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Caves and Twins: Aliens of London

I watched Aliens of London for the first time in almost seven years…

Aliens of London

It’s seven years since this was made, which make it the difference between An Unearthly Child and Spearhead From Space – or Planet of the Spiders and Castrovalva. Or Survival and the TVM. Or… well, you get the idea.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but Doctor Who has clearly changed enormously since then. As it was on telly I thought I’d watch it and makes some notes.

What’s extraordinary is just how much the last two seasons have cast off so many RTD-era tropes – it feels like a radically different series now; much more assured; much more certain about its own identity and tone.

Whether that’s a good thing is debatable, but Aliens of London seems extremely uneven. Its tone jumps about quite a lot – broad farce, almost pantomime, on minute and drama the next and sci-fi the next.

Ecclestone suffers the most here. His Doctor is not merely eccentric or weird or even childish. He actually seems simple. It undermines the character and just makes the whole seem bizarre.

Tennant and Smith seemed to nail their Doctor immediately, as did McGann. Only McCoy seemed as out of sort – in this first series as the Doctor – as Eccles does here.

Overall, this is a story that’s unrecognisable from the last two or three series of Who – certainly the Moffat/SMith era. There are a lot of things about the latest series that I didn’t like, but I’m grateful that the series moved away from how low rent the likes of Aliens of London is.

Eccleston seems to be spend most of this episode behaving as if the Doctor is actually a bit retarded. The collision of the script, the direction and Eccleston’s clear discomfort doing ‘whacky’ acting make for a grisly spectacle.

Mickey = Mickey is just a gibbering moron in this episode – and in the majority of the series. He falls over; he mugs; he squeals. And then we’re meant to feel sorry for him when he complains about Rose leaving. It doesn’t work because Mickey is less believable than a cartoon character.

Jackie – Jackie is worse drawn and less realistic than a Carry On film character. See above.

Murray Gold cannot do any action music whatsoever. Any scenes that involve running, guns, spaceships or fighting seem to conjure up music that would seem out of place in the pilot of The Sarah-Jane Adventures.

Chav culture – It’s incredible how rooted all of this is in a very mid-noughties idiom. It’s like Doctor Who set within Little Britain or Gavin & Stacey. It feels incredibly dated and also very cheap; Doctor Wo done on a BBC3 budget.

Farting aliens – Occasionally this is funny; occasionally it’s even a little sinister. Mainly it’s just annoying.

Stupid – It’s remarkable just how stupid the whole thing is. Downing Street has banks of computers that have RED ALERT flashing on them? The army follow The Doctor because he says ‘Defence Pattern Delta’ to them (which seems to involve running quite slowly down a corridor)? Harriet Jones is actually still banging on about her local hospital even after a UFO has crashed in the Thames.

The cliffhanger – it just seems to go on for ages. On and on and on with three separate scenes convening in almost exactly the same way. There’s almost a moment of dramatic tension here with the various reveals, but it drags on for long it doesn’t really work.