Aliens of London / World War Three
15 March 2014 at 17:48 #26425Craig @craigEmperor
A double bill this week. Of farting aliens… Just rememember it’s also for the kids and you’ll enjoy it more 😉
Anyway, the Doctor and Rose return to modern-day Earth, only to find it has been a year since Rose first set off, and everyone thought she was missing, presumed dead. Whilst there, a spaceship crashes into Big Ben and lands in the Thames. Soon, all is not as it seems with the residents of 10 Downing Street.
I like to think RTD got the title for part one from this fantastic track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDpYBT0XyvA15 March 2014 at 19:14 #26439
I didn’t see this story when it was originally broadcast, I caught up with it on DVD a couple of years later. Back then I found the political stuff boring and now that I’ve grown up and have a vague idea how politics work, I find it incredibly stupid. The rest of the story seems to be made up of juvenile fart gags. I would blame Mel Brooks for this but I doubt that when he did the first ever fart gag in Blazing Saddles back in 1974 he would have known that it would lead to RTd2 writing a whole Doctor Who story based around them.
Another problem stems from the fact that Rose is a horrible person in this. She disappears for a year without a word leaving her mother worried sick and Mickey was accused of murdering her. Does she show any sympathy to either of them, hell no! She goes off on an adventure with the Doctor again. But of course Rose can do no wrong because RTD2 says she’s the ultimate companion and as we all know everything he says is gospel in the Whoniverse.
Now in fairness to RTD2 the director rewrote parts of the script while filming so the story might have been less rubbish had it followed his original script more closely.
I know this one’s mostly for the kiddies and I shouldn’t get so upset, it’s just that nothing makes my blood boil more then bad Doctor Who.15 March 2014 at 22:33 #26442
Definitely not one of RTD’s best. So far I’ve got through Aliens of London – I’ll comment on World War Three when I have time. I will say that I partly blame this two-parter for my not watching Dalek or The Long Game on broadcast – but the other part was not liking Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. He’s great at the angst; but he’s not got a very light touch with comedy.
As someone who’s spent quite a bit of time around politicians, I’d agree that Russell can’t write them – he not only has no idea how politics works, he hasn’t a clue what politicians are like. 😉 [I found this particularly noticeable in Torchwood: Children of Earth.] Considering how deftly he navigates round the BBC’s internal politics, it’s quite strange.
@thekrynoidman – I realise that you don’t like the character of Rose, but you’re being unfair to her in this. She isn’t a horrible person at all. Firstly, she hasn’t disappeared for a year without a word. She’s gone off for a few days, and has phoned her mum in that few days. We saw her phone her mum.
It isn’t her fault that a) the phone call was redirected to a time before she left with the Doctor and b) the Doctor then also mucked up the landing and made it twelve months instead of twelve hours after the take-off.
She shows sympathy towards her mum – we see her crying that she’s upset her so much – and sympathy towards Mickey. But the person who’s really upset Jackie and Mickey is the Doctor. They know it; that’s why Jackie slaps him. Hard.
And then Rose goes off travelling with the Doctor again because, y’know, she’s grown up now. She’s nineteen years old – and you don’t not live the life you want to live because your mum will worry. Being gay might make your mum cry – but that can’t stop you being gay, or leaving to live with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Equally, announcing that you’ve joined the army might make your mum cry – but it’s not going to stop you going off to a war zone.
Rose has an opportunity to see the universe outside her council estate; she’s going to take it. Young adults, in fact, have to deal with Rose’s dilemma all the time; it’s just been dressed up in science-fiction clothing.
Much as I personally dislike the farting aliens, the Slitheen had a long and happy career on the Sarah Jane Adventures. They really did turn out to be ‘one for the kiddies’. 😉16 March 2014 at 05:30 #26443
@bluesqueakpip Maybe I was being unair to Rose. She didn’t intentionally leave for a year, thinking she would have only been gone for a few days. Maybe I was allowing what happens in later episodes, in which she does treat them appallingly, to affect my judgement.
Also were the Slitheen recurring villains on SJA, I thought they were only in the first series.16 March 2014 at 08:47 #26444
First and third. Plus cameos in other episodes of both SJA and Doctor Who.
Technically the Slitheen in Series 3 of SJA were the Blatheen, but I’m not even going to attempt to spell the name of their race, rather than their family. 🙂 Russell T. has a love of long, convoluted alien names.
If you want to look for the seriously self-centred git in Series 1, it’s easy. He’s the one flying the TARDIS. 😈
He does, however, still have the capacity to make oblique apologies. As at the end of World War Three, when he both offers Mickey a place on the TARDIS and later covers for him in front of Rose.16 March 2014 at 13:29 #26448
The first double parter of the new series! A real mixture of good and bad.
I think I said early on in the SM review it was easy to see that the GAP thinking and writing of the New Adventures/Past Adventures and other spin-off media had a big impact on his version of Doctor Who, and so it is with RTD. They both contributed to that ideas machine, of course.*
One of the recurring features of them was the human consequences of the Doctors lifestyle on the people he travelled with. Ian and Barbara, for instance, missing for three years and who disappeared on the same day as a student? I can imagine a world of hurt opening up after that cheerful photo-montage at the end of The Chase.
They obviously got to look at this in more depth with Sarah Jane later on, but the sequence with Rose returning out-of-time is actually well pitched I think. Also a nice little return joke at the audience, as “companion” has all sorts of connotations these days. I think the Alien Invasion plot is actually a distraction from a story about growing up and making choices. I think it’s a story that needed to be pitched pretty early on in the series for modern times. Rose leaves at the end with the people important to her knowing this is her choice.
Must admit I don’t like the Slytheen much. It’s interesting to note the Pig creature was the early demonstration of RTDs belief that sticking a recognisable animal head on a human body would be hilarious/monstrous. The sequence with the Doctor naturally taking command of the soldiers is interesting, probably foreshadowing the fact that he fought in the war and had natural command abilities. It’s also interesting to note the Ninth Doctors instincts about UNIT (“good people”) is probably at odds with the Tenth Doctors. The Tenth Doctors belief that UNIT was flawed was really voiced after Harold Saxon, so I’ve always thought that would be an interesting pitch for a “Past Adventure” story – Saxon’s behind the scenes manipulation of UNIT.
Apart from a couple of small satirical bits about the runup to the Iraq war (Deploying weapons in 45 seconds) it’s all a bit forced. I’m glad we had The Unquiet Dead before this was a bit more to my taste.
* Just a note about those early works, if anyone is keen enough to seek them out. RTD wrote the novel Damaged Goods for the NA series, recounting the Doctors meeting with a Tyler family on a London estate, and concludes with a woman out of control in a big stompy robot. SMs first short story in Decolog 3 was Continuity Errors, and involved the Doctor changing someone’s past to inform a choice in their present. It involves an Archaeologists diary.16 March 2014 at 13:44 #26449Anonymous @
It started well. A bit of drama when The Doctor realises a year has passed since he took Rose travelling but it went down hill from there.
I’ll admit to being a fan of Men Behaving Badly, Two Pints of Lager, South Park and Family Guy so confess that the prospect of big, green farting aliens delighted me but the Slitheen were way, way over the top. Even for me!
A familiar looking doctor attempting an autopsy. It’s been a while since I last watched Torchwood but wasn’t it mentioned that Tosh once went undercover and worked with UNIT due to Owen being hungover?
I’m afraid to say I couldn’t face watching WW3. I may watch it later.
I’m not even going to attempt to spell the name of their race
Raxicoracophalipitorians 🙂 (Yes, I cheated and looked it up)
I only saw the first SJA that they appeared in and I don’t recall them being as ‘gassy’ as their DW counterparts. Was their propensity to flatulence played down in SJA?16 March 2014 at 14:54 #26452
I felt sorry for the pig. It didn’t deserve to be gunned down by the army or humiliated by bad writing.16 March 2014 at 16:09 #26458
humiliated by bad writing.
You keep muttering darkly about the bad writing – and I think we’re all agreed that this was not the best of Russell’s scripts. Actually, I’m wondering if there were worse ones? By Russell, I mean – I think we could come up with worse episodes.
However, there’s a motto about scripts in the entertainment business. It goes: “I don’t want it good. I want it Tuesday.”
I suspect this script may have come under the ‘Tuesday’ category. It was the best Russell could come up with by the point where the set designers/director/special effects people had to have a script. Not to mention the poor bloody actors, who – while they can improvise – prefer not to. 🙂
That would also explain why the director was rewriting scenes on-set.
‘Tuesday’ always trumps good. Every time. Because you can work with a bad script – but you can’t work with no script.
@fatmaninabox – don’t worry, I ended up ‘watching’ World War Three while doing some cooking. Couldn’t face it either. 😉 And yes, I think the fart jokes got toned down considerably in SJA.16 March 2014 at 16:23 #26459Anonymous @
I opted for a quick trip to The Uncharted Territories to watch the master of flatulence in action 🙂
Helium farts? Now that is funny 😀16 March 2014 at 16:36 #2646016 March 2014 at 16:57 #26461
Well remembered about the scene explaining Tosh covering for Owen in Torchwood. Can’t remember the exact episode, but it’s towards the end of Series 2 I think.
I think you’re right in that the time element was the key. The BBC wanted a very small production team and pool of writers on the first series, and I think they only agreed to increase the run of episodes from eight to thirteen episodes on the basis that would not see an increase in the number of writers. Hence, I think it fell to RTD to produce more than he may have been comfortable with.
So it’s worth noting that 8 of the 13 scripts for Series 1 are directly by RTD at this point and he’s script editing the others. That went down to something like 5 for subsequent series for the lead writer. (not including Christmas Episodes).
I’m also loathe to call this bad writing. It’s not my thing, but clearly to make this a success RTD had to pitch it at a wider audience than me. It’s an unusual two parter in that it picked up viewers for the second part (about half a million). If I remember the period there was a lot of favourable reaction to it, and it possibly helped that it was discussed (to much audience cheering) on HIGNFY. Paul Merton suggested Ian Hislop may enjoy it as lots of senior politicians were disappearing.16 March 2014 at 17:01 #26462
@thekrynoidman – sure. If someone mutters they’re speaking in a low/quiet voice, and in the UK (for some reason I thought you were from the UK) it usually means they’re complaining.
If someone says something darkly, they’re saying something ominous.
So if you’re muttering darkly about the bad writing, it means I think you’re not only complaining about the bad writing in this episode, you’re hinting that you think there’s more bad writing to come… 😈
I’m okay with Love and Monsters, myself. I mean, it didn’t work. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy re-watching it.
But it didn’t work in a good way. By which I mean that it didn’t work because they were trying something for the first time and didn’t really know how to make it work – a Doctor-lite story where we see the Doctor’s adventures from the outsider’s perspective. From Blink onwards they know how to do the Doctor-lites.16 March 2014 at 17:26 #26464
@bluesqueakpip thank you for explaination and I am indeed from the UK, Newcastle in fact.17 March 2014 at 03:04 #26466Arbutus @arbutus
I agree with @bluesqueakpip that, while Rose is not my favourite companion for a number of reasons, it isn’t fair to blame her for leaving Jacquie to go with the Doctor. That is what our children do: they grow up and leave. It’s hard on the parents, but probably better than the alternative (we do their laundry until they’re 35, and so on!) 🙂
I also agree that the Doctor redeemed himself in his treatment of Mickey in this episode. And while I felt badly for Mickey here, it had become so obvious that he was the wrong person for Rose that I really just wanted to buy him a beer and advise him to move on. (I’ll save most of my thoughts on that score for discussion during “Boom Town”!)
This wasn’t my favourite episode, but I think that was more down to my taste than anything inherently bad in it. There were some good bits: the opening scenes with Mickey and Jacquie, the spaceship crashing scene, the Doctor’s amazement at humanity’s ability to ignore history being made around them, all stand out for me. It also had Harriet Jones, the member for Flydale North, a lovely character who received her best treatment in her first appearance, I thought. And I do love Penelope Wilton!17 March 2014 at 06:41 #26467Anonymous @
It also had Harriet Jones, the member for Flydale North
Yes, we know who she is 😀
(sorry, couldn’t resist)17 March 2014 at 07:02 #26468janetteB @janetteb
I think you just summed up all the things that I both liked and disliked about the episode/s @arbutus. Rose did not intentionally desert her mother and Ricky. I always felt that Ricky as a character got rather a poor deal in the story, not just from Rose and the Doctor but from RTD. I suspect that it was the skill and enthusiasm of the actor which saved Micky from fading to oblivion after this two parter and finaly won him a place in the Tardis.
When the boys were younger this was a story that we would often re-watch. I don’t know if the reason it has not graced our screen for some time is purely down to the jouvenile nature of the script for there enough fine moments to counter-blance the cringeworthy fart jokes or due to there being so mamy better stories made since to choose from.
@phaseshift Your description of the two very different story approaches in the novelisations of RTD and Moffat perfectly summs up their differences as show runners. I enjoyed the RTD years massively. AFter all he brought back Dr Who and there were many fine moments, but I prefer the clever convoluted, quieter approach of Moffat. (I still haven’t forgiven that giant fighting robot in what was otherwise a great Christmas Special though my partner really enjoyed that. We are still at odds as to the merits of giant fighting robots and whether they have any place in DR Who.)
Janette19 March 2014 at 13:51 #26504
I was just looking up the running order to remind myself of what to watch this weekend (The Long Game) and I just noticed that Rose and these episodes were all directed by Keith Boak. I was just wondering how much of an impact some of the direction had on my enjoyment?
I generally feel a lot more positive about End of the World, even though it has similar issues with some forced humour in parts, and that was directed by Euros Lyn. It must actually have been difficult to select directors for this first series. A lot of TV visual effects work, trying to gauge the tone of the piece etc. It’s probably worth noting that these were the only episodes Boak did for the series. I know TV is always considered the writers medium, but I think the Director can add emphasis to how certain aspects come across on the screen. I think with Rose and these it’s the broadness of the humour pitch that drags me out of the episodes (burping bin, farting, etc).19 March 2014 at 13:54 #26505
Yep – the CyberKing (shudder). It’s interesting that those early ideas both showed up in Christmas specials, and reversed what you might call “perceived wisdom”. This seems to say RTD concentrated on human stories and characterisation, while SM simply does spectacle. Giant-stompy-robot in The Next Doctor was pure spectacle, while the interfering with a persons timeline of Christmas Carol was quite an intimate character tale.
Which just goes to show that half of perceived wisdom is cherrypicking on a huge scale. I think both see the need to be seen as the crowdpleaser while they are in the showrunner role, and both emphasise spectacle and characterisation in different ways.7 August 2015 at 18:54 #41628Cath Annabel @cathannabel
Just checked IMDB and it is Tosh (ie its not just a Torchwood actor in a random role like Gwen/Gwynneth) – Doctor Sato. I’d forgotten that. I had not forgotten the Slitheen despite the years of therapy. It’s not just the farting, I’m not above finding that funny, on occasion. It’s the maniacal laughter. And the way the baddies in this have to be fat, so there’s a whole package of nasty and crude associations linked to fatness. Which I do think is an issue – fat people on TV are usually stupid or lazy, and if not they’re bad. So they do annoy me.
However, we do have Harriet Jones, the member for Flydale North. Cheers, @fatmaninabox.
Not yet rewatched World War Three. Ho hum.7 August 2015 at 23:07 #41630Anonymous @
lol. Years of therapy. Nice.
My least favorite and most embarrassing episode (embarrassing when I finally get people to watch and they watch that against my stern recommendations!)
But Harriet Jones makes up for all of it as I do so adore her. Especially (diff ep of course) at her death as she sacrificed herself to save the earth.27 February 2016 at 06:10 #51117tardigrade @tardigrade
There were some good elements in the episode:
* the core idea of aliens infiltrating the government and trapping the alien experts
* the Number 10 setting
* the impact Rose’s travels had on others
* the Doctor’s inability to keep Rose 100% safe
* Harriet Jones
But in the end, the tone of the episode, in particular the juvenile fart jokes, mean that the more high-concept elements are somewhat lost in the silliness. I didn’t greatly like the creature design – the cutesy faces were out of place and the pig creature was pretty cliched and wasn’t well executed – in one close-up you can see the seam where the costume was molded.
The contrivance of having the UN holding the nuclear codes was also rather naive. I quite like the idea at some level, since it would stop the weapons ever being used, as the security council would never unanimously agree to it, short of an alien invasion. But governments would know that made their arsenals basically worthless, so would never agree to handing over the codes. But as knowledge of a single seven-letter word seemingly allows you to launch a conventional strike remotely, it’s probably for the best.
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