Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I'm pleased to say that most of the reservations I was having about part one of this story, "Aliens of London," were wiped away by the concluding installment. This mostly involved the Slitheen and how strange and funny they were being portrayed, but this week's episode gave us completely satisfactory and actually very entertaining reasons for all of it. They also looked better this week I thought than they did in those closing moments of last week... their effects seemed more consistent across-the-board.

The Slitheen seem to be a sort of cross between the Foamasi and the Dominators. I say Foamasi because they're almost like a mafia family, are interested in an irradiated planet (or what they hope will be one), and fit their huge bodies inside smaller human suits. And I say Dominators because of their scheme to turn the Earth into a radioactive fuel planet in the same way the Dominators did. The difference is they've all got a terrific sense of humor and are really enjoying their work. One moment that I loved was when the female "MI-5" Slitheen went into the PM's office and gushed over how the hot line phone was actually red. And you've got to love an alien species that has the line, "Victory should be naked!" They also simply must have understood the irony in their warning about "massive weapons of destruction." I've really grown to love these guys, and in fact I wouldn't mind seeing (or hearing) them again sometime.

Hilary Jones, MP Flydale North really came into her own this week too, as I was guessing she would seeing as they landed Penelope Wilton in the part. That the Doctor realizes she'll be a future Prime Minister was also not wholly unexpected. I loved watching her find her backbone as the episode progressed, until she finally realizes she can and must order the Doctor to push the button to destroy Number 10 (or at least to tell Mickey how to do it). I wouldn't mind seeing her again someday too. (I wonder if she's the one that eventually gets deposed by General Mariah Learman prior to "The Time of the Daleks"... and this episode explains why the head of government seems to be in a palace by that time, as No. 10 got destroyed.)

I also really enjoyed Mickey and Jackie's scenes together, with them almost bonding through their whole dodge-the-alien crisis and over how dangerous the Doctor is. Mickey wound up gaining the Doctor's respect to the point where he offered to make him a companion as well, and I was really glad to see that develop. The Doctor's continual goading of Mickey was beginning to annoy me as I thought it was taking the Doctor too far down the disagreeable road, but their eventual sort-of reconciliation really capped that off nicely before it got too out-of-hand.

The set-piece of the Doctor, Rose, and Hilary coming up with the Slitheen's weakness for vinegar was nicely handled as well... "Narrows it down!" sounds as though it could become another Ninth Doctor catchphrase like "Fantastic!" is (if there's time in his brief tenure for more of this). The way it ended brought a huge smile to my face too... with Jackie splashing the vinegar on it... it standing there for 5 seconds, letting off a huge fart, and then exploding all over them. My one hang-up with this scene is that I can't see from the way this is played out how the Doctor, Rose, and Hilary on the other end of the phone know that the alien has just died and come over all relaxed, when all they would've heard is a strange exploding sound and then not a word from Jackie and Mickey as they just stood there looking stunned.

This brings me to my other hang-ups with the episode, which actually apply to "Aliens of London" as well, and that's the almost Graham Williams-era-like sloppy way in which the Doctor is able to get his own way with guards, be they policeman or military. Russell T. Davies has gone to great lengths to address some of the common-sense questions people always had about the characters, such as "doesn't Rose's family miss her?" and the like, but he's apparently turned a blind eye to a defiance-of-common-sense problem I had with the original series, which seemed to come up most often in the Graham Williams-produced stories. This is how trained guards or police so often don't do as trained guards or police would do when the Doctor is in the scene. Example: in "Aliens of London", he accidentally lands in a cupboard just outside where a whole bunch of the soldiers are, and they train their guns on him. There is then a scream, he shouts "Defence Plan Delta" (like that means something, which it clearly doesn't) and runs out, and rather than anyone trying to stop him or shoot him, they just start following him and doing what he says. This is wholly unrealistic and does not make sense. Here in "World War Three," the 'General' outright orders the police to shoot the Doctor then and there, but they don't... he gets to blather on for a good 15 seconds more before the lift arrives and he gets into it and escapes. And even as he's escaping and they've all still got a clear shot at him, no one pulls the trigger. This is again wholly unrealistic and does not make sense. (Though some of this might be down to Keith Boak's direction and not cutting or staging the scenes quite right to avoid this problem, but it could equally be scripted by RTD.) And then there's the business about how Mickey can hack into the UNIT website and the website of the Royal Navy under instructions from the Doctor using a single password. The UNIT one I can buy as he worked for them and probably put the back door in himself at some point. The one I can't buy is that you can not only hack in the Royal Navy's website with that same password but also access a firing control on a submarine and have it fire a missile. Missile firing controls in every navy around the world are kept well off-line just to prevent things like this from happening... and even the off-line controls have extra safety things like those two-operators-have-to-turn-keys-simultaneously things. They got that right in "The Invasion" in 1968, so why this here? They could've still accomplished the same task by simply having the Doctor or Harriet call up the submarine over voice and issuing some passwords and orders to the captain of the sub that could've been in the Emergency Protocols (which they had at this point). So why not do that instead of stretching credulity with this lazy hacking solution? Still, the fact that it could've been done right doesn't make it feel like quite so much of a cheat, and I'm not going to dock the episode too much for this faux pas, but I hope that things like this get thought through better in future episodes.

I'm also very skeptical of the idea that the UK would turn over its ability to launch its own nuclear missiles to the Security Council of the UN. This feels like a sort of callback to the "destructor codes" scenario back in "Robot," but given how nearly disastrous that turned out, I can't believe that program continued after that story. From a security point of view it makes no sense for any nation to do this, especially one that's a member of NATO. Surely turning over the codes to the UN would violate some NATO duties for defence that the UK has?

Enough though of these plotting problems... back to the good stuff, and I've saved the best for last, and as we've come to expect, the best is the character work between the Doctor and Rose and the people around them. Rose remains as strong in this episode as she was showing in the last one, and also shows she's clearly been listening to even the Doctor's technobabble when at one point in the "narrows it down" brainstorm she blurts out that the alien ship had a slipstream drive. She's quickly come to trust the Doctor implicitly as she doesn't ever hesitate to jump into the situation, even with her mother pleading with her not to, but I have the feeling this trust is going to be to a fault at some point. We can see that on the Doctor's face, when Jackie repeatedly asks him if he can guarantee Rose will be safe, and he can't answer her, because he knows that she might not be and might join the list of his companions who didn't make it. That moment of him being silent and not answering is Eccleston's best work to date I think. I wonder if at some point there'll come a story where the Doctor decides that Rose needs some sort of lesson to teach her that they are not as immortal and infallible as she seems to be thinking they are, what with their 4-0 record after this story. (That'll probably be the season finale, I'd guess.)

Say, what happened to the alien ship in the Thames anyway? It's still there, isn't it? And couldn't the Doctor have used the missile on it instead of Number 10 and thus stop the Slitheen wanting to launch the nukes since they'd no longer have a ship to go hide in? (maybe it had shields... or maybe it would've had a big explosion of its own when its power core went up or something that would've hurt loads more people)

Oh, and why, on the morning of the potential nuclear strike and the news shows are showing those live shots of London, does the shot of Big Ben still have smoke coming out of the tower? Surely the fire would've been out by then!

And one last point I want to make... did you notice that this episode began with a Slitheen vs. humans _corridor chase_? Anyone at home playing the drinking game, take a drink. At least this time it wasn't any old corridors... it was 10 Downing Street's!

So, episode rating... 7 out of 10 again. And I'll give the whole story that too. The alien portrayals and motivations got cleared up, but there were some plot holes that really could've been plugged up without too much trouble which weren't.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television