TV Club: Aliens of London & World War Three

TV Club enters the world of the modern series ‘two parter’ and our first proper cliffhanger of the revival series.

This story also introduces the Slitheen - a menace who found their natural home in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

With two parts - feel free to post your thoughts for each episode separately or all together.

Both episodes are freely available on iplayer for UK residents:

And, of course, both episodes are available to buy on both DVD and Blu Ray

Select your rating (out of 10):
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There are some great parts of these episodes but the constant fat and fart jokes of the Slitheen drag them down so hard that I just really can’t enjoy them very much. Definitely the low point of S1 for me.

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I do feel like the fart jokes did weigh these episode down a fair amount, and, really, Mickey sucks a decent amount here, though the scene with him and the Doctor about traveling with him in the second episode was good. Harriet Jones was fantastic.

Also, we were absolutely cheated of more pigs in space. RTD should’ve ditched the Slitheen, and just gone full hog with spacefaring pigs. Or humanoid pigs boosted to human intelligence that have never gone to space. I’m good with that, too…

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No rating today?

I think this is the first of the new episodes that are a bit boring. The fart jokes are boring and overall it seems to focus on being a kid’s show and not a family show. Some parts are better like Harriet Jones, Jackie Tyler, and the doctor and Rose relationship.

I gave both episodes 3/5.

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I think allowances had to be made to really draw in kids as part of the audience in series 1 - fart jokes will do that, I got a five-year old and a nine year old who will attest to that. And I don’t think they are as bad as I made it up to be in my head over time.
The returning jokes about portly people in RTD’s first era falls really flat, RTD isn’t fat but neither is he petite himself - is it something internalised he is dealing with perhaps?

The plotline of the story is pretty good I think, the misdirections and strategically placed body swaps are really good. And Harriet Jones is fantastic, that’s how you do a running joke to perfection :joy:
Penelope Wilton and Annette Badland really brings it to their roles (if you take out the “shaking my boo-tay” bit :wink:), so glad they both came back to the show.
Mickey the Idiot gets something to do which is nice and cements him as someone who Rose especially can always rely on in the end, even though she isn’t particularly nice to him.
But the MVP of the story has to be Jackie Tyler, best mom RTD ever wrote - and boy can Camille Coduri act.

The Raxacoricofallapatorians are a great monster idea but they definitely fit better in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Plus, first appearance of Dr. Toshiko Sato :+1:

Rating 3/5 :star: for both of the episodes

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Definitely a story with an aspect more geared towards a younger audience, but I guess it helps them not get bored with some of the political elements. Also its a very broad commentary on politicians acting irresponsibly, like spoiled children. So I enjoyed it a bit more this time which was surprising. Still possibly the weakest story for me, some of the running around in the 2nd episode reminds me of a farce & the trope of the negative attitude towards Mickey is a bit OTT - turning the only POC character into someone incompetent & mainly the punchline is a bit off tbh. The Doctor is also very manipulative at the end, kind of forcing Rose to make a choice. But I like the stuff with Rose & Jackie, & we got Harriet Jones. I seem to remember at the time there being a little bit of a fuss made by some fans with the Next Time trailer undercutting the cliff-hanger.

The line “You pass it to the left first” always makes me giggle.

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Sorry - that’s my bad - forgot to put it in.

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Ah, this old chestnut. I think there’s just too much in it that doesn’t land properly, and it’s a good example of the sort of tonal dissonance that RTD can sometimes achieve. On the one hand, we’re sort of doing an Iraq War/WMD/Tony Blair sort of plot (with the murdered PM implicitly being Blair, I think) and trying to have very serious discussions about who can hold the power to destroy lives, the corruption of government officials, etc etc, but it’s just couched in so much alien farting and camp that it just leaves me a bit confused. Of course, there’s the absolute clunker of a moment where Rose calls The Doctor gay, which I think is probably one of the single most egregious examples of the show being dated, frankly more so than a lot of what people call dated about the 70s and 80s, which were often rather progressive for the time. The line isn’t as bad as Tom Baker chummily joining in on all the Orientalism in Talons, but it’s clumsy nonetheless.

Someone else mentioned up-thread about how Mickey is often the butt of jokes, and I do agree. Noel Clarke’s performance also just grates me though - it isn’t till the Tennant seasons that he manages to attach a bit of nuance to the character, but right now he’s definitely being played as the idiot-manchild boyfriend in comparison to…well, the idiot man-child Doctor, tbh, but the less said about how Modern Who loves to cram an unnecessary love triangle into things, the better.

Can’t forget Harriet Jones of course, who is probably the highlight of this for me. Penelope Wilton puts in a really lovely performance that actually gives me echoes of Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier - the “only sane man” trope, but also blended with a very clearly defined comic bit that not only holds itself up, but pays off. Not for nothing, but Harriet will also go on to match The Brigadier in her conviction and pragmatism when she blasts the Sycorax from the sky, much like the decision the Brigadier took on Wenley Moor. Harriet Jones will also go on to get two of the most defining moments of the Tennant era (“Don’t you think she looks tired?” and of course “YES, WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE.”) and we have Aliens of London to thank for her inclusion.

We also have Aliens of London to thank for Boom Town, which for my money is a far better script - once you strip all the silly cartoon farting from the Slitheen, Blon-Fel Fotch becomes a tragic and almost sympathetic figure, giving us the best parts of Boom Town (basically any time Barrowman and Clarke aren’t on screen).

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I agree with a lot of what has been said above. The first two-parter of the revival means the return of the cliffhanger as well as as UNIT (still named after the United Nations; they don’t do a lot here). A modern-day Earth Invasion story with political plotting and an overabundance of tiresome running gags (the farting is a bit too much, but the Harriet Jones gag is fun and Penelope Wilton sells the character perfectly).

I love how Eccleston continues to bring out new sides of Nine; Rose is kind of reduced to a traditional companion role; Jackie slays thanks to Camille Coduri’s pitch-perfect performance; and Mickey is once again the punching bag. The guest cast is fine, but the Slitheen actors are overdoing their comedic chops in my opinion (and Annette Badland is much better in Boom Town).

The pacing is slower here and you truly feel that they have more time to develop things, as Aliens is one long set-up, while War is the fallout. Most of this flows well, but it’s not very exciting or memorable. The Slitheen are good monsters on paper, I just don’t think they were realised in the best way possible. The production design is also a bit boring, but the budget was tight and they needed to save money wherever they could, so this is understandable.

Overall, both episodes would be a 6/10 for me.

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They do have the extremely obscure reference to Colonel Muriel Frost, though :slight_smile:

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Its been a while since I have seen this one but I do remember enjoying it the first time in 2005, but when I rewatched all of the revival at the end of Tennents run I really found it lacking.

The slitheen really annoyed me. There was potential there for an awesome new baddie, but it was wasted on fat and fart jokes. It felt better suited for Sarah Jane Adventures.

The overall plot fell flat with no real stakes. I will say that the cliffhanger was rather good though.

No real rating as I need to see it again.

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Your deep dive needs are all here:

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Watched the first half of this and I have thoughts. Again, Russell is adapt at writing the domestic. The scenes with Rose, Jackie and Mickey are well done. I had forgotten about the recap of Rose at the start of this. Camille Coduri is, as always, excellent as Jackie and remains my favorite of the original three RTD moms. I checked the time and it takes 6 minutes to get to the aliens with the crashing spaceship. We also get the first appearances of Trinity Wells, Harriet Jones and modern UNIT, though the absence of any commanding officer is a bit conspicuous after watching so many later episodes with Kate. We also get the first New Series instance of a companion getting a TARDIS Key.

I think that, farting aside, this first half at least works rather well as a decent political thriller. The mystery is good and the threat from the villains seems credible. I wonder if the farting, apart from being something to lighten the mood and make the younger audience laugh, is RTD making a sly dig at politicians? An interesting quote is:

ASQUITH: What do you think? How’s the compression? I think I’ve got too much ballast round the middle. (Fart!) Oh, that’s better.
MARGARET: We’ve really got to fix the gas exchange. It’s getting ridiculous.
GREEN: I don’t know. Seems very human to me. Ah, better get rid of his skin.

This is an interesting little tidbit as the script itself anticipates the outrage over the farting. It literally says that it’s ridiculous. I also wonder if the Ricky/Mickey thing was just a joke or the subtle laying of threads that would get picked up next season? The cliffhanger is actually rather good, even if the Slitheen reveal has a bit of dodgy CGI. Finally, Is Tosh part of Torchwood at this point? Or is she UNIT, or just regular medical?

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If I recall correctly, Torchwood retcons Tosh into having been in deep cover here.

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Okay, I wasn’t sure. Especially considering it would have to be a retcon as Torchwood didn’t exist yet.

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So I watched the second episode and had a lot of fun. The farting mostly goes away and we really the Iraq War bits. RTD is just really good at balancing the action/adventure and the personal bits. I wonder if it was always planned that harriet would be deposed and the Master would take her place, or if that was something that evolved organically as the seasons progressed. The bits with Jackie are nice and I forgot that the Doctor offered Mickey a place on the TARDIS. I don’t really have as much to say about this episode. Mainly, I was a little surprised at just good it actually is. If you can overlook the farting, which isn’t nearly as prevelant as usually remembered, then you get a quite enjoyable two-parter with some rather biting political commentary (especially if you’re aware what was going on in the world at the time).

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I recall enjoying this story much more the first time round than I have on the rewatch. For example I remember being genuinely chilled the first time the “forehead unzip” happened. The farting and giggling seem somewhat puerile now, although at the time I regarded them as a clue that someone was actually a Slitheen. With hindsight, every time a “large” person appeared it was already clear, e.g. the policeman pursuing Jackie. Seems uncomfortably “fattist” to modern sensibilities as this is how the Slitheen had to select their victims to be replaced.

Mickey got the chance to redeem himself somewhat in this episode, but he still came across as weak & pathetic. Worlds away from the “positive representation” RTD claims to promote today.

On the plus side: I loved Jackie though, I had forgotten how well portrayed she was onscreen, as her character now seems to be “played for laughs” a lot more in BF. And the longer two-episode format made this much closer in format and pacing to a Classic Who story. I also liked Harriet Jones, and the introduction of Tosh was yet another early precursor to Torchwood.

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On the topic of the representation, the gay joke in part 1 is kinda iffy, but then again RTD himself is gay and hadn’t realized it yet so I can see why he would feel protective of that.

Just clarifying - do you mean he hadn’t realised the joke was iffy or that he was gay? I’m pretty sure RTD knew full well he was gay when he wrote Doctor Who.

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