World War Three by Russell T. Davies
Picking up from where Aliens of London left off, World War Three has a similar tone but is a slight improvement as The Doctor attempts to stop the Slitheen starting a nuclear war…
As with most Davies’ scripts, the best thing about the episode is its human elements; for example, The Doctor’s reluctance to stop the Slitheen because he knows he can’t ensure Rose’s safety – its the kind of morally grey area the series works well in. Jackie gets more to do as Rose’s mum as she learns more about the life Rose is leading and is forced to trust the Doctor – even though he visibly struggles to guarantee Rose’s safety if she travels with him. Mickey also gets an expanded role – and a more heroic one as he saves Jackie from the policeman/Slitheen and then helps the Doctor save the day by hacking into the UNIT website.
Speaking of the acting in the episode, Penelope Winton is great as Harriet Jones, who aids the Doctor and Rose throughout as a kind of guest companion. Eccleston does a decent job, with the scenes where he confronts the Slitheen while working out their plan an acting highlight. Billie Piper admittedly doesn’t get much of a chance to shine, but she isn’t bad either.
Now they’ve properly been revealed, the Slitheen don’t actually look too bad, and the scenes with them hunting the Doctor and his friends inside downing street work well – it’s just a shame Davies went with such a juvenile tone – if he’d played it straight and made it a bit darker, this could have been great. As it is, the Slitheen are still pantomime villains who go quite over the top at times – the only one which is really menacing is the one disguised as a policeman who tries to kill Mickey and Jackie – who notably doesn’t have any jokey dialogue, which greatly helps.
The plotting is a mixed bag, the basic idea (aliens who want to destroy the earth in a nuclear war and then sell parts of its irradiated carcass for fuel) is a novel one and works quite well. The politics represented (the UK needing the UN to grant access to nuclear weapons) is just as dodgy as the last episode’s, and isn’t particularly believable – nor is the ease with which Mickey hacks into the Royal Navy. The final half of the episode is good though, as the Doctor, after working out the Slitheen plan gets Mickey to fire a missile which destroys 10 downing street (surely one of the more iconic moments from series 1).
Overall a fun 45 minutes, admittedly with questionable plotting and juvenile dialogue, but if you get into the spirit of the thing its very enjoyable.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Next Time: The Doctor’s oldest enemy is back…a Dalek that escaped the Time War is waking up…