Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 1x04: "Aliens Of London"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Keith Boak

After an attack of the Autons, Cassandra’s devious machinations and an inspired interaction with the Gelth and Charles Dickens in the previous episode, it was very much about time to get our first alien invasion and for The Doctor and Rose to touch base with the present day and we got both in the start of a two part adventure with very mixed results.

Touching base first, Rose and The Doctor realise that instead of being gone for twelve hours since the end of “Rose”, they’ve actually been gone for an entire year. That certainly explains why Jackie is freaked out when Rose walks into the house not a bother and later during a police interview, The Doctor finds himself at the receiving end of a slap from Jackie for his efforts to partly explain Rose’s absence.

Although still slightly annoying, Camille Coduri gives a decent enough performance as a distraught Jackie tries to get some real information on her daughter’s actual whereabouts, which Rose does her best to deflects but fails. Rose may have disappeared for an entire year but not much has seemed to have changed. Jackie aside, the only person who really went through the ringer during Rose’s departure was Mickey.

Still a bit of a plank but better than we last saw him, even I felt bad for Mickey in this episode. Not only did Rose fail to touch base with him when she returned to London (it was him who came looking for her), he also had to endure a lot of grief during his girlfriend’s disappearance such as Jackie’s anger and being a murder suspect and now that she has returned, her and Mickey don’t seem to be in a good place relationship wise.

He was gleeful when he thought The Doctor abandoned Rose and even rubbed it into her face, not a smart idea mate. Rose herself also showed resistance and hesitation when he almost begged her to stay. I think both Mickey and Rose will realise that that’s not going to happen.

She’s become akin to travelling and even if she was forced to stay, I don’t think she’d take it lying down so easily. Even The Doctor himself caused problems with them by being openly hostile with Mickey and then there’s our main storyline and a certain phone call that does Jackie more harm than good.

Our main problem this week are aliens called the Slitheen who have managed to entered 10 Downing Street by assuming the bodies of Joseph Green (acting PM), Margaret Blaine and Oliver Charles while killing the real Prime Minister. How did we know they were evil before even getting to see them in their real form? That insidious comic laughter they made with when dismissing liaison Indra Ganesh did it for me.

As aliens go the Slitheen are not the most convincing lot and while the running jokes about farting (less subtle than last week) are amusing to begin, an over reliance in them for the humour makes the comedy appear too trite for it’s own good. For diversion purposes we have an overly eager Flydale MP Harriet Jones witness the Slitheen in action while they dispatch General Asquith (he tried to relieve Joseph of PM duties).

As a set piece this is definitely the episode most (and possibly only) real moment of true menace, although Penelope Wilton’s expression at seeing these creatures in action feels a little over the top.

Like all aliens so far on the new series, the only thing the Slitheen want to do is take over the world and they’re determined enough to make sure nothing gets in the way of that. A fake crash landing which sees Big Ben destroyed and a view of the Thames looks stunning but feels rather pointless, except for the death of a fake pig alien has The Doctor and various other alien experts summoned into 10 Downing Street that has a very nasty surprise for them.

In order to keep things going the Slitheen attack from all sides. The ones disguised as General Asquith and Joseph Green do their best electrocute The Doctor and the other alien experts as they former deduces that they’ve been trapped. Rose, Harriet and Indra on the other hand face off with Margaret Blaine, which means Navin Chowdry from Teachers is another casualty for this race.

However it’s Jackie who really feels in peril as the consequences for reporting The Doctor has also made her a target for a Slitheen dressed as a policeman. Let’s just say this is one house call she won’t be forgetting in a while.

Although the final scenes try to up the terror and danger of the Slitheen, the CGI on these particular aliens looks rather dodgy and there’s not enough fear communicated by the actors that got me to think past that I’m afraid.

Also in “Aliens Of London”

Why are the “Previously On” bits silent with this show? Also some street kids wrote Bad Wolf on the TARDIS. That is significant, am I right?

The Doctor: “I am a Doctor”
Jackie: “Prove it, stitch this mate.”

The posters that were for Rose during her absence were “Missing”, “Can You Help?” and “Where Is Rose”. The only new thing we learned about the character was that she is 5’4 feet tall.

The Doctor (re being slapped by Jackie): “It hurt.”
Rose: “You are so gay.”

Rose (re spaceship): “Oh, that is just not fair.”
The Doctor: “Ha-ha.”

The Doctor is 900 years. Does that mean he was born in the 12th Century or has been travelling relentlessly for 900 years?

Harriet: “I did have an appointment for 3.15.”
Indra: “Yes and then a spaceship crashed in the middle of London. I think the schedule might be changed.”

Harriet is an MP for Flydale. We also learned that she wants cottage hospitals to be included in Centres of Excellence. I like the character.

General Asquith: “You think this is fun?”
Joseph Green: “It’s a hoot.”
Margaret Blaine: “Honestly so fun.”

We didn’t learn anything about the real Joseph or Margaret but apparently the real Oliver had a wife, a mistress and a farmer.

Rose (to Mickey, re The Doctor): “He’s not my boyfriend. He’s better than that, he’s much more important.”

Other posters in this episode included “Ello ET” and “Welcome To Our World”. We got two famous faces in this episode - the rather cute Matt Baker from Blue Peter and Andrew Marr from BBC News, which featured heavily in this episode.

Rose: “In twelve months did you see anyone else?”
Mickey: “No, mainly because everyone thought I murdered you.”

Since her departure Jackie’s been seeing someone called Billy and Mickey’s been reading up on The Doctor. He provided a useful tip in this episode too.

The Doctor: “Apart from him?”
Rose: “Oh don’t you just love that?”

The number Jackie called on The Doctor is 08081570980 and in terms of chronology, it is 2005 or 2006?

The Doctor: “Would you mind not farting while I’m trying to save the world?”
Joseph Green: “Would you rather silent but deadly?”

Standout music: David Bowie’s “Star Man”, which is one of my favourite tracks from him.

Something of a hokum start to the first of three two part episodes expected in Season One, there are some fine moments in “Aliens Of London” but most of them have to do with the domestics The Doctor is eager to avoid, rather than the alien threat itself. Next episode can only improve things.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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