Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Well, slightly better than the scatological absurdity that was, in general, Aliens of London. Sadly RTD still saw fit to stretch out the flatulence idiocy to the second part, but thankfully it was much less prominent than in the first episode. Unlike the Colin Baker x2 45-minuters of Season 22 which tended to deteriorate from good premises in the first episodes to bathetic run-arounds in the second episodes (bar Revelation of the Daleks of course), World War III was a (small) improvement on its opening episode, but still not enough of an improvement to redeem this generally peurile two parter.

Re-watching it I thought to myself: is this what we've waited sixteen years for? This sort of soft-focus, cod-filmic, nauseatingly contemporaneous and flimsily scripted near-pastiche of the old classic series? Unquiet Dead excepted, so far New Who is a very very pale shadow of Old Who, and it makes me almost long for the days of the cheaper but more inventive, video-dominated McCoy era (bar of course S24). To me New Who just doesn't convince and I'm afraid neither does the Ninth Doctor: Eccleston, powerful actor though he is, simply wasn't suited to this part, as I suspected prior to the series airing. If his 'northernness' had been more understated and his image, ironically, more overstated, so he resembled something a little more interesting than an ordinary bloke straight out from a Salford pub, then he might have made a pretty memorable incarnation. I just can't get used to this Doctor despite occasional attempts to bring some vague bit of gravitas to his performance. The eccentricity just isn't really there - at least not convincingly. There are many highly gifted actors who are not suited to this particular role, and Eccleston is one of them. Whilst there were/are legion other far more suitable actors/character actors who were/are begging to be put in the role for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors (Tennant isn't too bad a choice, but I'm not very keen on his latest assertions of wanting to do it with his Scottish accent and in a kilt): David Collings (always my first choice and still going strong, though not on TV), David Warner, Rhys Ifans (to my mind the most obvious choice now, in the ascendant as an actor and the right sort of age range plus eccentric and very versatile), Pete Posthleswaite - even, to some extent, Daniel Craig. Still, as with general style and storylines, it's all been decided for us behind closed doors.

Back to World War III (what a dull and unimaginative title): improvements include generally convincing and well-realised Slitheens - not so much the CGI which makes them look almost totally different due to their Alien-esque movements - bar one shot of a bobbing head; fairly nice change on the old invasion plot, the Slitheens actually being a family business of marauding capitalists, though this all seemed a bit implausible really; touch of polemic with the '45 second' clause, let down a bit by RTD's typically clumsy and overly obvious writing; the Doctor was doing more of the thinking this time than his companions (used to be the other way round in the old series of course, bar early Hartnell stories); the Doctor remembering Harriet Jones will become Prime Minister of a future golden age; far less fart jokes. Right, that's it.

Quandaries: did one of the Slitheen say 'Oh boll....' as it was being blown up at the end? I think so. Could you imagine any of the old aliens exclaiming such a terrestrial expression on being destroyed? Simply inappropriate for Who and more in keeping with comedy sci-fi films or Hitchiker's (on which RTD seems to be basing most of his New Who vision - perhaps someone should mention to him that Who isn't actually meant to be a comedy? And for that matter, Hitchiker's was funny). It seemed very easy to hack into UNIT's computer network and casually set off a missile; it also seemed very convenient that the first missile Mickey clicked on happened to be the one they needed!

Criticisms: the domestic scenes, which are a scandalous waste of potential plot/Doctor development time, not to mention general story time. Jackie is excruciatingly annoying and superfluous as far as I am concerned - it's a pity the one Earth family milked in the series, which is irritating in itself, happens to have as its matriarch a sexually frustrated paroxide-blond air-head who wears tracksuit tops! Another sign of the BBC's patronising opinion of the public. Whilst Mickey's actor admittedly does put a lot into his part, and can be quite amusing sometimes, again, what's the bloody point? THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YET ANOTHER TEDIOUS SOAP OPERA! Doctor Who is supposed to be one of the very few programmes which can offer an alternative to the usual peurile viewing!

The climax was pretty far-fetched over all and implausibly providential. Why wasn't UNIT featured more substantially? If you're going to have explosions solving everything in a contemporary Earth setting, you may as well throw UNIT into the pugilist proceedings.

Over all then, a pretty vacuous story with a marginally better second episode, but, let us not forget (or rather, let us forget) a lavatorial opening episode which went to prove decisively that Weapons of Who Destruction can definitely be deployed in just 45 minutes!

Roll on 'Dalek', for God's sake...

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television