Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Well, erm...how did that happen?

I suppose I'll start off with the positive: I loved the fact that, for once, we saw the real world consequences of somebody leaving their life behind to travel with the Doctor. We got a glimpse of this in Survival, but to the best of my recollection, it's never been dealt with to this degree in the series before. Rose's disappearance also added some dimensions to the previously one-dimensional Jackie and Mickey characters. Mickey, in particular, came off much better than he did in Rose. Instead of being Stock Jerk Boyfriend A (see also: Billy Zane in Titanic), who exists just to make the hero look good, he came off as a real person. I also enjoyed the Doctor's refusal to call him anything other than Ricky. Also, the TARDIS crew were in top form, as usual, with Eccleston making a commanding and compelling Doctor and Piper as the first companion to truly represent the viewing audience since...gosh, probably Ian and Barbara.

The Spacehog didn't phase me. Its passing was oddly tragic, and as a visual gag, it fit in fine with the strange humour of things like the original Doctor Who and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The farting, while it did grate after a while, wasn't horrific, as it was a plot point rather than a cheap gag (although there certainly were other more subtle, less scatalogical ways to indicate that these aliens don't quite fit their adopted bodies). I do, however, question the wisdom of having two back-to-back episodes featuring distinct gaseous alien races taking human form, but since RTD seems to ignore the very existence of The Unquiet Dead in his script, I suppose I should too. It's only the best episode of the new series thus far, but considering Aliens of London essentially picks up where End of the World left off, in contemporary London, and the script makes zero mention of the events of The Unquiet Dead even obliquely, it seems to have been quietly buried (no pun intended!).

All of the episode's sins are quite forgivable until the very end. The Slitheen, in a word, are a disaster. Poorly designed, poorly realised, and totally unconvincing, they rank alongside the likes of the Myrka and the Mestor. Their awkward, lurchy ambling is neither unsettling nor alien, and their big fake baby heads are laughable. Alien invasion episodes more or less live and die by how scary, cunning and powerful the aliens are. The Slitheen are giggling idiots whose faces look like babies. 'nuff said?

Finally, while I am glad that once again overt continuity was avoided, I did find it curious that the room of all the assembled alien experts didn't contain, say, Liz Shaw or Sarah Jane Smith. I wouldn't want to see a JN-T style story where the Doctor bumps into an old companion, and we're treated to a two minute clipfest for fans to mastubate to before the entire story descends into a batch of continuity references that go far and above the average viewer's head, but what would the harm of a brief, wordless cameo by Caroline John or Lis Sladen do? Obviously, they wouldn't recognize the Doctor due to his regeneration and the Doctor wouldn't recognize them because they've aged so much since he last saw them. It'd be a nice little bit of continuity, a nod to the fans, and wouldn't mean a thing to the general viewing audience (they'd just be one more face in the crowd). Ultimately, I suppose it wouldn't've meant anything, but I'd like to think in the Whoniverse of 2005 (or is that 2006?), Sarah Jane Smith and Liz Shaw would still be around and be considered two of the top authorities about aliens in the world.

While a second season has been confirmed, I still feel as if Doctor Who is at a critical stage, and needs to hold on to its thus far solid-to-spectacular ratings. If this were the third season of the new series and a fourth had been confirmed, I wouldn't be so worried about Aliens of London being a rather poor outing. But as the first traditional alien invasion storyline in the new series, it seems to have obliterated whatever goodwill and innovation the first three episodes built up in an effort to confirm old Doctor Who stereotypes to casual viewers (repetitive and silly storylines, cheap effects, etc.) While the Slitheen's horrifically awful realisation can't be fixed by this point, hopefully World War III will contain enough drama and innovation to restore some much-needed goodwill towards the series amongst the casual viewership. Any more episodes like this, and there might not be a TARDIS for David Tennent to step into.

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