Sunday, April 24, 2005
Doctor Who - World War Three
The second part of the story started in Aliens of London, and we pick up where we left the Doctor and co at the end of last week's episode ... the electrification thingy used by the Slitheen doesn't affect the Doctor (as he's not human of course) and instead he jams the ID pass into the throat-device of the revealed Slitheen creature which makes all of them crackle with electricity allowing everyone to escape from their various cliff-hanger predicaments ... quite how this works isn't explained, but the assumption is that all the creatures are perhaps linked together and that if you were to kill one, then the others would also be affected. This is a nice idea, but obviously not correct as when the policeman-Slitheen threatening Jackie (whose name seems to be Welsh ... something like Sic-Fel-Foch) is killed with vinegar, the others don't die as well ... but they do sense that their compatriot has been killed. The plot starts to resolve itself: the Slitheen aren't an alien race invading the world ... they are an alien family (Slitheen is their second name - their first names are fairly unpronouncable and hyphenated - and they come from the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius - full marks to Eccleston for pronouncing that one) here to destroy the Earth and then sell it on the black market as chunks of radioactive clinker ... so the Doctor has to stop them of course. To do this, he cunningly traps himself, Rose and Harriet in the cabinet room behind reinforced metal walls with no communication and no way out ... hmm. Perhaps not the best at forethought is the ninth Doctor. It's eventually down to Mickey, Rose's erstwhile boyfriend, to save the day and to text her a picture of one of the monsters on her mobile ... hardly the first thing I'd do if I was intent on escaping from a rampaging green alien. Nevertheless, this outside contact allows the Doctor to talk Mickey through hacking into the UNIT website, which has to be one of the most insecure websites in the world - www.unit.org.uk - just one password allows Mickey to launch a missile to destroy 10 Downing Street. The password is, for some strange reason 'buffalo' and allows access to pretty much everything on the website. I like the way that the site does actually exist, and that the password does work ... even if the missile launching simulation thing there is a little naff. Meanwile, the Slitheen family call in their brothers and sisters (including Group Captain Tennant James of the RAF, Ewen McAllister, Deputy Sectretary for the Scottish Parliament; and Sylvia Delaine, Chairman of the North Sea Boating Club) and make a plea via a television broadcast to the UN to release the codes to launch a nuclear strike on the invading aliens ... all of which is a ruse of course to enable them to use the missiles themselves to secure the destruction of the world. But with Mickey's help the Doctor blows Downing Street and everyone in it sky high with a missile and the day is saved. Luckily, the steel-shutter protected cabinet room is unscathed and the Doctor, Rose and Harriet emerge safely from the crater which is all that remains of Downing Street ... I guess we have to suspend our disbelief a little here and believe that the potential death toll incurred by the Doctor's actions was minimised by the strangely Welsh police officers clearing the entire area with about 10 seconds notice. The Slitheen are presented on screen as both CGI creatures, which leap and bound gracefully after the Doctor, and as costumed actors, who lumber around like ... men in rubber suits. It's a shame that the aspirations of the CGI didn't more closely match the reality of the costumes ... but the overall presentation of the monsters is a good and valiant attempt to do something different and original. The conclusion that the Slitheen can be killed with vinegar is arrived at by the Doctor when he realises that they are a living calcium-based life form, and the one splashed by Jackie and Mickey explodes in an impressive riot of green gunge ... great for Saturday tea time. There are some other areas of light humour here as well ... aside from the farting which continues , there's the female Slitheen's hunt for Rose and Harriet which is disconcertingly like the 'big bad wolf' from the fairy tale (it's that Wolf motif again folks), when attacking the little pigs (and it's therefore interesting that it was a pig that was chosen as the decoy in the first episode). Then there's the final words spoken by the Slitheen as they realise they're about to be blown to smithereens: 'Oh bol ...!' As to what that second word might have been is left to the minds of the viewers ... and I think we can guess at what conclusion the majority might come to in this regard. Overall I found this episode a little hard going. I enjoyed it a lot more on a second viewing, though, and I suspect that watching the entire story in one go would give better results ... for me there was again way too much 'Doctor Soap', as I mentioned in an earlier entry. The material with Rose and Jackie and Mickey (though he redeems himself here from his pretty useless showing in Rose) is somewhat tedious in places, and I really hope that we might have seen the last of Rose's family and the 'domestics' as the Doctor puts it. The ending of the story felt like a final 'goodbye' between the characters, and that's how I'd like it to stay. One piece of dialogue of note here, and as usual it is Billie Piper being brilliant as Rose ... it's the 'You're stuck wiv me ...' line, followed by a silent laugh and a pointing figure at the Doctor ... genius. She's acting Eccleston off the screen most of the time, and is by far the most watchable and consistently entertaining companion ever. I think in summation, the two parter worked, allowing enough time to develop the characters (though the team from UNIT never said a word as far as I remember, and were all killed at the end of the first episode. And what happened to the dishy Dr Sato?) while also developing a decent story with a reasonable twist. There are, however, some tricky questions emerging about the story. Why would an advanced race with space travel and the technology to convert a pig into a sentient creature, let alone being able to impersonate humans by using their hollowed out skins - and come to think of it, why don't the skins rot and decay? - why would such a race need to use Earth's own missiles? Wouldn't they have their own? Or the technology to destroy the Earth themselves? And why pick on the Earth? Wouldn't any of the planets have done? And why bother with all the subterfuge and the nonsense with the pig? If they wanted to terrify humanity, then the Slitheen themselves looked pretty scary in a way that a pig in a space suit doesn't quite match. Never mind. The episodes were jolly good fun, with some neat effects, some scary monsters, and some ideas and concepts way beyond normal television shows. Not to mention the ironic winks at fat-cat politicians and the Weapons of Mass Destruction debates. Next week ... Dalek!!!!