|First UK Transmission Date (BBC1)||Scheduled TX||Viewers|
|16th April 2005||19:00||7.6m|
Penelope Wilton (Prime Minister Harriet Jones), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Annette
Badland (Margaret Blaine), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), Naoko Mori (Dr.
Sato), Navin Chowdhry (Indra Ganesh), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Eric Potts
(Oliver Charles), Steven Speirs (Asst Commissioner Strickland), Morgan Hopkins
(Sgt. Price), Basil Chung (Chinese Man), Fiesta Mei Ling (Chinese Woman), Lachele
Carl (Reporter), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Corey Doabe (Spray Paint Kid), Andrew
Writer: Russell T Davies, Script
Editor: Helen Raynor, Director: Keith Boak
Synopsis: After a flurry of adventures,
the Doctor takes Rose back home to London to visit her mum. Its a touching
reunion, particularly when it becomes clear to a baffled Rose that shes
been "missing" for a year. In a neat coincidence, an alien spaceship
crash-lands on the capital. An alien is rescued and becomes the subject of intense
speculation. Soon, the call goes out to the Doctor for help. But meanwhile, all
is not well at the heart of the Government and there are some very strange
people populating 10 Downing Street, as witnessed by a terrified provincial MP
(the marvellous Penelope Wilton).
'Aliens of London' Background and Summary:
This story returned the Doctor and Rose to near-contemporary Earth and in
doing so precipitated an ongoing emotional storyline revolving around Rose's family
and boyfriend which was unprecedented in Doctor Who. Never before has a companion's
travelling with the Doctor and its consequences been so deeply explored. Ian and
Barabara's brief mention at the end of The Chase (1965) that they'd have
to think of something to explain their two-year absense was the first and only
on-screen discussion of this problem up until Ace returned to Perivale in Survival
(1989), the irony being that it was a time-storm which randomly whisked Ace away
from Earth rather than the Doctor, and it was only thanks to the Doctor that she
ever returned. Aside from Rose's obvious continuity with her family, the 'Bad
Wolf' reference makes its third and most obvious appearance in the series, hinting
further at the storyline to come.
Russel T Davies' ambition with the
character of Rose was to create a real-life companion who had all the problems
of modern young woman. There is little doubt that in this he succeeds admirably
and for the first time the audience seriously ponders the after-effects of a trip
through time. And yet it is debatable just how important this angle is within
the broader picture of Doctor Who, being as it is a series about alien adventures
and far-fetched happenings. A believable emotional reaction to a situation is
welcome, but upping the level of everyday realism does not neccessarily make a
good science fiction story due to the plot often being entirely unbelieveable.
Whilst on the one hand it brings a certain freshness to see the main characters
in a council flat watching events unfolding on the news, (although not unprecedented
- see The Daemons) it does generate a very ordinary feeling around the
extraordinary character of The Doctor. The controversial use by Rose of the phrase
"You're so gay" as a jibe at the Doctor sat as uncomfortably with many
viewers as a stream of realistic swear words would have done, and yet a stream
of swear words would have been equally realistic if uttered by an on-looker while
Big Ben's clock tower is destroyed by an alien spacecraft. Strangely enough, The
Doctor's dialogue echoes some cautious viewers' thoughts when he warned Rose not
to turn the TARDIS into a domestic but a domestic is what much of this episode
starts out as. This approach has divided opinion because although character-building
is naturally a plus, the soap-opera feeling of a recurring location is like the
homely UNIT H.Q. of the Pertwee era taken to a whole new level.
That said, Rose's mum's concerns over the Doctor's
origins do actually serve a purpose as her suspicion drives the narrative towards
one of its most triumphant moments - when a group of keywords including "TARDIS"
trigger a red alert warning that the Doctor is in town. This glorious revelling
in the goodwill generated by the character is one of the most enjoyable elements
of the episode and it comes to the fore on other occasions such as when the Doctor
commands a group of soldiers who've never met him before, and when speaks unchallenged
at the meeting of experts. Also in this episode's favour was the fact this story
looked very impressive, from the iconic crash sequence, to the miliatary hardware
This episode sadly has a lot going against it.
Keith Boak's directing took a lot of critism, as did the general tone of the episode.
One moment it was emotionally charged, the next funny, the next embarrassing.
Whist some cry out that this disparity is the hallmark of Doctor Who, those
who defend the constant wind-breaking of the aliens and the awful acting were
very much in the minority. Like the belching wheelie-bin in Rose or the
Moxx of Balhoon spitting in Rose's eye in The End of the World, these moments
are thrown in for the benefit of children and it's this fact which is trotted
out as a defence against them, but it doesn't alter the fact that they are hopelessly
out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the episode and frequently jar the
audience out of their involvement with the drama. There is also a lack of consistency
in the complexity of the concepts. At the high end there's the grotesque idea
of the genetically butchered pig, at the low end there's the fact that the human
skin costumes actually have visible zips. The episode never seems to decide which
audience it is pitching at. Opinion is generally divided on the success of the
modified pig scene and the build-up to the cliff-hanger but interestingly one
of the biggest criticisms was once again in the format rather than the content
of the program: Most people took exception to the fact that the first cliffhanger
for sixteen years was instantly spoilt with the trailer for next week's episode
straight after it. All ancipation of the concluding part evaporated as the audience
learnt that all the heroes were safe.
The story was not billed as a two-parter and
the concluding part was given its own episode title in order to mislead. This
was a deliberate move to ensure that the cliff-hanger was a surprise to as large
a percentage of the audience as possible. With it being a two-parter however the
build-up was noticably slower and some expecting a 45-minute story found the story's
pace to be slow.
The viewing figures for this episode showed a drop
from the previous week which was in many ways surprising after the good audience
for The Unquiet Dead but it should be taken taken in the context that ITV
had pulled out all the stops for Ant n Dec's finale. Generally though, this story
was enjoyed much less then earlier episodes with only only 63% of fans polled
saying it was "excellent" or "good" and a large 10% simply
didn't like it at all. Compare this to the previous week's The Unquiet Dead
for which 90% called it "excellent" or "good" and only 1.5%
didn't like it. With the return to Earth and its domestic strife, plus the unfortunate
juvenile elements and hammy acting, this story in many ways took a step back from
The Unquiet Dead but a complete opinion on the story as a whole would rest
on the concluding episode.
Classic Series Influences and References:
- The Leisure Hive also featured aliens who had no chance of fitting
inside human "costumes"
- "I'm glad to see you're wearing
the bracelet I gave you" is a line from City of Death and the bracelet
is then used to dispatch its wearer. Very similar to the identity badges.
past references include UNIT (Troughton and Pertwee era mainly)
the Complete First Series
is an absolutely must for anyone who remotely enjoyed the new series of Doctor
Who. Unlikely the previous individual releases of episodes, the box set has extras
coming out of its ears. And whereas some box sets just have extras on the final
disc, this brilliant package has a selection of extras on each disk, plus the
entire set of Doctor Who confidential (cut down) on another disk.
much needs saying about the episodes themselves but commentaries on certain episodes
are almost worth the price alone. The commentaries of Rose, The Unquiet
Dead and Dalek are of particular note and the video diaries of certain
members of the team are very interesting and fun. The TARDIS container is a nice
package and overall, believe me this set of DVDs is well worth the asking price,
or probably more!