Aliens of London by Russell T. Davies
It’s back to contemporary London for our first modern-who two-part story and, well, the Doctor’s been a bit of a prat. Accidently landing Rose back a year after she left (thus having put her Mum through trauma and her boyfriend Mickey through a police investigation about her disappearance) highlights how his control over the Tardis isn’t always perfect. This mishap means at times this episode does have a very soap opera vibe about it – something common in the Davies era but absent in more recent series. As luck would have it Davies does soap opera well.
The episode starts well enough, with the show’s CGI holding up as a spaceship crash lands in central London (destroying Big Ben in the process!). The aliens (the Slitheen) are kept unseen for most of the episode, turning out to be classic ‘bug-eyed monsters’ but actually don’t look too bad. The way they unzip themselves from the human skins they wear as disguises (pulling a zip in their forehead open and emitting a creepy blue light) is quite effective at building suspense towards the reveal of what they actually look like.
The humour is again, very juvenile (farting aliens) and some of the dialogue is extremely cringe-worthy (‘I’m shaking my booty’). Davies is good at character moments but unfortunately really, really bad with dialogue. He just lacks the wit of Gatiss or writers like his successor Steven Moffat, and although some of his jokes are funny, it’s definitely quite low-brow humour.
The acting in the episode is fortunately a cut above the script. Noel Clarke gets far more to do as Rose’s boyfriend Mickey in this episode, and Camille Coduri impresses as Rose’s mum Jackie. The supporting cast all perform well enough, especially Penelope Winton as Harriet Jones, even if the politicians who the Slitheen are impersonating are classic pantomime villains.
The plot is a bit ludicrous in places (especially the politics shown as the action switches to number 10) and while the idea of aliens faking aliens is a good concept, who thought a space pig was a good idea? Although admittedly the Doctor’s anger at the animal being ‘turned into a joke’ was probably his strongest moment in the episode. Fortunately the episode pulls itself above the other Davies scripts so far by giving us a decent cliffhanger as Rose, Harriet and Jackie are all cornered by the unmasked Slitheen, while their leader electrocutes the Doctor and the assembled alien experts…
Overall an improvement over his first two scripts, Aliens of London still isn’t classic Doctor Who or the best Davies can produce. It’s also hard to review – I like it but I know it is seriously flawed– to the extent I feel embarrassed admitting I enjoyed it!
Rating: 3 out of 5
Next Time: The Slitheen attempt to start World War Three…