun. And what could be more fun than farting aliens?
OK, so I could have done without their ring leader cackling like the Master every five or so minutes, but that's just a personal quibble.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is on the outside looking in. So many times, we see the Doctor show up and immediately insert himself into positions of authority to thwart the aliens. Not as much here. There is mention of UNIT and it did make me wonder what happened to the UNIT passes the Doctor carried about. But I am beginning to wonder if the 9th Doctor is trying to be more low-key. To rush in and take charge of things wouldn't necessarily be a good thing if he's the last of the Time Lords. He could be on the run and wanting to maintain a low profile. So, he may be waiting to see who the alien menace is before he steps in and eventually helps defeat them.
I did like how the Doctor did finally get into the fray, not by his own actions, as much as having the role thrust upon him. He's a bit of a reluctant hero in this one. He'd willingly save Rose, but he's content to sit by and be an observer as all of humanity faces a crisis. Interesting.
I did like the scenes where Rose's mother calls the alien line and reports that she's seen the Doctor and his TARDIS. I loved seeing how the government rushed into action to find the Doctor in light of the alien invasion. Indeed, you'd think the Brig would leave orders in the files saying that if aliens arrive, your best bet is to find the Doctor and quickly.
Of course, there were some predictable things in this storyline. One was that the alien ship was a ruse. The pig-alien was evidence of that and I figured long before the Doctor and company did that the meeting at Downing Street was a trap. But for what purpose, I asked myself? Apparently it's to bring all the alien experts together and destroy them? But why? We don't know just yet, but I can bet that next week, we'll have a lot of the answers.
Also, I have to admit that it would have been nice to have a bit more throw- away continuity. Like the Doctor telling Rose that it wasn't humanity's first encounter with aliens, just the first one covered by CNN, etc. Also, it would have been nice had the Doctor gone to UNIT himself instead of sneaking around too much.
One small thing that struck me... why did the boy paint the graffiti of "Bad Wolf" on the side of the TARDIS? Significant? I guess we'll have to wait and see...
But all that said, Aliens of London was still an enjoyable episode for me. It set up some things well and I can't wait until next week to find out what's really going on here. Yes, it was a bit predictable at times but you can't fault it for not being a fun, enjoyable hour. Not every hour of Doctor Who has to be groundbreaking. Sometimes it just has to be fun. And, for now, Aliens of London was just that... fun.
An Unearthly Chav by Kathryn Young 26/5/05
I'll try not to spoil it, but I could detail the entire plot and it wouldn't ruin the enjoyment of this episode. I had read the entire summary and I still had a grin stuck on my face from ear to ear when I watched this. There is something about this episode that just made me grin.
Considering I am a nasty evil snobby intellectual chardonnay drinking wanker I have no idea why I enjoyed this episode so much. It was "brill". I am going to go out and buy myself a pink polar fleecie and a pair of Adidas right now. And anyway - spoilerwise we know from the title that there are aliens. And what do aliens generally do? That is right boys and girls - aliens very rarely come to Earth on a package holiday to take in the sights. You know just once I'd like to see the Daleks go "stuff this invasion thing - lets go into catering and make a fortune".
Why good writing is important:
This episode is different from the last three. Why? It actually has a plot - a la mystery and suspense. And it works a lot better than - "oh look a bloody great alien invasion, fortunately Robin and I took our anti-alien invasion bat pills before we left home", the "all we have to do to stop the nasty bitchy queen is get through the chompie crushie machines that serve no other purpose than dramatic suspense and push the big red button", or the "let's just blow everything up" plot of yore.
So what happens is this...
Rose goes back to visit 'er mum - theoretically roughly twelve hours after she left. Even the blind guy up the back can see where this is going. Something about "even broken clocks are right twice a day" is a phrase that springs to mind.
And mum belts him one. I mean really belts him one. FANTASTIC. I once read this brilliant fan fiction story where the Seventh Doc took Ace back to see her mum... It was hilarious - "yeah I like travel with this creepy old Scottish git who is into question marks..." And Ace's mum was not happy... but anyway...
Chavs in Space - or rather Time Lord Chavs on the Sun Hill Estate: I keep expecting Reg to turn up.
Rose is the only "not over the top" character on the estate. And I am counting the Doc here, although his style of Doctor works really well with the comedic tone of the episode. Which is why I had a problem with his performance in The Unquiet Dead. This episode bounces energetically from comedy to suspense like a hyperactive ping-pong ball. The Unquiet Dead was more your horrorish genre and saying FANTASTIC and (I am going to say the word here) GURNING every five seconds seemed a bit out of place. I can just see the boards in the future - who gurns the worst, Sylv or Eccles?
Although to be fair to Mr E, his Doctor's character is starting to become clearer - insensitive git, time traveling chav, little boy showing off, and dare I say - a hint of humanity? A changed Doctor, but still the Doctor in there somewhere. Has he had a mid-life crisis and decided that he is only going to be Time's Champion part time or is he just happy all that Eighth Doc angsty stuff is done with and is just out to enjoy life, or is he just a little mad?
Some might say "a complete loon" - I say a smug git. Later on I would like to see him in a situation where he was actually out of his depth. Which is why I am hanging out for Dalek by "Sheer Brilliance" Shearman. That is the one thing that always bugs me about the Doc - especially the smugger ones - Yeah I know James Bond is going to save the world, but I always like a bit of doubt here and there. Not that I am saying we have to go completely NA, but I always like that line in Ghost Light where Sylvester says "even I can't play all these games at once." So basically I am just itching for smugo Chris to be taken down a peg here and there.
But back to Rose. She may be a chav, but she is a well rounded chav. I am turning into a Billie fan. I get the feeling that the girl really put her heart and soul into this - and it shows.
Mickey or Ricky is still as unlikable as ever - I still don't see what Rose saw in him, but now we actually have a reason for him being a git - so he can be insulted. It is like what they should have done to Adric all those years ago.
However all these delightfully chavvie down to earth characters are a brilliant foil for the Doc. Here you are - this nine hundred year old guy who can travel in time and space and you're stuck in a council flat, wrestling a kid for the remote cos he wants to watch Blue Peter.
Actually this scene really made me think. What would the other Doctor's have done? Now I normally loathe the concept of comparing Doctors, but in this case it amused me no end.
Billy just would not have been there in the first place. Let the buggers burn.
Pat would have had other things on his mind.
Jon would have thwapped the little oink around the ear when mum wasn't looking.
Tom would have thrown the lovely little tyke out the window.
Peter would have sighed a bit.
Colin would have loved to have the opportunity to show he was much more than an assistant-strangling homicidal git.
Sylvester would have scared him off with a Time's Champion eyebrow.
Paul would have played happily with him - excited to find someone on his own bouncy wavelength.
But Chris fights with him. So here we have a lot of weight for the "little boy" interpretation of the Doctor that appears to be developing.
And I love the fact that all the main support cast think he is a git. Mum hates him, Mickey hates him. Mum is like the chav version of Lady Bracknell: "900 years old, can travel through time and space, but you don't 'ave a steady job do ya? I bet you've knocked 'er up too!"
The only casting I couldn't wrap my head around was some poor little scientist chickie babe played by Saffy's friend from Ab Fab - the one who used to go all hysterical and stalked Emma Bunting... I couldn't take her seriously - especially when she saw the "alien" and did her "Emma Bunting orgasm scream" - I thought for a moment it was Emma in the spacecraft.
Fat people are really alien monsters:
Well if Lawrence Miles thought The Unquiet Dead was bashing immigrants, this one bashes fat people. Is he a bit chubby because of too many eclairs or really an alien monster about to gobble me up? But never have I seen a bunch of aliens who enjoyed taking over the world quite so much. Not that I am saying that is what they are doing - perhaps it is all just some giant "Universes Funniest Alien Invasions" set up and then at the end of the second episode some orange presenter is going to appear with a camera crew and the Doctor is going to be highly embarrassed.
Cybermen, Sontarans, Daleks - they are always soo serious. You never get the feeling they are actually enjoying any of this exterminating/enslaving/stuff. The Master was the only one who - even after twenty years - still found the whole thing highly amusing and could always be counted on to raise a chuckle, even after his evil plans had been foiled. You just have to give that guy points for stamina.
But these guys were having a ball. Giggling and gurgling their way through the episode as they bloodily maim and kill as if they thought the whole thing was one big joke. Well actually they don't really do much maiming or killing, but I but they would enjoy it if they did.
Failing flatulence... by Joe Ford 17/6/05
There seems to be a general consensus that this was the weakest episode yet and while in some cases that is probably quite true, it also contained some of the best scenes from the series yet, scenes that knock anything from the first three episodes out of the pool. The series is still clearly trying to find its feet and trying new things all the time, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't... I realise Doctor Who has been on screen for over forty years and has tried many styles in the past and some of you might think it should KNOW what works and what doesn't. But I'm sure you will agree Russell T Davies' new series is unlike anything we have ever seen before and as such it is a new learning curve for him and the series and posting SACK RTD NOW!!! on Outpost Gallifrey is rather pathetic and juvenile, written by ungrateful bastards who want the series to match what they envisage Doctor Who to be. They are probably the same people who slagged off Christopher Eccleston when they found out he was leaving just days after they were praising his performance to the high heavens.
I was perfectly willing to enjoy the farting, indeed it has been a staple of one of my other favourite shows, Farscape, with the hilarious Rygel expelling helium farts into the air during some particularly tense moments. The result is a juxtaposition of the frightening and the absurdly crude and wonderfully uncomfortable televison. Aliens of London didn't quite get it right, not because the flatulence wasn't a laugh (the Doctor's "Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm trying to save the world?" was especially funny... and the look on his face!) but it did not occur in any scary scenes... it was just sort of there, with the trio of heifer nasties chortling away at how funny their out of control bottoms were. Unlike Farscape which is puerile with style... this was just sort of puerile. And the line "Would you prefer silent but deadly?" almost threatens to collapse the cliff-hanger moment and should have been cut.
But honestly are people willing to underrate this episode just because of a few seconds worth of farts? There was still so much to enjoy...
Domestic scenes in Doctor Who should be just awful? Turning our beloved show into a parody of Eastenders... how dare you Mr Davies, how dare you sir! But Davies is such a clever writer and he knows exactly what he is doing and by grounding the series in modern day London we get to return home to Mickey and Jackie every couple of episodes and see how much Rose has grown and how much her departure has affected everybody she cares for. It is a cracking dramatic device and when written as well as it is here Doctor Who can resemble Eastenders as much as it likes!
The teaser was predictable (Simon guessed straight away) but still wonderful; a terrific "oh shit" moment to hang the rest of the episode on. I adored Jackie in the first episode because despite some overdone acting on Camille Coduri's part, she felt like a real person caught up in a freaky situation. Each subsequent appearance has seen both her character and the actress grow into the part to the point now where I found Jackie's situation as compelling as Rose's. Her performance was right on the nail throughout, first shock, then vicious anger and blame, then back to normal life ("Guess who asked me out!") and then suddenly she is confronted with the truth about her daughter's disappearance. Simon was boo-hissing her reaction to the mind-blowing spaceship but I felt her reaction to the TARDIS was comepletely natural and if that was my daughter, I would have done the same. Which is why Jackie deserved a slice of the cliffhanger frankly, because at this point the series (and especially this episode) is as much about her than it is about the Doctor and Rose and to finally be confronted with a deadly situation where it looks like she cannot escape is the next logical step for a character who has emerged into the Doctor Who world. And bizarrely, of the triple-barrelled cliffhanger, it was Jackie's scenes that I found most disturbing, not only because I really, really like her but because it is such a normal location for such a horrific scene to take place.
All this great work with Jackie is somewhat undermined as this was my least favourite week for Christopher Eccleston's Doctor yet, despite some of his most Doctorish moments. People are moaning that he doesn't convince entirely as the Doctor and that he comes across as a mainstream actor trying to play the Doctor, which is not always an unfair assessment. Some of his scenes in this story were fantastic (as seems to be his catchphrase) and totally convinced you that you were watching Doctor Who (his tinkering with the console, his angry "It was scared!" after the military prove they still shoot first and think later, his excited reaction to being escorted to 10 Downing Street and his marvellous realisation at the climax) and yet in places I felt he was still finding his feet in the role and played the "normal guy" role a bit too well to stick out as an alien from outer space (such as the scenes with him trying to watch the telly with all the family getting in the way... whatever happened to the Doctor who used to just storm into a crisis regardless?). His relationship with Rose is obviously vitally important and his casual "Are you going to stay here now?" hints at more fireworks to come in part two. Oh and I loved the sweet moment as he gave her the TARDIS key.
Billie is exceptional. She's climbing the companion ranks with each passing episode. During Rose she was an exceptional, generic companion fulfilling the asking questions and wanting to leave her boring life role perfectly. But Davies and Piper keep adding layers each week that make her more and more interesting to follow. Aliens of London explores why Rose is the perfect companion for the Doctor, torn between her loved ones back home and her life of adventure on the TARDIS. This is new stuff for the series and another sign that the series is still growing up and has much to learn. Rose's firm insistence that the Doctor doesn't disappear and leave her proves she desperately wants to go with him and yet her emotional reaction to seeing her mum and boyfriend again reveals she still has ties to Earth. I sense top drama for episode two and that this story will look a whole lot healthier as one, hour and a half adventure. Billie and Clarke's quiet moment at the TARDIS console, saying they missed each other is unexpectedly touching and serves to add much depth to Mickey's character.
Want to know what my favourite moment in the whole series has been so far? That glorious moment when the spaceship crashes into the Thames of course! Fan-bloody-tastic! Not only does it look fabulous, with some giddying POV's from the spaceship, and ultilise London's recognisable locations with panache (is there anything as shocking in Doctor Who as when the spaceship smashes through Big Ben and then dive-bombs into the Thames?) but it also kickstarts a contemporary Earth alien invasion story the likes of which we all know and love and Russell would be hard pushed to get wrong. Honestly, if there was ever a moment to define the new series, this gorgeous effects shot (complete with heart-racing score) is the one and worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster to boot.
Cue mass panic as we see an alien incursion on a much bigger scale than we are used to. The plot is sneaky, throwing Rose's domestic situation and a fake alien pig to distract from what is really going on. The pig is a marvellously embarrassing scene, almost grotesque in appearance and extremely comical as it zips along the corridor; it is suddenly twisted into a moment of great pathos as the Doctor reacts with total disgust at its death. Tom Baker would have laughed at the poor thing but Eccleston looks devastated at its horrific mistreatment.
All the buildup to the cliffhanger was terrific with the mounting tension cranked up to a spectacular degree. It was marvellous how long he kept the danger going before finally cutting to the end music... with three plots taking place there are three cliffhangers for each of them, the editing quite superb as we cut back and forth between each with plenty of moments to leave it but the creepiness goes on for several minutes with l'ill Joe going "cue music!" about five times before it finally happened. Davies is playing around with our expectations and in a terribly fun way.
I shall certainly be tuning in next week, usually the setup is much more pleasing than the pay off but I feel the reverse will be true of Aliens of London and World War Three. This was a good hour of telly, don't get me wrong, with more than enough to keep you glued but if they had turned down the farting and given the Doctor a bit more to do, I would have been more satisfied. The emotional aspect of the series has been cranked up to a new level and have a strong feeling that Rose's dilemma and the alien invasion will be handled with considerable skill next week.
Babies Invade London! by Ron Mallett 3/8/05
Aliens landed in London this Saturday night on ABC for Australians... or did they? That was the question we were asked to ponder as we were faced with aliens that were about as frightening as a seven month old foetus. The doughy-arsed babyoids known as the Slitheens made their debut, the latest brain-child of the self-professed genius Russell T. Davies, and they are in all honesty the most pathetic bunch of alien invaders ever seen in a Doctor Who story, ever - and that is quite a claim.
The story opened with a reprise of the end of the pilot episode Rose and we once again made to relive that cringeful moment when Billie Piper races into the TARDIS like she was auditioning for Little House on the Prairie. Then we are faced with more teenage/parent angst as Rose discovers that she has been missing for twelve months and that her mother has not only had her listed as a missing person but blamed her ex-boyfriend for her disappearance. We wouldn't be courting the Buffy the Vampire Slayer demographic would we Russell? Of course not! Perish the thought.
To cut a very thin plot even thinner, a faked alien space-craft crash in the Thames (which wipes out one side of Big Ben for no other reason than it looks good as a CGI effect) is used to lure all the alien experts on the planet together including the Doctor, so they can be disposed of. Oh and the real aliens plant an evolved pig on the ship. Why a pig? Well, it's funny - even when it gets shot in cold blood. And that's the problem, it's being written and played very much for laughs. The Doctor is nothing much more than a figure of fun and I think one can almost see Eccleston's increasing discomfort with his loony character. Once again there is a short trip in the TARDIS which involves the Doctor beating the console with a hammer and then kissing it for good luck. It's just immature and the "unstable journey trap" was boring and unconvincing the first few times. Furthermore there's the flatulent aliens allowing the Doctor to deliver the line that will go down in Doctor Who history for all the wrong reasons: "Would you mind not farting when I'm trying to save the world!"
This story also highlighted one of my more pressing concerns with the new series and that is how uncoordinated the entire project seems to be. The logo for instance clashes with the rest of the opening title scheme - the colour scheme is not even the same. The script and the incidental music seems to suggest that the climax in this episode is meant to be horrific in some way but when we see the aliens crawl out of the human skins in a very unconvincing way, they are... cute! The ominous laughter seems totally at odds with their appearance. It would have seemed more convincing for them to ask for their bottles! Nothing seems to gel. From the gayish Doctor (he looks like Marc Almond, come on, he was even dancing to 'Tainted Love' in The End of the World) to the bloody annoying logo that horizontally rushes across the screen at the start and end of each episode. The direction by Keith Boak is tops. The incidental music by Murray Gold is first class. We just seem to be seeing one thing and hearing a further two others in the words and the music.
Reasons? Well perhaps it's a case of there being too many Cheifs and not enough Indians. The show has three executive producers, one of them being the main writer, a producer and two script editors. I get the impression that areas of responsibility are a little too well defined. Gone are the days when a single producer and script editor crafted a season together, one responsible for production issues and the other for dealing with the writers. One was always in awe at how producers like Hinchcliffe and Nathan-Turner kept a firm hand on the reins and served up a unified vision. The lines of communication between the different areas of production do not seem to be fully open. We are seeing Russell T. Davies' vision in the scripts, another's in terms of the design, another's in terms of the music but it is not a cohesive vision. This varies according to the episode but it is a problem. Perhaps it has more to do with the fact it is a more corporate BBC producing the show today?
Furthermore there is the reliance on cliched characterisations. Now I know Rose's mum talks with a provincial accent and lives on a housing estate but does that make her a moron. General Asquith... what a fat, pompous ball of gas, even before his insides are scraped out and his skin is used by a Slitheen. We have seen all these types of characters before. The only character I actually believe in is Mickey, and he's the comic relief! Of course people would believe he'd killed Rose after all... he's young and black. Davies ought to be ashamed of himself with this racial and demographic stereotyping. Being gay he should be a little more understanding and above such contrivances. One thing I don't get is what type of story would a poor sod like Mickey have had to weave, in order to please professional CID investigators. Particularly after his head was seen being pulled off in a restaurant. He wouldn't have stood a chance. He would have spilled his guts and UNIT or MI6 or whatever would have been alerted to the Doctor's presence. They would have been waiting for him to come back, they would have hardly have had to have been alerted to his presence by Rose's mum. Also, in the real world they might have shot poor Mickey up with drugs and locked him away in a mental asylum. Every time either the Doctor or Rose (the beautiful people) treat Mickey badly we are reminded that all he is interested in is football and therefore he deserves it. By the way did you see the subtle way the words 'Bad Wolf' were dropped in the show... all relating to Mr. Davies' long term game-plan I am given to believe. Yawn.
Still, there were some nice moments. The Doctor's grin when he walks into a room full of soldiers is a very Who moment, further aided by the way in which his natural authority kicks in as he takes control of the situation. That is the Doctor. The Doctor is there, you just have to look for it through all the crap. How old is the Doctor, Russell? He was 900 years old on telly 20 years ago during the Davison era. Then his age was actually given as 953 in Time and the Rani during season 24 in 1987. So what about McGann's time as The 8th Doctor? We were told that his tenure counted by the BBC. Revisionism or just laziness? I have my own suspicions but I'll leave it up to you to make your own decision.