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Doctor Who 'Aliens of London' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

It is sadly time for the first weak story of the new series as we venture back to modern day London with yet another episode written by Russell T Davies (in the first series he pretty much wrote a lions-share of all 13 episodes). This is also the first two-parter so obviously there is more time to develop the story so lets see where that takes us. This is ‘Aliens of London’.

After travelling 5 billion years into the future to witness the end of the world and then travelling to 1869 and visit Charles Dickens, the Doctor and Rose finally returns back to her hometown but they find out the Doctor went a bit too far so they land in 2006, a whole year after they left. At around the same time an alien spaceship crashes into Big Ben and then lands in the river and that is our premise.

I like the idea of Rose’s family having put up signs all around the town after thinking she had been kidnapped/murdered. It puts the TARDIS’ unreliability to good use because from Rose and the Doctor’s point of view they have only been gone for couple of days but only one little miscalculations made it a year for everyone else. The problem is the episode barely utilizes it. We get Jackie dropping a cup when Rose suddenly pops up in their apartment and we also get Mickey telling the Doctor angrily that he has been receiving death threats and was a murder suspect and that is great stuff – but it does not go further than that. Jackie naturally acts very hostile around the Doctor for the first couple of minutes – but she then lets Rose hang out with him alone on the roof… in fact she does not even seem to mind Rose leaving her sight with him anymore after they have both been gone a whole year. It is like Russell forgot the plot point he introduced after only a couple of minutes. For Mickey’s case the episode handles the situation dead wrong. He has been wrongly accused for a whole year because they all thought he had hurt Rose and then when Rose suddenly comes back she does nothing to consult him, in fact she does not even call him or go to meet up with him. Instead she hangs out with the Doctor until Mickey comes to her apartment in shock. You know what the worst part is though? The episode is being written like we are supposed to be on her side. Rose tells Mickey that it has only been a few days for her – like that is supposed to make him feel better…

As you can probably tell by now this episode is not very well written. The monster for this story is the Slitheen family who are by far some of the worst looking aliens of the new series. They are an alien race called the Raxacoricofallapatorians from the planet Raxacoricofallapatorious (because long ridiculous names are funny). They take over fat human bodies by skinning them and then shrink their own bodies so they can fit inside it. Somehow they can do it so accurately that they manage to keep the exact same size as the human and also keeping the human’s voice. Oh and did I mention the aliens fart a lot while in their human form? Again we are back to a Russell T Davies story so just like in ‘Rose’ there are a lot of comedic moments entirely targeted to children. It is such a useless part of the episode it could easily have been cut out and it would not have taken away anything from the story.

This is also the first time we find out the Doctor’s age which is apparently 900… but this is not the first time the Doctor was 900 years old as the seventh doctor revealed his age to be 953 in the episode ‘Time of the Rani’ from 1987 so basically, this episode did not even manage to keep track of that very basic continuity. Although there is one even more basic continuity that was only established three episodes ago… In ‘Rose’ the Doctor could apparently read at a super fast speed but here in ‘Aliens of London’ he reads at a normal pace for some reason. Well it is not like we should expect the same writer and the same director to remember such things; I mean that was three whole episodes ago and they were filmed roughly at the same time.

The government takes in the Doctor and Rose as they are gathering all the experts in alien knowledge. I have to mention that I use word “government” loosely as whenever Russell seem to write for them they come across so cartoon-y that they even say that they are the government of Great Britain… it is called the United Kingdom, Russell… not “Great Britain” as that is just the bigger of the two islands and not a political entity.

The cliffhanger of the episodes is kind of well handled though as it is well shot and the music is great – but the Slitheen themselves look terrible and not threatening at all which ruins the tension because you just end up laughing at their baby faces. What also ruins the cliffhanger though is that just a few seconds later… we get the next time trailer which completely spoils what is going to happen to these characters.

There are not many good new characters in this story but we do get more insight into Mickey and Jackie and I can honestly say they are both better and more interesting than Rose is. Noel Clarke’s performance as Mickey is a standout for the season as he nails every line of dialogue he is given (and most of them could easily come across as incredibly whiny and annoying). Eccleston finally sort of works alone as well in this episode which was great to see and I wish we would have seen more of it before his departure from the series.

Overall though this is the worst episode of the series thus far and combined with the second part it is probably the worst out of all the series 1 stories. It has major tonal problems throughout, the conflict established in the first five minutes is suddenly dropped, everybody acts stupid in order for the plot to move along and the Slitheen are one of the laughable creations of the new series.


4/10

- Lucas

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