Doctor Who

Saturday, April 23, 2005 by

It is often the case that the first part of a two-episode story is the one which is the most exciting. Assumingly, this an age-old TV trick to get the viewers so gripped in the intensity of the action that chair upholsterers begin to rub their hands with glee due to the edges of seats being heavily worn, and we all make an appointment to tune in again next week.

Part one, “Aliens of London”, certainly went along with this technique, offering no less than a UFO careering into Big Ben, an extraterrestrial invasion and the possible demise of the Doctor as the cliffhanger. However, the start of “World War Three” dispensed with this latter element all too quickly, but that’s not to say the episode was any less enjoyable. On the contrary, it is amazing how a ridiculous storyline involving farting aliens, (still present, and still as funny) masquerading as politicians can hold you enthralled for 45 minutes. This is due, in no small part, to the scriptwriting skills of Russell T Davies, who has a fine knack of breathing a spooky sense of reality into all of his work.

Despite lacking the intensity of the first episode, this one contained enough to keep the viewer entertained. There was blatant humour in the chase scene around Downing Street, and the joyously British Harriet Jones (“MP for Flydale North!”). Alongside this, there was also a little satire with the wonderfully subtle, “massive weapons of destruction”, and of course the usual OTT spills and thrills we have come to expect.

What’s become evident in this new reincarnation of Doctor Who, which was never present before, is the character’s human side. I certainly don’t recall a child-like joy on previous Doctor’s faces when things were going to plan, but this has become one of Eccleston’s defining traits. Neither have we ever been exposed to the vulnerability of the Time Lord. When he begrudgingly tells Mickey and Jackie, “I need you”, it is almost a joy to witness he’s like the rest of us – well, kind of.

Another welcome addition to this version is Rose’s back-story. Previously, the Doctor’s assistants have been willingly two-dimensional: merely eye-candy for him to interact with. Rose, on the other hand, has a life, and one in which much of the audience can relate to. When faced, once again, with the choice of staying at home with Mickey and her mum, or embarking on exciting adventures in a police box with her new friend, her dilemma must surely have struck a chord with many viewers who’s faced equivalent decisions involving new partners or career changes being held back by family ties.

The threat from the aliens – another nice twist from Davies, Slitheen being the surname rather than the entire race moniker – was strangely only so when they were in their human incarnation. Strangely, because at the end of part one, in alien form they appeared to pose a genuine threat. However, by part two they appeared as threatening as Mr Blobby. In fact, overall the script for this episode was lighter in tone, looking to entertain, rather than provide any further tension once the conclusion of its predecessor had been put to rest.

And, in the light and shade of the new Doctor Who, that’s all we really required from this edition. Particularly when an old and deadly foe is waiting in the wings…


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