Doctor Who Re-Watch: Boom Town

Now we reach the episodes that Maureen has limited recollections of, which is weird, coz ya know, the episodes I don’t remember include the finale and all… Anyway good old Boom Town continues on The Slitheen storyline, but with more panache and better acting. Too bad it cops out in the final third…

boom town

Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: Between the little recap of our previous encounter with the Slitheen and the scene with a nuclear expert meeting an unfortunate fate, it’s pretty clear the direction this episode is headed. Bring on Cardiff!

Maureen: Ah Cardiff… I remember back in 2010 at Cardiff Bay, tourist information actually gave you a free sheet of Doctor Who filming locations you could wander around and take pics outside of. Do they still do that? What a great tourist activity that was… but ahem… reviewing the episode… yes. Where was I?

Companion

Ben: Urgh. Rose doesn’t really do anything except treat Mickey badly. It’s like she never remembers he exists until they’re back on modern day earth.

Maureen: Well yeah, Ben. That’s one of the reason’s Rose never works for me. She comes across as superficial and naive at best and as callous and heartless at worst. She is a seriously annoying companion and I say that as someone who LOVES Billie Piper.

Ben: Plus, the bit with her calling Trisha Delaney “a bit big” is pretty gross.

Maureen: Yep. I say no to fat-shaming, RTD! Also, I hate that Mickey is only dating Trisha to try to forget Rose, like Trisha is some kind of second-rate Rose.

Ben: It’s so telling that the only time on Mickey and Rose’s date that Mickey gives any details of his life is when he offers these details himself. Rose is fine to go on about her adventures in space and time, all take and no give. The final insult is that when the real trouble starts she runs off without him, heading straight to The Doctor without a thought for poor Mickey. It isn’t until the crisis is resolved that she remembers she abandoned him.

Maureen: My final note on Rose in this episode is, ‘and Rose says she’s fine to go on without Mickey… well fuck you, Rose.’ In other Rose Tyler news, I liked her cute braids this episode, her strangely similar to Amy Pond outfit and her Mary Poppins-esque joy when she says big alien words. More of this Rose please. Also, final note: I swear at the start of this episode Rose groped the side of the TARDIS. That was some weird tea-time porn 😉 Now where’s that fan fic?

Ben: As to Jack, he doesn’t really do anything but look handsome and flirt with everyone. Which is fine by me, really.

Maureen: I got nothing written about Jack except that the Jack/Doctor/Rose chemistry is a bit cute as they bounce off each other telling Mickey about their adventures.

Ben: Ah yes, Mickey. Poor Mickey can’t do anything right. First off, he bungles their plan to corner the Slitheen, then he asks Rose out on a date involving pizza and sex, during which he admits he’s seeing another woman? Classy! At least by the end of the episode he’s realised how bad Rose is for him and has walked away from the whole mess.

Maureen: Yes, Mickey and the guy who’s stuck playing him sure have a raw deal this season. I really hope when he comes back next season he gets more to do and less harshing on by the script. I’ve forgotten most of Season Two to be honest so this shall be unexpected.

The Doctor

Ben: Right off the bat we have the Doctor calling Mickey Rickey (booo!) and flirting with Jack (yay!). The scene with the Doctor and Rose realising Bad Wolf is following them is very emblematic of how this episode ends up playing out: a lot of interesting build up culminating in a fizzer of an ending. The episode is filled with the Doctor doing general Doctor stuff, solving mysteries and kicking butt. We get some good truths about the Doctor and his God-like powers from Blon during the dinner scene, but otherwise this episode is pretty light on good Doctor moments. Having the TARDIS return Blon to egg form felt like more of a cop out than anything, to me. Especially after the dissection of the Doctor Blon gave us during the dinner scene, I felt like there was an opportunity to delve deeper and darker about the dangers of The Doctor by actually having the Doctor take her to her death. But alas, it was not to be…

Maureen: I think that Nine is at his best in his comedic moments and his darkest moments as in Dalek. I love Nine’s face when he hear’s Margaret drop her tea cup and the follow up of ‘she’s climbing out the window, isn’t she?’ Nine also gets dark when he says no one should worship him as a God. Damn straight, Doctor. It’s why the lonely God trope that surfaces from season two onwards never ever works for me. Also, The Doctor describing a planet called ‘women wept?’ Link me to that fan fic stat.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Ahhh, the last of the Slitheen is up to her old tricks. That is, until she gets soft and can’t follow through with killing the pregnant, soon to be wed Cathy Salt. Being all alone in the world is clearly weighing on her.

Maureen: I love this little scene. I felt sorry for Margaret as she cried in the toilet and said she was cursed. What an actress!

Ben: Her acting is excellent, isn’t it? Margaret’s rightly the focus of this episode. After the Doctor and his companions handily capture her, she beings her mind games to the dinner party (literally) as she torments The Doctor and his companions with the fact that they’re taking her to her death on her home planet. It’s clear she has the full measure of the Doctor with lines about how the Doctor is always the first to leave, and often avoids the full consequences of his actions. Throughout playing these mind games (“dinner in bondage, works for me” Maureen: God, how I snickered at this line) it’s pretty clear that she has every intent of escaping the Doctor. The in depth detailing of the execution she will face, of the pain she will go through, the pleading for one last chance, all have the intent of helping her to escape. It wasn’t until that final speech she made to the Doctor that I really started to feel bad for her, which is unfortunate because immediately after that final emotional plea she showed her true colours.

Maureen: I found Margaret to be a surprisingly funny character too. I loved this exchange:

Margaret: What did I ever do to you?
Nine: Tried to kill me and all of earth?
Margaret: Apart from that…

I also laughed at her ‘I sound Welsh. I’ve gone native,’ comment.

Otherwise, the centrepiece of the episode when The Doctor and Margaret talk at a restaurant was pure gold. As was the TARDIS exchange below:

Rose Tyler: We’ve got a prisoner. The police box is really a police box.

Margaret Blaine: You’re not just police, though. Since you’re taking me to my death, that makes *you* my executioners. Each and every one of you.

Mickey Smith: Well *you* deserve it.

Margaret Blaine: [looks straight at him] You’re very quick to say so. And you’re very quick to soak your hands in my blood. Which makes you better than me how, exactly?

[he says nothing]

Margaret Blaine: Long night ahead.

[walks away & sits down, finally]

Margaret Blaine: Let’s see who can look me in the eye.

[looks piercingly at each person; none hold eye contact for more than a few seconds; & the Doctor barely even looks up from his work]

This episode would have been a ten outta ten if it had stuck to that theme and followed through on its implications for The Doctor as story hero.

Ben: Alas, in hindsight Margaret had a pretty obvious plan, why else would you have the extrapolator as part of the model nuclear power station? Of course it was meant to be discovered. I’m not a fan of her final fate either, reverting to an egg. I would have preferred a (much darker) ending where she is returned to her home planet for execution. That would have lead to a much more interesting dissection of the Doctor, especially as he is very alone in the universe, just as she is.

Maureen: I have to agree with Ben. I noted when Margaret grabs Rose that the story would have been better if it had left Margaret as being actually contrite for her actions. I also wrote that the TARDIS egg sequence is the episode going to shit so…

Final Thoughts

Ben: This episode was 30 minutes of really good Doctor Who followed by 10 minutes of really bad Doctor Who. Margaret/Blon’s acting was truly excellent, but ultimately wasted in a terrible conclusion. I would have much preferred if RTD had followed through to the ultimate bleak ending of the final Slitheen getting her just rewards and being executed. But no, she’s an egg. With a great setup and poor follow through, I’m going to give this episode a 6/10.

Maureen: I’ve sat back and let Ben’s comments dominate this review because he basically says everything I want to say, but better. I agree with his assessment of the episode. I wanted more darkness and less Doctor cop-out resolutions. 6/10 inky stars.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

This is one of the RTD era who two-parters that everyone talks about. Actress Nicola Walker once said this was amongst her favourite of all New Who. Hers and many others, including best of lists. I hadn’t re-watched this one in years and had forgotten whole chunks. I knew I liked Nancy and the first appearance of Captain Jack, but most of the plot remained ephemeral. After a couple of lack lustre Who episodes in both Ben’s and my books, we were ready for some Santa Moff magic. Luckily, he didn’t disappoint…

The Doctor and Rose chase some space shrapnel to London, only to find themselves caught up in World War Two and the London blitz. A mysterious child in a gas mask repeats horror movie style, ‘are you my Mummy?’ and threatens the future of humanity. What exactly is going on? It’s up to Rose, The Doctor and the mysterious 51st century rogue, Captain Jark Harkness, to find out…

doctor-who-the-doctor-dances

Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: The Empty Child starts with such excitement from the get go with the Doctor frantically chasing a mysterious mauve object though space and time to the fantastically alien destination of… London.

Maureen: New Who is so earth obsessed, right? Still, this time we have a different time period at least…

Ben: And after the Debbie-downer of an opening last episode, I’m happy for the change of pace. And yes, I’m still longing for the day that River teaches the Doctor how to drive the TARDIS properly.

Maureen: I’d forgotten how badly Nine drives! It’s cropped up in almost every episode of this season. In other news, I was struck in The Empty Child’s opening by how funny the script was. Rose makes a comment about the only time The Doctor careens through space is to get some milk and The Doctor’s reply of ‘all the species in all the universe it has to come out of a cow?’ gave me a grin.

The Companion/s

Maureen: We have a lot of ground to cover in this two-parter so I’m going with companion sub-categories.

Rose

Ben: I love Rose’s obsession with Spock and the scanning of alien tech this episode. Where did her obsession come from? It’s just so random! And of course, Rose decides to wear a union jack shirt during a German air raid.

Maureen: I found it really noticeable that someone different was writing the script with this two-parter. Rose is still naive and on the flirtatious side, but she does more for the plot.

Ben: Yeah, she gets to have some good fun in The Empty Child, almost falling to her death from a barrage balloon, getting rescued by Jack, getting to flirt with Jack (slow dancing in front of Big Ben while the city burns around you is the height of romance), and pretending to be a time agent! I do appreciate these episodes where Rose gets to do stuff other than be a damsel in distress.

Maureen: I’ve found Rose’s propensity for flirtation with anyone of the male persuasion with a pulse irritating in prior episodes, but Captain Jack is so suave and the situation so outlandish, you can’t help but go along with everything. I felt like Rose got to do more in the second part however.

Ben: Yes, in The Doctor Dances, Rose saves herself, The Doctor and Jack from the ’empty’ child with some quick thinking, and then continues nonchalantly flirting with the Doctor.

Rose: The world doesn’t end when the Doctor dances.

Love it. What a line.

Rose also gets a great scene with Nancy, telling her that ultimately everything is going to be all right, that the German’s won’t win. And finally, after the Doctor saves the day she gets her dance! With both the Doctor and Jack! I thought this was a great pair of episodes for Rose, overall.

Maureen: I never warmed to Rose, and though I agree she does more in this two-parter, I still vastly preferred Captain Jack and Nancy to Rose. Rose comes across often as callous, even if I’m not sure that’s what the scriptwriters were going for. For example:

Nancy: I’d believe anything me. I don’t have a future.
Rose: It’s not the end of the world or anything.

Wow Rose. Don’t you know anything about your own country’s history? It very nearly was. The Doctor, at least, gets that.

Nine: 1941. Right now, not very far from here, the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it, nothing. Until one tiny, damp little island says “No. No, not here.” A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing, the lot of you. I don’t know what you did to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me, go on, do what you’ve got to do, save the world.

Still, her dance in the TARDIS was lovely, as was her scene with Nancy. I also found it interesting that it was Rose who reminded The Doctor that he needed to save Jack for his maxim that just this once everyone lives to ring true. I have no doubt The Doctor would have forgotten all about Jack without her timely reminder. It’s also interesting that it’s Rose asking the pertinent questions in The Doctor Dances. For example, it’s she who asks why the gas-masked people don’t know that The Doctor and co. aren’t their mummy’s.

Jack

Ben: Ahh Jack… the lovable sleazeball. I don’t think any character besides River has had as good an intro as Capn Jack Harkness. From the get go he’s complimenting people’s butts, being dashing and rescuing damsels from certain doom. He practically oozes confidence as he makes Rose an offer for the Chula warship, and openly declares himself an ex-time agent and a criminal! Swoon.

Maureen: Ah Jack. The Jack Sparrow of the Whoniverse. Or the James Bond (come on: as if Jack’s self destruct module complete with a vodka martini didn’t remind everyone of Brosnan Bond). Plus points for fluid sexuality. I wish Moff had made more in later seasons of Jack and River both being from the 51st century. I’d have loved to watch them flirt and argue their way through an episode. There’s a lot of similarities between Jack and River, even this early in. There’s the sonic blaster. There’s the flirt with everything that moves trope. There’s the rogue trope. In The Doctor Dances, the Jack/Doctor tiff over sonic screwdrivers even mirrors a scene in Day of the Moon between River/Doctor. Compare the two quotes;

Nine(The Doctor Dances): Ever had a cabinet to build?

River(Day of the Moon as she sonic blasts The Silence): Go build a cabinet or something.

Ben: Handsome rogue shtick aside, Jack’s in a bit over his head here.

Maureen: After all, it’s him that sets the episodes in motion. He thinks Rose and The Doctor are Time Agents and that he can lure them to London with some old scrap metal. Unfortunately for him, turns out the metal isn’t from a war ship as he thought, but from a medic ship and that the nanogenes from the ship try to cure humanity of death with disastrous results.

Ben: In The Doctor Dances, Jack thoroughly redeems himself, providing some crucial assistance in the form of his ship’s teleporter, and then almost sacrifices himself by taking the soon to explode bomb onto his ship. Luckily Rose and the Doctor maneuver the TARDIS over to his ship and rescue him from his imminent demise.

Maureen: Good thing too. He’s one companion who never was who deserves multiple come backs!

Nancy

Ben: These episodes are packed full of great acting, and Nancy is no exception. From the moment she tells the Doctor not to pick up the ringing TARDIS phone you know she’s got a dark and mysterious past™. She holds her own against the Doctor multiple times, berating him for taking more food than is allowed and making fun of his nose and ears. She also coolly blackmails the man she is robbing food from and manages to snag a couple of extra goods without breakin a sweat. With her strong motherly tendencies and her penchant for survival, it’s no surprise the empty child looks to her as his mother.

Maureen: I completely forgot about the Nancy/Jamie plot twist! Moff uses it again in later Smith seasons and doesn’t convince, but this first time around the ‘mother as almost magical strength’ trope works.

Ben: I love that even with the bombs falling on London, and the Doctor investigating the mysterious child, Nancy’s priority remains the well being of her young wards (some of whom have faced child molestation from the very country people whom they were sent to to keep them safe), as she returns to the house she initially broke into in search of food. The Doctor pegs it correctly – she’s lost someone to the raids, so she’s looking after these kids to make up for it.

Maureen: I love Nancy and the actress playing her was on point despite her relatively young age. I was so impressed by Nancy that I immediately looked up the episodes imdb pages to check who played her. Alas for TV lovers, Florence Hoath has retired from acting as far as I can tell, but you can find her living a nice life full of baking on Twitter. Anyway, back to the character. I love Nancy’s dedication to bringing her young wards up right even as she robs from those in bomb shelters by eating their half eaten meals. There is still honour amongst thieves, The Artful Dodger style. Nancy tells the children to eat with their mouths closed and without critiquing the food or the house they steal from. The Doctor says it all really when he says ‘can’t tell if this is Marxism in action or a West End musical.’ Nancy was such a high point, wasn’t she, Ben?

Ben: Yes. She was just such a bad ass. She cares so much about her Oliver Twist-esque gang. She resolves to confront her empty child, Jamie, much as it terrifies her because she knows her wards are in danger as long as that child keeps following her everywhere. It pays off. Nancy gets the best ending of everyone, with her son restored alive to her and armed with the knowledge that the German’s lose the war she gets to face the future with a heart full of hope. She deserves it.

Maureen: What Nancy did next? Has someone written the fan fic?

The Doctor

Maureen: I remember when Season One aired, it wasn’t just the decaying angst The Time War brought to The Doctor’s story line that got the media and the fans talking. It was also the blatant in-story references to a more sexualised Doctor. In Classic Who, sex wasn’t mentioned in relation to The Doctor. In New Who, it’s a given. I’m pretty sure the banana joke in The Doctor Dances is meant to be blatantly phallic (it also echoes Eleven’s ‘bad, bad beans’ food test post regen in The Eleventh Hour, but that’s another story). The Doctor dancing could be see in and of itself as a euphemism for sex. The Doctor is also clearly jealous of Rose flirting with Captain Jack (Rose calls him Captain Envy) and looks put out when Nancy critiques his big ears and nose.

Ben: The Doctor has some really great Doctoring moments in these episodes. From the moment he exits the TARDIS he’s a Doctor on a mission, trying to find this mysterious object that’s landed in London. After a briefly embarrassing moment in a bar (gosh Nine can be slow on the uptake. Also, hello first period piece singer in New Who), he’s introduced to Nancy, and then he’s really off to the races. But for me, it wasn’t until he arrived at the hospital and met up with Dr Constantine that the Doctor got to do any heavy lifting. Before then, Rose and Nancy had really been the focus of The Empty Child. You can see him starting to put the pieces together at the end of this episode when Jack and Rose turn up, though. And this is where the real Doctoring starts. I mean, who else would have thought to yell at the gas-masked children to go to their room! That takes nerve. The Doctor gets some cracking lines as he’s trying to solve the mystery of the child, but to me I found the story much more compelling through the perspectives of Rose, Jack and Nancy. The Doctor moves the story forward, but he doesn’t really get to shine until the very end of the episode when he gets the glorious revelation that everyone gets to live and no one has to die. Considering how the results of the Time War haunt him, this was a truly precious moment. And it shows in the rescue of Jack Harkness when he’s happy and free and able to dance without a care. In 900 years of existence, these kinds of wins can’t be common.

Maureen: I’ve always loved the end of The Doctor Dances. I think it sums up Moff’s Who humanism thesis (well, part of it). Variations of the everybody lives lines are echoed in The Girl in the Fireplace and again in the first River Song two parter (through her diary). Matt Smith’s run also reflected this theme. The speech Nine makes is my favourite Nine quotes and one of the best moment’s in all of New Who for me.

Nine: Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once. Everybody lives.

Plus, Chris delivers a truly perfect ‘fantastic.’

Alien of the Week

Maureen: I don’t know about your thoughts on this, Ben, but shit this two-parter’s alien of the week was real hide-behind-your-sofa-crap-your-pants-scary. Horror tropes are used multiple times to great effect. The repeated childish voice of ‘are you my Mummy’ was scary, but the catch phrase got even creepier at the end of The Empty Child when Dr Constantine morphs into a gas-masked empty person still repeating the catch cry. The Doctor Dances ramps up the horror stakes still further with a recording of ‘are you my Mummy?’ ending with a voice still echoing the lines (in other words Doctor and co., get the hell out of the room you’re currently in) and a typewriter typing of its own volition ‘are you my mummy?’ again and again and again. Poor Nancy trying to sing a lullaby to a recently converted soldier was also the stuff of nightmares. Even though this two-parter is now several years old, there were multiple points where I was genuinely afraid and the special effects still hold up. Ben?

Ben: The aliens this week, being nanogenes were just… perfection. Moffat twists something that should be pure and innocent – a child looking for his mother – into something horrifying. ‘This child is empty,’ Nancy says. ‘If he touches you he’ll make you like him.’ Jesus. We as the audience don’t know what that means initially, but the communicating through anything with a speaker is a faithful horror trope, so we know it means Bad Things. And then at the end of The Empty Child we get the real horrific payoff Moffat’s been building up to, as we are introduced to Dr Constantine and his hundreds of patients with the same injuries. The moment when The Doctor lists the scar on the back of the hand and the camera focus changes to Dr Constantine, who has a scar on the back of his hand? Terrifying. And then Dr Constantine drops the bombshell: none of these hundreds of victims with caved in heads and chests and gas masks fused to their faces are dead! Then comes the hide behind your sofa moment – watching Dr Constantine become a victim before our eyes. Honestly, like Maureen, I couldn’t help but appreciate how good the special effects were, especially after how awful they’d been previously.

Maureen: This is also one of the only times that the alien is completely innocent. The Nanogenes are trying to heal. It’s not their fault their first interaction with humanity is a dead child! Normally, you’d think a solution like this might feel like a let down, but it absolutely isn’t. The plot makes perfect sense.

Final Thoughts

Ben: These episodes were a joy to watch. I don’t know what else to say. Everything was excellently acted, the special effects were top notch, and just this once, everyone lives! Both episodes get a 10/10 from me.

Maureen: It will surprise no one who has followed this blog to read that I agree with Ben 100%. 10/10 inky stars for both episodes.

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Maureen’s 50 in 50 list: Dye my hair a crazy colour/s

Me and my hair have a special relationship. As a child my mother made sure I valued my long, thick, wavy, almost black locks. I hated the idea of cutting it or of bleaching it for some colour. Even through university (that time of hair colour experimentation) I didn’t like to do more than trim the edges and I never, ever went beyond eight-wash hair dye.

Finally, I decided my hair could take it. I went red for awhile (a look I really loved), but it wasn’t exactly wild enough to justify checking off my 50 in 50 list.

red head

So a few years back, alongside the start of the mermaid hair trend, I went half blue. I loved it so, but it was hella difficult for me to maintain with how dark my hair grows back. I ended up spending too much money on hairdressers to justify the cost. Still, it did mean I can tick dying my hair a crazy colour off this list.

blue hair

second pic

Red hair on the other hand… watch this space!

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Father’s Day

I hadn’t seen this episode in years and nor had Ben. Ben didn’t remember it at all. I had fond memories. I knew it was *the* Pete Tyler episode but not a lot else. So what goes down? Rose begs The Doctor to take her back in time to the scene of her father’s death by car collision, but when she tries to change history time (and aliens) intervene. It’s up to Rose and The Doctor to make things right.

father's day

Pre title sequence

Ben: The pre title sequence this week started sweet. Rose is a bit sad, thinking about how she never really got time with her dad before he died, and asks the Doctor if they could see him before he dies. And then it veers off into the realm of creepy, with the Doctor trying to be flirty and responding with “your wish is my command”.

Maureen: I found the ‘… but be careful what you wish for,’ part stranger frankly. Why did The Doctor allow Rose to go back in time if he knew something bad could reasonably come of it? Or does he mean that seeing her own father’s death in real time will upset Rose? In which case, why not talk her out of it, Mr Flippant. Why do this at all? (Don’t say because plot needed an excuse to unfold. Worst excuse in the book).

Ben: It was a pretty flat opening, really, and is such a dramatic change in gear from the ending of the last episode where the Doctor and Rose cheerily left Adam to his fate (why RTD why?).

Maureen: My opinions on the opening are a lot less thoughtful than Ben’s. I wrote in my notebook of the opening credits, ‘dad dead exposition. Thanks Rose.’ The perils of being a writer (albeit not a screenwriter) is suddenly you notice devices like someone narrating a story at you because plot.

The Companion

Ben: Rose goes through the wringer this week in this companion focused episode. She gets to see her parents get married, and immediately realises reality is very different to how she imagined it, remarking she thought her dad would be taller. Moments like that happen a lot this episode, where Rose realises reality is starkly different to her imagination, to the image of her dad she had worshiped at for all these years. The drama of it all is a bit soapy for me.

Maureen: I think Ben you need to remember how new this episode felt at the time. Yes, now we’ve seen many sci fi and fantasy stories mess around with time and perception in this way, but back then not so much in the mainstream. I found myself noticing the many similarities between what happens to Rose and her image of her father in Father’s Day and what happens in the season one arc of Life on Mars (UK) to Sam Tyler with his father. Given that Sam Tyler was named after Rose and Life on Mars was partially seen as an adult Doctor Who, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Who episode had a massive influence.

Ben: Your mileage may vary. I found the soap too much in general. The soap rears its ugly head when, after Rose saves Pete’s life and breaks the rules of causality, Pete starts to hit on her. It happens again when Pete admits he’s not really a “businessman” and is just making it up as he goes. It happens again when Jackie comes along and they all have a massive row. I think it’s also really telling that after her parents make up and Rose sees the Doctor running towards her in a panic, she immediately puts on her “come hither” face. She’s still living half in her imagination, where her parents are the perfect couple. It isn’t until they’re all trapped in the church and people are dead that Rose snaps back to reality.

Maureen: I admit, Ben, that I’ve never been sold on Jackie Tyler actress’ acting. I thought the guy playing Pete was great, as was Billie. What didn’t work for me with the family dynamics was that aside from Pete, I didn’t care about anyone enough to invest in the story as I did with Life on Mars and Sam Tyler. This is not Billie’s fault at all, but I simply don’t find Rose all that relateable. When I was her age I read everything I could get my hands on, spent a lot of time online and writing and didn’t care much for boys. As for Jackie, she’s my worst nightmare. If I met someone like her in real life, they’d get flayed by my tongue pretty fast and I wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with them.

Ben: Can we agree that the Mickey thing was weird?

Maureen: Yep. It didn’t bother me as much as it did you though.

Ben: Moving on then: Rose really starts to get closure with Pete when he realises he’s her dad, and he realises he should have died. Ultimately, Rose gets to do what she set out to do at episode beginning. Pete sacrifices himself and Rose is by his side as he dies. It’s something of a positive outcome, in that it changes the story Jackie tells baby Rose; her dad didn’t die alone in a senseless hit and run. Instead, the poor kid driver got to watch helplessly as Pete ran in front of the car. Real fairy tale stuff.

Maureen: I’ve always found it odd no other writer has explored this trope again. I mean, this kind of thing must happen around The Doctor A LOT.

The Doctor

Ben: I didn’t particularly like the Doctor this week. Right off the bat he’s acting happy and flirty, not noticing (or maybe just not caring) that Rose is acting out of character. Wanting to be there when your dad dies so he’s not alone is a noble gesture, but the Doctor should have approached the situation with a bit more… humanity. And then when Rose freezes (I guess seeing your dad get hit by a car is a pretty emotional moment) and doesn’t get to comfort him as he dies, he agrees that they can go back and try again! Even though he knows this is a really, really dumb idea!

Maureen: I think the implication though is that The Doctor knows it’s a dumb idea but does it anyway. Why? Because he loves Rose in his alien, angry way. Still, he immediately demands Rose say sorry afterwards and calls her a stupid ape which I agree is a bit much. He didn’t exactly warn Rose about the possible consequences of what could happen in revisiting such a traumatic event. It’d be like McGonagall giving Hermione the Time Turner without telling her the rules of how to play with it safe, and then giving her detention when she stuffs up. It just seemed unreasonable and emotionally manipulative (again) to me.

Ben: The Doctor really is out of his emotional depths this episode. It’s only after Rose saves Pete and refuses to admit she’s done anything wrong that things really heat up. When the aliens start killing he gets to do his dramatic Doctoring for a bit, sees the car stuck in a loop and immediately decides to try and keep Rose’s dad alive instead of doing the right thing. Which is a noble gesture and all, but if he wasn’t in love with Rose this whole thing could have been solved much earlier. He does get a nice scene with the couple to be where he doesn’t call them stupid apes and listens to their troubles; it’s a shame Rose didn’t get this Doctor at the start of the episode or this whole mess could have been avoided.

Maureen: I liked the way The Doctor treated the soon to be wed couple, even if it contrasted to how he treats Rose (maybe he’d fooled himself into holding Rose to a higher standard?).

DOCTOR: How did all this get started?
STUART: Outside the Beatbox Club, two in the morning.
SARAH: Street corner. I’d lost my purse, didn’t have money for a taxi.
STUART: I took her home.
DOCTOR: Then what? Asked her for a date?
SARAH: Wrote his number on the back of my hand.
STUART: Never got rid of her since. My dad said.
SARAH: I don’t know what this is all about, and I know we’re not important.
DOCTOR: Who said you’re not important? I’ve travelled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two. Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that. Yes. I’ll try and save you.

Alien of the Week

Ben: The big bad this week was very confusing. For starters, it all begins on some pretty shaky grounds. Why does having the first set of Rose and Doctor see the second Rose cause a huge wound in time? And if it was such a risky maneuver in the first place, why did the Doctor even allow it? (answer, he wasn’t thinking with his head) I mean, the car wasn’t even going that fast in the first place, so it wasn’t a convincing death either. The whole red hunting vision of the mysterious baddies was some pretty dodgy special effects work, and on top of that, why is the TARDIS now a regular phone box? Why is a song on the radio playing that isn’t out yet? And what was with the Watson phone call?

Maureen: I can help you there, Ben. I thought The Doctor said that time had been more or less broken because of Rose saving Pete and so anachronistic events were happening (such as songs playing from a later era on Pete’s car radio and people hearing Alexander Graham Bell).

Ben: Whatever. It’s just all very poorly done. The focus was on the drama centred on Rose, rather than a good sci fi plot. Then, the second time we get the red hunting the aliens manage to vanish a whole playground of children in about 15 seconds without any of the screams we got from the first round of attacks. And THEN, when they finally reveal these horrible CGI constructions of aliens, their attacks are loud and messy and not stealthy at all! There was just such inconsistency around these aliens. The church is old therefore it’s strong and they can’t get in? What about the massive stained glass windows? If, as the Doctor says, these monsters are here to sterilise the wound in time, surely they’d only need to go after either Rose, the Doctor, or Rose’s dad? Or perhaps the car that’s stuck in a loop? That’s never fully explained either. And why does the whole Earth have to be sterilised? And how are the aliens going to sterilise plants, bacteria, animals under the water? The TARDIS still being active doesn’t make sense. If it’s inside got pushed out by the wound in time, won’t it just get pushed back out when the Doctor tries to summon it? And what happened to the outside of the TARDIS? When it starts to appear in the church it’s whole again. At least after Rose’s dad sacrifices himself the aliens vanish, everything goes back to normal and it’s like the whole episode never happened. Which is how I’m going to live my life after finishing writing this review.

Maureen: To be honest, most of what you point out didn’t occur to me, though you make valid points. The TARDIS thing did feel silly and I have no idea how The Doctor survived the alien attack. I guess I didn’t care so much though because I was concentrating more on the relationship between Pete and Rose, which I thought was lovely. I’m glad Pete gets to come back.

On a non-alien or anything else related note, I remember having butterfly clips like Rose was wearing in the late 90s and early 2000s. The weird scene where Billie was backlit against the dark church was super odd as an art direction choice. It threw me right out of the story. Finally, how Muriel’s Wedding was that almost-to-be-wedding?! Oh Thatcher England.

Final Thoughts

Ben: I had a lot of problems with this episode, in particular with the plot holes around the paradox. There were some good lessons about how the past is looked at through rose tinted glasses. Rose bore the brunt of those lessons, but the groom this episode also had a few good moments, reminiscing about his recently deceased dad. Overall though, I really struggled to look past how poorly the time wound/paradox was done, and the drama with Rose and her parents was overdone. This episode might have been breaking new ground when it first aired, but watching it now in 2018 it’s safe to say this has not aged well. This concept has been explored much better by other people, e.g. Terry Pratchett’s book Mort. I’m going to give it a 4/10.

Maureen: Gees, that’s a bit harsh. I didn’t think it was any worse than the series pilot, Rose, so I’m giving this 6/10. I rated this a lot higher as a teen but times change I guess.

Next week: Please Santa Moff don’t let us down. I can’t take much more underwhelming Who.

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Doctor Who Re-watch: The Long Game

This is one of the episodes I haven’t re-watched in years. I knew it involved Simon Pegg, an alien in a ceiling, and very little else. I thought I liked it quite a bit. Whoops. Maybe I did back in the day, but this re-watch… well… let’s just say every frustrating aspect of RTD’s writing style and show running style which I loathed back in the day is on display here. Strap yourselves in. This review ain’t gonna be pretty.

So what happens? The Doctor, Rose and Adam find themselves in the year 200 000 in the fourth great and bountiful human empire. Technology and the sought after gold-wall lined Floor 500 (where humans after a promotion go) are wrong, says The Doctor, and thus, exploration ensues in a pastiche episode that checks off The Face of Boe pregnant, the Bad Wolf channel and a 1984 style propaganda machine.

1x07-The-Long-Game-doctor-who-17470059-1600-900

Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: The opening to this episode was fun enough. I liked the Doctor giving Rose a chance to show off with Adam. It was a sweet moment. And Rose is 19 years old, so I can understand her needing to get her flirt on every once in a while. Is it enough of a reason to bring Adam with them on an adventure? Not really. But hey, there’s always the chance the writers have an interesting way of using him in this story (spoiler alert: they very much did not). Ultimately, this opening reminds me of the opening to The End of the World, but with less awesome.

Maureen: My favourite part of the pre-title sequence was Rose successfully getting her Doctor on (I love it when companions get to do this without being harshed on). Rose is loving showing off when she says ‘judging by the architecture’ it’s a time far in the future and the surroundings point to ‘definitely a spaceship’ to Adam. She does get her flirt on, as Ben points out, and yes, I get she’s 19, but it makes Rose seem inconsistent. She likes Mickey… no wait The Doctor … no wait Adam … no wait The Doctor again. Make up your mind, woman!

Adam: *Faints*
Nine: He’s your boyfriend.
Rose: Not any more.

The Companion(s)

Ben: As much as I was in support of Rose getting a little action at the start of the episode, I really soured towards her as the episode went on. She was pretty supportive of Adam going through the motions of acclimatizing to time travel, only to immediately abandon him when things got interesting. Because leaving someone you barely know to their own devices in a strange place where bad things are probably happening is an excellent idea *sarcasm*. She doesn’t really do much for the rest of the episode other than follow the Doctor around. They have a nice moment in the elevator to level 500 when they realise Adam isn’t there and agree it’s better when it’s just the two of them, but like, why aren’t The Doctor and Rose concerned for him? He’s alone 198 000 years in the future and the general consensus is that’s fine? It’s no wonder he gets up to absolutely nothing good, especially considering where he was working in the previous episode! The final scene where they drop Adam off at home was pretty nasty really, especially considering they’re at least partly responsible for what happened to him. Really, Rose doesn’t come across as a great person this episode.

Maureen: I agree with Ben on this one and Ben gave Rose some leeway on her Adam flirting in the pre-title credits! I have very little to add except I did like the bit where Rose says she’s ‘missing out on the party upstairs’ re wanting to dash up to the creepy Floor 500. I’m going to leave Rose behind and focus on yet another companion who never was, Suki, as played by the excellent actress Anna Maxwell Martin. Here’s the thing guys: why cast someone as prestigious as ANNA FLIPPING MAXWELL MARTIN and then do nothing with her character till she’s unceremoniously fridged? WHY? I thought Suki didn’t know she was a spy, so it was a neat twist when it turned out she was a double agent all along.

Suki: This whole system is corrupt.

But that’s about all there was to her character. RTD. YOU ARE THE WORST.

Ben: And don’t forget Adam. Poor Adam got the worst of it. After the scene in the food court where he got to call his parents he was basically left to his own devices. It would have been kinder to keep him in the TARDIS for the rest of the episode. Instead we get so many scenes about Adam getting progressively further in over his head, culminating in him having everything he knows about Rose and the Doctor being forcibly yanked out of his brain.

Maureen: I read online somewhere that this was the series first Doctor-lite episode. Maybe it was. But it still sucked. And the Adam screen time is still completely unjustifiable. It was boring, awkward and a distraction from the real plot. I can’t believe Rose and The Doctor leave Adam to his own devices. He was working for the dangerously inquisitive Van Statten in Dalek. Wouldn’t they, you know, want to keep him on a tight leash till they know they can trust him? Scratch that. In logic land, The Doctor would never have brought Adam along at all!

Ben: Of course Adam was going to be interested in futuristic technology!! And then he was consigned to a future of being prodded and probed and reverse engineered. Yes, he got greedy, but he was the equivalent of a kid in a candy store in this episode. His guardians are the ones who should be shouldering the blame here. My final thought is, why even bring Adam into this episode if they didn’t have an interesting idea for how to use him?

Maureen: Rather! Also, the script is just plain predictable. It’s telegraphed a mile off that Adam is up to no good and will try to use his future knowledge for his own capitalist gain. It’s obvious something bad will happen to him (the cute dog whining at the sound of Adam’s voice on the answering machine made that obvious, and it was shown not once, but twice). And anyone who isn’t totally moronic aka Adam would trust Tamsin Greig nurse lady as far as they could throw her. Speaking of Tamsin Greig, her entire performance was off. Was she going for sexy? For funny? For creepy? Who knows? I doubt even she knew. And as to the episode’s ending, the tone is all wrong. Were we meant to feel sorry for Adam? Were we meant to laugh at him? Were we meant to feel vindicated? Who knows RTD.

The Doctor

Ben: I don’t really have much to say about the Doctor in this episode. He was okay. He solved the mystery, saved the day, and then left the mess to be cleaned up by other people. I didn’t mind this so much in World War Three, because Harriet Jones was quite capable of handling things herself. But in this case Cathica is quite right in stating that no one is going to believe what happened here.

Maureen: Nope. She’s a woman AND black. Unless social structures have changed any by the year 200 000. I doubt it.

Ben: I guess the Doctor isn’t really a fan of being there for the long haul. But then to cap things off, he was quite happy to leave Adam to his own devices (which left Adam with a head full of futuristic technology), and then blamed him for ending up over his head in an extremely alien environment! The worst part is that the Doctor and Rose didn’t care they were damning Adam to a fairly miserable life at the end of the episode. Yes, Adam got greedy, but where was the Doctor to keep him in line? At least some acceptance of responsibility would have been appreciated.

Maureen: I can’t disagree with Ben on that either, though two positives to end this section on from me. I did like the emphasis on Nine as a more sexual Doctor (shown when he is cool with Suki hugging him and looks like he kind of enjoys it and also the fan fic hand cuffs scene with him and Rose). And Nine’s lines about being a tourist rocked.

Nine: The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers – or is that just me?

So true, Doctor!

Alien of the Week

Maureen: Simon Pegg is… adequate… I guess? What a waste of a role for him too. So he’s a banker. That’s nice. Somehow he makes money out of propaganda news and supporting The Jagrafess who wants… who knows? The episode never makes that clear.

Ben: Ahh, the cheap special effects are back this week. I know that this was made in the early 2000s, but you know what else was? Lord of the Rings. Special effects aside, the Jagrafess didn’t really make sense as the big bad. Why is it living on the roof of a space station for 3000 years of its lifespan? How is this preferable to where it normally lives? How does it benefit from this arrangement it has with the Editor and the consortium of banks he represents? Why does controlling the information benefit banks in the long run? And in a slight aside, how does Cathica use the information transfer system they use to package the news to control the space station’s heating systems? There’s a lot of plot holes and poor explanations in this episode.

Maureen: Also, far too much pastiche. It’s 1984! No! Simon Pegg and his frozen people keyed into the space station channels are Minority Report. No! Suki, Cathica and co. are like Scarlet Johanssen and Ewan McGregor in The Island. Wait! It’s kind of like Seven/Ace meta stories like The Happiness Patrol… except far more boring and with far less to say. What a mess!!!

Final Thoughts

Maureen: This is it. Right here. The point where all of RTD’s excesses are truly revealed for the first time. There were elements in Aliens of London, but this here is the real McCoy. We got the kitchen sink. Check. We got The Doctor being an arsehole and getting away with it narratively because… well… he’s the Doctor. Check. We got nonsensical plots. Check. We got humour that isn’t funny. Check. We got inane, empty dialogue that goes nowhere and means nothing. Check. Urgh. The last line in my notebook on this episode is ‘HORRIBLE EPISODE. HORRIBLE.’ It gets worse the more I think about it. 1/10 inky stars.

Ben: Look. This episode was bad. Real bad. It feels like they threw everything at the wall to see what stuck, and decided they really liked the look of the stained mess that was left on the wall. It was convoluted, confusing, the jokes didn’t land, and Adam existed. The world they created was interesting, which makes it all the worst because they could have done a really interesting story about propaganda – the great human empire and it’s one news source. But no. I give it 1/10.

Next week at least we have Father’s Day, which by both my memory and by all accounts is halfway decent. Regular Who programming to resume at InkAshlings next week.

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Dalek

Before I write any more of this review, I need to remind everyone of this: Rob Shearman wrote this episode. Yes, THE Rob Shearman. That guy who wrote two of the best Doctor Who audios ever recorded for Big Finish; Jubilee and The Chimes of Midnight. They are dirt cheap on the Big Finish website. Go buy them and listen right now. Trust me. Now, where was I? Ah yes, Dalek. Dalek was actually based off the superlative radio play, Jubilee, but re-written for the new TV show. In the TV episode, Nine and Rose find themselves in Utah in a big museum where SURPRISE the first appearance of the New Who Dalek appears… but with a twist. PS: This is the first bunker-in-lock-down-as-everyone-dies episode of New Who.

dalek

Pre-Title

Maureen: I love that the episode opens in 2012 like 2012 was far, far in the future (well, I guess it kinda was back then). I love that we’re inside a museum in Utah, but am a little sad Moffat didn’t riff on this in Series 6 with the cast’s real visit to Utah and the USA or with one of River’s Series 5 or 6 jaunts to an archaeological museum. But hush, Maureen. This is the RTD era review re-watch. Stop jumping ahead damn it! Anyway, nice nods to the Cybermen, The Slitheen and the wreck of the Rosaleen in the episode’s opening number and hello bad American accents and Julia Stiles look-a-like. Though Rose, maybe don’t tell the menacing soldiers that The Doctor is an alien IN AN ALIEN MUSEUM.

Ben: It’s all very mysterious. As Rose observes, if someone’s collecting aliens, the Doctor would make an excellent specimen. It’s not the best opening we’ve seen, but it’s definitely up there.

The Companion

Maureen: Aside from the irritating first ten minutes where Rose is either mocking Adam for being a bit of an egoist or is actually making goggle eyes at him (though I did laugh when she said ‘blimey, you can smell the testosterone’), she does most of the heavy lifting in what becomes a very emotional episode. This story is one of the first of New Who to really explore what the companion can do for The Doctor’s psyche. Rose is human; she thinks like a human, empathizes like a human, and most importantly of all, she has no preconceived notions of alien races beyond the ones she’s already met to judge them.

Dalek: I am in pain. They tortured me, but still they fear me. Do you fear me?
Rose: No.

Ben: Yes, Rose gets to do some proper companion work this episode in what proves to be a nice change of pace. Rose, naive as she is, knows nothing of the awesome danger even one Dalek represents, and does what she can to provide comfort and protection to a dying alien, inadvertently giving the Dalek newfound strength. But this new strength comes at a cost – humanity – turning this last surviving Dalek into something new, something with emotions. It is Rose’s DNA which saves the Utah base and everyone in it. Rose’s bleeding heart (shown in previous episodes) finally pays off.

Maureen: I loved Billie Piper’s acting in this episode. The scene where she winces as the soldiers shoot The Dalek was a nice touch. Also, back in the day, I genuinely thought Rose was a goner, Adric style. It felt nice to be surprised by Doctor Who again, and so early into the new show.

Ben: Ultimately, the end of the episode sees the Dalek turn to Rose to provide orders, the one person it has formed a connection with, begging her to order it to kill itself. I see Rose’s role in this episode as to show the best of humanity in the face of the unknown, and she does so powerfully.

Dalek: You have given me life. What else have you given me?

The Doctor

Ben: Just like Billie, Chris gets to do some heavy lifting in this episode. But first, he must show off a bit. This episode can really be summed up as a battle of the egos, initially it’s the Doctor’s ego doing battle with Van Statten’s. But really, all of the named characters in this episode seem to be talking with their egos at one point or another.

Maureen: I love the flashes of manic, zestful Nine (before that facade comes crushing down later in the episode) seen especially when he shows Van Statten how to play an alien instrument. I also like the mad man with a box moment below (just before all hell breaks lose):

Soldier: You just stumble in…
Nine: That about sums me up.

Ben: Gratuitous shirtless Doctor scene aside, things start to get interesting when the Doctor is locked into the room with the Dalek. The way Nine says ‘fantastic’ with such anger on his face is a side of the Doctor we haven’t seen before. This is the Doctor fresh from the destruction of the Time War. We get some good history here too, learning the Doctor played a pivotal role in the Time War, bringing about the destruction of both the Daleks and the Time Lords. And as the Dalek points out, the two of them have lot in common, both being the last of their kind.

Maureen: The Doctor’s similarity to a Dalek is a meaty concept to explore; so meaty, it’s been explored not once but three times (Jubilee, Dalek and Into the Dalek).

Nine: I watched it happen. I made it happen.
Dalek: You destroyed us?
Nine: I had no choice.
Dalek: And what of the Time Lords?
Nine: Dead. They burned with you.
Dalek: We are the same.

Nine: Why don’t you just die?
Dalek: You would make a good Dalek.

These exchanges show us a dangerous Doctor, one unhinged by grief and madness. Without a companion like Rose, he is unstuck, just as amoral and as corrupt as the aliens he battles against.

Ben: You really get an idea of the sheer scope of emotions this Dalek makes the Doctor feel, from sheer terror to blind rage. At the end of the episode we see the Doctor break down. Rose physically blocks his final desperate attempt to destroy the Dalek, and he makes the heartbreaking admission that he has nothing left, other than meting out destruction to his last surviving nemesis. His people all gone, all he has is rage. Enter Rose.

Nine: Get out of the way! Get out of the way!
Rose: He’s not the one aiming the gun at me.

Alien of the Week

Maureen: One of the many things I love about this episode is that it shows us all of the reasons why Daleks are scary, evil villains, whilst exploring the concept of a Dalek in a new way, a way that makes us even a little sorry for the one in the episode. The Dalek gains power from Rose and uses it for ill, killing soldiers one by one, including the female soldier who dies bravely trying to protect Adam and Rose. But at the same time, the Dalek is a mirror of The Doctor; the last of his kind, confused and lost, unsure of its purpose.

Dalek: My function is to kill! What am I? What am I?

Nine: They’re all dead.
Dalek: Why do we survive?

Ben: What an introduction to an old favourite! What Van Statten dubs the Metaltron and Adam a Pepperpot ends up being none other than a Dalek! The last Dalek, no less. It’s been through Hell on Earth, and now it’s powerless and alone. It’s first encounter with the Doctor gives us excellent lore and character building. We get the history of the Time War, of the Doctor’s part in ending the War, and a good characterisation of your standard Dalek, obsessed with destroying anything that isn’t Dalek.

Initially, I felt sorry for the Dalek. Not having seen it’s capabilities for destruction, all I’d seen is it being tortured by the Doctor, then comforted by Rose as it accepts it’s approaching death. But then the killing starts, and that’s all thrown out the window. The Dalek brings down the power for a large chunk of America, downloads the entire internet (Inkashlings aside: I thought of the Jen internet episode from IT Crowd at that moment and couldn’t help a small snicker), kills all the men thrown at it, and you think maybe the Doctor was right to try and destroy it while he could. But then, the episode changes direction one more time. The Dalek has been corrupted by Rose, unable to kill. It wonders how the sunlight feels and yearns for freedom, and then opens it’s metal casing to expose the true Dalek inside, because it wanted to feel the sunlight! In the end, being able to feel was too much, and it choose death over the curse of living as a Dalek with emotions.

Dalek: This is not life. This is sickness. I shall not be like you. Order my destruction. Obey. Obey. Obey.

Maureen: And what an unexpected pin-up scene we end the episode on; Rose standing next to The Dalek, not in fear, but in sympathy as it commits suicide.

Final thoughts

Maureen: There’s so much to this episode. We’ve barely talked about Van Statten and his base, and the way the episode shows humanity’s darkest side (torturing aliens to find out about them) in stark juxtaposition to Rose’s actions (there’s a reason for this. Namely, I think this episode is much more interesting when it leaves the bad American accents behind and focuses on the Rose/Doctor/Dalek trio). The opening and ending of the episode felt a lot less interesting than the episode’s heart. I’m giving this 8/10 inky stars, mainly because I’ve listened to Jubilee and think it handled the concept better than Dalek, having more time to explore the human evil element in a more fascinating parallel world. Also, Evelyn Smythe. The Donna Noble of Big Finish. But with more awesome.

Ben: I found this a difficult episode to review, there was a lot of really emotional moments to explore and discuss. Mostly I’m hoping I did it justice. But, I still have to score it. If it weren’t for the terrible Americans, this episode would be a clear 10/10, but as it stands I’m giving it a 9/10.

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Aliens of London/World War Three

Sorry guys for the lateness of this write-up. Ben was on time, but I’m in Canberra for the 2018 Hardcopy manuscript development program and now is the first chance I’ve had to upload words to this blog. Aliens of London/WW3 is RTD’s first two-parter and to keep things manageable for Ben and I with these re-watches, unless it’s a finale, we’re reviewing two-parters together.

So, how did this one hold up? I originally rated this one pretty high on a re-watch a few years back on livejournal. Alas, this time round the fart jokes, the fat shaming and the strange character beats were not so appealing for this little birdie. On the plus side, we get introduced to Harriet Jones and the second episode has some interesting and funny moments.

Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: I liked the opening to Aliens of London. It set the tone (perhaps a little misleadingly) for a fun adventure romp on earth with The Doctor and Rose and continued the theme of The Doctor driving the TARDIS poorly. Suddenly, the series 5 River/Doctor about River driving the TARDIS better is a whole lot funnier… the second episode had little original in its opening to commend itself to me.

Ben: For a two-parter that ended up being inconsistent in quality, we had a hell of an opening in this first episode. After a short recap of Rose, Mickey and Jackie’s adventures so far, we land back on Earth so that Rose can visit her mum. The Doctor assures her that it’s only been 12 hours since she first left with the Doctor, however the Doctor can’t drive the TARDIS and it turns out it has in fact been 12 MONTHS. Whoops. Cue title sequence!

The second episode’s pre-title sequence was mostly a recap, but I did appreciate the smooth transition into the episode proper, literally picking up where they left off last episode with the Doctor and the other alien experts being electrocuted. I guess it is a good thing Rose didn’t get in to the meeting, or she’d be toast. Luckily for the Doctor, Time Lords are made of sturdier stuff, so he’s able to pull off the electrocution lanyard and turn it on to the Slitheen. Aaaand, cue title sequence. It’s nothing special…

The Companion/s

Maureen: Now that we’re back on earth, RTD moves beyond Rose as companion to add in a companion who never was (but could have been) in Harriet Jones, as well as the Mickey and Jackie team (I like to imagine that the whole River/Amy/Rory team was a response to how poorly these two were handled by RTD). There’s a lot of people to juggle when you throw in the alien of the week and The Doctor too, but for the first ten minutes of Aliens of London and most of World War Three, RTD pulls it off.

I’m not sold on the actress playing Jackie Tyler, but I sympathized with her concern for Rose, who on earth has essentially become a missing person case with Mickey, the black boyfriend prime suspect. It’s a shame RTD couldn’t leave this story open-ended a little longer, as it would have been an interesting theme to explore over multiple episodes, but as it is, it feels pretty surface level. I did love Jackie stitching The Doctor with a well-aimed slap and that we saw her trauma and sadness over Rose vanishing with a strange man without warning. In World War Three, she is a vehicle to remind us of the dangers of travelling with The Doctor when she asks him if her daughter will be safe. The Doctor never answers…

Mickey fairs less well in the two-parter, but especially in the first episode. I don’t know that it’s the actor’s fault, but Mickey sounds whiny when he says The Doctor ruined his life (probably because we never see how Mickey’s life has changed sans Doctor in the story). At least Mickey found UNIT (even if they seem a little rusty on dealing with alien invasion despite their numerous cases in classic Who) to gain some agency back and shows presence of mind to run away from The Slitheen when he sees they are outnumbered (sometimes being a coward is useful). In World War Three, I found myself more sympathetic towards Mickey mainly because he does more. Despite Jackie’s year of suspicion toward Mickey, it is he that saves her and promises to protect her no matter what (showing he genuinely cares about more than just Rose as someone to bonk), he gets a picture of The Slitheen that attacked Jackie and sends it to The Doctor for identification and formulation of an actual plan and hacks the Royal Navy to destroy Westminster.

Random aside: Moffat is known for riffing stories, especially previous Who stories, and I noticed the way The Doctor said ‘Mickey the idiot. The world is in your hands. Fire’ is reflected in The Eleventh Hour in the below exchange between Eleven and Jeff:

DOCTOR: Listen to me. In ten minutes, you’re going to be a legend. In ten minutes, everyone on that screen is going to be offering you any job you want. But first, you have to be magnificent. You have to make them trust you and get them working. This is it, Jeff, right here, right now. This is when you fly. Today’s the day you save the world.
JEFF: Why me?
DOCTOR: It’s your bedroom. Now go, go, go.

Nine tears people down because he is all ego and trauma and pain. Eleven builds people up and gives them agency to fly. God, how I wish Eleven had met Mickey.

In the end, Mickey is offered a space in The TARDIS at least, but he turns it down, claiming coward to the end. I’m not sure I bought this. He has shown himself to be no coward, but maybe he feels responsibility to earth and protecting it from the aliens he knows are now out there (whether through UNIT or someone else) or maybe he knows he needs to let Rose go.

And what of Rose? She doesn’t do much this two-parter, with Harriet Jones getting the best ‘aha’ moments. Still, Rose is the one who figures out how The Doctor, Harriet and her can survive Mickey’s bomb blast. I wasn’t a fan of her violent responses to the alien invasion or flippant weight loss joke (and nor was Harriet) and I hated her false statements to Mickey about missing him and caring for him (come on, Rose. You clearly don’t.)

And at last I get to Harriet Jones. God, how I loved her. I truly felt like she was so fully realised she could have been a companion. I love that she’s a small town MP with brains and heart and the persistence of an old school investigative journalist. I love that she tells Rose where to get off. I love that The Doctor passes his alcohol vial to her before Rose. I love that somehow she finishes the story as PM.

Ben: Okay, there’s a lot to cover here with companions. First Rose, then Mickey, then Jackie, then Harriet Jones. But really, Mickey got all the good bits in these episodes.

Rose is something of an observer for most of these episodes, with everything happening around her. Mostly it’s her mum having a very understandable reaction to her only daughter vanishing for a year and then not telling her where she’s been. She really is caught between a rock and a hard place there, I’m not sure what I would say in her situation at all. But once the alien spaceship crash lands in London she doesn’t really do much other than argue with Jackie and Mickey. World War Three opens with her and Harriet being chased by a Slitheen, only to be quickly reunited with the Doctor. From then on, all she does is emote and react to the events occurring around her.

I was surprised to find myself liking Mickey in these episodes! It’s clear he’s had a rough year, Jackie accusing him of Rose’s disappearance is no easy thing to shake off. Yes he was a bit of a dick to everyone in the first episode, but I think that’s a fair reaction all things considered. Plus the Doctor is still being a dick to him for no good reason. He really comes into things during World War Three, first trying to protect Jackie, and then being the Doctor’s man on the computer. He gets a bad case of the technobabble, but what’s a Doctor Who episode without some nonsense scifi talk. Mass murder aside, he’s become a much better character by the end of the episode, you can see more of the Mickey that joins Unit and less of the whiney boy. Plus, coming to an understanding with the Doctor means hopefully they can move on from the ridiculous name calling.

Similarly, Jackie didn’t do much after the first 15 minutes of Aliens of London. She got to ask some very pointed questions about where Rose has been for the last year, and who in the fresh hell this Doctor is. (YOU HAVE A TIME MACHINE, JUST GO BACK 12 MONTHS AND SAVE YOURSELF THE TROUBLE) Then in World War Three after being saved from a Slitheen in a bit of an odd scene involving pickled foodstuffs, her primary role is to worry about Rose, whether she is safe and whether the Doctor can keep her safe. Which, as Rose’s mum, are very reasonable questions to ask. What is very ominous and foreboding is the Silence (heh) the Doctor responds with. We also get to see how fiercely protective she is of her only daughter when she threatens to stop Mickey launching the missile because there’s the risk Rose will get hurt. By the end of the episode she’s begging her daughter to stay, promising to go back to school and get a job in the hopes of keeping Rose on Earth. Not to be down on Jackie, but I think I’d choose travelling space over every day life on Earth too.

Finally, Harriet Jones. She really was my favourite thing to come from these episodes. She didn’t do a great deal besides observe proceedings along with Rose, but her no-nonsense attitude, intelligence and charisma were great on screen. Also of note, Harriet had one of my favourite lines of the episode in “you pass to the left first” when the Doctor goes to pass her a decanter of alcohol so she could have her last drink. I look forward to seeing more of her in episodes to come! She truly was the sanest companion of the lot!

The Doctor

Maureen: Aside from the first ten minutes of Aliens of London where The Doctor was funny and adventure-filled (shown in the ‘did you know this was gonna happen? Nope’ exchange, the joy on The Doctor’s face as he steered alone in the TARDIS and the ‘never put a man in front of a lift’ quote), I spent a lot of time disliking him. He emotionally blackmailed Rose constantly to continue journeying with him, insisted on calling Mickey Ricky for no good reason, continued to call Mickey an idiot and demean him in front of others, especially Rose, and generally was a bit of a dick.

Another Moffat riff I noticed comes from this episode. In the Series 10 finale, Twelve makes this speech to The Master:

Twelve: I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind!

Compare to Nine speaking to Rose and Harriet as a dreadful decision must be made…

Nine: It’s not fun. It’s not smart. It’s just standing up and making a decision.

Final note on The Doctor: Thank God he finally lays off mocking Mickey by two-parter’s end! I get the sense he has learnt to respect Mickey, even if he’ll never like him.

Ben: I oscillated a lot between like and dislike over these episodes when it came to the Doctor. For starters, he constantly treats Mickey with disdain until he has a use for him. I’m not sure if it’s because of Rose related jealousy, but this behaviour just isn’t cute. At least by the end of the episode they reach something of an understanding, but that involved turning Mickey into a mass murderer by having him launch a missile into 10 Downing Street.

We get a lot of scenes of the Doctor investigating and problem solving and just generally being the Doctor, which were fine, but not particularly inspiring. The investigating the alien body which turns out to be a transformed pig only seems to happen as an excuse to get The Doctor to leave without Rose, furthering the conflict between Rose, Mickey, and Jackie. Things pick up in the second episode when he locks himself, Rose, and Harriet in the Cabinet Room, and we get some good banter, great emotional moments, and some excellent Doctoring moments. The part where he admits he can’t keep Rose safe was a really But do the good Doctor moments of World War Three balance out the mostly bad Doctor moments from Aliens in London? What really sealed it as a no from me is when, right at the end of the episode when Jackie is begging Rose to stay, he pulls some cheap emotional manipulation to make sure she comes along with him.

Alien of the Week

Maureen: I noticed a couple of things about the aliens of the week to comment on. The less said about the fat shaming and the fart jokes the better…

1. Their ultimate plan is quite similar to Cassandra, also a villain from an RTD penned episode. The Slitheen want to destroy earth to sell it for fuel. Ingenious. What this says about RTD’s neuroses I’m not sure.
2. It’s interesting that The Slitheen take over key positions in UK society (PM, head of MI6, head of the military etc.) The PM, especially, is flippant and into bodily fluids and earthy feelings. He says he had a wife, a mistress and a farmer and that he wants to escape his body and get naked. Again, not sure what RTD was saying about politics or about sexuality here.
3. The Slitheen were much scarier in the second episode, as they stalked Rose and Harriet especially. The pig/human hybrid alien was just weird in episode one and I wasn’t keen on the electrocution scene.

Ben: The Slitheen really were a mixed bag, there’s not much else to say. They had a pretty good plan overall, turning the Earth into a nuclear slag to sell off as fuel. I feel like as an advanced alien species there would have been much easier ways to go about it though. If Mickey can hack into and launch a nuke (buffalo as a password, really?), I feel like the Slitheen could probably manage that too. What really weighed down the performances were the bad fart jokes, and over use of special effects. Less is more, BBC! They did have some moments of being truly intimidating, such as when one of them was hunting Rose and Harriet Jones in World War Three. But overall, they ended up being a bit more silly than scary. They had all this amazing technology, and the first part of Aliens of London really set them up well as being a real threat, this was an enemy who was able to set up significant diversions. But when it came to actually meeting the Slitheen… the follow through was disappointing. And in the end, no one actually checked to see if there were any Slitheen survivors before declaring the missile strike a success? Who knows, maybe they’ll make a return later on…

Final Thoughts

Maureen: I thought this was a kitchen sink mess for the most part, with many series regulars doing unlikable things and displaying unlikable attitudes, especially in Aliens of London which got a measly 2 stars from me. The second episode lifted its game, but not enough to salvage the truly awful first act with a solid 7/10 stars. Aliens of London/World War Three: 5/10 inky stars.

Ben: Look, it wasn’t a great two-parter, I really think they could have done better with the idea. I’m imagining a spy thriller of some form where they go back 12 months to correct the Doctor’s driving mistake and come across the Slitheen when they’ve just landed on Earth and are scoping it out/in the initial planning stages. Something more Animorphs-esque, perhaps. Anyways, I should quit before I write that whole thing out. At least we got another Bad Wolf reference? I give Aliens of London a 4/10, and World War Three a 7/10. Overall, 6/10 inky stars.

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