Doctor Who 1.04 – Aliens of London

A-whooooo, Aliens of London!

It’s back to Rose’s present-day London for a family visit!  It’s another amazing power of the Doctor’s that this one is about a thousand times more horrible than your typical (i.e., already completely horrible) family visit.

See, though the Doctor thought they’ve just landed twelve hours after Rose left, it’s actually been twelve months.  Rose’s plan to claim she spent the night at Shareen’s goes wonky when she bursts in on Jackie, who looks as if she’s seen a ghost.  “Sorry!” the Doctor says with an awkward laugh as he catches up to Rose, explaining, whoops, a year has passed.  Before Rose can comprehend how this length of absence alone makes her appear a terrible daughter, she takes a gander around the flat and notices how Jackie’s turned the place into a “Have You Seen Rose Tyler?” missing daughter central operations.  And now she looks like the worst daughter in all of time and space.  Now, who wants some tea?

Jackie calls a constable and questions Rose about what sort of “traveling” kept her away with no contact.  “Actually, it’s my fault; I sort of employed Rose as my companion,” the Doctor butts in.  Oh, sexual companion? the constable asks.  The Doctor and Rose scoff and pshaw and fiddle-dee-dee this idea.  But Jackie’s not done with the Doctor.  “You waltz in here all charm and smiles,” she accuses him.  How does he get girls half his age to run away with him, “go online and pretend you’re a doctor?”  “I am a Doctor,” the Doctor says, doctoral-ly, and makes the mistake of grinning because, yeah, despite Rose’s good influence he just Doesn’t Get Humans yet.  “Provie it, Jackie snaps.  “Stitch this, mate,” and slaps him hard.

Though the grief and pain of all this is horrible for Rose to experience, and obviously awkward for the Doctor to witness, I absolutely adore seeing just how much Jackie loves her daughter, and how fierce she becomes when she feels Rose is endangered.  “What terrifies me is that you still can’t say,” she tells Rose when Rose weeps and apologizes but won’t offer details.  “What can be so bad you can’t tell me, sweetheart?  Where were you?”

“She’d never believe me,” Rose tells the Doctor up on the roof, upset she can’t confide her experiences.  “Well, she’s not coming with us,” he declares, clearly in a snit.  “I don’t do families.”

Harrumph! The Doctor and Rose sulk for the championships.

They both sulk until he complains, “900 years of time and space, and I’ve never been slapped by someone’s mother!”  Another tip of the hat to you, Jackie Tyler!  Following an unfortunate moment when Rose calls the Doctor “gay” for being upset (hey, I understand she might use a common insulting word, but don’t you think a guy 900+ years old is universe-ly enough to correct her, particularly he schools her on her other biases?), they laugh at that “one hell of an age gap” between them.  But there’s a more serious gap: Rose can’t explain to anyone the amazing and terrible things she’s seen.  Aliens, spaceships, time travel:  “I’m the only person who knows they exist.”  Of course just then a spaceship tears through the sky, flies over London, rips through Big Ben and crashes into the Thames.  “Oh, that’s just not fair,” Rose shouts.

“This is what I travel for, Rose, to see history happening right in front of us,” the Doctor explains happily as they find themselves blocked from investigating what happened (along with the rest of London).  But while everyone’s on red alert, he won’t fly the TARDIS near the melee. “So history is happening, and we’re stuck here,” Rose observes.  But hey, they could always do what normal people do — watch it all unfold on television.

We watch the news reports along with Rose and the Doctor, learning how the whole world is panicking in the face of this unknown threat.  The poor anti-domestic Doctor rolls his eyes at the neighbors who join the viewing session and must wrestle the remote control away from a toddler who wants to watch a show about making your very own alien cake (as would any lover of baked goods *takes notes*).  Viewers learn a body of “non-terrestrial origins” has been discovered, brought to Albion Hospital for examination even though Whitehall continues to deny everything.

A military officer enters Albion Hospital (I believe it’s our first full minor-character POV scene with neither Rose nor the Doctor present).  He meets a scientist, Dr. Sato (how do, future Torchwood character!), who shows him the alien body under a sheet.  It’s not a hoax: she “x-rayed the skull; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”  He stalks off to wait for the summoned experts, ignoring her question, “Is it true what they’re saying, about the Prime Minister?”

Yay, it’s time to meet the nervous but persistent backbencher MP for Flydale North, Harriet Jones!  She’s got a 3:15 appointment with the Prime Minister, and doesn’t want to let the whole spaceship-crashing-in-the-middle-of-London thing delay it.

Next up is the gastro-intestinally troubled man-of-size Joseph Green, chair of the Parliamentary Commission on the Monitoring of Sugar Standards in Exported Confectionery (I bet he’d have something to say about that alien cake), who’s unexpectedly become Acting Prime Minister in this crisis.  Along with Margaret Blaine of MI5 and Oliver Charles, Transport Liaison (both rather zaftig individuals), he retires to the Cabinet Rooms along with the Emergency Protocols they’ve been handed.  They burst into uncontrollable laughter (and I never thought I’d use this phrase, emit increasingly suspicious farts), so there’s something amiss at 10 Downing Street.

I don’t know if the “fat people are evil” undertone of this week’s episode is better or worse than the “asylum seekers from war-torn places are evil!” message from last week’s Gelth-y story.

The Doctor lurks on the estate’s balcony, because “It’s just a bit human in there for me.”  He swears to Rose he won’t leave her; he’s only “off on a wander,” curious about this first contact with the human race.  “Promise you won’t disappear?” she asks.  He hands her the TARDIS key, awww, saying, “About time you had one.”  Quick, Rose, run and change into a crazy-elaborate Tang Dynasty ensemble while he’s gone!

Mickey catches sight of the TARDIS, and oh hell, did Rose remember to call Mickey yet?  Poor guy runs, crying out “Doctor!” in clear relief, but runs into a metal security grate as the TARDIS fades out (bad Doctor, sneaking away from Rose).

Harriet Jones brings the Prime Minister’s aide a coffee, but “you still can’t go on.”   Though she’s “just a faithful back bencher” and obviously, aliens, big news, “ordinary life is ticking away.”  She tries to intercept Green, but “by all the saints, get some perspective, woman, I’m busy,” he scolds her.

Green and his large-bodied companions leave, and Harriet Jones sneaks into the Cabinet Rooms to slip her proposal in.  She notices the Emergency Protocols, and can’t help but sneak a peek.  The Doctor arrives in his TARDIS to sneak his own peek at the alien body at the hospital.  The Doctor tells the Sonic Screwdriver to hush (hee!), opens a door, and finds himself at several dozen gunpoints.   He grins like a lunatic, bless him.  When a yell sounds out, though, “Defense Plan Delta,” the Doctor barks.  “Come on, move, move, move!” and they follow his orders immediately.  Unquestionable swagger-y authority, that Doctor!

“I swear it was dead,” Dr. Sato tells our Doctor.  In fact, it’s still there.  He glances around and sees a pig in a space suit.  “Hello!” the Doctor says merrily.  It shrieks and runs before it is shot down.  “What did you do that for?  It was scared!” the Doctor shouts at the military grunts, holding the poor confused animal as it dies.

Harriet Jones hears the others returning and hides in a closet to witness a military officer yelling at Green.  Why hasn’t the rest of the Cabinet been airlifted in?  Oh, Green canceled that.  He and Blaine and Charles giggle and fart their way through the General’s threat to put the country under martial law.  “That’s hair-raising,” Green jokes, and starts to unzip his head.  Harriet Jones watches from the closet, horrified, as we hear sounds of the General being killed.

Our Doctor explains to Dr. Sato that the so-called alien is a transformed pig: they’ve “opened up its brain, stuck bits on, strapped it in that ship…They’ve taken this animal and turned it into a joke.”  Aliens faking aliens, the Doctor realizes, and by the time Dr. Sato can ask why they would do that, we hear the TARDIS leaving.

Everyone back at Jackie’s flat freezes at the sight of Mickey standing in the doorway.  “Someone owes Mickey an apology,” one neighbor notes.  It’s Jackie who ought to, considering she convinced police and people around the estate Mickey might have murdered Rose.  Holy hell, poor Mickey.

Mickey runs out. When Rose follows Mickey relishes telling her the Doctor’s gone.  “He’s left you.  Some boyfriend he turned out to be.”  “He’s not my boyfriend, Mickey, he’s better than that, he’s much more important,” Rose argues.  Though I know people love romantically linking Rose with the Doctor starting with Nine, I adore this line (and their continued brush-offs of people who ask if they’re in a sexual relationship).  They love each other intensely, but it’s something more than just romance.  Rose’s TARDIS key begins to glow and Jackie arrives; though Rose tries to send her away, Jackie sees our Blue Box re-materialize and the jig is, as we say, up.

“All right, so I lied,” the Doctor grouses as he spots Rose and Mickey, “I went to have a look,” and discovered it was an alien invasion, as he actually suspected early on.  “My mum’s here,” Rose says helplessly; there’s no way she can hide everything from Jackie now.  “Don’t you dare make this place domestic,” the Doctor warns.  “They thought I was a murder suspect because of you,” Mickey accuses him.  “See, domestic!” the Doctor exclaims.

Jackie, overcome by everything, runs from the scene.  The Doctor and Rose quickly discuss the invasion, both listening when Mickey points out, “Funny way to invade, putting the world on Red Alert.” “Good point,” the Doctor agrees, and though he calls Mickey “Rickey” for the rest of the episode, I do love that Mickey can hold his own in the hunt for alien suspects and the Doctor has to acknowledge that.

Inside, Jackie’s swept up in the paranoia of the crisis broadcast on television, and phones the alien crisis hotline the media keeps featuring.  “I’ve seen one, I really have, an alien.  And she’s with him, my daughter she’s with him, and she’s not safe!”  As Jackie continues to talk rapidly about what she’s seen, we see computer screens isolate the words “Doctor”, “TARDIS” and “Blue Box” from her spiel; it’s not long before multiple RED ALERT alarms start flashing.

Rose apologizes to Mickey, and he explains what the last twelve months were like: “Every day I looked, on every street corner wherever I went, looking for a Blue Box for a whole year.”  She’s only been gone a few days, to her, so “not enough time to miss me then?” he asks gruffly.  Nah, they both missed each other, those crazy kids!  Plus he hasn’t been seeing anyone else (though that was more because everyone thought he was a creepy kidnapper/murderer).  “Are you going to stay?” he asks, leaning in to kiss her.

The Doctor, ruin-er extraordinaire of sentimental moments, interrupts them to explain the crash-landed spaceship must have done “a slingshot around the earth” — it left earth before landing.  “Whoever those aliens are they’ve been here for a while.  Question is, what are they doing?”

The aliens in human suits now have a General version for their wardrobe.  “We’ve really got to fix the gas exchange,” one complains as they re-dress.  “It’s getting ridiculous.”  The unneeded skin gets tossed in the cupboard, right near poor Harriet Jones.  She eavesdrops when the aide interrupts the alien confab.  They’ve got a Code Nine confirmed.  Those key words picked up from Jackie’s conversation mean that the Doctor, “the ultimate expert in extraterrestrial affairs,” is nearby.  They’ll summon him along with other experts from UNIT (a United-Nations funded paranormal awareness project).  I reeled slightly at this, because holy guacamole, the government knows about the Doctor (note: I’m obviously not versed in classic DW, or I’d know this already).

Mickey tells the Doctor he’s on to him.  He’s found all sorts of evidence about him online and in books (also, apparently he’s running Clive’s website; no idea how he got the password, but good on him).  Soon after, they step out of the TARDIS to find themselves surrounded by tanks, military cars, and helicopters.  Mickey runs like hell (so yes, he you could take this as evidence he wouldn’t protect Rose no matter what –but be fair, he’s been a murder suspect for a year, and I can’t imagine how he’s been treated).  “Take me to your leader!” the Doctor exclaims gleefully.

“This is a bit posh,” for a car to arrest them, Rose notes.  Actually, they’re being escorted to Downing Street as experts.  Mickey’s right, the Doctor confesses: all those times visiting the planet, he’s been “noticed” by the government.  There’s an absolutely hilarious moment of the Doctor greeting his public when he steps from the car, smiling and waving, turning for paparazzi photos.

“Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North,” Jones blurts out, flashing her ID to sneak into the anteroom where the experts have gathered.  At first the Doctor says he won’t in without Rose, but Jones, after being reprimanded by the aide for continuing to hang about, offers to help out:  “I’ll look after her; let me be of some use.”  “Walk with me,” Jones says genially and then grits her teeth to tell Rose in an undertone, “Just keep walking.”  I love love love backbencher Jones nabbing a chance to alert, if not the Doctor himself, then his associate and another presumed “expert”, what the hell has really been happening.  Persistence pays off again!

“He’s an expert, is that right?” Jones asks Rose before starting to cry (who can blame her, seriously, when she’s witnessed the skin-suit making party).  In the meeting room, Green and the general explain about the “porcine pilot” and claim there’s no emergency.  Rose, with Jones, tells her “I believe you,” that they’re alien; moments later, they and the aide have found the dead body of the Prime Minister, stuffed inside a cabinet.

The Doctor interrupts Green’s pacification plans, explaining the alien was a hoax, but by aliens.  What do aliens get if they fake an alien crash?  “Us.  They get us.  It’s not a diversion,” he realizes as he speaks.  “It’s a trap.”  Upstairs, Jones and Rose and the aide are surprised by Blaine in her human suit.  “Has someone been naughty?” she asks coyly, reaching for her zipper-head.

Back at the estate, Jackie’s grilled by a policeman who, with his tell-tale gassy problems, has to be another of the aliens.  She sniffs the Doctor is clearly trouble.  “That’s my job, eliminating trouble,” alien constable says as he starts to unzip his head.

While the Doctor updates the experts, Green and his alien compadre pass some serious gas. “Excuse me,” he complains,” Do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?”  “Would you rather silent but deadly?” Green asks, and the General unzips to give us our first look at the aliens: weird enormous globular babies with some sort of high-tech collars round their necks.

As Jackie screams, shocked at the constable’s alien reveal at the estate, in the Cabinet Rooms Blaine finishes her own reveal, hissing, “We are the Slitheen!” She hoists the aide against the wall, clawing him.  At the meeting, Green smirks at the experts, thanking them for wearing ID cards so they’ll be able to identify their bodies.  He sends high voltage to all including the Doctor, surrounding them each with a cackling field of electricity.  As the aliens laugh with delight and the Doctor and the experts shake with voltage, we’re at the first of our revived Doctor Who cliffhangers!  Tune in for another recap with me tomorrow, for the sequel “World War Three”!

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  • Rebecca

    Despite the ridiculousness (farting aliens in human skin suits!), I still love these two episodes. I enjoy how the Doctor has to deal with Jackie and Mickey, plus we meet Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North! I think that the show is always good at balancing the ridiculous and funny with more serious issues.

    Though the grief and pain of all this is horrible for Rose to experience, and obviously awkward for the Doctor to witness, I absolutely adore seeing just how much Jackie loves her daughter, and how fierce she becomes when she feels Rose is endangered.
    Such a good point! I think that is exactly why I love Jackie.

    Following an unfortunate moment when Rose calls the Doctor “gay” for being upset
    Our sound was so bad for this and the next episode (not sure what was up with Netflixx for those 2 episodes) that I missed hearing this. I agree, the Doctor really shouldn’t have let that go.

    He meets a scientist, Dr. Sato (how do, future Torchwood character!),
    I was excited by this because by the time I’d watched Torchwood I hadn’t connected her with this small role. It’s very cool that they expanded her role into something bigger.

    They burst into uncontrollable laughter (and I never thought I’d use this phrase, emit increasingly suspicious farts),
    Heeee! That cracked me up! I never thought I’d like an episode with lots of farting.

    Though I know people love romantically linking Rose with the Doctor starting with Nine, I adore this line (and their continued brush-offs of people who ask if they’re in a sexual relationship). They love each other intensely, but it’s something more than just romance.
    Me too! I absolutely agree.

    I don’t know if the “fat people are evil” undertone of this week’s episode is better or worse than the “asylum seekers from war-torn places are evil!” message from last week’s Gelth-y story.
    Yeah, not my favourite messages so far.

    I love the Doctor continually calling Mickey “Rickey” even when he’s doing well. It’s interesting because the name “Rickey” resurfaces again. I wonder if that was picked up from that episode as a joke or to show the Doctor’s understanding of many realities (hopefully that was vague enough not to be spoilery).

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s recap! :)

    • Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is so freaking awesome, I can’t even begin to say! I just love characters that persevere and rise to the occasion in a crisis. And it’s perfect how she starts as a bit of a nuisance and becomes a full-on hero. *adores HJ*

      Do you find the sound is weird for a lot of these eps? I can’t tell if it’s an issue of quality of the copy or not, but often the music, WAY LOUDER than the dialogue. I’m continually turning up the volume and then flinching in dismay when the music starts up (and when there’s dramatic dialogue along with significant music, though I think that’s more in later eps this series, I can hardly make out the words sometimes).

      LOL, yeah, I like how it’s a silly gag in a way, the farting, and then actually becomes ominous!

      I’ve seen that reference to Mickey/Rickey (though I haven’t seen those eps) — it’s kind of fun to consider whether it is a continuity thing, or whether someone remembered the burn from this episode and said, let’s turn this into something more meaningful. I think what you said about the show balancing humor and seriousness is encapsulated nicely in that instance — either way makes sense, the humorous backtracking or the serious clue-dropping.

      Yay, on to the next one — I’m nearly finished with it, so will post soon!

  • Rebecca Saxon

    I suspect the issue may be quality with the copy. These two episodes (this one and the next) had such bad sound that we had the TV volume turned up to max and it still sounded like we were listening to it through a tunnel. And with other episodes I experience the same issue you do with the music and dialogue. Although I will say that the music/dialogue issue is something I’m starting to notice with a variety of shows I watch. It’s like the sound mixing is off and the music’s too high and the dialogue not high enough…. or I’m getting old! Could be the latter! :)