RUSSELL T. DAVIES
ALIENS OF LONDON (PART 2) & 10 DOWNING STREET
'THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES' COLLECTORS' EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1770) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2005.
Downing Street announces mankind’s first interplanetary war. But the real danger is much closer to home.
23RD APRIL 2005
(45-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
Sadly, it seems that I was amongst the few who felt that Aliens of London was
a fine example of just how good this exciting new series of Doctor Who can be. However,
after just recovering from my latest forty-minute stint on the ‘trip of a lifetime’, my opinion of this two-parter’s resolution - the rather inappropriately titled World War Three - is a little more mixed. But only a little.
Firstly, I felt that despite the brilliance of last week’s triple-jeopardy cliffhanger, it was totally negated by the ‘NEXT TIME...’ trailer that followed before the closing titles had even played. For stand-alone stories, the trailer is a fantastic idea; in a certain sense, it even serves the same function as a cliffhanger. However, so far as two-part stories go, to see your heroes alive and well (even though in our hearts we know they that always will be) kills the suspense completely.
That aside, I thought that the episode started abysmally but gradually got better and better. The first ten minutes or so were action-packed and very well done, although I did not find them as compelling as, say, the spaceship crashing into Big Ben; the Doctor and Rose meeting the aliens on Platform One; or even the Doctor getting a slap from Jackie Tyler! There were some great moments though – just look at Mickey photographing the Slitheen
on his mobile, for instance, or the Doctor backing into a lift then going to ground inside the metal bunker with Rose and Harriet Jones. It was not, however, until Jackie and Mickey destroyed the Slitheen that was menacing them that I really began to enjoy the episode.
“I could save the world but lose you.”
The scenes featuring Mickey, Jackie and the Slitheen PC intercut with those featuring the Doctor, Rose and Harriet in the bunker were ‘fantastic’ as the Doctor would say. The action had slowed right down, yet Murray Gold’s score was so cleverly crafted that the pace felt
just as fast; if not faster. The banter between Mickey and the Doctor continued apace, and
to hear Jackie begging the Doctor to keep Rose safe was incredibly poignant. The look on the Doctor’s face as he stood silent said it all, and his announcement “…I could save the world but lose you” was one of the most profound moments of the series thus far, not only
in Christopher Eccleston’s superlative delivery of the words but also in Billie Piper’s stare
back at him. It is a pity, then, that the moment had been utterly spoiled by last week’s trailer!
Mickey has come on leaps and bounds since Rose, and World War Three marks Noel Clarke’s finest performance yet; Russell T Davies’ script really brings out the best in both
the character and the actor. It’s fascinating for the viewer to be put in the Doctor’s shoes for once (as opposed to seeing things from the perspective of Rose) as the his respect for Mickey grows in unison with the audience’s. Imagine having to press ‘FIRE’ on that UNIT website – effectively killing your girlfriend whilst her Mother sits beside you, not to mention blowing up the iconic seat of your country’s Parliament... but saving the world in doing so.
“Mickey the idiot, the world is in your hands. Fire!”
The special effects shots of the missile leaving the sea and flying over London were utterly spectacular - I’d
go as far as to say cinematic - as was the resultant explosion. For the Doctor to have to say to the man he dubbed Ricky “I need you” was a hard thing for him to do, and for Mickey to actually do them all proud was a most pleasant surprise and great development for what began the series as a selfish, cowardly character.
From the start of the episode I liked the Welsh sergeant and had a feeling that he might have some small part to play in saving the day. He did clear the area outside number ten, saving
a lot of lives, but he also upstaged the Doctor when he walked in on the ‘naked’ Slitheen. His “sorry” was uproarious, as were the images of the Slitheen trying to get dressed quickly in their “skin suits” – very surreal indeed.
Incidentally, I think that the Raxacoricofallapatorians are great Doctor Who monsters. From their feet up to their neck, they truly look like the stuff of alien nightmares, but to round off the design with what can only be described as a cute baby face is disturbing in the extreme. I’m not sure that all this talk of them enjoying their nudity was entirely appropriate, mind – whilst
I personally liked it, just like I liked the farting (I’m very childish, see), but it did make my old Dad cringe, and no doubt alienated many other viewers too.
“You pass it to the left first.”
Penelope Wilton also warrants special mention for her performance as Harriet Jones. Part of me was disappointed that she took the decision to risk Rose’s life (as well as everyone else’s in 10 Downing Street) rather than the Doctor having to take the decision for himself, but it ultimately worked out well as the Doctor revealed (eighth Doctor-style) that following
the events of this episode - which is set next June, just in case you were wondering - she would usher in “the golden age for Britain” as the next Prime Minister.
The regular cast were also superb once again, particularly Clarke. There seems to be a wonderful family feel blossoming that the Pertwee/UNIT era is so acclaimed for, and what-ever people say I really enjoy the ‘domestics’ as they ground the series in the relatable and make it all seem that much more real. Fair dues, this week the action finished a few minutes early, but in my opinion the last five minutes of the show were its best. The Doctor’s parting exchange with Mickey, for example, was beautifully done. Mickey knows full well that he is a bit of wimp, but at least he has the courage to admit it, and after his actions in this story he has earned the Doctor’s respect enough for the Doctor to cover for him.
“Harriet Jones, future Prime Minister.
Elected for three successive terms, the architect of Britain's Golden Age.”
Furthermore, to see Rose leave her poor Mother alone, again, was utterly heartbreaking. Rose is Jackie’s life; all that she’s got. And she is off across the universe with an alien who will not even share some shepherds’ pie with her. The image of Rose in tears on the phone to the Doctor, begging him to come round for tea, only highlights this alienness further. I get the feeling though that had the Doctor gone round for tea and done something ‘normal’, his appeal would have diminished in the eyes of Rose.
Most profound of all though was Rose saying “I can be back in ten seconds” to her mother
as a means of comforting her, only for the TARDIS to dematerialise and Jackie count to ten, before walking away a broken women while Mickey waits, sat on the bin, just in case they do come back… Davies may well have nicked the scene from Paul Cornell, but I don’t blame him at all as it rounded off this two-parter absolutely perfectly.
“I'll see you in ten seconds' time.”
All in all World War Three was something a rollercoaster with a few dicey, truly cringeworthy moments, but far more exciting, emotional and even quite chilling ones. The references to weapons of mass destruction and the parallels drawn with the Iraq crisis were also rather interesting; the show is often at its best when making social comment. As a two-parter, I thought that this story was phenomenal - the first part may have been much better than the second, but unfortunately this is so often the case in television.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? As this story is explicitly set twelve months after the events of Rose, it must be set on or around 26th March 2006, almost a year ahead of its transmission.
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