Aliens of London

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 164, starring Christopher Eccleston)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by Keith Boak
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 2 episodes @ 45 minutes:
    1. Aliens of London
    2. World War Three
Story: Rose is put in a difficult spot having to explain her devastating disappearance to her mum and her boyfriend Mickey. When a spacecraft crashes through Big Ben into the Thames, the Doctor finds it difficult to investigate without drawing unwanted media attention to himself. Who are these aliens? How much does the British Government know? Will the few available backbench members of parliament be able to handle the growing threat until the Doctor can come to their aid?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Part 1 audio commentary by David Verrey (acting PM Joseph Green), Vis-FX producer Will Cohen, and executive Julie Gardner.
  • Part 2 audio commentary by Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), producer Phil Collinson, and script editor Helen Raynor.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: I Get a Side-Kick Out of You (11 min.) with Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor),
    Billie Piper (Rose), Noel Clarke (Mickey), and writer / executive producer Russell T. Davies.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Why on Earth? (13 min.) with Davies, Eccleston, Clarke, Cohen, Badland,
    compositor David Bowman, and Paul Kasey, Alan Ruscoe, & Elizabeth Fost (Slitheen).
  • "Deconstructing Big Ben" (5 min.) with model unit director Mike Tucker.
  • "On Set with Billie Piper" video diary entry
  • trailers

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

As Russell T. Davies sinks his teeth into his first full-length Doctor Who TV adventure, we finally get to see what his writing style is truly all about. Not only is he prepared to call the main characters on their issues, he is also keen to call the world on its issues. Bravo. However, his story structure still leaves something to be desired in on-screen value and plot movement.

Yet another story opens with a proper materialization for the police box. Things are looking up, although the throbbing lights during this are a bit unnecessary. The Doctor, Rose, and their relationship to the setting are introduced clearly and with nice impact.

The blubbering and fussing that Mrs. Tyler then dives into is not great quality television, and Rose develops the same bizarre inability to be truthful about the TARDIS that we saw plaguing so many David Whitaker scripts from the 1960's. The new millennium hasn't advanced very far. Rose, stop supporting your Mum's false assumptions already and go for a walk into the truth!

Then comes the big catalytic event. Very nice visuals. But we have to watch the Doctor watch TV about it, while Jackie Tyler natters on and on. Quite a poor use of screen time. The reporters do a fairly good job of introducing the guest cast though. (Not as good as is done in episode 1 of "The Daemons" (story no. 59), thanks to the jittery style of camera work here).

Mysteries mount as we increasingly wonder exactly what kind of aliens we are dealing with in this story, and what is going on with the British government to make their response to the crisis so laughable. This is very nicely set-up and drawn out, at least at first.

The Rise of Mickey

Mickey Smith (played by Noel Clarke) also re-enters the series and our main characters' lives. Clarke makes him incredibly warm, lively, and likeable. Eccleston's Doctor proceeds to pick on him for no good reason, managing to make a jerk out of himself. When Mickey takes no crap and fires back WITH good reason, in my mind he comes out on top. By the time this two-part story is over, Mickey has fast become my favourite character of the new series of Doctor Who, which is no small or easy feat. Hats off to Noel Clarke. :-)

The story's TARDIS movements and interior scenes are also excellent at drawing supporting characters and uninitiated viewers into an understanding of the world and staple elements of Doctor Who, and satisfying the long-term fan. Well done.

Just when the episode seems like it might soon begin to lag, revelations begin, and the new series makes its first real cliffhanger unforgettable, prolonging the awe and shock-value, and making you desperately wonder what you will see next week.

Mass Weapons of Destruction

A little bit of clever parody may be the best element of the second episode, as current/recent international government affairs are commented on from within Doctor Who's unique contexts and metaphors. Russell T. Davies earns major points with me for bringing those elements in. Nice.

However, the second episode leaves a lot to be desired in terms of plot action. I'll get into more detail in the In-depth Analysis version of this review. In short, several important characters suffer too much confinement in one room for too long. Also, the cell-phone use is very un-sci-fi, and unsatisfying.

Mickey does get good action this episode though, and takes his due share of credit. Jackie Tyler also finally gives us a few good scenes during the story's aftermath, and helps the story conclude on a very emotional note.

While there are tons of really good bits in this story, somehow it never seemed to really gel into a conflict between Doctor and his enemies that I wanted to invest in, or an escalation of stratagems countering each other that gripped me. Far more effort seems to have gone into creating short scenes to send viewers behind the sofa, and the first episode's cliffhanger is the only one of those that seemed interesting. Not a bad story in the end, but still not the great Doctor Who story I had been hoping for. Better luck next time.

This story has become available on DVD:
DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The 13-episode box sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The 3-episode volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Dalek"

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