Doctor Who, S1 Ep4 – Aliens of London


I always find it a little condescending when an episode starts with a recap of scenes from previous episodes as a reminder of what has been going on. It’s like the writer thinks you haven’t been paying attention up to this point and they need to put in a big neon sign to the important bits. It wouldn’t bother me so much if we were on episode twelve, but it is only episode four. The recap scenes themselves were all of Rose’s life before her journey in the TARDIS, so it leads the viewer to believe that the episode focus will be on how Rose and her relationship with her mother and boyfriend have changed since she has now been witness to great and wonderful things in the universe.

Thank goodness there’s more to it than that.

Wanted PosterThere’s a slight glitch with time in the beginning. Just as the TARDIS didn’t take Rose and The Doctor to the correct date in episode three, it does the same here. Oops. Rose finds out that she hasn’t been gone twelve hours, but twelve months; while she was on her adventure with The Doctor, her mother has been searching for her with missing posters, and her boyfriend has been a murder suspect. Her mother, Jackie, is less than pleased and slaps The Doctor hard across the face. “Nine hundred years of time and space, and I’ve never been slapped by someone’s mother.”

In the midst of a heart to heart between Rose and The Doctor about how Rose can’t relate to her family anymore due to her knowing so much about the enormity of time and space–and that there is no one on earth for her to talk to because no one knows about aliens–a flying saucer flies overhead.

Thank goodness, again.

Duck!The spaceship takes out part of Big Ben, then lands in the Thames. Rose and The Doctor try to get closer but can’t due to a large military presence. Stymied, Rose suggests they try to watch on the television at her house. There is a great little bit where The Doctor fights a toddler for the remote.

The viewer receives a ton of exposition through a montage of media coverage. It’s actually a great trick because it doesn’t feel like exposition and gives the situation a sense of realism. The audience knows what The Doctor knows, and there are a few cut scenes away from the coverage that give the audience some more information than what The Doctor has. In short: there is an alien body, the prime minister is missing, and there is a no-name politician who is suddenly acting as prime minister.

And then start the fart jokes. Really? Fart jokes? I mean, really?

The Doctor, having enough of Rose’s family, heads out on his own, but not before he gives Rose a TARDIS key and says probably my favorite bit of dialogue to date: “Just this morning you were tiny and small and made of clay. Now you can expand!”

The Doctor leaves on his own little mission and goes to see the alien body. I absolutely loved the shot of The Doctor bursting out of the double doors followed by the military regiment and how they just follow his orders when he uses his authoritative voice. It also reminded me a little bit of GI Joe. It all leads to finding out that the alien, now alive, is actually a modified pig creature.

Meanwhile, Harriett Jones, a faithful backbencher*, is doing some snooping of her own. She watches as the acting Prime Minister and his two companions shed their human skins. They are responsible for the fake alien and, due to the emergency, are the acting government.

AliensAliens are faking aliens.

And they wear humans as skins.

And they are in control of the British government.

The whole episode is based around the art of redirection and it actually excels at it. Jackie calls the alien hotline after seeing the TARDIS and realizing that The Doctor is an alien. The viewer is shown shots of Red Alert and The Doctor’s name flashing on a computer screen. The Doctor is done for, right? He’s going to be carted off and dissected. Well, no, he’s actually going to be escorted to Downing Street as an alien expert.

The Doctor and Rose are separated, and Rose goes with Harriett Jones, who has seen the aliens reveal themselves. They find the dead Prime Minister. The Doctor makes the last big reveal of the episode when he realizes that it’s not actually a diversion but a trap.

The ending is a true cliffhanger. The aliens reveal themselves as the Slitheen. The Doctor and the alien experts are electrocuted by the alien Prime Minister. Rose and Harriett are trapped in a room with one of the aliens, and Jackie is backed into her kitchen by another.

I’m not sure how I feel about this being a two-part episode. The set up for all the redirection was needed for it not to feel rushed, and that took most of the time; but there were parts that could have been tightened up. The Rose and her family subplot is trite and tedious and feels a little soon for it only being the fourth episode.

The Things I Loved
– “Take me to your Leader.”
– The Doctor’s whole dialogue about it being the human race’s turn to make first contact and his enthusiasm about it. “This is fantastic!”
– Mickey running smack into the wall after the TARDIS disappears.
– Jackie describing the TARDIS as bigger on the inside.

The Things That Were Not So Good
– All the farting jokes. Not impressed.
– The whole Rose subplot.
– The modified pig. I couldn’t help but think of “Pigs In Space” from The Muppets and Seinfeld’s “Pig Man.”

* backbencher — is a member of parliament who does not hold government office and is not a spokesperson for the opposition (from Wikipedia)