Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It seems a little odd to me to be reviewing "Aliens of London" and "World War Three" separately. True, to the casual viewer, they must stand on their own two feet as separate wholes ( which they succeed in doing - the reprise at the start of both episodes serves to set the scene concisely ) but they are, after all, two parts of the same story. With your indulgence, I should like to offer my thoughts on both parts together:

Episode 1 began with the fast pace that is becoming characteristic of the series; We are shown a summary of "Rose". The materialisation of the Tardis ( wasn't the swirling litter a nice touch? ). Rose - who at this point believes she's only been gone for twelve hours - is planning to state that she had spent the night at Cherie's. The Doctor reading a poster intercut with Jackie's shock at seeing her daughter and the sudden realisation that Rose had, in fact, been missing for a whole year. And all this before the opening titles!

Mr Davies once again shows his skill at grounding the fantastic in the real; The glimpses of Rose's family life, her mother's questioning - "just one phone call to let me know you're safe", slapping the Doctor across the face and the policeman asking whether their ( the Doctor and Rose's ) relationship was sexual were nice touches. Then onto the roof of the tower block and that great gag about the age difference. Russell T certainly knows his job. The characters he craetes are real and have real lives and real concerns.

With hardly a pause for breath we are thrown into the story proper - what a tremendous sequence of the spaceship flying over ( and into ) London's landmarks! This shiny new Doctor Who knows no bounds!! I loved the throwaway line blaming Ken Livingstone for the traffic jams ( he's mayor of London and responsible for the introduction of congestion charging ) and the fact that the Doctor is reduced to watching events unfold on the telly.

>From her we move to the mortuary of the Albion Street hospital - a nice nod to the past here as the incidental music gives way to the sonorous ticking of the clock, perhaps acknowledging the '96 McGann film? And then onto Downing Street, where we are introduced to our flatulent acting P.M., to Ms Blaine and to Oliver Charles, who, apparently has a penchant for young farmers! How did they get away with this when we're in the middle of a General Election campaign?

I cannot at this point not mention the only poor element of the story - that pig! Though this was mitigated by fast editing and by the horrified reaction of the soldier to the Doctor's furious rebuke that it was scared. Where events cannot be realised convincingly, they shouldn't be shown at all. It is far more convincing to shown the actors' reactions. A case in point occurred moments later where the first 'unzipping scene' was shot from the point of view of Harriet Jones ( played superbly by Penelope Wilton ) hiding in a cupboard.

I am glad to see that the character of Mickey has been allowed to develop from the mere comic relief - though this is still very much there as he crashes into the wall behind the de-materialising Tardis. His scenes taunting Rose that the Doctor has abandoned her " that blue box thing faded away " and again inside the Tardis where he, Mickey, and Rose almost kiss serve to raise his character beyond that of a mere cypher. In episode two he really is given a significant role to play. Similarly, Jackie's mental anguish before she telephones the help-line was equally 'real' and served to push the plot along nicely.

And what a cliff hanger! This was well worth the wait. All the principal characters are placed in peril as General Asquith, Blaine and the Police Commandant all reveal their true colours. Jackie cowering in her kitchen had me on the edge of my seat smiling with shear joy - my disbelief being completely suspended.

A second minor criticism here; Whoever took the decision to preview the next installment by showing us that the Doctor has survived being electrocuted made a mistake in that it deprived the audience of that tantilising frisson of a week's wait. That aside, deputy PM Green's laughter ( like some ghoulish fairground dummy ) overlaying the closing moments served only to pile on the tension.

Episode Two began with a 'in one bound he was free' type moment followed by some running around in corridors so beloved of our little show. This time however, the corridors were beautiful and the action not at all wobbly. The CGI Slitheen were brilliantly realised - I loved their blinking complete with camera shutter type sound effect!

I shall long remember Rose and Harriet hiding whilst Blaine/Slitheen utters the immortal lines "Where are you children?" and "I can smell your sweat and fear". And later, where the Doctor threatens to "triplicate" ( shouldn't that be "treble"? ) the explosive power of the port only to have his bluff called and to offer Harriet the decanter, we are treated to a lesson in etiquette - the port should always be passed to the left! The dialogue sparkles and we are given a repeat of the line "lots of planets have a north ". To misquote Colin Baker, 'what's the point of a good quotation if you can't reuse it?'

With our heroes now effectively locked up in the cabinet office, a sizeable chunk of the action now moves initially back to the Tyler flat and then across the road to Mickey's. I don't want to spoil the story for those who haven't yet seen episode two, suffice to say I shall never look at a jar of pickled eggs in the same way and the Slitheen's momentary reaction to being doused in vinegar was so convincing as to be human!

References to 'mass weapons of destruction' to '45 seconds' and 'emergency debates in the UN' were obviously intended to strike a chord with today's audience but, I wonder if some might see these as being a bit too near the mark? Still, they do at least further serve to ground the programme in the here and now, to give the programme a more modern feel about it. 'Gritty' is a word often used to describe Pertwee's opening season, 'current' I think may well be used describe the 2005 season.

As I say, I don't want to spoil your fun, so I won't reveal the episode's climax save to say that the collected Slitheen's final word was the same as David Tennant's first in Casanova ( though understandably cut to only it's first syllable - there are children watching )! Am I alone in noticing that the line historical "happenstance" also appears in both programmes? Now why is that I wonder?

A cracking good yarn. If I've missed out anybody's contribution, this isn't because I don't genuinely appreciate them - I do, I do. Saturday nights are as they should be; cold, damp and hugely entertaining. And next week we get to see the Daleks. Joy of joys!

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television