Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Far, far better. Any problems that I had with Aliens of London are successfully ironed out and as a whole this works very well indeed with each storyline being paid off with a great deal of style. The comedy, drama and excitement mingle together to create a thrilling 45 minutes of television and for the first time this season I actually got the very real impression that I was watching ‘old style’ Doctor Who. If you were plummeting to the depths of TV hell and watching Celebrity Wrestling on the other side instead of this then shame on you.

I know this will leave my good friends Mike Morris and Rob Matthews spitting blood but World War Three felt like a really good episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not only because it was well performed and filmed but there is a terrific thread of humour running through the episode that keeps things electrical on screen. The characters all have a marvellous chemistry and all get very funny lines, which helps to balance the crisis with entertainment. Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t light entertainment, not when you are talking about nuking the world and aiming missiles at Downing Street but the humour compliments the action brilliantly, helping you to like the characters and really care about the danger they are in.

Would any other show do something as daring as crashing a spaceship through Big Ben and blowing up Downing Street? After the reaction to 9/11 it is understandable that terrorist attacks on TV have calmed down a tad with only natural disasters acceptable to see famous landmarks destroyed (ie The Day After Tomorrow). How like Doctor Who to jump in feet first with these unforgettable images…certainly the destruction of Big Ben was all talk at my work place last week. It is the shows bravery and unashamed melodrama that has kept it going for so many years. You want Dinosaurs roaming about London? Or the Loch Ness Monster peeking up from the Thames? Now we can add these glorious shock images to the list and even better, we now have the budget to support such spectacle. And they just look fab.

The Slitheen come off much better in World War Three mostly because we always suspected they were supposed to be comedy aliens and they are now confirmed as such. Their cute, bug eyed appearance and wickedly funny lines combine to create an alien race with one of the most ingenious schemes ever to grace the series. Selling the nuclear remains of the Earth during a recession? What, have they let Margaret Thatcher run the universe or something? There is nothing more amusing than a being chased around corridors by monsters and if you are going to do then why not choose the most spectacular locale to do it in…10 Downing Street! The FX team pull off the rubber costumes and CGI with minimal fuss, you can obviously tell which is which (and occasionally those fingernails are a bit too rubbery to have the knife edge sound effects playing over them) but I was so caught up in what was actually going on I can only remember nodding at the scene where the Doctor, Rose and Harriet are being pursued by three CGI Slitheen and commenting “That is so cool.” Whether arguing over whose disguise belongs to who or uttering a quick “BOL-“ before being blown to smithereens, this was simply a far better attempt to appeal to adults as kids with the aliens than the last episode and the incessant farting (which made a brief appearance but was not dwelled upon, much as it should have last week). Personally my favourite Slitheen moment came during the climax when the missile has been launched and everybody is getting nervous and excited and we cut back to the Slitheen for a quick second all waiting by the phone for the emergency codes and one of them cries “Ring, damn you!” Absolute genius.

Of course there is a more serious side to the episode which began in Aliens of London dealing with Rose’s return home and her mothers integration into her new life. This is where Russell’s writing is at its best to be honest. Whilst this episode has sold me on his ability to write good science fiction, I was always convinced that he could write good human drama and he excels himself here. I love how it is slipped into the chaotic moments without feeling intrusive, any other series would be mad to take a second out of the end of the world to discuss a distraught mother worrying about her child but Jackie’s concerns feel real and her “Can you promise me my daughter will always be safe?” when a bloody missile is heading for Rose really hits home. World War Three has proven that this two parter is far more interested in Jackie than it is in Rose which is probably no bad thing, we can emote with Rose in any episode but our rare glimpses of Jackie have got to have a real punch. And boy has she come on since the first episode, now she is a fully fleshed out character, funny, sharp and pathetic all rolled into one. I think she is great and has been responsible for the most emotional scenes yet. Her quiet “Don’t go sweetheart” at the end is heartbreaking and for a second you want Rose to stay. It says something about Russell’s writing for ‘straight’ drama that I found the final scene of World War Three far more satisfying than that of Aliens of London, big blobby aliens are all very well but a mother and daughter being torn apart is just shattering.

And wow! That was Mickey! I really wanted him to hop in at the end, I think Noel Clarke has relaxed into the series and would make a pretty cool companion, had he accepted the Doctor’s offer I think there could have been a nice bit of tension on board the TARDIS. It is the Doctor’s nasty comments about him that make Mickey such fun, despite how has been treated by our favourite Time Lord he still hacks into the Royal Navy and saves the day. There is something wonderfully boggle-eyed about Mickey, that he is constantly being confronted with things that are just beyond his comprehension and Clarke has the comedy coward with a heart down pat. I find his character very appealing (and not just because I think black guys are hot) because he does what a situation demands, he’ll pick up a baseball bat and fight even if his instincts are telling him to hide under a table. The “I just saved your life!” “How embarrassing!” scene was excellent.

The least Doctor-ish episode is followed up by the most Doctor-ish episode. How bizarre. Three episodes in and Eccleston has got it. Not perfect mind because he still grins inanely during some tense moments (I really wanted to punch him when that lift door opened and the Slitheen was standing there…and he grinned!) but he is afforded some strong, emotional moments, which really suit Eccleston. Plus he is given some very witty dialogue, which reminded me of Tom Baker at the peak of his powers, his whole sequence with the sonic screwdriver and the alcohol was very funny and delivered to perfection. It was his dilemma between saving the world and saving Rose that I found most satisfying and rarely has the Doctor’s love for his companion shone through so bright. When he tells Jackie over the speakerphone about how dangerous his can be you believe him totally.

I feel I should say a few words about Murray Gold whose incidental music has been given a good slagging off week after week now. If you don’t like synthesised music then you are fans of the wrong show! I think he understands the show perfectly, slightly camp but full of excitement, he gives the action a real boost and scores the emotional moments with appropriate beauty. He certainly did a brilliant job with this episode with his constant, jittery score throughout the missile sequences and a tear-jerking finale as Rose is reunited with her mum. Bravo.

The first two parter can only be seen as a success. Perhaps my bad feelings towards last week was because I was frustrated at not being able to see how this concluded…no…there were some genuine problems there. But World War Three addressed them and improved them and made for a far more entertaining and powerful 45 minutes.

Now we have a set of ‘regulars’ that extends beyond the Doctor and Rose, I cannot wait until we pop back and visit them again.

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