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09 October 2014 @ 07:01 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Aliens of London/World War III  
The Aliens of London/World War III is an interesting sidestep for Doctor Who into something much closer to the CBBC style of drama. I'm not sure I'd call it a mis-step exactly, since at this point the production team can't have had much idea what their actual audience demographics were going to turn out to be. But to old-Who fans at the time, and I suspect to anyone watching now, it seems oddly out of place with a broad, childish sense of humour under-pinning most of of the drama. Someone, somewhere, at some point, remarked that the Slitheen worked much better in the Sarah Jane Adventures where their giggling and farting fit much more naturally into the overall tone of the show and I think there is some truth in that.

Not there aren't some serious things going on. The most obvious of these is that there are consequences to Rose's disappearance. There was a reason, I suspect, that so many Classic Who companions are orphans and we get shown why here. Rose has been away for a year and has to cope with the fall out from that and, again, we see RTD's desire to ground things out in something approaching realism. "I don't do domestic," mutters the Doctor while he wrestles for control of the TV remote with a toddler.

No-longer-so-small child chose this episode to start asking, of prominent characters, "will she survive?". It started with Harriet Jones ("well she survives this episode") and then Dr. Sato ("umm, well, that depends there was this spin-off..", "Doctor Who had a spin-off!!?!"* ). This episode actually sets up a lot that continues going forward, both accidentally and on purpose.

I've also been pondering RTD's lexicon in this series and his fondness for the letter x - Moxx of the Balhoon, Raxacoricofallapatorius, The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe - I don't recall him having quite such fun with made up words in later series.

On the whole, leaving the Slitheen's slightly over-the-top comic personas aside, it's a pretty strong pair of episodes. You get the sense that the show has finished introducing itself to the audience and is now underway properly, with previous decisions coming home to roost, relationships moving forward and a number of ideas - Harriet Jones, the idea that new history can happen, Mickey's role in fighting aliens - being set up for the future. The Slitheen do seem out of place amid the rest and it is telling that they never appear in Doctor Who again after this season.

*I have no idea what she thought was going on in the umpteen episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures she watched with her cousins.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/129667.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on October 10th, 2014 03:19 am (UTC)
Margaret (Blon the Slitheen) is the main bad guy in "Boom Town"The Slitheen appear in "The Pandorica Opens", though only in the background (they are mentioned by name amongst the list of races present and then a few appear without speaking parts in the underhenge as the Doctor is imprisoned in the Pandorica).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 10th, 2014 03:02 pm (UTC)
I'd not spotted them in the background. Even so I think "they never appear again after this season (apart from in blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos)" conveys much the same point.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on October 11th, 2014 08:21 pm (UTC)
I don't know what the writing order was, but these episodes were the first filmed, alongside Rose (I think the spacepig has the cache of being the first new Who scene recorded). This makes the change of direction even clearer (and note the burping bin in Rose).

Edited at 2014-10-11 08:22 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 12th, 2014 10:26 am (UTC)
I wonder what made them decide to take a more serious approach? At that point it must before they got any real audience feedback - maybe it was just that they could see the actors upping their game when they had something more meaty - like Dalek or Fathers' Day to sink their teeth into.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on October 12th, 2014 11:53 am (UTC)
Interesting question! I wish I knew the answer. Dalek really does feel like a paradigm shift in new Who story-telling, perhaps that's it. Or maybe they were deliberately trying different styles early on to see what worked and decided that this style did not.

It may also be noteworthy that the first bloc (Rose and Aliens of London/World War III) was directed by Keith Boak, who never directed for the programme again - perhaps some of the tone came from him? He certainly came in for some fan criticism at the time, if I recall correctly.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on October 13th, 2014 09:28 am (UTC)
I recall quite a lot of dissatisfaction being expressed agains Boak. The farting must have been in the script, I think, but all the giggling may not have been.