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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Doctor Who: World War III
By Russell T. Davies
Directed by Keith Boak

In the 60s and 70s aliens invaded Earth for a number of reasons. In “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” the Daleks wanted to hollow out the planet’s core and drive the Earth around space as some type of huge space ship (don’t ask..it never made much sense to me either). In the Pertwee era, aliens came knocking because we’d sent up spacecraft, thus announcing our presence. Also the Master thought it would be fun to conquer Earth and destroy the Doctor.

Now, in the new modern era of Doctor Who, aliens don’t show up en masse to take over the planet. Instead, they show up as galactic entrepreneurs out to make a quick buck by having the entire planet go to war. Aliens have invaded the UK at the highest levels of power in order to get permission to use nuclear warheads to turn the planet into a radioactive slag heap and sell off the waste to the highest bidder. The waste can be used to power space crafts.

That, in a nut shell, is the entire plot the Slitheen have for our planet. No grand dreams of conquest, no bringing the aliens to our doorstep because of anything we’ve done. Nope, we’ve essentially got a bunch of aliens who are creating their own E-Bay auction for the remains of planet Earth.

I understand that we’re living in a new, modern age here and we’ve got to have a bit more motivation out of our Doctor Who monsters. But even this idea seems a bit paper thin at best. With the wealth of other planets even in, say, our solar system, why pick Earth? Did I miss some dialogue that stated that Earth’s composition made it a better radioactive fuel than others? Or was it that we just had the weapons to create the galactic slagheap? Now, I realize here that I’m answering my own argument, but I still think this is something that one or two lines of dialogue in the story could easily address. But, alas, it’s not.

Instead ,we get a lot of the other infamous Doctor Who cliché—running down the corridor.

Five episodes into the new age of Doctor Who and we’ve got a myriad of corridor chases. It’s good to know that Doctor Who’s contribution to the Olympic games lives on for a new generation of fans to enjoy.

None of this is to say that I found “World War III” to be all that bad. I found parts of it to be rather enjoyable. But overall, I found it to rather disjointed. Whereas “Aliens of London” made a smooth transition from the concerns by Rose’s mother and Mickey about her travels in time to the main plot of aliens coming from the sky, this one didn’t do as well moving from one plot the next. We end the Slitheen storyline with ten minutes to go and then have several dead scenes of Rose and her mother chatting about inviting the Doctor over for dinner and how her travels will affect the family. Now, I did find the scenes with the Doctor and Mickey to be well done, especially with Mickey admitting he’s not cut out for travel with the Doctor. But again, it was a rather abrupt change of tone in the story.

Not that we needed more the Slitheen.

I think the production staff fell in love with the new effects for the first time. We seemed to have a lot of transitions from the Slitheen in their human bodies to being in their alien appearance. I swear someone was scratching open a forehead every two minutes after the Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones lock themselves in the safe room. Every two seconds the Slitheen were slipping in and out of their suits and it felt more like a time filler than anything else.

It certainly took away from the sense of paranoia and panic that pervaded part one.

That’s not to say I thought all of “World War III” was that bad. I liked the debates between the Doctor and Rose in the war room. It was nice to see Mickey well used and to see how he’s taken up the cause that Clive had back in “Rose.” Mickey actually worked as a character and while it might be intriguing for him to travel with the Doctor and Rose, I’m glad he didn’t. He could easily become the Adric of this series and we don’t need that.

The scene with the Doctor asking for bits of info about the Slitheen to determine their home world and how to stop them was nice. And it’s interesting how extreme the measures the Doctor is now taking to stop the alien baddies. He’s let Cassandra die, sacrificed the girl in “The Unquiet Dead” and here he allows a missile strike to take out Downing Street. He also slaps a band on the aliens in the opening moments of the episode and gives Mickey the way to kill a Slitheen when it attacks he and Rose’s mother. I find it interesting to see this development in the Doctor where the ends justify the means. We saw this develop in the seventh Doctor and now it’s continuing here. I keep getting the feeling that something has hardened the Doctor..he used to fight for a peaceful solution. Here, he barely acknowledges it, instead choosing to blow up the Slitheen in order to stop them. I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing a bit of the clever ways the Doctor used to defeat alien menace here so that we can have a big explosion to end the story.

Again, I sense there is something building in a season-long arc type of way, so I’m reserving too much judgment at this point and time. It may all make a lot more sense when we get to episode 13 and everything gels.

Until then, the fifth episode feels a lot like a placeholder. This may be that I’m about to go crazy to see the new Daleks show up next week. (How good was that preview, I ask you?) Or it may be that it was just too disjointed an episode to really capture and hold my attention. Again, there is a lot of isolated thing I liked, but when you add it all up, I’m not sure it worked as an entire episode, much less the second half of a story.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 4/27/2005 03:38:00 PM | |
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