In the fourth episode of the first series of Doctor Who, the Doctor returns Rose to her home, but misjudges exactly when they are. Forced to deal with the repercussions of her actions, Rose tries to mend things with her mom and boyfriend, but is distracted when an alien ship crash lands in London. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Oh damn it, a story arc? I literally yelled at the screen when the episode ended and the story line hadn’t been resolved. BLAST YOU, DOCTOR WHO!
It’s very common for science fiction to lack anything that grounds it. I don’t think that in and of itself that’s a bad thing. When it veers to the fantasy end of the spectrum, I want worlds that are entirely imagined, detailed, and immersive. But when fantasy/sci-fi take place in our world, I’m always a bit leery when those things interact with our reality in ways that simply don’t make sense.
Doctor Who is a fantastical concept and from the outset, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief a whole lot. It’s a time traveling police box. I don’t need detailed physics lessons on how this is possible. It’s nerdy entertainment. But “Aliens of London” does something that most sci-fi seems to ignore: it deals with the “real” world facing the inexplicable.
The Doctor returns Rose to London so she can make a brief stop to say hello to her mom before they take off on their next adventure. Rose is flabbergasted that for as long as she’s been away, it’s only been twelve hours in real time. As she runs off to meet her mom, the Doctor notices a flier advertising Rose’s disappearance.
By having the Doctor miscalculate the time by a full year, Rose is forced to deal with the fact that she just left her entire life behind to travel through time. Had she only been gone twelve hours, I don’t think this episode would have grounded the show as much. I like that Davies suggests, pretty bluntly, that maybe traveling with the Doctor isn’t always a carefree exercise in absurdity. The real-world consequences of her decision are compounded by the sheer strangeness of where (and when) she’s been. How do you explain to your mother and boyfriend that you were gone for a year because you were busy watching the world end and helping Charles Dickens combat spectral souls?
Russell T. Davies, in turn, comes up with a brilliant method to answer just that. As the Doctor and Rose sit on the roof of her building, wondering how Rose will ever be able to explain what she’s doing, they watch in horror (well, the Doctor is rather elated) as an alien ship crashes into Big Ben and then into the Thames.
I love the sci-fi trope of ordinary people having to cope with the extreme, and Davies forces ALL OF LONDON to deal with the reality that aliens are real. Not only does it open up the possibility that Rose might now be able to begin to explain to her mother who the Doctor is, but we get to see Davies tackle satire and alien horror AT THE EXACT SAME TIME.
Oh god, you guys, I love this all so very much. HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS.
This is also the first episode of the series that surprised me with the plot twists. For the previous three episodes, the main story always seemed like nothing more than the palette for the writers to explore philosophy, time, physics, and the absurdity of the universe. While there is certainly a great deal of that in “Aliens in London,” here we are presented with a genuine mystery that gets more complex and terrifying as the episode unfolds. The alien crash, at first, seems to be a chance for Davies to ramp up the absurdity and weirdness to counter what we’d expect from a traditional encounter story. We learn that the alien that crashed is actually…a pig. As soon as it was revealed, I kept scratching my head and laughing at the same time. Not only did it destroy my expectations for what the alien would be, it was so silly and benign. (Of course, that was all part of the plan.)
The body humor element that was introduced during the scenes where Harriet Jones overhears the other cabinet members also made me think that Davies was going for a much more silly route than where the episode ended up. I took the farting to mean that these people were suddenly in a position of power and that there was nothing more fun to do than to…well, fart inside 10 Downing Street. The whole world has come crashing down around them, so what are you supposed to do? You sit around and fart.
Who knew that someone could make farting so sinister? We learn that the pig alien was actually a decoy of sorts and the Doctor finds out that the ship actually left from earth before it crash-landed. I’M SORRY, BUT WHAT. So the aliens where there the entire time? I DON’T GET IT, WHAT IS HAPPENING. Oh, that’s right, the real aliens are wearing the skin of the people they’ve killed. That is some creepy shit, guys.
The aliens that come out of these suits might seem a bit silly in execution, but their eyes are what really disturb me. I don’t know why, but those big, shiny black orbs are totally unsettling to me. Not, say, the GIANT RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS.
The episode ends on a pretty big cliffhanger: just as the Doctor realizes they’ve been fooled, one of these aliens pulls out a device that shocks everyone in the room. DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN HOW WILL HE GET OUT?
To be continued……
- Bravo, Davies, for having Mickey and Rose’s mom enter the TARDIS. Again, this episode is all about other people dealing with the Doctor and with the supernatural in general. It sucks that Jackie decided to call the police and ended up setting up the Doctor to be attacked by the aliens, but still, I’m interested to see where this story line goes.
- I have a feeling these aliens might be one of the series’ regular villains. Is this what Daleks are? DON’T TELL ME.
- The Doctor is 900 years old? WHAT.
- I hope we see more of UNIT. The Doctor said they wouldn’t recognize him. Is that a reference to the fact that a different actor plays him? I don’t know why he changes like that. Again, don’t tell me that.
- BAD WOLF AGAIN. WTF I don’t get it WHAT IS THAT.
- I like Dr. Sato! I hope to see her again.
- MOAR SPACE PIG. it was so cute!