Doctor Who Review: “Aliens of London” / “World War Three”–Save the World But Lose You

I’m fascinated by the fact that Doctor Who is a family show. I’d like to know what kind of kid I would have been with the Doctor whispering in my ear. Probably a much cooler one: more curious, more compassionate, more willing to take a stand. Even when this show goes for the groundlings with Slitheen family fart jokes, it’s held up by the heart and courage of its characters. I don’t love the more “kid friendly” elements of this two-parter, because I’ve come to depend on Doctor Who to debunk the idea that kids need those elements to stay engaged in a story, but if they’re getting the message across, bring on the Slitheen.

In an episode that sometimes needs a little extra patience, it’s fitting that the message is essentially “look twice. There’s more to the story.” The earth is more than a rock to be sold for profit. Harriet Jones is more than a bench-warming MP for Flydale North. What looks like an alien is really just a scared little animal, and he’s killed out of fear. The Doctor’s rage at that moment totally makes up for the whole dive-bombing space pig thing. Eccleston makes everything real—all the pain of valuing life and feeling you’ve failed to protect it, all the joy of watching history unfold, and all the freedom that comes from going to those extremes and knowing nothing else can really get you. Nine doesn’t care what you think of him. Nine doesn’t care if you’re pointing a gun in his face. He’s got bigger concerns. And Jackie wants to dismiss him because she’s afraid of how he’s influenced her daughter, because she hasn’t taken the time to listen.

stitch this mate

“I am a doctor.”
“Prove it. Stitch this, mate.”

The Doctor’s never been slapped by anyone’s mother before, but this definitely isn’t the first time he’s scared people away. It’s the exact human response he’s come to expect: “You lot—you get scared, you lash out.” After years of that, he found Rose, and she wasn’t afraid. She took his hand and told him to start at the beginning. Of course he’d ask her to come with him. I love that he accidentally brings her home twelve months later, instead of twelve hours, because while Rose hasn’t literally spent a year with the Doctor, they’re so connected that it almost feels like she has. She’s lived a whole new life in the TARDIS, and now even her own home is unfamiliar. She belongs in her world a little less, and it pulls her closer to his.

Rose is so in sync with the Doctor that she’s even starting to think like him. She gets excited about interplanetary crises and goes all “lots of planets have a north” on Harriet Jones like it’s nothing. Rose works to make the Doctor proud even when he’s not around, looking adorably unsure of whether she should put her arms around this sobbing MP from Flydale North but perfectly sure that together, they can sort this out.

rose nine aliens of london

Rose and the Doctor both choose each other really deliberately in these episodes. After the year she’s put Jackie through, she could decide to stay back, and he could leave her there. But instead he gives her a key to the TARDIS, and she throws a pack into his arms and tells him that he’s stuck with her. She’s signing up now, officially, and for all of the risks too. The Doctor can’t promise that Rose will always be safe. He looks so stricken when Jackie asks him to reassure her, and the way his silence hits Rose, you know she gets it. When she tells the Doctor to do whatever it takes to save the planet, he looks at her like he’s never been more in awe of anyone. (Just try to tell me that’s not the moment he realizes he loves her. There are practically hearts in his eyes.) Rose puts others ahead of herself. That’s the most Doctory kind of thinking there is.

 DOCTOR: “This is my’s not fun, it’s not smart, it’s just standing up and making a decision because nobody else will.”

Rose will. And what’s great about Rose Tyler is that she doesn’t stop there. The Doctor gets almost defeatist about his life sometimes, like after making a big decision he’s almost frozen by the weight of it. Rose doesn’t play it like that. Rose keeps going. She’s willing to die to save the earth, but she’ll never stop fighting to stay alive. She’s so energized by this life. It’s unpredictable and inexact: she can’t even keep her promise to return in ten seconds. Traveling with the Doctor is dangerous, and not in a romanticized way. But Rose can’t just stay home where it’s safe when there’s more universe to see, and that sense of wonder is some optimism I can get behind.

Bits and Pieces:

“When you say ‘companion,’ is this a sexual relationship?”

rose doctor companion sexual no

Let me check with Rose, oh Rose says not sexual, better stick with Rose, that’s our story, nothing sexual, moving on.

“That’s one hell of an age gap.”

DOCTOR: I can’t believe I’m here to see this! This is fantastic!
ROSE: Did you know this was gonna happen?
ROSE: Do you recognize the ship?
ROSE: Do you know why it crashed?
ROSE: Oh, I’m so glad I’ve got you.


You’re adorable.

“He’s not my boyfriend, Mickey. He’s better than that. He’s much more important.” ROSE TYLER YOU ARE KILLING ME WITH YOUR EMOTIONS AND YOUR A+ PRIORITIES.

MICKEY: I think I know my own name.
DOCTOR: You think you know your own name? How stupid are you?

doctor smiles at gunpoint

hello yes I see you have guns

ROSE: So, in twelve months, have you been seeing anyone else?
MICKEY: No. (pause) Mainly ’cause everyone thinks I murdered you.

My favorite thing about Doctor Who two-parters is that they probably have to cut a few scenes along the way to make room for a solid sixty seconds of screaming at the end of part one.

nine fire extinguisher

“The thing is, if I was you, if I was going to execute someone by backing them against the wall, between you and me, little word of advice…”



shh sonic

Calm down with your self-surrender, Katniss Everdeen.

harriet jones

Harriet Jones is so great, seriously. She takes charge and refuses to let anyone tell her that her interests aren’t important.

DOCTOR: Installed in 1991. Three inches of steel lining every single wall. They’ll never get in.
ROSE: And how do we get out?

“I talked to him. I bought him a cup of coffee. I never asked his name.”

HARRIET JONES: Is it important?
DOCTOR: Everything’s important.

“I could save the world but lose you.” This is the most directly he’s ever admitted to his feelings for Rose. Even on the brink of World War III, that makes her smile.

“That’s not the way he does things. No fuss–he just moves on.”

tardis calling

Literally the most beautiful thing.

ROSE: My mother’s cooking.
DOCTOR: Good. Put her on a slow heat and let her simmer.

The sass is strong in this one.

bad wolf tardis

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