Aliens of London

DVD NTSC
Region 1
13-episode
box set

DVD PAL
Region 2
13-episode
box set
DVD PAL
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 each:
    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), visual effects producer Will Cohen, and executive producer 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

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


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 one-year-time-shifted 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 take her for a walk into the TARDIS!

A spaceship crashes into the Thames via Big Ben. Nicely done. Then 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, although the piglet portion seems disappointingly weird at first, and still leaves an unwelcome aftertaste after we learn he's just a red herring.


The Rise of Mickey

Mickey Smith (played by Noel Clarke) then 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. In fact, as the story goes on, Mickey gets better heroic moves and exhibits a Patrick-Troughton-like charm. 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 extra 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, while these scenes also satisfy 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. The aliens are less of an invading army, and more of a family mafia, pulling the strings of governments and inducing war for monetary gain. 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. After a bit of running around being chased by the Slitheen - not bad, but not particularly interesting enough to last as long as it does - the Doctor and two other most important protagonists spend their time up past the climax of the episode confined in one room, with nothing more heroic to do but repeatedly use a cell-phone. Very un-sci-fi, and unsatisfying.

Meanwhile, Mickey takes over and gets to do many of the things one might wish the Doctor were doing. Nicely, Mickey gets his share of credit as well, and the Doctor pays his respects to him. Jackie Tyler finally accepts enough of the truth about the situation to give us a few good scenes during the story's aftermath, and help 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 Slitheen 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 In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Dalek"



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