CAST OF CHARACTERS
The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) – RACE: Time Lord. AGE: 900, or over 1000, or somewhere about 750, or 906… but he can pass for 35 in a good light. MORALITY: Variable. DRESS SENSE: Variable.
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – RACE: Human/salt-water elemental half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Vaguely weepy. SECONDARY EMOTION: Incredibly weepy. THIRD EMOTION: Aggressively weepy.
Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) – RACE: Human, of course! Why would you even ask such a thing? ANNOYANCE FACTOR: What are you trying to imply by that?! AGE: Don’t you dare ask! WEIGHT: Oh, someone’s cruising for a smack!
Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) – RACE: Human/puppy dog half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Sullen. OCCUPATION: He is t3h l33t hax0r with mad skillz! EVENTUALLY MARRIES: … Martha Jones?! Jeez, they can both do better!
Margaret Blaine (Annette Badland) – RACE: Raxicoricofalapatorian. EMOTIONAL STATE: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (side note: good lord… that’s in my spell-check!) POLITICAL/RELIGIOUS STANCE: Antidisestablishmentarianst. FAVORTE WELSH CITY: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. FAVORITE COMPOSER: Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm
Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North (Penelope Wilton) – RACE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. OCCUPATION: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE MOVIE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE ROCK BAND: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE FOOD: Crackers. With cheese.
Now on the Worst of Doctor Who we have the first recap from the 9th Doctor’s era with the two-part story “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”! It was the first multipart story for the show during its first season and, as we will see here, it blows chunks. I’m tackling “Aliens of London” this week, but like with the series, you’ll have to wait a week for the next part.
This was only the fourth episode of the series falling on the heels of “Rose” (bad), “The End of the World” (almost as bad), and “The Unquiet Dead” (surprisingly decent). While not the worst of the early stories, this one gets my particular rage due to one horrible thing.
But more about them later. First let us visit the cause of our pain, Russell T Davies. He wrote this one (and two of the episodes I mentioned up above). He’s also the producer of the show and the man most responsible for its return. I expressed a few thoughts on Davies in my recap of “Love and Monsters” and now I’m going to express a few more.
Davies is obviously a very intelligent and creative man. He comes up with fascinating ideas and interesting situations and expresses them in an entertaining fashion. He’s also the man who brought back Doctor Who and for that we fans shall be forever grateful.
However he also has a fascination with toilet humor (just wait… you’ll see what I mean…), thinks the Doctor should be fixated on early 21st century Earth cultural references, and he isn’t just gay. He is, rather, an extremely gay homosexual who feels the need to express this by having a Mary Sue character named Rose Tyler and another named Martha Jones as well as a Gary Stu named Jack Harkness. He also had Kylie Minogue appear on an episode.
Here’s how I sum up Davies’ writing style: come up with a great story, insert some interesting characters, give them some peril, get the audience really into it, and then slam them hard with a fart joke or, failing that, a sex joke. Repeat endlessly throughout the story.
But enough Davies bashing for the moment! Let’s discuss the 9th Doctor and his companion, Rose.
When we first met the 9th Doctor in the first episode of the new series, “Rose”, it seemed like he’d only just regenerated. He was dressed in clothing rather more normal than that normally worn by the Doctor, had ears like a pair of satellite dishes and spoke with a northern accent (though as pointed out, most planets have a north [all I would think]).
This Doctor, it turned out, was also haunted by something horrible he’d done in the last great time war, where the Time Lords had fought and defeated the daleks at a terrible price. We wouldn’t find out until the 10th Doctor’s last episode what exactly had happened to them, but we knew it was bad.
This all lent a nice nuance to the Doctor’s personality, and made the character very interesting, taking him in new directions. There was a lot of potential to be had with the character who, sadly, was only on the show for one season.
See, for some bizarre reason RTD had decided to hire an actor who would only play the role for a single season. I’m not sure why he did this. Me, I would’ve either had the man commit to two seasons or found another actor. As it was, he built up the character quite a bit and then threw him away just as we were getting to know him.
The same cannot be said, at least by me, for Rose Tyler, the companion to the 9th and 10th Doctors. Now Rose had some fine moments to be sure, and at her best was very likable and enjoyable, particularly during the first season.
Sadly, she also seemed to be at least 99% tears and was prone to crying at just about anything. Dead cat? Crying. Crooked painting? Crying. Waffle burned? Crying. Much of her weeping and wailing seemed to center around the fact that she was in love with the Doctor and he wasn’t having that. Well, at least not until he became the 10th Doctor.
Also unlike with the original series, New Who is almost as Earth based as the 3rd Doctor. This isn’t an entirely bad thing, but it does mean that we are saddled with constant reappearances by Rose’s mother, Jackie, and puppy-dog boyfriend, Mickey. While I’ll admit having them turn up from time-to-time can lend some nice drama to the show, it gets old quick.
Anyhow, enough of my rather long-winded introduction! Let’s get to the show!
Our story begins with the Doctor and Rose flitting about in the TARDIS and coming in for a landing in the council flat that Rose and her mum live in. They’ve just returned from a rather Dickensian episode where they met… well, Charles Dickens, circa 18something. Now they’re back in modern London.
As they get out of the TARDIS the Doctor says to Rose that no time, really, will have passed since they left. He’s returned her only twelve minutes after their departure, and feels rather smug about that, since he normally can’t steer the TARDIS for a damn.
Rose is pleased and goes skipping off. She runs back to her apartment and surprises her mum quite severely. It seems that, in fact, the Doctor actually returned them 12 months after they left. D’oh!
Needless to say, this leads to some activity on the part of Jackie, as well as a visit by the police, and I must say that as cheesy as this concept is, it’s handled rather well. It’s not played for laughs for the most part, but treated seriously. Sadly, that’s the last real moment of any weight we’ll have for a while.
There’s some happy family moments and a shot of a kid tagging the TARDIS. He’s spraying the words “BAD WOLF” onto the side. Well, interesting. I’m sure that has nothing to do with nothing and will never be relevant to a larger plot ever.
The next day we see Rose and the Doctor up on the roof of her flat talking about all the places she’s been and the things she’s seen and how no one else on Earth knows about aliens, and she is absolutely correct in that. Well, except for UNIT.
Oh, and Torchwood.
Well, and I guess Ian, Barbara, Dodo, Ben, Polly, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, the Brigadier, Harry, Tegan, Ace (possibly, depending on where she ended up), Grace, and Chang Lee might qualify.
And I guess and all the people the Doctor ran into over the years, like Jago and Lightfoot, Sir Robert Muir, H G Wells, the aforementioned Charles Dickens, Mr Ollis, and dozens, if not hundreds, more.
So, yes, other than all those people, Rose is the only human to know about aliens.
Oh, also Mickey knows.
Anyhow! Just after Rose makes these comments we have a sound like a semi honking its horn and a large alien space ship goes flying over head. It smacks into the clock tower holding Big Ben and then crashes into the Thames. Apparently it was traveling on mute since neither Rose nor the Doctor noticed it until it was right on top of them.
The Doctor and Rose try to get to the Thames but due to traffic they aren’t able to make it. The Doctor gushes on about how cool it is to see history happening right in front of them and then Rose suggests they go back to her place and watch it on TV, which is, sadly, how most people witness history these days.
At Rose’s place we see Jackie and friends all gathered around to watch the events. Well, actually, they’re talking with each other and ignoring the TV which is going on about panic and looting and crap like that. Cause, you know, people saw an alien ship crash. So they panic and loot, right?
Yes, yet again we have another Trope That Annoys Badger. In this case it’s “Humanity Isn’t Ready!” Conventional wisdom says that if we make contact with aliens, well, of course everyone will go batshit nuts. Their worldview will be so shattered that suddenly they’ll run around… well, panicking and looting.
I don’t buy it. I don’t think that’s ever been true. Alien contact would not be so traumatizing that people would be panicking and looting. Concerned? Sure, but like Rose points out, they’d probably all be at home watching TV. If anything, I imagine that crime would go down due to everyone being at home or the nearest bar to watch the news.
Meantime, some kid at Jackie’s flat grabs the remote and flicks through the channels, landing on a cooking show where some chef talks about how to prepare a cake that looks almost, but not quite, like a spaceship. Yes, that’s what it was like on 9/11, I remember. Of course CNN and the like had the news, but no one else did. Well, I mean, aside from all the stations rebroadcasting newsfeeds which were all the stations. I had cable installed that very morning and vividly recall getting 100+ channels which were all showing news and nothing else. But apparently in the Whoniverse aliens visiting must take a backseat to cake.
On the news we see that there’s rumors a body was recovered from the spaceship, and indeed we see this is the case. It’s taken to a nearby hospital where, we are told, all the patients were moved out onto the streets. Because, you know, that makes more sense than to just secure one floor or go to a military hospital. I bet the lawsuits from patient’s families were impressive. Most impressive.
In the hospital we see that the alien is being examined by… Toshito Sato?! The Asian chick from Torchwood? The hell? Isn’t she supposed to be a computer geek and not a medical examiner?
Ah, I see from Wikipedia’s article on this episode that she is a computer geek and apparently in an episode of Torchwood it is mentioned that she was covering for her friend Owen who was hung over from partying and couldn’t be bothered to be at work that day. Yeah… ok. That makes sense, I guess? Me, I would’ve just made up a completely different character, had her be played by the same actress and otherwise ignored the situation, but then again I’m not Russell T Davies, master of logic and subtlety.
Anyhow, some general comes in and has a look at the alien body, which we cannot see because it is under a sheet. He seems a bit disturbed and then gets ready to leave, but as he does, Sato comes up to him and asks if what they’re saying about the Prime Minister is true. He doesn’t say anything, just turns around and heads off screen.
He arrives at 10 Downing Street, where a reporter for the Exposition News Network explains that the PM has been missing for a while. The opposition are bitching about the PM not being around to handle the emergency. What, they’re prefer he sit around and stare blankly into space for seven minutes?
At Number 10 we see the arrival of a rather fat MP and I gotta say, something seems wrong here. I mean, there’s a crapload of cameras around snapping pics and reporters shouting questions. I realize that Number 10 isn’t as far back from the street as the White House, but surely in a time of massive global emergency someone would’ve had the press pushed back a bit, just for security reasons if nothing else?
Anyhow, the MP, Joseph Green walks inside where a secretary greets him. As they do a walk-and-talk that would make Aaron Sorkin proud, a woman falls in behind them and interrupts, introducing herself as Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North.
The secretary tells her off, and he and Green head upstairs. The two men talk about how the PM and the Cabinet are still missing and this means that Green is now the acting Prime Minister. Really? That’s really how it works? I mean, I know British politics are done somewhat differently than in the USA, but even then this still doesn’t seem right to me.
All thoughts of politics are quickly swept aside, however, as Green farts. Farts loudly, farts enthusiastically and farts definitively. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that wonder of comedy known as The Fart Joke has now dropped it’s sulphorous little self onto Doctor Who. One wonders what William Hartnell would make of it.
Now normally I’d ignore this bit of nonsense, except that this entire show, both parts, is built on a premise of alien farting. No kidding! This rather loud, annoying bit of cutting one in this scene is discrete and tasteful compared with what’s to come.
So Green and the secretary go into a room where we’re introduced to two more fat people, namely Oliver Charles and Margaret Blaine. I must say, given how unpleasant her character is and the nasty thing she does, Annette Badland’s performance almost makes her sympathetic, both here and even more so in another episode where she appears.
The secretary hands Green something known as The Emergency Protocols. These are apparently a set of rules that tell everyone what to do in the event of an alien landing on Earth. Green farts in gratitude and takes the satchel and goes into a room with Margaret and the other fat one. They close the door and have a nice evil laugh.
You know what? That last fart annoyed the hell out of me, and there’s more to come. So just for fun let’s start the Fart-o-Meter. Currently we’re at two.
Back at Rose’s apartment complex she and the Doctor are talking about first contact. No, not that First Contact. This one is this world’s version of humanity making contact with aliens officially for the first time. The Doctor is getting rather excited about this possibility, but that confuses me.
See, the Doctor is a Time Lord, right. That means that he comes from a species for whom time travel is as natural as breathing. One would think that he, of all his people, would know for sure when humanity’s first contact with alien life is (we know it’s somewhere between now and when the daleks take over the Earth). And don’t tell me that this is some sort of malleable kind of thingy, where the time stream is uncertain. I’m pretty sure that if the destruction of humanity’s first base on Mars is an unchangeable thing, so is this.
Before the Doctor leaves to get out of the way, Rose makes him promise not to just up and disappear on her. Understandable, so he gives her a TARDIS key. She goes all goey and domestic and the Doctor heads out, tailed briefly by Mickey, putting in his first appearance since the pilot. He sees the Doctor and tries to leap at the TARDIS as it dematerializes only to wind up smacking into a wall. Apparently he exists entirely for comic relief, which might explain his eventual marriage to Martha Jones. Everyone needs a good laugh, right?
We go back to 10 Downing Street where Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, is bringing the secretary a bit of tea. He cleverly sees through this ruse and as Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is trying to explain why she needs to get in to see Green and company, they come walking out. She tries to give him some papers for something she wants addressed and he quite rightly tells her to get some damn perspective.
I’m not sure what the writers were going for with Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. Yes, she’s a darling woman but clearly very out of touch with reality. Everyone that tells her to fart off (ha! I can make those jokes, too!), is quite right to do so. There’s a time and a place and this is neither. To her credit, the character becomes somewhat relevant here and quite relevant later, but her introduction sucks dalek eye-stalk.
Everyone glares at Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North as they walk past, but she shows herself to be a woman of pluck and determination. She sneaks into the cabinet room and cleverly tries to insert her idea for cottage hospitals into the agenda. While there she finds and reads the emergency protocols. I’m not clear as to why these things are supposed to be a great revelation, but they appear to be for her. I’m guessing high speed internet has yet to make its way to Flydale North.
Back at the hospital, our future Torchwood compu-tech hears some ominous crashing and banging sounds while the Doctor arrives in another part of the hospital. Sato advances down the corridor looking wary as the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open a locked door. Inside are soldiers who stare at him. He stares at them. They pull all their guns and aim them at his face.
Now I’ve never been in the military. My kind aren’t welcome there. But I do rather think that in the military what would really happen in a case like this is that one of the soldiers would ask to see some ID while others keep their guns almost, but not quite, pointed at the Doctor as someone else calls to HQ. But that’s just me.
Sato sees something break out through a door and screams. The Doctor shouts “Defence plan Delta!” and leads the soldiers out to the rescue! The Doctor catches up to Sato who is clearly traumatized by what she’s seen. The Doctor orders the troops to move out and find whatever is in here, which, as the Doctor discovers, is a humanoid pig.
The pig looks scared and the Doctor tries to coax it out of hiding. It panics and goes running down a corridor towards some soldiers who, seeing an alien creature with hooves raised and making horrible noises, sensibly react as they’ve been trained and shoot it. It sucks, but I would’ve likely done the same thing. They have no idea what it was, after all.
The Doctor bitches out the soldiers and makes them feel bad by saying the creature was scared, and no doubt it was, but I’m sure the soldiers were, too. The Doctor making them feel like dicks isn’t very nice, but it is at least par for the course when the Doctor would regularly butt heads with the Brigadier over some issue or another.
Back at Downing Street, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is reading off the emergency protocols when she hears the three fatties approaching. She hides in a closet as they come in lecturing a rather fat general. He tells them off for the way they’ve handled the situation and they smart-mouth him, with Green saying he thought he was Prime Minister now. The general is taken aback and threatens to declare martial law. Really? In the UK generals can just do that on their own authority? Interesting.
Anyhow, the fatties start farting again. Very quickly the Fart-O-Meter adds another seven notches and we now have a total of eleven. We are twenty-five minutes in, so not counting opening credits, that gives us about one fart every two minutes. Well done, Mr Davies. You’re setting a standard we can only hope the rest of the BBC’s programming decides to live up to.
Green comes up to the general at this point, makes some comments about him saying things that are “hair raising” and then unzips his forehead. The other two do the same, with a ghastly alien light pouring forth from inside. What evil dangers could lurk therein, you wonder? The tension builds and builds as you ponder the horrible things that could be inside these bodies…
Then you remember the farting, and that kills that mood.
Down in the morgue, Sato and the Doctor are looking at the dead pig who, it turns out, is a human/pig crossbreed. She quickly figures out this is a hoax where apparently aliens are creating a fake alien to crashland on Earth. She’s not clear why they’d bother and frankly, I’m not too clear on it later. Even once the plan the aliens have is revealed, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. What’s their plan? Well, you don’t get to find out yet, but I’ll give you a hint: think Lex Luthor.
Also, as the pig thing lays there on the table, the actor inside is obviously breathing. Normally I don’t call out shows on things like that, because it happens. But I’m not sure why, in this case, they didn’t just put the costume on a dummy, and if you think that’s a build-up to a cheap shot about how Davies couldn’t fit into it… well, you might be right.
Back at Jackie’s place, she’s throwing a very multi-ethnic party for her friends and as she does, Mickey shows up. He and Rose trade some terse words and, oops, it turns out he was the number one suspect the police had in her suspected murder. Yeah, gotta suck when people go around accusing you of a murder you didn’t do.
Mickey tells Rose that the Doctor has left. She goes running out to where the TARDIS was and, certainly, it’s gone. Rose argues with him and shows off her TARDIS key which starts glowing for some reason. Okay. Also an ominous wind begins to blow. Alrighty. I never knew that the TARDIS could cause wind, but whatever.
Rose, Mickey and Jackie all pile into the TARDIS. There’s some “clever” dialogue where the Doctor keeps calling Mickey Ricky, which isn’t nearly as interesting as when he used to call Chesterton Chesterfield. There’s some domestic bickering, and Jackie goes running off understandably scared.
Up in the flat, Jackie is wigging out and apparently so is all of the UK due to the government not really saying or doing anything during this crisis. I can actually buy that people would react that way in this case, but I rather doubt they’d set up a phone line for people to call in with UFO sightings, as they do here, since such a thing would result in so many false positives it wouldn’t really get anything accomplished.
Jackie decides to take action and calls the number on the screen. On the other end of the phone, we see someone using a Hollywood OS and entering in keywords into a computer system. Words like “The Doctor”, “Blue box” and “TARIDS”. This results in an alarm flashing, proving that perhaps the government isn’t that stupid after all, given that every time he’s turned up, something has gone all twonky.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor insults Mickey, Mickey and Rose have a little make-up conversation, and then the Doctor sets up a computer screen that shows the trajectory of the alien spaceship. It appears to have been launched from Earth and then circled back to land.
Meanwhile in Downing Street we see Charles slipping into the skin of the General. This results in another fart (twelve now). The discarded Charles skin, which has a literal zipper along the forehead, gets tossed into the closet and they head out, only to run into the secretary who tells them there’s been a “code nine alert”. It seems that during times when the emergency protocols are activated, they have software which scans all communications for certain key words.
There’s so many problems here. First, as I mentioned before, something like that would give you even more false positives than setting up a hotline for people to call in. Second, no country, not even the USA, has computers capable of scanning every single bit of communications for certain words. This is basically just the ECHELON concept, and it pisses me off so much that I wrote a blog article about it. Yes, I have no life.
On the Doctor’s monitor, we now see several shots of various people and then finally some video footage of military types walking along. The Doctor indentifies them as members of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or NAMBLA. Rose wonders how he knows about them, and Mickey explains that the Doctor used to work for them.
They all exit the TARDIS and are instantly surrounded by what appears to be most of the UK’s military. This includes all the requisite guns and helicopters on mute. How the Doctor and company did not know they were all outside is beyond me, but there they are.
As the military types move, in Mickey goes running off into the night and, for some reason, is not instantly shot. The Doctor meantime says, “Take me to your leader”, and I roll my eyes a little bit. He and Rose get thrown into a car and are shuffled off to Downing Street.
At Downing Street we see that the paparazzi have not yet been chased off. They take several pics of the Doctor as he arrives, and really the whole place looks like the outside of the BAFTA’s. I’m really quite baffled as to why the military hasn’t chased them off yet. Does 10 Downing Street just not have a back door or something where they can bring in people without the world knowing?
In Jackie’s apartment we see her being questioned by a rather fat police officer who has a rumbling stomach. No points for guessing what he is in disguise. As I roll my eyes at this, we cut to a shot of Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North wandering around Downing Street.
There’s what appears to be a small reception going on, and then the secretary turns up to give the Doctor an ID card to go into a little meeting. Rose is excluded, but not to worry, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, says that she’ll keep an eye on Rose. She takes Rose and leads her away rather quickly, generating a small sub-genre of slash fiction.
In the meeting room, we see the Doctor and a bunch of military and science types. The general starts talking and the Doctor interrupts, mentioning something about a mysterious space launch in the North Sea. As he does that, we flash upstairs where in true “Black Orchid” fashion, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North and Rose find a dead body in the cupboard. Turns out to be the Prime Minister.
Back home, Jackie is completely missing out on some menacing statements from the police officer who is hanging around in her flat. He then takes off his cap, and, oh lord, has an actual zipper visible on his forehead! This is beyond stupid! None of the others had this until after the costume was taken off! Why does he have one? Argh!
As the Doctor exposits, figuring out that the whole thing is a trap for all the great scientific minds on the planet (complete with our thirteenth fart), we see Margaret wander into the upstairs office and start advancing on the secretary, Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. She then reaches up and begins to unzip her forehead, and back in the meeting, we see the general doing the same thing and also the police officer is wiggling out of his bodysuit in Jackie’s flat.
Now as these aliens do their thing, I find myself noticing all the lights in the room where they are turn off, leaving only an eerie blue light over everything. Clearly this was done for dramatic purposes (though again, remembering the 13 farts makes them somewhat less menacing), but it makes no sense story wise. Then again, the story makes no sense itself, so I guess that’s ok.
The general is the first one to finish coming out of his shell (and as soon as he’s done, the lights turn on again). He announces that they are the Slitheen, Margaret kills the secretary, Green activates an electrical device that electrocutes everyone, the police officer advances on Jackie and… end episode!
So that’s it for part one. Lots of set up and no resolution, as is to be expected. Really, aside from the farting aliens, this episode isn’t as bad as it might’ve been. Oh, it’s still not great, but it’s not truly horrible. No, the horribleness doesn’t begin until next week.
Stay tuned for “World War Three,” next time, on the the Worst of Doctor Who!