Thoughts on Doctor Who Aliens of London

“Do you mind not farting while I’m trying to save the world?”

My journey through Season 1 of Doctor Who continues, albeit at a slightly different pace than I’d first envisaged. I blame my busy life for that.

For anyone coming along late, I’m working my way through a rewatch of all of “new” Doctor Who — not that there’s anything wrong with the classic series, which I still adore — having already written up all of Jodie Whittaker’s first season (you can read that here) and the first 3 episodes of Christopher Eccleston’s run.

As is traditional, just in case you’ve wandered here by accident, a little spoiler space before I start my stream of consciousness writing. Something… to relax to.

I feel so much calmer now.

Oh wow. This episode.

Going into this rather-slower-than-anticipated recap-fest, I’d already mentally pegged this two-parter as the low point of the series. Has time been kind to it? Let’s find out.

  • So, I got a bit lazy with this one and fired it up on Netflix, only to be told that the season is only available in Australia until 30 March. This folks, is why I still buy physical media.
  • The Tardis materialises on a council estate in Cardiff London, after only about 12 hours. Or so the Doctor thinks.
  • The Tardis seems very clean, dark blue. Almost… new. Just me?
  • Rose has been gone more than 12 hours… and I had forgotten that this bit of the episode is rather well handled.
  • And it turns out she’s been gone a whole year. Roll the credits!
  • Ah, the credits. I can’t hate on the credits. Ever.
  • I can hate on the fact that Netflix wants me to SKIP the credits, though. BLASPHEMY!
  • A boy grafittis “Bad Wolf” on the Tardis. I’m sure that’s relevant somehow.
  • Camille Corduri is laying on the parental anguish PERFECTLY here.
  • “How old are you? 40? 45?” – Maybe a bit older than that, Jackie.
  • Jackie slaps the Doctor. Awesome!
  • Maybe I’ve misjudged this episode. So far, it’s GREAT.
  • There is a bit of stupid plot here; why doesn’t Rose fess up to where she’s been, or at least try? I mean, sure, it sounds unbelievable, but it’s got to be better than making her mother think the absolute worst.
  • Oh yeah. She’s only just not a teenager. Talking to the olds isn’t a priority, is it?
  • “It hurts!”
  • “You’re so gay!
  • Interesting dialog call from Russell T there. But I get it — it’s very much in line with how Rose’s character would convey (what was to her) a light insult. She’ll grow, I’m sure.
  • Ooh.. a spaceship over London.. and an effect that looks rather like it was rendered on an Amiga 500. Yeah, I know, best the BBC could afford at the time, but still…
  • St Stephen’s Tower cops it, right in the Big Ben. And so, we enter the “the world knows aliens exist” phase of Doctor Who. It’s a big step for the show, because it rather defined the way Earth-bound stories would be written.
  • Although I can’t quite work out how and why the Doctor doesn’t know about the landing. I mean, this is quite pivotal — what the series would often call a fixed point — and yet the man who has been to the very future of this planet doesn’t know about it? THAT should be what he’s fussing about, no?
  • “Big Ben destroyed” according to BBC News. But it looks like it only hit one side of St Stephens’ Tower. It smashed the WHOLE BELL and left the tower structure intact? How?
  • The use of BBC idents here for the news stuff is genius. As is the live shaky-cam footage of the crash and the endless repetition of the phrase “body of non-terrestrial origin”. This is exactly what 24 hour news channels do when there’s a story breaking and they have sod-all details to hand. Over and over and over again.
  • Blue Peter making spaceship cakes — that’s rather quick, isn’t it? I didn’t think that show went out live any more?
  • OK, so I checked that, and it does, and did. So more fool me. Although apparently, it now rates at alarmingly low rates. As low, apparently as zero viewers. Wow.
  • I’m getting sidetracked here, I feel. Ahem! Back to the good Doctor.
  • It’s Toshiko Sato! Before she was properly Toshiko Sato! This is one of the really fun things about this rewatch, because while clearly this would have been made before Torchwood was greenlit, it shows how the series uses its own built history to create other stories. Plus, y’know, Tosh is awesome.
  • Still not doing a Torchwood rewatch. Yet. And if I did, there’s no such thing as Miracle Day, understand?
  • NO SUCH THING.
  • Ahem. Sidetracked again.
  • Tosh puts the as-yet-unseen-alien-body in storage compartment 5! Should be fine, as long as number 5, isn’t… well… y’know…
  • Harriet Jones! MP For Flydale North! With hindsight, I’m giggling.
  • And we have our first fart gag, and I remember why I don’t like this episode all that much.
  • Quickly followed by the second. My, but fat people farting is fine comedy, isn’t it?
  • And now, there’s giggling in the cabinet room, just in case I wasn’t sure who the bad guys were.
  • Rose is standing underneath a handwritten poster relating to her own disappearance. She’s 19 years old, and 5’4″ tall, slim with shoulder length blond hair, if you should happen to see her.
  • Mickey spots the Doctor. Kind of weird that NOBODY bothered to tell him that Rose was back, after all. Also cruel that he runs into the wall, but then he is also Ricky the Idiot.
  • I am NOT a fan of the Doctor flying the TARDIS with a lump hammer. It’s too… primitive.
  • I’m now left wondering if Harriet Jones, MP, ever did get anything done about cottage hospitals. You know. If she has a future in politics of some sort. That’s probably just idle thinking. After sneaking into the cabinet rooms and peering into red boxes she’s not cleared for, she’s going to prison for treason, right?
  • Storage cabinet 5 has kicking against it. In a blue lit room. This can only mean…
Paul McGann is BACK!
  • Pointing guns at the Doctor. That always works out so well.
  • Sato is screaming! And all she can say is “it’s alive”, which isn’t the most helpful statement. Luckily, the Doctor is taking charge, and he wants more detail.
  • And… it’s a pig. A dwarf alien pig. Yeah, it’s starting to come back to me why this isn’t one of my favourite episodes.
  • Harriet Jones, MP hides in a cupboard. And the aliens are farting and laughing, and the episode is going downhill fast.
  • The head zipper effect wasn’t great back in 2005. In 2019, it’s no better. Mind you, keeping the full Slitheen out of view and putting Harriet Jones’ expression onscreen is smarter.
  • The pig is a fake alien. Sato picks that aliens are faking aliens while the Doctor pulls a rare Batman gambit and runs off. And my teenage daughter wants to know how she does science in those heels…
  • The drama around Mickey, Jackie and Rose is SO MUCH BETTER than the alien pig/cabinet nonsense. Even if it somewhat soap-opera-esque.
  • “I bet you don’t even remember my name.”
  • “Ricky“.
  • “It’s Mickey.”
  • “No, it’s Ricky.”
  • “I think I know my own name.”
  • “You THINK you know your own name? How stupid are you?”
  • OK, I laughed at that one. Way more than the fart jokes, but then, that’s the lowest possible bar to leap.
  • It makes PERFECT sense that Jackie calls the Doctor in. And it makes even more sense that alarms would go off, even if it does look like those alarms were build with MS WordArt templates.
  • Mickey might be an idiot, but he’s one of the good guys. He’s done nothing wrong in this scenario, but he’s been left with the issues of being a murder suspect, and then not even being told Rose was back. Frankly, he’s been amazingly tolerant.
  • The aliens have been here for a while. Which at least explains where they got the pig from.
  • There’s a sex joke in there for the parents as one of the Slitheen talks about his human wife “and mistress”. And how “busy” he’s been. Although that means that Slitheen find human sex enjoyable when they’re in the compressed skin suits. This is raising questions I perhaps don’t want to ponder too deeply.
  • UNIT – “Good people”. But not people who arrest the Doctor in any kind of subtle way.
  • Mickey might be an idiot – but he’s an idiot who knows to hide behind a skip when there’s guns pointed at him. Who’s the idiot now?
  • “Like it said on the news. They’re gathering experts in alien knowledge. And who’s the biggest expert of the lot? “
  • “Patrick Moore? “
  • “Apart from him. “
  • OK, I laughed. Again.
  • Another farting alien. I get that it makes it easy to identify them for the audience, but even the spooky music does that.
  • Apart from The Doctor, Earth (or at least the UK) would appear to have about 6 experts on alien life. And Patrick Moore is nowhere to be seen.
  • Dead bodies in cupboards! The Slitheen are… well, they’re kind of messy, really. Especially when you leave the Prime Minister in a cupboard. That’s just sloppy coup planning. I mean, what happens if a cleaner finds him, or something?
  • The visible zipper on the bulky cop is a step way, way too far.
  • “Do you mind not farting while I’m trying to save the world?”
  • Actually, I could have done without them farting at all.
  • That Slitheen coming out of the skin suit effect is really poor. What’s worrying here is that you can see they’ve spent quite a bit of the budget on it too.
  • One of the experts in the front looks a bit like Nardole. Couldn’t be… could it?
  • Well, he’s dead now, so I’m going to go with “no” on that question.
  • Structurally, it’s a solid cliffhanger, with the Doctor, Rose and Jackie all in separate peril.
  • The evil laughter is a bit much.
  • Big problem here: The next time spoiler does rather give away that everyone survives this, though. I know, I know, you’ve got to keep people keen to keep them watching, but it totally deflates the cliffhanger if you make it absolutely apparent that everyone lives!

Final thoughts: I think I liked it more than I expected to, but not for the core plot reasons.

It’s the human side where Jackie is reunited with Rose that works. The rest is all idiot plot and farting humans, and that really doesn’t work all that well at all.

What will be interesting is when I find the time to switch to part 2, World War 3, because I have this sneaking suspicion I’m going to like that one even less.

Still, Aliens of London is done and dusted, which means it’s time to…

Rank the episodes of Series 1!

4 episodes in, although I don’t think anyone’s going to be shocked as to where I put Aliens of London. You can click on the links below to read each episode review, by the way.

  1. Rose
  2. The Unquiet Dead
  3. The End of The World
  4. Aliens of London

Yeah, it’s the lowest point of the series so far. But will it be the lowest point overall? Only time will tell, as the Doctor might say.

Next time: World War 3 — with the obvious warning that this trailer is a HUGE spoilerfest for that concluding cliffhanger.

Author: Alex

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