Aliens of London / World War ThreeBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 August 2005 - Reviewed by Nick Mellish

My main gripe with the story as a whole is that it is very much one of peaks and troughs, but with troughs making a more frequent appearance. There is too much plot to cram into a single episode, and yet too little to properly fill out the ninety minutes which it has been granted. A lot of running around from a to b strikes as filler when the two Episodes are watched in closer proximity than with a week between the two. When watched seven days following 'Aliens Of London', the chase scenes in 'World War Three' seemed fine. When watched straight afterwards, they seem a bit gratuitous.

Parts of the plot seem a bit too predictable too. You are never worried about whether or not the Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones will survive the Missile attack; you know Mickey will press the button to save the day, because the music suggests he will do so. Most annoyingly of all is the Doctor's constant references to having heard the name of Harriet Jones before, leaving you in little doubt that she shall, a, survive the whole affair and, b, that she shall go on to be a significant figure in British Politics. The revelation about her future near the end of 'World War Three' therefore loses its impact, and you are more left with a slow nod of inevitability rather than a feeling of happiness for her.

Both episodes have things to write home about; the destruction of Big Ben is every bit as memorable and impressive as it should be, and as iconic moments in 'Doctor Who' go, this one fits the bill very nicely indeed; also, the death of the Space Pig is a memorable moment, as is the 'capture' of Rose and the Doctor by UNIT. The appearance of UNIT, though brief, is key to the plot and a really nice nod to the past- one which I am very glad Russell T Davies made. The ending of 'World War Three' is utterly superb, and really hits home the sacrifices made by Rose when she decides to travel with the Doctor. Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri couldn't turn in better performances than those which they turn in here, and the whole scene is both touching and affecting.

One thing that in particular struck me when watching back-to-back is how good some of the supporting cast are. Though her appearance is minimal at best, Naoko Mori puts in a very good performance as Doctor Sato; her belief that aliens must look like pigs due to not having ever seen them before is very believable and well-handled, whilst her fear when the apparently dead creature is in fact alive and well is again nicely done, and it is shame that she could not have featured more heavily. Likewise, Navin Chowdhry as Indra Ganesh is both very convincing and believable, and his death is as touching as it deserves to be.

The Slitheen themselves come across as a lot nastier when you are able to take stock of quite what their actions are entailing. Beginning with the augmentation of a pig to suit their needs, they are clearly not above sinister deeds in a bid to achieve such deeds themselves. The Doctor's reaction to the said pig incident is enough to add weight to this theory, and you instantly dislike them due to it, before they have even been revealed. The fact that they then go on to murder a room full of human beings seems to be the icing on the cake as it were, though it lacks the same impact as the death of Space Pig, largely because the Doctor almost totally fails to make any reaction to the human deaths, content instead to run about with a grin upon his face, alerting the authorities to the Alien presence within 10 Downing Street.

Whilst memorable, the constant zipping and unzipping which the Slitheen family are guilty of strikes as padding and merely an excuse to show off a good idea. By all means indulge, but perhaps not to the extent that is done here.

The directing by Keith Boak throughout the story is rather disappointing, and it lacks the visual flair and ingenuity that he displayed throughout 'Rose'. Parts of it show glimpses of innovation, such as the destructions of 10 Downing Street and Big Ben, but on the whole there is not much to shout about, which is a real pity.

Murray Gold's incidental score has more of an impact when watching both Episodes one after the other; it is pretty much solely down to him that tension is created in 'Aliens Of London', and his music near the end of 'World War Three' when Rose has to make a decision regarding her adventures with the Doctor neatly underscores the emotions on display, contributing significantly to the scene's success. Whilst it is not as good a musical score as that which he has composed for other Episodes, I feel that I was much too dismissive of it when watching the Episodes as stand-alone adventures.

In all, I feel that perhaps I was bit too dismissive of the two Episodes initially. I certainly stand by my initial feelings that there is too little occurring for it to work very well, but Davies still manages to provide enough thrills and spills to make it an enjoyable affair. I think that romp would be a better description of the two Episodes, as much of it is played to gain a laugh rather than a fright.

Overall though, whilst the story has highlights, it has enough low points to mark it out as the weakest story in Series One.