Lurky McLurklurk (ionlylurkhere) wrote,
Lurky McLurklurk

S1 Rewatch: Aliens of London/World War Three

Back after a rather arbitrary Christmas break, my long-winded pontification on New Who S1:

What I wrote before rewatching

What I thought at the time: The "One Year Later" thing I thought was a brilliant way of complicating things. It was funny, but the overall plot and the Slitheen I thought were just a bit broad and silly (the "45 minutes" thing is the bad sort of satire) and I really, really didn't like "I could save the world but lose you". Even though it's perfectly in character for the Doctor to not sacrifice companions despite imminent Very Bad Things (my fave example is the Cybermen threatening Tegan in Earthshock), the way that was played came across a bit too petty. Also, Keith Boak really can't do action at all; that cliffhanger completely lacks any sense of pace or menace.

What I think now: I like the Slitheen a lot better after Blon in Boom Town. I like the fact that it's the start of Mickey proving himself (though he never had to prove himself to me). Overall, I'm fairly neutral on it, but I tend to judge people for disliking it more than I do for liking it.

The Good

  • The one-year-later thing is an excellent idea. Brilliant way to bring home the reality of time travel for the people at home, and frankly the Martha's family stuff on S3 tries to ride on its coattails and fails badly because it's not even slightly convincing. Jackie and Mickey get some really good stuff.
  • The Bad Wolf graffitto on the TARDIS is great, really makes it seem vulnerable somehow because with the repetition we've figured by now that it isn't just a kid scrawling on it.
  • Also really good, "I'm the only person who knows they exist." Wham! Giant (should-be-)impossible-to-ignore spaceship flies over their head, crashes into Big Ben and then the Thames. Rusty is capable of doing a brilliant job of this sort of thematic stuff, particularly playing with expectations while overthrowing the status quo.
  • Naoko Mori! Yay! I think I am going to ignore with extreme prejudice the retcon that this is supposed to be Tosh-covering-for-Owen because she's being used as the identification figure for the hospital bits and it makes no sense at all for Tosh the Torchwood operative to be this freaked out. Though actually it does kinda work in places. ("[Pigman's skull is] wired up inside like nothing I've ever seen before" is a Tosh-ish sort of metaphor. Is my one actal example.)
  • Andrew Marr! I love Andrew Marr quite a bit. Also, the whole let's-have-pretend-real-news-in-the-drama thing has never got old for me, and if it ever was going to it would have done by now, given that I watch Spooks.
  • Kurt from Teachers! I love him even more. I am going to have to put Teachers on the end of my things-to-rewatch list, aren't I?
  • Harriet! Oh, Harriet ... She's absolutely brilliant. You can tell Rusty likes her, 'cos unlike most non-companions she only goes to pieces once she's cunningly extracted Rose having identified her as someone who can help.
  • Nine's casual way of giving Rose a TARDIS key is just right.
  • "Defence pattern delta, come on!" That's a really good Doctorish moment, having other people follow him because of his sheer presence (an often overlooked component compared against the escape-recapture stuff), and I'd completely forgotten about it.
  • Mickey's great, especially his scenes with Jackie, and also the Nine/Mickey interaction: it's convincing that he's not being mean in a way it's not with Ten, particularly at the very end.
  • Jackie accidentally alerting the government is cleverly done.
  • Eccleston is dead good at interacting with the TARDIS, another way he's quite good at being Doctorish.
  • The Slitheen actors are good at what they're asked to do, particularly Annette Badland. She's got a nice mischievousness.
  • The luls/action stuff inside Downing Street at the beginning of the second ep is good. The repetition of the lots-of-planets-have-a-North bit. Passing the port to the left. All that sort of thing. The Slitheen calling the Doctor's bluff about the sonic and demolishing the "monolithic alien cultures" thing brilliantly with the family-name thing (shame they sort of forgot later) and actually in that one scene they are BRILLIANT.

The Bad

  • It's tiny, and a very old-school nitpicky thing to worry about, but the "'nother thing I forgot to mention, I'm rly rly old" conversation on the roof bugs me intensely these days. It would have been trivially easy to pick a nice round number that was compatible with Time and the Rani and the books, but instead they go with this. In isolation it's possible to handwave it as "he means nine hundred years of time travel because he left Gallifrey in his 200s, and then he goes along with Rose's assumption about him meaning his age because he feels embarrassed", but now we've got the newspapers talking about Eleven being 904 FFS, and it's all because of this one little scene. Gah. Waah, I want proper acknowledgement of the decades of offstage Ten. For River mainly but also the general daftness of some incarnations lasting centuries and others only months. I handwave extra Nine adventures too, but I've never quite been able to work out where.
  • I'm not going to bang on at length about Keith Boak's direction again, but just like the climactic fight in Rose, the cliffhanger is completely killed by the (lack of) pacing. You can tell that Rusty wrote a bunch of shot descriptions that were meant to be incredibly quickly cut together, and he lingers on every single one. I say this as someone who notices direction once in a blue moon. It has to be exceptionally bad or exceptionally good for me to realise it's there at all.
  • The mismatch between the Slitheen suits and CGI stuff. It's easy to write this off as early days for the Mill (and they do do amazing stuff with spaceships and so on), but it really just makes particularly obvious the intrinsic problems of CGI monsters that are still there with the likes of Lazarus.
  • The "narrows it down" bit where the Doctor remembers the Siltheen and their OHOTMU-style key weakness. I like the deductive Doctor, not the searching-through-the-encyclopedia-in-my-head Doctor of the Four comics.
  • The "45-second massive weapons of destruction" fake weapons. Not the good sort of satire. (Also, Britain's had the nuclear codes since Robot, pay attention. :p) Weirdly, I think it's actually the fact that Tony Blair's government, for all that it's a worthwhile target, is too easy a target for this level of broadness in the satire, and blowing up Downing Street at the end is far too much of a "ha, look what I can do with my fiction!" thing.

The Ugly

  • The counterpoint of the brilliance of the one-year-later stuff is that Rose/we are still supposed to be all over the Doctor despite seeing the damage. "He's not my boyfriend, Mickey, he's better than that." And so on. It's all kinds of fucked up, really.
  • Another tiny thing, but oh good god, I hate the way Jackie's sexuality is a joke. Not just a joke, a cruel joke. It's only there in this ep in the way the little "previously ..." bit cutting the scene from Rose down to Nine cutting her off sharply rather than the slightly flirty stuff but gah. When you think about how it ends up with Elton in Love and Monsters compared to this, the portrayal of her as a 3-d human being comes on leaps and bounds. But this is verging on disgusting. (It probably doesn't help that I saw Mamma Mia [oh shush I ♥ Abba] for the first time last night which is lovely and sex-positive in general and not just accepting but celebratory of the sexuality of the older women in it.)
  • I actually have no strong feelings either way on the fart jokes any more, but the portrayal of the Slitheen here has inescapable fat joke components which can fuck off. It's not a big problem in Boom Town 'cos Blon's done well but when they all the extra ones are piling into Downing Street the thing that makes it obvious who they are is their size.
  • Speaking of fucked up, "I could save the world but lose you" is in many ways the key dilemma of the Doctor/companion relationship (my fave old school example really is the bit in Earthshock: "ha, Cybermen, I can stop you"/"we has a Tegan"/"oh, OK" [ETA: honest trufax, I typed this bit without rereading the bit at the top I wrote a month and a half ago]) but the way it's done here doesn't work for me. Although I have to be honest, I'd forgotten Rose's willingness to self-sacrifice. She and Harriet (and Mickey) get points, he doesn't (Jackie I will forgive, she's not supposed to be the hero). In fact, Rose and Harriet are both doing the perfect greater-good thing and dammit my Doctor does that, he doesn't need to be told. What bothers me is Nine's thing of failing to have a plan B or even convince me that he'll improvise successfully, I think. We can handwave it as psychological damage from the Time War or whatever but it bothers me badly. And even worse, manipulating Rose away from dinner with Jackie at the end. That's just horrible, though it does make the end of tCI lovely as a contrast (though, in general, this story's handling of Rose's-supporting-cast shows Nine working better with them than Ten does, I think).

Actually, reading this back to check I haven't left gaping holes in any of the sentences (though I probably have anyway) I'm realising that even when Nine is being Doctorish I respond to those moments on a fairly intellectual level rather than in the squeeful sort of way I do most other Doctors. Maybe I just don't have fannish chemistry with him or something. :(

Dalek next, though, that should be good. :D
Tags: doctor who, ep reaction, s1 rewatch

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