Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I’ll be honest. I was affected by the fans’ reaction to Aliens Of London well before I’d seen it. Below par was the general consensus, it seemed – at best, amusing but pointless. Of course, there were only two reasons for this reaction – a pig in a spacesuit, and gratuitous flatulence. But rather than jumping straight into that, I’ll start from the beginning.

As we all now know, Rose is twelve months late for tea. This is dealt with beautifully, and even Jackie Tyler is easier to handle than she was a few weeks ago. Soon, an alien spaceship skims over their heads and crashes headlong into Big Ben, in a spectacular effects sequence, prompting a classic line from Rose. (Only works in context, sorry.) So far, so good. As the streets fill with military and onlookers, there is a sense of The Dying Days about this… but nobody seems, I don’t know, interested enough. There’s not much panic in these streets. At least, not any that’s being filmed. I realised a fundamental difference between this episode and the previous two – the style, the direction. Put simply, Keith Boak. The man behind Rose, my least-favourite among the first three episodes. Could Boak have pulled off a space-station whodunnit, or a Victorian ghost story? Somehow I doubt it. He’s good at certain aspects of this new Doctor Who, but to me he just doesn’t gel with the show as well as Euros Lyn. At the beginning of the episode, I was sure I’d be blaming Russell T. Davies, like everyone else… but it was clear from even this point in Aliens Of London that Davies still knew how to write for this show. It’s the direction, guys, the direction!

Anyway. Mickey’s turned up, and lo and behold, the guy’s got depth! Kudos to Noel Clarke for pulling his finger out and actually acting. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s inside Albion Hospital, while a defenceless scientist is attacked. He immediately gets the military onside… brilliant! Traditional Who again! And then a pig in a spacesuit turns up. I didn’t quite know what to make of this, until it got shot, and the Doctor reveals that it was just a poor, helpless little pig. For a moment, my heart ached, and I considered vegetarianism.

As for the scenes inside Number Ten, it’s like a casting-call for British actors. Thankfully, they’re all good, especially Navin Chowdhry and Penelope Wilton – their dialogue together is lovely. Then someone farts. The first time I watched this episode, I cringed, mainly because I’d seen it coming. But on my second viewing, I actually chuckled. I mean, look at the guy’s face! Granted, it wasn’t a huge guffaw, but I was duly tickled by it, just like the wheelie-bin in Rose.

The TARDIS reappears, and suddenly it’s a domestic. But oddly enough, the dynamic of the Doctor, Rose and Mickey works quite well. I got a nice warm feeling when the words “Doctor” and “TARDIS” triggered a red alert at Number Ten. Again, I felt like I was watching traditional Who. I also got a flashback to the TV movie (for some reason) when the Doctor and Rose are surrounded outside the TARDIS. But the Doctor knows better – this is UNIT. And they’re being escorted to Number Ten. I cheered at the mention of UNIT, and again when the Doctor takes over their emergency meeting with his own hypothesis, only to realise they’ve all been set up, and they’re now all trapped like mice. Yes, I actually cheered. Sad, I know. And we have a triple-pronged cliffhanger – has this ever happened before? The first time around, I was a little distracted, but when I watched it again, in the dark, a Slitheen turned to me – to me – and laughed. For a split second, I was terrified. That sting didn’t help either.

So, in conclusion, I still think this is the worst of the bunch. But that’s not to say I didn’t like it. It made for quite good entertainment. I’m actually looking forward to the second part. Doctor Who can be great TV at times – look at The Unquiet Dead for a recent example – but it can also, like Rose and this episode, be simple escapism. Which is good too.

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