[2005, Season 27/Series 1, Episodes 4 & 5]
Aliens of London begins by exploring territory Doctor Who has never really explored before: what travelling with the Doctor does to a companion. The Doctor brings Rose back home, but accidentally brings her one year after she left. Her mother and boyfriend Mickey thought she was kidnapped, and her mother thought it was Mickey, causing all sorts of trauma.
The deeply human drama of the opening dramatic scenes is wonderful. It adds a layer of reality to the wild fantasies of this show. It’s genuinely thoughtful and even moving. It's made even better when the Doctor begins to open up a little bit, making a wonderful bit of acting from Eccleston and Piper. Further, the awkwardness the Doctor feels in a domestic situation is perfect. His insensitivity is exactly what you'd expect, and it's done very nicely.
|Although the CSO sucks (and is pointless).|
It’s too bad that stuff is dumped in the midst of a story about farting aliens. I mean, seriously, nobody realized what a dumb idea that was? The villains aren’t helped by the fact that, without their masks, they look pretty lousy, both in costume and CGI form.
To be fair, the plot starts well, with a spaceship crashing into Big Ben and some nice mysteries set up. The Doctor’s stuff with UNIT is good. And, to be fair, when the farting aliens show up, there is at least a lot of energy, a couple clever bits from the Doctor (I love his bluff about blowing up the alcohol), and a good character in Harriet Jones. It's enough to make it watchable. But it’s a silly, forgettable plot with lame aliens (wasting good performances as those aliens), climaxed with an uninspiring and ordinary finale, pointlessly stretched over two episodes. Seriously, there's no reason on earth for this to go on more than 45 minutes. The first half is just marking time to get to its meh cliffhanger, and far too much of the action in the second half is shot like a Benny Hill chase. Even at one episode, it wouldn't exactly be a classic, but across two? I'm totally going to complain about the whole 45 minute compression sometimes (and already have), but that's about good stories. This didn't really deserve one episode.
But that human drama at the beginning? Terrific.
* * ½
- Mickey wasn't that likable a character in Rose - not unlikable, exactly, just not terribly likable. Here, he's clearly grown up quite a bit. It's really nice that RTD acknowledges that these people have changed in believable ways after Rose disappears for a year.
- For all its faults, the story is very watchable, and a lot of that has to do with RTD's talent for character dialogue. Several of the exchanges between the Doctor, Rose, and Harriet Jones are priceless.
DOCTOR: [to the Slitheen] What are you, exactly?
HARRIET: They're aliens.
DOCTOR: Yeah, I got that, thanks.
- Farting aliens? Seriously?