The Case for… Aliens of London/World War Three

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Guest contributor David Selby makes the case for the first two-parter of the revival.

Aliens of London/World War Three was a divisive story to say the least – and is mainly considered by some fans as a useless and ridiculous story.

Both episodes were good in their own right, and although I prefer the second half by a mile, I’d still like to take the time to make the case for both episodes.

The Case for… Aliens of London

Even I’ll admit that Aliens of London is the weakest episode of series one, and in comparison to the other episodes of the series, very little seems to happen. There are a couple of seemingly ridiculous aliens, and a couple of awful farting jokes. Complaints aside, what did work?

When I saw The Eleventh Hour for the first time, I noticed the resemblance to Aliens of London. But when we look back on The Eleventh Hour, we still see it as the story of the companion who waited, yet we forget that Aliens of London is about the mother who waited. The Slitheen were, in some ways, a device to move the story onwards, meaning that both parts had an underlying theme of Rose’s life with the Doctor, and the impact is has on her home life.

The same goes for the space-pig, by all standards, it was a pretty weak design, but was meant to be representative of the Siltheen’s violent tendencies. It also advanced the invasion idea, which is what I am moving onto now.

Doctor Who has had many unique earth invasions; The Dalek Invasion of Earth gave us the very first ever earth invasion (which was, at times, more like a victory), Doctor Who and the Silurians started the invasion of earth’s first inhabitants, The Runaway Bride was the revenge of a creature buried deep beneath the earth, Terror of the Autons was the invasion of something we thought we knew, and The Power of Three was the slow invasion. The list goes on, and this story was no exception – the fundamental idea was that the Slitheen had faked an invasion to cover up the first one, which was an ingenious concept.

So, despite the fact that looking for depth in the Slitheen could leave you slightly bewildered, this episode did succeed in its backstories, and also its unique ideas.

The Case for… World War Three

World War Three is the episode which I really wanted to write the case for, because, in my honest opinion, it completely lived up to its goals.

What I loved about this story was that even the Slitheen were used to their fullest. Let me give you an example:

The Doctor: I give you a choice. Leave this planet or I’ll stop you.
Slitheen: What? You? Trapped in your box?
The Doctor: Yes. Me.

This scene may look very short, and indeed rather average, yet if you go back and re-watch it, you will see quite how powerful it was. Margaret, or Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen as she was revealed to be in Boom Town, the subsequent Slitheen story, slowly realised throughout the duration of this very short scene that the Doctor may pose a threat to her. At the very start, she was laughing, playing the perfect evil, taunting villain, but as the Doctor stared at her, at the sniggering stopped, she apprehended that, just maybe, she might have met her match. This is why that is one of my favourite series one scenes.

Another reason this episode excelled in my view was once again in the backstory. In the previous episode, the theme had been on Rose’s return and the impact it had on her family, whereas in this half of the story, the premise was The Doctor, and the dangers his life posed, which in the end, led to the resolution of the episode; the Doctor chancing Rose’s life to save humanity and Rose using her logic to save herself.

Rose and the Doctor (and their relationship) weren’t the only characters to have masses of character development; for both Mickey and Jackie went from both being parts of Rose’s life to being standalone characters, yet in the end, both proved that they couldn’t live with the Doctor’s life – highlighting Rose’s individuality.

On the subject of the Slitheen, I don’t see how in any way a villain like themselves could have been used to any fuller potential. They didn’t get in the way of the story too much, and I was particularly fond of another scene where all the Slitheen were gathering together.

Andrew Marr: [reporting from outside Downing Street] We’re getting even more new arrivals.
[the first arrival gets out of his car]
Andrew Marr: That’s Group Captain Tennant James of the RAF, though why he’s been summoned, we’ve no idea.
[Another man makes his way towards the door into 10 Downing Street]
Andrew Marr: And that’s uh, Ewan McAllister, Deputy Secretary for the Scottish Parliament.
[a third arrival walks towards the door]
Andrew Marr: And this is most unusual. That is Sylvia Dillaine, Chairman of the North Sea Boating Club. Quite what connects all these people, we’ve no idea.

I feel as if the humour in this story worked more than it did in its predecessor, and one scene which I could use as an example is:

Rose Tyler: Um… my mother’s cooking.
The Doctor: Good! Put her on a slow heat and let it simmer.

Even this scene led into a far more in-depth conversation between the Doctor and Rose about where Rose’s life was headed; and this is my final point which I would like to talk about, and feel most strongly about.

Though you may find this hard to believe, World War Three is one of only 6 Doctor Who stories ever to bring me to tears. This is because of the ending where Rose finally makes her decision. I feel a little cross at Rose for leaving Jackie, but the scene was just so moving, I simply couldn’t argue. Jackie walking into Rose’s room with two cups of tea, begging for her not to leave, provided such poignancy; it was hard not to feel an inch of compassion for poor Jackie, who was left alone. The final scene with the ten seconds was just as emotional, and resembling of the Doctor’s unfortunate habit of being late.

I find it tough listening to constant complaints about this story, when I loved it so much, and I hope after reading this that I will have provided you with enough reminders of the respectable parts of this chapter in Rose’s relationship with the Doctor and her family that you can start to appreciate it. I have always valued this with a lot of respect, and I love it more and more every time I watch it, and like much of series one, I’d say that it at least qualifies for my top 20 ‘New Who’ stories.