Published on April 17th, 2005 | by Christian Cawley
New Series Review #4 – Aliens of London
“Donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve been sat on my backside for 12 months Doctor – I read up on you! Look deep enough on the Internet or the history books and thereâ€™s his name, followed by a list of the dead.”
Aliens of London brings the last 2 weeks of time-travel back to earth with a First Contact bang! With a cast including the quality of Navin Chowdry, Rupert Vansittart, Annette Badland, Naoko Mori and Penelope Wilton, this first instalment of a two-part story was always going to be memorable. Add to that Russell T Davies quality and his insistence in making his stories BIG (full-blown Auton invasion, witnessing The End of the World) and references to the past (UNIT) that donâ€™t require prior audience knowledge and weâ€™ve got a gem on our hands.
And I didnâ€™t even mention the crashing spaceship hitting Big Ben.
So what is it like? Well there is an air of domesticity about the story, despite the Doctorâ€™s protests to Rose. But what is more domestic than the human way of dealing with big events â€“ stay home and watch it on the telly? But after a few hours of this the Doctor becomes bored and nips via the TARDIS into the heart of the action. The occupant of the crashing UFO was a pig in a spacesuit. Not an alien pig, but an augmented Earth pig.
Which brings us nicely into a quick look at symbolism in Doctor Who and one of the recurring themes of the series â€“ “Bad Wolf”. Sprayed onto the TARDIS by a small boy on a bike (played by the amusingly named Corey Doabe), it follows on from repetitions and plays on the phrase (Moxx of Balhoon & Gwyneth) over the past few weeks. Thatâ€™s on top of references to the War and the off-screen/online background plot. The BBC is really spoiling usâ€¦
So what do you get for 45 minutes committed viewing? Navin Chowdry (Teachers) as a conscientious and efficient civil servant, the man who alerts the 3rd rate MPs left in charge of the country that the Doctor is among us (thanks to telephone monitoring software); Naoko Mori (Absolutely Fabulous) appears briefly as a scientist who examines the pig creature; Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones who hides in a cupboard and witnesses the whole conspiracy; and the three aliens â€“ Annette Badland, Rupert Vansittart and David Verrey.
It is wholly obvious from first seeing them that these characters are aliens â€“ even if you werenâ€™t forewarned about the farting (no message from the BBC to those of a nervous disposition â€“ “Those of a sensitive constitution may like to know that the following program contains excessive farting” â€“ there will be complaintsâ€¦). In truth however, the whole concept of aliens masquerading as humans via a zip and “gaseous exchange” is as chilling as re-animating the dead (The Unquiet Dead).
It was in this episode that the consequence of travelling with the Doctor in his already unreliable machine was explored further. Rose has been gone 12 months, not 12 hours. Posters cover the estate where she lives with her mother. Mickey has been questioned again and again by the police, suspected of her murder. Yet only 12 hours have passed for Rose since she left central London with the Doctor, travelled to the year 5 billion and the 1860s. Jackie Tyler, Roseâ€™s mum (a welcome return from Camille Coduri) has been sickeningly frantic with worry. Mickey hasnâ€™t met another girl because everyone thought he had murdered Rose, thanks to Jackie; but as he said, heâ€™s been busy on the Internet.
So what more do you get for 45 minutes of committed viewing? Well you get a cliffhangerâ€¦
YOU GET A CLIFF HANGER!
And if the phrase “pile it on” were ever used, it was with this cliffhanger, the first since 1989. As the Slitheen reveal themselves, (following the Doctorâ€™s assertion that he and the other extra-terrestrial experts have been gathered in one place for a reason) we see Rose and Harriet Jones backing away from one, Jackie trapped in her kitchen by another and the Doctor and the other experts being slowly killed by the other two. Just when you think the theme tune is going to begin, it doesnâ€™t comeâ€¦ more shots of fear and torture grip the viewer until one Slitheen looks directly at the camera, and its eyes blink horizontallyâ€¦
TO BE CONTINUED…