Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Gee, and I thought last week's episode was about gaseous creatures from outer space.

It had me puzzling how such an episode, containing some of the most untraditional ideas ever seen in Dr Who, could actually feel so much like the old show. First up, we have the Doctor delivering Rose back to her home in an uninspiring London estate, asked by a policeman if their relationship is sexual and getting slapped by her mum. And then there are the flatulent frivolities of our erstwhile alien invaders, which even the writers of Red Dwarf might have deemed to base to include in their own little laid-back comedy space series, and which has spawned such a supercilious stream of negativity - on this website, at least - it would seem some of us have been forever disillusioned.

But the domestic scenes, whilst not as riveting as other elements of the show, still serve one or two important purposes. We are still viewing the Doctor and his travels through the eyes of his young companion - nothing wrong in that, especially at this relatively early stage. It adds depth to her character and let's us explore a little further this strange phenomenon in her life from the newcomer's perspective. This said, the relevance of such scenes will inevitably fade; I'd even say they're just about played out already, but I also think RTD is too experienced a writer to keep on penning redundant scenes - or at least I hope not, then it truly won't be anything more than Eastenders with a Dr Who credit sequence.

Now for the much-debated farting, and it's tempting to join the angry brigade here, as without doubt it is not what I would describe as a good idea. One can empathise with those screaming RTD, what are you doing to our show??? (for they do indeed think of it as theirs), and certainly there were a few rolled eyes exchanged about our house upon each boisterous release. But a few chuckles, too. We could have had a dry explaination for the aliens' compression technology, I suppose, necessarily bereft of wit or flair - but infinitely more tasteful! Shame, too, how so many fans have been alienated by it, as RTD should have known and considered. Still, it by no means ruined the episode, and there was plenty else to enjoy.

Of all the past eras, one is of course reminded most of Jon Pertwee's first couple of years. Nice to see the military given a modern spit and polish (no Action by HAVOC, thank the Maker), and to actually see a few UNIT personell; they haven't said a word yet and still look more promising than that sad bunch we came across in Batlefield. Nor could diehards miss that shot of the General and his aides striding down an Albion Hospital corridor, identical to the one of the Brigadier and UNIT officers in Spearhead from Space.

The spaceship's crash landing was very well done, and kudos to the idea of an augmented pig-in-spacesuit. I also had a satisfying chuckle when Jackie tripped the alert by mentioning Doctor, Blue Box and TARDIS over the alien hotline. Then we come to the Slitheen who, faulty compression technology aside, fit snugly into the Doctor Who canon (hey, our first bona-fide monsters!). And that cliff-hanger - what a cracker! If no one minds, I just have to talk about this sequence in detail (skip it if you aren't interested in a technical analysis), because to me this is what Dr Who's all about, and this one was textbook stuff, precision in compilation and editing. Starting off, we don't just see one Slitheen unmasking, but three, in different locations and each in front of one of our three main characters, whose predicaments appear equally perilous (allowing for great scene juxtapositioning): the Doctor ends up writhing from electrocution, Jackie's all alone in the house and Rose gets to see one of the guest characters tossed around like the proverbial rag doll. Lovely sound effects all the way through, from an unnerving electronic buzz as the Slitheen unmask to a couple of vicious, blood-curdling monster roars as the aliens emerge from their human skins and proceed to grow bigger...and bigger...and BIGGER. End with Jackie backed into a kitchen corner, one of the Slitheen towering over her, cue music sting and end credits, and phew! Want to watch it again!

As others have pointed out, some of the hard work put into this was then diminished by the immediate inclusion of next week's trailer. Now, the purpose of such a device is to generate anticipation, which works fine at the end of a story but is as detrimental as it is redundant when following a good cliff-hanger, and so easy to leave out.

Aliens of London was amusing and often exciting. Overall, the series lacks a little intensity for my taste; most of it isn't being treated seriously enough, an ever-present danger on a show such as this, but the death-knell if they ever give up and start playing it all tongue-in-cheek. This is why Billie Piper is the stand out actor so far; she plays it straight and convincingly. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a little too jokey, too frivilous much of the time. It's OK for him to have these moments and Chris Eccleston plays them fine, but I hope to see more serious stuff (he plays that even better).

Anyway, time to step off the soapbox, touch it up so it can take the strain again next week. Am enjoying the new series. The ratings prove that whatever RTD is doing works on the whole. There is cause for optimism.

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