Doctor Doctor Who Guide

The new series of Doctor Who has thankfully gone from strength to strength in the recent weeks. The inaugural episode, Rose, was flawed but decent, and nonetheless received a rapturous reception; the special effects extravaganza of End of the World was substantiated by a decent script; The Unquiet Dead enjoyed some superlative acting, particularly in its depiction of an enervated Charles Dickens.

Does Aliens of London successfully maintain this upward trend? I regret to say that it doesn't quite satisfy this ambition - the episode itself is strong, but this positive aspect is undermined by several niggling faults that irritate the viewer and cause the final product to seem somewhat awkward.

There are a number of factors which recommend the adventure as another reliably strong performance. The direction is effective, particularly when the Doctor is rounded up by the Army - the scene feels almost cinematic! Acting also remains a positive quality of the new Who, even in the supporting characters: the paratrooper who shoots the decoy 'alien', for instance, gives an impeccable and convincing gaze of bewilderment and incredulity - as well you might when a squealing, costumed, bipedal pig is careering towards you at full tilt. The script also is effective - the entire great news sensation of an alien crash-landing being naught save an elaborate piece of theatre was original, and the dialogue still retains a delightful charm. This is particularly true with the snide remark belittling the tourism-trashing tendencies we see in disaster films like Independence Day (of course the spaceship crash was staged... well, why else would it gouge a chunk out of Big Ben?), a line which couldn't fail to bring a smile gleaming across my face. Another smirk-worthy aspect was one of the actual aliens complaining about the 'effort' of maintaining his disguise in front of both his wife and his mistress (hot work, I'm sure). The closing line, thank you for wearing your ID cards... it'll make it easier for us to identify the bodies. was also dripping in chilling macabre menace. Furthermore, it is encouraging to see that Russel T Davies is not divorcing the new series from what went before - the Doctor being known to H.M. Government and the mentioning of U.N.I.T. were just small fillips of continuity tossed to the fans, but warmly welcomed nonetheless.

Yet the cracks in this otherwise stout performance are all too apparent. The special effects floundered here somewhat - the aforementioned paratrooper's rifle seemed more like a wimpish and limp cap-gun than a deadly piece of military hardware, and the disguise-shedding sequence of the aliens at the episode's climax was also dreadful. The former is only a nitpick, true, and the latter must be forgiven because there's only so much that can be achieved with limited television budgets (and Auntie's shoestring ones, no less). What is less forgiveable though are the aliens themselves. Placing zips in the forehead was positively cringeworthy, and the absurd and pathetic baby-face did not juxtapose well with a lumbering frame and wickedly-apiculated talons. Their collars destroy the image further by making them look more like household pets rather than harrowing and hideous monstrosities. Altogether, a botched job.

The flaws extend themselves into the script. Micky, Rose's boyfriend, is as lifeless and excruciatingly monotonous as he was in the first episode; whilst Doctor Who may be ultimately a children's programme, the alien flatulence was becoming rather too puerile; there were a few sections which absolutely screamed Plot Device!. The Cabinet meeting being cancelled because they'd get in the way? The door to the Cabinet office being left wide open? The prime Minister's body being left in a cupboard rather than being destroyed? The Royal Family suddenly being airbrushed out of their due involvement in an international crisis? I understand that the new Who's streamlined format necessitates the cutting out of some details, but these 'conveniences' seemed rather silly to say the least.

Altogether, at the core of Aliens of London there is a decent episode, but surrounding it are rough, unrefined edges that just prevent it from being great. Had the adventure just been more a little more polished, it would have been excellent.

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