Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It has to be said that Aliens of London is the episode of the series so far that has left me least ecstatic - whether that is because of the quality of the episode, or just because the novelty of new Doctor Who is subsiding remains to be seen. However there were many bits that I liked and some that I was not so keen on.

The crash landing and the mocked up BBC News 24 coverage was excellent - as had been expected from last week's trailer. It's good to see a full scale invasion of Earth again - with the army, politicians and mock TV crews - and this felt like very traditional Who territory. In fact, there were many elements that made this episode feel more like the old series than any of the previous three. In many respects it felt reassuringly familiar. It is obvious that the two parter format is going to allow for more slow-building, complex plots and this, again, felt more like 'classic' Who. While not being overly complex, the plot was interesting, and the idea of the faked crash landing good. The mention of UNIT was also a nice little touch, put in to excite those of us who care about these things. The Doctor was once again quickly bossing around soldiers, just as he used to do in the Pertwee days. The Slitheen look very like traditional Who monsters, right down to their slightly rubbery, 70s looking costumes. And there was a cliffhanger! Just like the old series...only this one was largely negated by the teaser trailer for next week. Yes, I know nobody expects that the Doctor is about to die, but to see him running around grinning, just three seconds after the cliffhanger takes the edge off of it a little bit. That was a shame.

So, there were many elements to this episode that seem, on paper at least, to be very 'old Who'. However, if anybody was expecting Spearhead from Space, they were in for a shock. This was '2005 Who' through and through (and more specifically 'RTD Who'). After the sombre ghosts of The Unquiet Dead I think some people may have been unprepared for farting aliens and flying pigs, however I think that, outrageous as these elements seem, they managed to work - just. While they were a little too frequent, at least the fart gags did have a reasoning and purpose in the plot (beyond making the kids laugh). And the pig - well that was a complete surprise and an audacious move. I find that, as silly as 'RTD Who' (in contrast to The Unquiet Dead) can sometimes be, I do actually quite like it. And I think the reason is that it is so fresh and daring that it takes my breath away. It is so different to how the series was, while still being recognisably Who, that I can't help but be impressed. It would have been inconceivable in the old series that a companion would turn around to the Doctor and say "you're so gay", but in Aliens of London it was a minor aside that seemed so natural I'd completely forgotten about it five minutes later.

Other non-traditional elements of the story were, of course, the 'domestic scenes' and, once again, these do work. I love Rose's mum and even Mickey is alright this time around. However, I do feel that the series should now start to move on a bit beyond 'Rose's story'. It's been refreshing to see that the companion, and the effects of time travel on her, have been handled realistically, and she has been given a background. But if Rose is still squealing "but it's soooo alien", endlessly pondering the effects of time travel and arguing with her boyfriend and mum by episode 13, it may have got a bit soapish and a bit boring.

Finally, I just need to make a point about Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. Although his portrayal is largely good and his relationship with Rose interesting and intriguing, I just wish he would stop laughing and grinning inanely at everything! It sometimes seems a little put-on and makes me wince (I think it was in the car going to Downing Street). There seems to be a hint of a slightly pseudo-sexual relationship developing between the Doctor and Rose and it will be interesting to see how that pans out over the series - tricky territory.

All in all then, I enjoyed Aliens of London. The silliness really should have been toned down a bit, and hopefully CE will calm down a little as the series goes on, but Doctor Who is still the most original, enjoyable, clever and interesting programme on TV on a Saturday night by a long shot.

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