Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Well, I was among the few who thought “Aliens of London” was a fine example of how good this exciting new TV series of Doctor Who could be. After just recovering from my last forty-minute stint on the “trip of a lifetime,” my opinion of the story’s conclusion, “World War Three,” is rather more mixed.

Firstly, I felt that despite the brilliance of last week’s triple-threat cliff-hanger, it was totally negated by the subsequent “Next Week” trailer. For stand-alone stories, the trailer is a fantastic idea, serving the same function as the old-school cliff-hangers used to, however, in a two-parter to see your heroes alive and well (even though in our hearts we know they will be) kills the suspense. The Doctor’s reversal of the Slitheen’s weapon, though, was a wonderfully cheesy Doctor Who get-out, worthy of the “classic” series!

Personally, I thought the episode started abysmally and got better and better. At a first glance the Slitheen were unsettling creatures, hideous reptilian bodies with what can only be described as cute baby faces – an excellent Doctor Who monster. The first ten minutes or so of the show were action-packed and very well done, though I didn’t find it as compelling as, for example, the spaceship crashing into Big Ben, the Doctor and Rose meeting the aliens on Platform One, or even the Doctor getting a slap from Jackie Tyler! There were some good moments – Mickey taking a picture of the Slitheen on his mobile, the Doctor backing into the lift then going to ground inside the metal bunker with Rose and Harriet Jones – all wonderful little scenes. It wasn’t however, until Jackie Tyler and Mickey destroyed the Slitheen that was menacing them (with vinegar; just like Cybermen and gold!) that I really began to enjoy the episode.

The scenes featuring Mickey and Jackie at the PC, intercut with the Doctor, Rose and Harriet in the bunker were “fantastic” as the Doctor would say. The action had slowed down, yet the score was so cleverly crafted that the pace felt just as fast; if not faster! The banter between Mickey and the Doctor continued apace, and to hear Jackie beg the Doctor to keep Rose safe was an incredibly touching scene. The look on the Doctors face as he stood silent said it all. You could imagine what he was thinking – Adric; Katarina… - he can’t always protect his travelling companions. His announcement “I could save the world but lose you” was one of the profound moments of the series thus far, not just in the words but in the expression on his face and in Rose’s stare back at him. My only niggle here would again be that it had been “given away” in last week’s trailer so we knew it was coming. On a side note, it’s nice to see in the “Dalek” teaser very little was given away and there was only a brief shot of the Dalek itself.

Mickey has come on leaps and bounds since “Rose,” and it’s nice to be almost in the Doctor’s shoes for once (as opposed to seeing things from the perspective of Rose) as the Doctor’s respect for Mickey grows in unison with the audience’s. Imagine having to press “FIRE” on that UNIT website – effectively killing your (ex?) girlfriend while her Mother sits beside you, blowing up the iconic seat of your Parliamentary leader, but saving the world in doing so. The special effects shots of the missile leaving the sea and flying over London were spectacular; I’d go as far as to say cinematic; as was the resultant explosion. For the Doctor to have to say to the man he dubbed Ricky “I need you” was a hard thing for him to do, and for Mickey to actually do them all proud was a pleasant surprise and great development of what began as a selfish, cowardly character.

From the start of the episode I liked the Welsh sergeant and had a feeling he might have a small role to play in saving the day. He did clear the area, saving a lot of lives, but he almost upstaged the Doctor where he walked in on the “naked” Slitheen – “sorry” – was hilarious, as was the Slitheen trying to get dressed quickly in their human suits – very surreal. I’m not sure all this talk of the Slitheen enjoying their nudity was entirely appropriate – I personally liked it, just like I liked the farting (I’m very childish), but it made my Dad cringe, and no doubt alienated many other viewers.

Penelope Wilton was superb. Part of me was disappointed that she took the decision to risk Rose’s life (as well as everybody else’s in 10 Downing Street) rather than the Doctor take the decision myself – but it ultimately worked out well as (quite predictably) the Doctor revealed (McGann style) she would usher in “the golden age for Britain” as Prime Minister.

Eccleston, Piper, Coduri, Clarke – especially the latter in this episode I felt – were all superb. The cast has that wonderful “family” feel that the Pertwee/UNIT era had, and whatever people say I really enjoy the “domestics” as it grounds the series in something relatable, and makes the series truly worthy of being called a drama. Yes, this week the action finished a few minutes early, but in my opinion the last five minutes of the show were it’s best. The Doctor’s parting exchange with Mickey was beautifully done. Mickey knows he’s a bit of wimp, but he had the courage to admit it and he’d earned the Doctor’s respect enough for the Doc to cover for him. To see Rose leave her poor Mother, AGAIN, was heart-breaking. Rose is Jackie’s life, all she’s got. Rose in tears on the phone to the Doctor asking him to come round for tea was a fine example of his alienness – he either couldn’t see how important it was to her, he didn’t care, or more likely he just didn’t think it all that important. I get the feeling though, that had the Doctor gone round for tea and done something “normal” his appeal would diminish in the eyes of Rose. That said, I think it’s clear that the Doctor and Rose have deep and profound feelings for one another – anyone who has a problem with this ‘cos it supposedly “didn’t happen in the old days” I challenge to stick on your “Green Death” DVD and watch the third Doctor seethe with jealousy as Jo falls in love, and I challenge you not to shed a manly tear and he drives off alone into the night at the end of the story! Jackie Tyler can see these feelings, and she can see how dangerous they are and how they are going to take her nineteen year-old daughter from her, perhaps for good. What was really good was Rose saying “I can be back in ten seconds,” then we see the TARDIS dematerialise and Jackie count to ten, then walk away a broken women while Mickey waits, sat on the bin, just in case they do come back…

All in all “World War Three” was a rollercoaster with high and lows. The references to “weapons of mass destruction” and the parallels drawn with the Iraq crisis were a nice comparison to draw, I think the show is often at it’s best when making social comment, says I, number one fan of “The Happiness Patrol!” I’d place the episode on par with “Rose,” though certainly not up there with “The End of the World,” “Unquiet Dead” or “Aliens of London.” The Doctor and Rose ARE the show. Yeah, there were a few dicey, cheesy, cringe-worthy moments with the Slitheen, but there were also a few chilling ones, just like any classic Who monster. As a two-parter, I thought this story was phenomenal – the first part much better than the second, but unfortunately that’s so often the case with science fiction.

Thanks again RTD!

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