Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Rather like "Rose," I found myself enjoying this episode a whole lot more on the second viewing than I did on the first. I'm starting to think that this is something to do with Keith Boak's somewhat unconventional directing style, with his sometimes unusual choices of how to edit scenes or join one scene to another. Upon first viewing, this leads to a feeling of "huh?" On the second viewing, when I'm more ready for it, it doesn't seem to jar nearly as much. An example of this is near the start where Rose's mum is tearing into the Doctor for having had Rose away for so long, and she slaps him... and then suddenly there's a jump-cut into what looks like the middle of another scene where she and Rose are having a good cry together about where she's been. I think this is the sort of cut that we're supposed to take as a stylish move, when what I was really thinking was "did something go wrong here? Did the transmission jump a scene?" As this didn't happen on either of the last two episodes, I'm going to blame Boak.

Another strange choice on his part is the way the Slitheen are being portrayed, with them all goofy smiles, farts, and giggles over how their plan is going and what they're up to. They're enjoying themselves a little too much for my taste... although this may ultimately turn out to be the whole point, in which case this complaint might evaporate. We still don't know what their ultimate intentions are, and it may very well not be straightforward invasion (as Mickey thought) and quite likely has something more to do with that radiation trace under the North Sea that the Doctor mentions towards the end. This is always part of the problem when evaluating just the first part of a story... some things that don't look like they make sense likely ultimately will. The CG effects that realize the aliens when they are finally revealed are quite varied... I like that they've given us an explanation for once of how the huge alien is fitting inside a human body suit (with that electrical force field compression thing), but there are certain shots where the aliens look far too computer-generated. And then again there are others where they look fine. As this didn't happen so much on the last two episodes, again I'm wondering if this is somewhat down to Keith Boak... maybe he just hasn't got a good eye for what's convincing and what isn't and should be rejected. Oh, and have you noticed that all of the people they've taken over are quite overweight? Perhaps they can only squeeze themselves down so far.

I do like the mechanics of their plan though. The idea of aliens faking other aliens all to form a trap to capture all of Earth's extraterrestrial experts (and the Doctor into the bargain) is inspired. It's almost an "Avengers"-like idea really. Their choice of Porky the Pig as a pilot is a strange one, but as the Doctor himself points out that the aliens are clearly joking with this, that would seem to lend further weight to there being something on their agenda more akin to plain old fun than scary invasion. Maybe this is just a load of "teasers" (see The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

But enough about the Slitheen... the real highlights of this episode (and they are very high) are the interactions between the Doctor, Rose, Mickey, and Jackie. The teaser sequence was fantastic, where the Doctor and Rose separately realize they've arrived 12 months late, in a scene that gave me the same "bang your head against the table, Doctor" feeling I had at the end of part one of "The Marian Conspiracy" where the Doctor and Evelyn first realize they've landed in Queen Mary's reign, not Elizabeth's. I love how angry Jackie got and how weepy she and Rose got and how real that was all played. Mickey's reactions were just as real, with his pent-up anger at having been the falsely accused of murder all this time coming over very well. In fact, I loved everything in the first 20 minutes as they reacted both to each other and to the crash landing of the alien spaceship... with a party forming over at the Tyler flat and the Doctor having to fight a little kid for control of the remote. The interjection of the "Blue Peter" segment on how to make your own spaceship cakes was _genius_, owing not a little to the similar segments we've been treated to on many of the "Doctor Who" DVDs of recent years. :)

What I liked most in this though was Rose, and how she was given a more central role than she's had in the last two episodes, and how wonderfully Billie Piper played it all. She has a small moment early on where she says something casually, in passing, where it suddenly hit me that she truly is the "First Officer" of the series now... it's when she and the Doctor are on the street looking at the traffic jam that's formed, and she says to him something like "What do we care about London traffic? We've got the TARDIS." I _think_ this is the first time she's actually said the word "TARDIS," and she said it so matter-of-factly, like it's something that's just as much hers as the Doctor's that really made my heart warm. I got a similar feeling when he gave her her own TARDIS key later on, and when her faith in him was borne out as he rematerialized it right where she was waiting for him (along with Mickey and Jackie though!). (and I like this idea of the key glowing a bit when the old girl's arriving) I also enjoyed her glee at getting to go into 10 Downing Street, and how she doesn't really let her lack of access to the big meeting get her down as she instead befriends Penelope Wilton's character and has a nose around in the Cabinet room. She has that normal human reaction of awe at first, but then switches into "first officer of the TARDIS" mode.

Let's see... other random things I liked... --- at least giving UNIT a name-check and having some personnel at the meeting... I still have my fingers crossed for a cameo by a certain someone in part two. :) --- the news reports and the way they were shot... seemed pretty authentic-looking to me... maybe Boak should move over to news --- the nice, really long TARDIS demats and remats --- the triple-cliffhanger (though the "Next Week" thing spoils it a bit)

And finally I'll close with full, non-random praise for Penelope Wilton's character and performance. I can very, very easily believe in a minor government personage being so wrapped up in their own issues that they still want to lobby the PM even though aliens have just landed. I also love just watching Wilton in anything I ever see her in as she's so good, from "Clockwise" to "Shaun of the Dead." She has a way of being bewildered and fearful yet resolute at the same time that few if any other actors have.

At first I was thinking 6 out of 10 on this... upon a second viewing I think I'll raise it to 7. Roll on "World War Three" and the conclusion!

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television