Doctor Who – Aliens of London/World War III

Reinstated from Scary Rob’s Doctor Who Blog

Never have I had such mixed feelings about a Doctor Who serial, not even about the individual episodes. On the one hand, Russell T Davies is a brilliant writer with brilliant ideas and he’s managed to pull something off that I’d never have believed for a minute would work. On the other, Keith Boak (my irritation with his handling of Rose notwithstanding) was not up to conveying the subtlety required to keep some of the plot points from getting very silly indeed, especially considering that this is possibly the most inconsistent script, not just of this season, but of Doctor Who for at least the last decade of its previous life.

To start, I must address the farting issue. We all knew it was coming; there have been umpteen references to it in DWM. And I must admit it was less juvenile than I was expecting. In fact, Davies’ script even managed to convey it as a sinister foreshadow of what was to come and an excellent bit of dramatic irony – we know who the aliens are as they’re letting off gas, the humans around them just think there’s an epidemic of wind problems. The problem is: just as Boak managed to make the should-have-been-menacing wheelie bin scene from Rose look silly, so he seems to have taken the hidden menace out of the farts and made them look like a juvenile bit of toilet humour (and members of one fan forum have even gone on to lay the blame for the toilet humour handling of it at the feet of the script-writer). It should have been menacing – an everyday inconvenience becomes a sign of alien incursion but Boak failed to put the menace in just like he did with the wheelie bin.

However, damp point number two is something no director on Earth could have managed: the inconsistency of the movements of the Slitheen and the CGI Slitheen. The suits bounced comically, the CGIs flowed like the hunters the Slitheen were meant to be. Admittedly they did well in that the awkward movements of the costumes were only seen in the cramped action sequences, so the awkwardness could be put down to the Slitheen’s own discomfort with the lack of space to hunt as they would in their natural habitat, but that’s a Sci-Fi fan’s cover-the-cracks explanation for what was essentially a lack of foresight on the part of the production team.

Finally, damp point number three: it’s obvious that this script was contrived for character development, tailored so that Rose’s mum could challenge the Doctor and so that Mickey could become a likable character rather than a humdrum chump boyfriend. And it seemed to have been further contrived around the Downing Street setting. The plot points and scenes individually were all wonderful and the ideas were great; they just didn’t hang together.

But what ideas! The pig in the space-suit, though not the best-realised visual effect, was a great idea and the scene where it put in its appearance was a moment that will stick in my mind as one of the best of Doctor Who since 1963. The development of the Doctor’s and Mickey’s relationship was incredibly well-scripted and I was hoping and praying that he would board the TARDIS when the Doctor offered – a great turnaround, given what a prat he first appeared to be. And the second episode managed in its explanations to more than deliver on the (apparently meagre) potential offered by the first. It wasn’t the best Doctor Who story ever, but I make a stand now against anyone who’ll say it’s the worst.

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~ by Scary Rob on 26 April, 2005.

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