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First UK Transmission Date (BBC1)Scheduled TXViewers
23rd April 200519:007.98m

Cast: 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 Marr (himself)

Writer: Russell T Davies, Script Editor: Helen Raynor, Director: Keith Boak

Synopsis: - Downing Street announces mankind's first Interplanetary War, but the real danger is much closer to home. The Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones race against time to unmask the villainous Slitheen, but only Rose's mum and boyfriend hold the key to salvation.

'World War Three' Background and Summary: - The previous week had been a low-point in the return of Doctor Who. The luke-warm reception for Aliens of London had come with the news that Doctor Who's overnight figures had produced its lowest so far and, worse still, lost out to Ant n Dec for the first time. However, the week of broadcast for World War Three was, in contrast, a triumphant one. Not only had the viewing figures picked up a little but, more significantly, they trounced ITV's new offering, Celebrity Wrestling. Further good news was to come from the adjusted figures for Aliens of London which added 700,000 viewers to beat Ant n Dec's finale show retrospectively. The icing on the cake was when the BBC conducted a poll asking children 'What is your favourite television show?' and Doctor Who won with 23% of 1900 votes, well beating the Simpsons in 2nd on 15%.

World War Three was better received than part one of the story and this was illustrated in a poll of 2000 fans. Although the number of fans who rated this episode "fair"/"poor" only dropped by 1.5%, those rating it "good"/"excellent" went up to nearly 70% from the previous 63%. The reasons were fairly clear. The juvenile elements were less evident and a darker edge was present which cultimated in a beautiful moment when the Doctor faced off with the Slitheen over the threshold, and told them he would stop them. The improvement in this story can be further attributed to the fact that it equated to episodes three and four of an old style four-parter and its these episodes which were generally the most enjoyable of an alien invasion story because the aliens have been revealed and the build-up of the first 45 minutes is rewarded with plenty of traditional corridor-based action. Much is said about the corridor cliche but the reality is that such shots are incredibly important in narrowing the audience's field of view, incresing the level of claustrophobia and reducing the possibility of escape. Is is also a universal truth that lumbering alien forms are more unsettling when they are filling passageways designed for slender humans. There is a classic moment where three of the Slitheen family trap Rose and the Harriet in a room, conjouring memories of many past Doctor Whos, particularly from The Seeds of Death. The scene where Jackie and Mickey are faced with a Slitheen in Mickey's own flat echoes more clasic Troughton, in The Web of Fear.

The cast were excellent and Penelope Wilton's character develops very well to fulfil her destiny. Mickey is likeable and funny and the change in his relationship with the Doctor at the end is very enjoyable. The actors playing the Slitheen themselves are very entertaining and in their most sinister moments are extremely effective.

Although the elements which jarred in the first episode are still present, they are more easily accepted as they have already been established. The resolution does tend to stretch credibility somewhat, but its done with great conviction and fits well within the story. It should also be noted that far worse has gone before in Doctor Who. The Doctor's stance against the aliens is followed by several moments of intellectual excellence which shows how this character fights without any weapon, except of course for the use of one very large weapon at the end, however this was Rose's suggestion.

Ultimately this first two-parter of the new series of Doctor Who would probably not be remembered all that fondly for several reasons. The domestics were a shock, the council-flat basis was very ordinary, the monsters broke wind profusely and the plot swung between being childish and convoluted. The tone also wavered throughout as the story flitted between brave, emotional scenes and slapstick, embarrassing moments, but the improvement in the second episode was enough to round the story off satisfactorily. Up to the end of World War Three the new series had seen 3/5 of episodes set on contemporary Earth but Rose's formal decision to travel with the Doctor essentially gave a second launch to the series and it would be another six episodes before Rose would see contemporary Earth again. Indeed the following episode would be a baptism of fire for Rose as the Doctor encounters an old enemy...

Classic Series Influences and References:

  • The opening scene in which the Slytheen are disorientated while Doctor and his friends escape is very remniscant of The Sea Devils in which the Doctor activates a high-pitched which is allowed to continue just long enough to ensure everyone's safety.
  • The TARDIS is shown to have a "trim phone" identical to the one seen in Unit Headquarters during the Pertwee era

Buy the Complete First Series

This 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.

Nothing 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!


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