Arabian (arabian) wrote,

Doctor Who 1x03 "Aliens of London" rewatch-review

As I've stated elsewhere, once I finished season two of New Who, I was going to rewatch and review what I call my "Her Name was Rose" collection (click here for the full list of episodes). Okay, here goes another one, episode four, "Aliens of London." I think I've mentioned this in a few comments, but let me put this out here now, even though this is the first of a two-parter, I'm still only doing one episode at a time, and that will be the case for all of the two-parters.

I want to preface this one by saying that I do just so love this show. I was just grinning and giddy as I lay down to watch it and was actually pulled out of actually watching it a few times in the first couple of minutes out of sheer giddiness that I was watching my Who. Then I sent a fervent prayer up to the Who gods: Moffat, please don't destroy my show. Then I rewound to watch what I had missed. Ahem, moving on ... "Aliens of London." (Oh, and just a forewarning, no caps or clips in this one.)

I like this one; I don't love it, but I like it. It's another Russell T. Davies script and in terms of plot, it's by far the best we've gotten thus far. Alas, {{sigh}} the character stuff is only so-so. Still, it's a good episode, and it ratchets up the tension wonderfully in the final minutes.

I've gotten the impression from comments here and there in the fandom that the Slitheen are not a terribly popular alien-villain. I actually quite liked them. Admittedly, they don't look very scary with their vaguely Pillsbury Doughboy faces that, come to think of it, look like big, green versions of the Adipose. Hmm. Still, I like them as villains. The simpering, laughing, farting rather toning down just what evil-doers they are. In fact, it's through the use of another character that we get just how disturbing the reality of what they are doing is. Not to say that we don't know they are horrible without the secondary character's point of view, but because we don't know the characters they've killed, because we don't see them actually kill until the end of the episode, their actions are seen as if from a distance.

Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, is that secondary character. And it's through her that we see the horror of their alien murder. Prior to the moment she witnesses it, her character is more comic relief (what with her constant introduction of herself -- gee, I wonder if that will become a running gag? {snort} -- and attempts to keep her appointment despite an alien invasion). When she sees the aliens within the skin and the murder they commit, we are given a depth into her character by the simple nature of the fact that she doesn't scream, she doesn't reveal herself, yet, she is clearly devastated by what she has witnessed. And that is thanks partially to RTD for writing such a wonderful three-dimensional character and letting her develop gradually throughout the episode and to Penelope Wilton -- who is JUST fabulous. There are few characters that one can grow to love quite quickly, Wilton's Harriet Jones is one of them. I'm quite, quite thrilled that we got to see her again.

As I said, she was the comic relief earlier on in the 10 Downing Street scenes. I remember loving and laughing at her, "Damn, you've seen through my cunning plan," to the Junior Secretary the first time I watched it and I get the same kick out of it every time I see it again. It's all in the delivery, baby and Wilton nails it. As she does her first two scenes with Rose, that are simply golden, proving that she's so much more than comic relief. The first when she offers to stay with her while the Doctor joins the experts, her stiff body language, even the way she introduces herself to Rose -- giving just the edge to a phrase thats repetition has already become amusing, shows just how good Wilton is. You can see in those lines, in her voice that she is just *barely* holding herself together, holding the horror of what she'd seen in. And then when they're alone, how she just lets it go. Beautiful scenes, the both of them, short though they may be.

And she is not the only actor who made an impression on me in this episode. Along with Harriet, I also really liked the doctor who (heh, didn't do that on purpose at all) "autopsied" the pig, and the Junior Secretary, Indra Ganesh. The first, Dr. Sato, played by Naoko Mori, I just read that she's on Torchwood which makes me more anxious to watch that show despite having a vague knowledge of her story there. She just had a few short scenes, but they were GOOD ones. You've GOT to give casting their due. With the exception of a certain companion (and to be fair, Freema Agyeman's turn as Adeola did show tons of promise), the casting directors on this show do a top, top-notch job. As for Ganesh, damn you, Rusty! There we go with three out of three! Three out of three episodes the guy wrote so far, a one-shot tertiary character who I REALLY like bites it. Stop killing my awesome one-shot tertiary characters! The actor, Navin Chowdhry, was just so earnest, and caring, handling all that was going on with just a tad bit of WTF?do-I-do?-ness (and yes, I just made that up phrase up) layered into the aplomb. I really liked him. And Rusty done killed him. Sigh. I'm still shocked that he didn't kill off Dr. Sato too.

And yet we're not done with the acting excellence in this episode. Camille Coduri hadn't impressed me much in her first outing as Jackie, but she had some truly lovely moments in this episode. Yet, she was still indisputably Jackie. My favorite moment with her (and, again, there were several) was after she found out that the Doctor was an alien and she's back in her flat. The worrying, the fear, the hesitation, the love for Rose, all was played beautifully by Coduri; I really and truly felt for Jackie in that moment despite the fact that she was turning the Doctor in and things could have gone VERY. BAD. from that point on had he not already had a relationship of sorts with the government. Excellent job there, and some wonderful character shading by Russell T. Davies.

Alas, Jackie is the only one of our "main" characters who gets that treatment. I realize that we really don't need anything specific for the Doctor in this episode, and that the first two had a lot of wonderful character building for Rose. However, because of the year-absence we SHOULD have gotten more than we got in this one with her. The scene with the Doctor, Jackie and the police officer had Rose mostly sitting there like a lump, and then there was the abrupt switch to the Jackie/Rose scene where Rose is crying and apologizing and saying she thought of her mum, and then, boom, another abrupt switch to the rooftop and she's got an almost careless attitude about it all. It was just ... well, not good, too abrupt. I'm sure scenes were cut there that would explain it, but still, it just didn't work. The scene with the group of them leading to the rooftop scene? The attitude was similar in both and would have worked coming side by side, but not with the crying scene in between. I dunno, maybe having the Rose/Jackie scene BEFORE the police scene would have done it -- with a bit more build-up to that particular scene. But as is, well, as I said above, it just didn't work; the flow was terribly off.

Of course, that isn't taking into account that her attitude in the group and rooftop scenes was a bit too nonchalant for the circumstances, which carried through in the "escort" scene with the Doctor where she casually mentioned that she didn't know who the prime minister was by saying that she'd been gone a year. And in that one, I honestly don't know if I blame the writing or (ack!) the acting. I know, I know, I said in my last rewatch-review: It goes without saying that Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper were wonderful ... they always are. I'm not trying to take the easy way out and not write about their performances, it's just true that the two of them never miss a beat. I never watch, hear a moment with them where it isn't just right.

Well, this time, I think that Piper may have missed a beat. Or it could have been RTD's writing, after all, I had the same problem with the almost-cavalier attitude displayed in the two earlier scenes. Still, she could have given more of an edge that would have helped to save all three of the scenes -- especially this one with the one line -- with a different delivery, more of layered awareness of the fact that she literally lost one year of her life! Other than that, Piper was lovely, but I do think she missed the ball a bit in giving some subtext in certain scenes.

ETA: After some brilliant comments below, and rethinking the whole thing through, I do believe that it was my thinking of how the scenario played out that was off, not Davies or Piper. Read below.

You know who didn't miss a beat, though? Again? Christopher Eccleston, who I just fall in love with all over again with every episode I watch. He's so damn good. The commanding way the Doctor took, well, command of the soldiers once they heard the scream, the way he moved about the morgue, so in charge, and rather sexy, his anguished anger -- "it was scared!" -- when the soldier shot the pig. How Eccleston is able to so effortlessly slip between the goofy, daft Doctor and imperious, in command Doctor is always amazing to behold. His talent seriously has me in awe. And in addition to that depth, the shading and layering, the magnificent subtext, he's also just such an utter, utter delight to watch in the lighter moments. Telling the sonic screwdriver to be quiet, smiling in an "oh, of course" manner when the military (belatedly) pointed their guns and lights on him. Grinning and actually saying "Take me to your leader." (God, I love the Doctor!) Filling the line, "would you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?" with such disdain. Oh, everything, every moment. Just delightful and adorable.

Also utterly delightful and adorable was most of the Doctor/Rose interaction in this episode. They didn't have too many scenes in this one just together, only two -- the rooftop, and police escort -- but they were both squee-worthy (ignoring the slight offness in the "I've been away a year" line). My favorite one was definitely the rooftop, the way the Doctor asked about her staying there and how it came across as a matter of course, rather like *I* should ask, but knowing the answer would be no. Just as Rose's response of "I don't know," had the same tenor of *I* should hedge, but I so know I'm sticking with him. Their coupled laughter, the back and forth banter, the casual way in which Rose took the Doctor's age, merely commenting on the "age gap." (Ooh, shippy thought just struck me! More on that later.) All of it was just squee-worthy and made me full of happy, happy, joy, joy grins from ear to ear.

Not quite Doctor/Rose, but I also got a huge kick out of the bit where Rose realizes she's not so special any longer. LOL!
    I've seen all that stuff up there, the size of it, and I can't say a word. Aliens and spaceships and things, and I'm the only person on planet earth who knows they exist.
Cue a spaceship crashing into Big Ben and then splashing into the Thames. Good enough, that, and then we get the kicker of Rose's response:
    Oh, that's just not fair.
I love Rose. As does the Doctor, who laughed at her reaction. Okay, okay, he was actually more laughing at her, rather than with her, but she was in on the joke too because she grinned too as he took her hand and off they ran.

I also loved their banter once they were out in the street. This scene was a perfect example of why I love the Doctor and Rose so much and why I think the Doctor loves HER so much. She's just never put him up on this pedestal; he's never been the lonely God to her. He's just a bloke. An alien bloke. An amazing, wonderful, fantastic alien bloke. But a bloke. And the way he smiles, banters back and forth with her, it says to me that he appreciates being just a bloke to this sassy, beautiful, intelligent young woman. A young woman who never fails to puncture his ego when he's getting full of himself, as she does here a bit, and the more so in the police escort car. They're just so cute together and it's lovely seeing just how well they get along, how in sync the two are with one another after only knowing each other a few days. You would never guess that from their interaction, in part to how the two are written, of course, but also, it's due in larger part, I think, to that connection between Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper that is just so natural and believable.

As for their scenes with others, a few observations: First off, I found the Doctor's response when saying "No," to the suggestion that Rose's companion-relationship with him is sexual, interesting. Sure, he denied it, as did Rose at the same time, but the Doctor's denial? Well, like I said, it was interesting. I know that Eccleston described the Doctor and Rose relationship as a love story, and clearly Russell T. Davies intended to go there, so I don't think I'm far off the mark in thinking that I'm right that there was a deliberate note of he "doth protest too much" to his denial. There was just a note that came across as more of 'No, I'm not thinking about Rose Tyler in a sexual way, absolutely at all, no how, no way, why would you suggest that, why would you think that? Oh, am I still protesting the notion?' as opposed to something akin to Rose's "No," which read as just, 'Uhm, no.'

Which leads to my earlier struck by a shippy thought! Their age difference is mentioned in the discussion, but there really isn't that big a deal made about it, yet, yet, yet ... Later on the rooftop when the Doctor mentions his age, Rose's response isn't surprise or shock or dismay at the fact that the 40-something-looking guy she's been traveling with is almost a full millennium old. No, no, her only response is "that is one hell of an age gap." Which says to me that she was thinking about it, she's been thinking about it. Aha! But, -- double Aha! -- she doesn't care, doesn't faze her in the slightest. Sigh, it's love.

Erm, well, not quite. The Doctor is clearly still in the denial phase (see above: vocal denial) as judging by how he's getting there, but not quite when he gives Rose the key. He's sweet about doing so, Rose appreciates it, and yet, he also (a) lies to her about what he's doing, and (b) rolls his eyes in exasperation when his back is to her. Also, showing that the romance is not quite in bloom yet, later at 10 Downing Street, while he is very insistent that she stay with him, the dialogue that plays under Ganesh and Harriet's conversation reveals a less than romantic, 'she's my plus one' reasoning behind that. (He warns her to stay out of trouble. Sigh.) 'S'okay, though, because she's not quite there yet either. Flirting with Mickey, almost kissing him. Of course, it's only been a few days for her, so it's understandable, but really there just isn't much to worry about there from a Doctor/Rose shipper point of view. It's just so clear that she just doesn't really *think* of Mickey. She really doesn't. Going back to Rose, I said about their relationship:
... it was quite, quite clear in ALL of Rose's interactions with him that while Mickey was her boyfriend, he didn't hold her heart, or her focus at all. He was just kinda there for her. She's gone through a traumatic experience, and she doesn't call him, and when he shows up, it's clear she wants him gone. She goes to see him ... only to use his computer so she can find out information on the Doctor. He's replaced with living plastic and she doesn't even notice. It's only when he skips on terms of endearments that she notices something off. She does cry about his possible death, but she also forgets it almost as easily as the Doctor does in the midst of the mystery (to her) of the Nestene Consciousness. However, it didn't come across as selfish and self-involved to me -- although, I could see how it would to others, but rather just another sign that she was going through the motions in her life. This was her life, but she didn't care. Like the Doctor, at this point she was just going through the motions. Mickey was just part of that going through the motions. A nice enough bloke; she cared about him, but like everything else in her life, there was no passion there.
And that is in evidence here as well. She knows that she was "missing" for a year. That means that Mickey hasn't seen her for a year, and yet, she doesn't even THINK about him. Or if she does, it's a passing thought that flits out as quickly as it comes because she's too busy hanging out with her mum and a bunch of friends or on the rooftop with the Doctor. I mean, come on. And so we have Mickey, once again, coming across as so pathetic that he still wants Rose, still cares for her, and it's just so damn easy to see him as pathetic. But, we do begin to see a bit of backbone (that disappears pretty quickly, but still, it's there) when Rose has the audacity to teasingly ask if he's seen anyone else as if she doubts he has because he's so into her. I loved Mickey's response of 'No,' that immediately brought a knowing smirk to Rose's face (oh, Rose!) that was shot down by his, 'What with everyone thinking I murdered you.' Go Mickey.

Or, er, Rickey. Hee! I do love that The Doctor calls him that because it's so out of jealousy. It really is. And I stand firm to that because of what happened when the Doctor was trying to wire the TARDIS to get the alien ship reading, and how it just so happened to click just as Mickey was about to kiss Rose. There's no way the Doctor wasn't listening and aware of where that conversation was going, and he timed that too perfectly. Ah, Doctor. Oh, my Doctor and Rose. ::Squishes them with love even when they're not in love yet::

ETA: I completely forgot a rather important bit of Doctor/Rose in this episode and I'm rather kicking myself for doing so. Oy. Read below for further thoughts on the Doctor/Rose relationship that came out of this episode.

As for plot, ironically for all that I've complained about Davies' plots in his first two episodes, this has the tightest by far, and yet, I don't have much to say, just one nit-picky point. One bit of the TV news footage shows a reporter saying about Joseph Green:
    "MP for Hartley Dale. He's chairman of the parliamentary commission on the monitoring of sugar standards in exported confectionary. With respect, hardly the most important person right now."
Yet, it's later revealed that he's the acting prime minister? So, clearly he IS a most important person right now. But, other than that, good plotting. Of course, this is the first of a two-parter. I may have more on the plot (and not so positive, but I remember having no issues while I did have some for both "Rose" and "The End of the World") in the review for "World War 3." We'll see.

Okay, random observations, then this one's done, woohoo!

- I'm sorry, but for some reason, it's never not funny (and honestly deserved) when Jackie slaps the Doctor here.

- I had to replay it a few times, and then even check the transcripts out there to see if Rose really said what I thought she said on the rooftop, and sure enough she did. After the Doctor was a big ole baby (and adorably so, I might add) about Jackie slapping him, Rose's response to his wounded look, his hand pressed protectively against the offended cheek was: "You're so gay." That line would SO not have flown on US television, not now, not in 2005 and not for some time before then.

- The "Bad Wolf" spray-painted on the side of the TARDIS. I am quite embarrassed to say that I NEVER noticed this when I watched it, not the first time -- which could be forgiven as I didn't know the significance of Bad Wolf at the time, but not even the second AFTER I'd watched the series and knew ALL ABOUT Bad Wolf. I never caught it, and heck, maybe I never would have had I not read about it elsewhere. Oy, so much for my powers of observation.

- Hee! As I've stated in past rewatch-reviews, I LOVE finding similarities between the Doctors. One of my favorite Ten things is how he pops the "p" sound at the end of words ending in, well, "p." (Obviously a favorite of others as I read this distinction in fanfic a lot!) Well, when Rose and the Doctor are in the traffic jam and she's asking him about it, he responds to several of her questions with a "Nope." Popping the "p" at the end every time. Hee! LOVES!

- Well, finally! SOMEONE on the show thinks that Nine is gorgeous! Sure it was a random extra who saw him from a distance as he left the Powell Estates, but still she called out, "Hey, gorgeous! Come back and join the party!"

- Oh, Mickey, Mickey (you're so fine, hey, Mickey!). I had to laugh and shake my head in sympathy at the same time when he slammed straight into the wall, and then stood up, trying to act all cool as he walked away. Oh, Mickey.

- Dude, the zippers were so inconsistent! You could see them on some foreheads, and then you couldn't see them on others. For the female Slitheen, she lifted up her bangs to unzip, while Joseph Green (acting PM) just unzipped, uhm, nothing on his forehead.

- I don't know if this was script (I'm thinking so, if that's the case, it's another nit-pick) or post-production, but when Jackie said "The Doctor" there was no reaction from the computer. It wasn't until she said "TARDIS," that the alert went off. Yet, when Ganesh was telling the "cabinet" about it, he specifically stated that it was the name "The Doctor" that set off the Alert 9.

- You know, Jackie REALLY shoulda noticed the lights out, the blue neon glow well before she did.

- Finally, LOVED the Doctor waving and grinning at the reporters. Really, Christopher Eccleston is just too adorable for words. I heart him so. And did I mention (well, I know I didn't, so don't bother checking back) that like last week's episode, he looked REALLY good? He also looked really young in some shots (especially the balcony/hallway scene where he gives Rose the TARDIS key -- ooh, just want to offer a mini SQUEE! for that, he gave her a TARDIS key, aww).

And that's all she wrote! Only took me three hours this time! Yayers!

ETA: Wow, I was off the ball on this one, I almost want to re-rewatch it. Reading comments below, it really made me question my biggest issue with the episode, and I also completely forgot to mention a rather huge aspect that hit in the Doctor/Rose relationship.

I had written above that I thought Rose's reaction to being gone a whole year was handled way too casually by both Russell T. Davies' writing and Billie Piper's acting. After reading the comments below, and thinking on them and what happened in the episode, I happily concede that I was wrong. It did make perfect sense, on two levels, how Rose reacted (or rather, didn't really react) to losing a whole year. Firstly, it wasn't a year to her. Even putting aside the fact that she's only nineteen years old and the passage of time simply doesn't flow at the same rate for the young as it does for those more experienced in life, it truly was only a few days for her. So, she could see the "Missing" signs, she could see her mother's initial reaction and none of it would seem real.

Then, as rosewarren pointed out, upon sitting with a police officer, it became more real, thus the break-down with her mother. It may still seem a bit surreal (how could it not?), but whether she experienced it or not, obviously it happened and her mother went through all of this trauma. Which, of course, naturally leads to her crying with her mother, because she fully was hit with the reality of how much her mum went through. I see that now. And even the switch back on the roof when it's just her and the Doctor makes sense because she could empathize with her mother because the reality of the pain she went through was just made real to her, but it's still not real to her ... and likely will never be. Because she did NOT lose a year.

I kept commenting above about how I was bothered by her cavalier attitude towards losing a year, and that's where I was wrong. Rose didn't lose a year. Not really. A year passed without her there, yes, but everything was roughly the same when she came back, and again, the most important distinction -- one I failed to make before -- was that while a year may have passed in reality, for Rose, it was only a few days.

The second level is that we are already seeing just how alike the Rose and the Doctor are. We see that she is more comfortable with the crazy, alien, time-traveling aspect of her life than with the ordinary mundane day to day reality of life. Like the Doctor. She's flummoxed and not quite able to process what's been going on in the "real world," but she has no problem getting into the swing of things with the alien invasion. Just like the Doctor.

As for what I completely ignored in my earlier write-up about the Doctor/Rose relationship? Honestly, I'm mentally slapping myself silly for missing this: Rose saying that the Doctor is more than just a boyfriend. The first few comments from Mickey referencing the Doctor as her boyfriend, Rose practically ignores, but when she does finally acknowledge it to tell Mickey he's wrong about the Doctor being just her boyfriend, that's the key point she makes. It's not so much that he's not her boyfriend (which, yes, is true), but the important distinction that she's making is that he's more than a boyfriend.

Knowing Rose's history with boys, based solely on the show, we know she has a supposedly serious relationship with Mickey, but it's clearly one in which Rose is not emotionally serious about. We also know from sources other than the show that Rose was actually engaged to another guy prior to Mickey, so she's had two "serious" relationships to a degree before the Doctor. Yet, in a few days time, the Doctor has already become more than a boyfriend, and it's not just about the fact that he's showing her a new side of life, a new side to who she is -- although, that is a large part of it. It's also, I believe, that he's showing her a new side to a relationship with a male, one of trust and companionship. And based on the whole age gap conversation, one can infer (if one is predisposed to, as I clearly am), that whether she's consciously thought it as of yet, there is a level of attraction there as well.

So, in other words, Rose -- in just a few days -- is already experiencing the results of the foundation of the true love that is growing between her and the Doctor: Trust, companionship, and attraction. And, of course, we all know that love is just around the corner. The fact that it is Rose who, so quickly, is making this distinction (without quite realizing it) says something I think about how quickly she is falling, and that in turn, is what pulls the Doctor ever more and faster into that fall as well. Part of what makes the Doctor/Rose what they are is that Rose is the light bringing the Doctor out of the dark, so he winds up following where she leads. Therefore it makes sense that Rose would be the one to make that subconscious realization that there is something there, something special, something real before it's hit the Doctor.

- Finally, handporn! time: Like the last two episodes, "Aliens of London" has only one hand-hold, but unlike the other two, the singularity of it is not made up by the awesome. This one is, alas, rather lame as Doctor/Rose handporn! goes. We barely even get a shot of it! {grumble,grumble} Below is a shot of the Doctor grabbing her hand (not that we actually see the grab) and then them running hand-in-hand. Quite disappointing. Hmphff.

Phew! Okay, now I'm done. :D

  • Click the image for previous episode rewatch-reviews:

  • Tags: billie piper, christopher eccleston, doctor who, doctor/rose, rewatch-review, russell t davies, tv

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