Doctor Who Aliens of London

Picture in your head your typical ‘Alien Invasion’ scenario. I imagine people of this day and age would find themselves somewhat inspired by Independence Day and the like. There’s probably some explosions, some planes, some U.F.O.s.

‘Aliens of London’ is not your typical alien invasion. I wasn’t expecting fat, farting politicians. I wasn’t expecting a pig in a spacesuit.1 ‘Aliens of London’ is very, very silly. Which works in most places, but not so much in other places. There’s enough interesting ideas in the story to carry it, and make it massively enjoyable to watch… but with slightly more subtle handling, it could have been better.

The most notable thing about Russell T. Davies’ scripts so far is his tendency to subvert the old fashioned Who ideas. In ‘Rose’, we saw the end of a typical adventure from the point of view of an outsider who happened to get caught up in it. In ‘The End of the World’, various tropes, such as the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits, and the Doctor’s heritage, were given a new angle. And this week, the Doctor’s previously non-existent relationship with the “domestic” is thrown into the foreground. Rose may well be the first companion to have had her immediate family get into the TARDIS.2

Take me to your leader!— The Doctor

There’s great comedy value in these ideas — seeing the Doctor struggle to keep the noise down while he watches the invasion on TV is great,3 and gets even better when he has to fight for control of the remote with a toddler. His patronising attitude to Mickey is interesting, too — still upset about the “He’s a THING” line from ‘Rose’? Or, more likely, just jealous. Perhaps Eccleston’s best comic moment is his nervous laugh as he confesses to Rose and her Mum that he may have gotten the time just a wee bit wrong.

Not all the comedy comes off this well, though. Eccleston and Piper can effortlessly ground any ridiculous scene they’re in. But the bits in 10 Downing Street are a bit more ropey. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of fart jokes, but I can deal with them. The initial farts are an important plot point, and not too bad. But later on, they just go too long. Very few things are funny enough to sustain almost twenty seconds of straight repetition. Farts aren’t one of them. It doesn’t help when one of the characters says “I’m shaking my booty” with the worst sort of self-conscious delivery imaginable. Of course, the scene gets better when they kill someone, but tonally, the Downing Street plot just doesn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the episode. Perhaps a little more gravitas was needed initially to make us actually feel like we were in the centre of British politics.

In amongst these comedic hits and misses is a pretty decent plot. Being part one of a two-parter, ‘Aliens’ has a bit more room to breathe, and is better for it. There’s a few interesting twists to the plot, and an excellent (but rather over-egged) cliffhanger. In fact, if it wasn’t for the somewhat cringe-worthy aspects I’ve mentioned,4 it might have been one of the best episodes yet. It’s certainly a delight to see the new Doctor’s vanity on such clear display. As it stands, it’s probably the weakest.

But thankfully, still great fun.

  1. Well, alright, I was, but only due to vague spoilers.
  2. Unless you count the Master, who’d posessed the body of Nyssa’s father. But I doubt you would. I’m trying to keep these pointless continuity references confined to footnotes.
  3. I can completely relate.
  4. I’ve got some reservations about the presentation of the Slitheen, but I’ll wait till ‘World War III’ to discuss them properly.
4 comments posted — most recent by Andy on 16/05/05