Aliens of London / World War ThreeBookmark and Share

Thursday, 24 November 2005 - Reviewed by Jordan Wilson

Oscar Wilde once asserted that “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. By implication, then, Doctor Who 2005 has been distinctly unprosaic up to this point. Audiences have been presented with the plotless Rose; the surreal sci-fi-whodunit emotional sandwich, The End of the World; and the pre-watershed The Unquiet Dead. We’ve never known quite what to expect – primarily due to the water-tight production. Now, the Aliens of London and World War Three two-parter prolong this trend, targeting younger viewers and the juvenile with instantly tedious and trite flatulence ‘gags’.

The Doc (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) return to ‘the present’, – a requirement of the new soap opera format - to be both greeted and castigated by the perturbed Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) and a now-ostracized Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke). In-between this impromptu reunion, an extraterrestrial space-craft crashes into the Thames. The Doctor must consequently defend Earth from… the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius (… and a squealing space-pig).

Let me clarify my position on writer Russell T. Davies: my ‘loyalties’ are divided. He has reinvented Doctor Who with four fast-paced and enjoyable efforts…, if you refrain from bordering cognition. However, he seems to be failing on the flip side of the coin to where the classic series failed: he promotes character, but plot is barely an afterthought. Sadly, character so far refers only to The Doctor and Rose. Supporting cast-members equate with cardboard cut-outs, despite some praise-worthy performances. Furthermore, Rose, The End of the World and the present storyline sway toward the absurd and superficial. Consider The Doctor’s flowery tripe in Rose:

D'you know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving? It's like when you're a kid: the first time they tell you that the world's turning and you just can't quite believe it because everything looks like it's standing still. I can feel it - the turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour; the entire planet is hurtling around the Sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour; and I can feel it. We're falling through space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go... That's who I am.

To some it may sound impressive (myself excluded), but ultimately it’s soulless gorgonzola – a perfect example. There’re vestiges of plot, this time, though, if one overlooks a lot of typical-being-chased-down-corridors padding in World War Three. Anyhow, moving on… !

Eccleston is on form, especially in his solo scenes inside the TARDIS, although his ‘hitching a lift’ in escape from the military elicts a groan. Rose is less intregal, here.

The Slitheen… Well, they’re now infamous among Whovians. This isn’t abetted by their coarse and frequent need to relieve themselves. Episode one’s cliffhanger would’ve been superb had they been significantly different. I won’t dwell. They do get a few good lines: “… I was busy!” and “Oh, boll-” being most memorable ;-)! For some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed David Verrey’s hammed performance as the PM Joseph Green Slitheen. Annette Badland is unsettling as the Margaret Blaine Slitheen from MI5, and the others were admittedly well-cast: Rupert Vanisittart (Gen. Asquith), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Steve Speirs (Strickland), Elizabeth Frost, Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe. Jimmy Vee returns, this time providing the alien voices. The space-pig is amusing… before we discover ‘he’ isn’t the villain of the piece.

“Rickey” is amusing, if amateurish, whilst Coduri stands around looking anxious and wide-eyed a lot. Penelope Wilton portrays Harriet Jones, from Flydale North, we’re persistently reminded. I don’t particularly care for the character, but the MP has a fan base – possibly deserved.

Andrew Marr and Matt Baker provide media coverage of the alien invasion – a nice touch, but again overused in the second episode. Jack Tarlton plays an emotionally-involved OTT reporter (!).

Other notable performances include Navin Chowdhry (junior secretary, Indra Ganesh) and Naoko Mori (the pathologist, Dr. Sato).

Keith Boak, director of Rose, takes over the reins from Euros Lyn. It shows.

Curiously, throughout the proceedings, a child (Corey Doabe) spray-paints the words “Bad Wolf” on the TARDIS… and the American reporter (Lachele Carl) was originally named “Mal Loup”… Curiouser and curiouser.

Overall, it’s remotely entertaining and watchable; and that’s the main thing. For youngsters, here, I suppose. I guess we can’t always expect another Unquiet Dead. Or Dalek… **1/2[5]