"Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?"
IN THIS ONE... Pig. In. Space! And of course, first appearance of Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, of Toshiko Sato, and of the Slitheen.
REVIEW: When I try to get people into Doctor Who using the new series, this is the one I have to apologize for, telling them if they can get through this story, things get better. I bet I'm not alone in that either. And if RTD didn't make every single episode a part of a larger story, I could just tell them to skip the whole thing. But it introduces several recurring characters, really starts you asking questions about Bad Wolf (it's a very odd thing for someone to graffiti on the TARDIS), and is a pretty important piece of Rose's journey. But yeah. It's got farting monsters. I can get behind making Doctor Who for kids, and that they might love this kind of puerile, gross out humor, but he might be losing sight of his all-important Buffy demographic, and those fart jokes don't sit well with the more adult humor, like implying one of the Slitheen had sex with his host body's wife, mistress and a farmer, or the politically incorrect "You're so gay". I'm personally less than comfortable about the show equating obesity with evil - as all fat people in this are suspect, and indeed, either Slitheen or Slitheen-bound. It's not a great thing to say about body image, and I think far more egregious than any relationship The Unquiet Dead may or may not have with immigration policy.
Between the Slitheen sniggering and passing gas, the space pig they produce as a hoax (the Jim Henson estate should send an angry letter or something), the Mickey slapstick and the 9th Doctor speaking one of the character's most embarrassing lines (above) in the character's entire history, regardless of incarnation, Aliens of London very nearly derails the whole enterprise. That it doesn't may be a testament to its "part 2", or to what actually works here. Chief among these is the emotion. Rose has only been gone a few days, but to her friends and family, it's been a whole year. They were worried sick, with Jackie calling the cops on Mickey (and later, on the Doctor), and old Mickey doing plenty of research on Rose's new companion. This all plays pretty realistically, whether it's Jackie slapping the Doctor, the police asking if "companion" has a sexual connotation, or Rose a bit too willing to forgive Mickey if he'd found someone new. These dynamics make sense, and I find myself liking Mickey a lot more for letting his resentment of the Doctor show. Jackie isn't allowed to be much more than "the mum", but as someone who was raised by a mother hen, that's probably all SHE allows herself to be.
The other thing Aliens of London gets right is its use of the media (which will become a cliché in New Who, but for good reason). Not only do we see real journalists and BBC graphics applied to fictional events, making this "first contact" as ubiquitous as any crisis on our own 24-hour news channels, but the Slitheen are USING the media frenzy to their advantage, getting all the experts who could stop them into one room by staging a spaceship crash worthy of a Roland Emmerich movie. It looks very cool (the CG only falters when trying to depict Slitheen slipping out of their skinsuits), and that was the whole point. Now the Doctor's stuck watching this very public event on TV, as we would, and more than a little disappointed. Naturally, he gets closer to the action, and Rose does too, the latter befriending a comic relief backbencher played by the wonderful Penelope Wilton whose Harriet Jones could have been another step too far into comedy, but makes it all work. We believe her earnestness AND her horror. She's definitely the best thing to come out of this serial.
THEORIES: The scientist examining the space pig, played by Naoko Mori and credited as Doctor Sato reappears a year and a half hence as a Torchwood operative. This was strange for the longest time because Toshiko Sato was a computer/tech expert, NOT a medical one. Exit Wounds revealed that she was covering for Owen Harper who was recovering from a bad hangover that day. Clearly a retcon, which is fitting for Torchwood. But looking at her premiere episode now, it doesn't feel right. Tosh shouldn't be THIS freaked out by an alien pig, or that competent to do an autopsy, and well, shouldn't she know who Captain Jack's Doctor is if she participated in this mission? It's just a bit off. Then there's the fact that Torchwood is never ever involved in any alien intervention before Series 2. If they'd been founded by Queen Victoria, they would have been around during the Doctor's exile and so on. No mention until they start getting mentioned A LOT. My personal theory is that Torchwood doesn't exist until Tooth and Claw. History is changed by those events, the Doctor becomes persona non grata in the Empire, and this secret organization starts hoarding alien tech. So in this version of history, Sato was very much what she claims to be. When history changed, her role in these events were tweaked. Wait, that doesn't quite work either, because The Christmas Invasion very clearly has a Torchwood working behind the scenes, two stories before T&C. So I'm going to blame the Bad Wolf. Though never acknowledged on screen, when Rose became the Bad Wolf in The Parting of the Ways, she affected history in more ways than we thought. Not only did she send herself messages her personal past, and destroy Daleks etc. in her present, but she also changed her future. It should be no coincidence that her visit to Victorian Scotland featured a literal bad (were)wolf, and a castle (and soon organization) named Torchwood, a name she heard in a Weakest Link question/answer. It got into her head and suddenly, Torchwood is a thing, a thing that becomes host to Captain Jack which she's just resurrected, a thing that will ultimately be responsible for shunting her to a parallel dimension. I'll wait until we get to Rise of the Cybermen, but that parallel world may well be one of the Bad Wolf's creations too! Definitely more to come!
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Between the beautiful crash, the real-ish public reaction to it and Harriet Jones, I can't quite pan this story. But the story's best moments are in World War Three, and the monsters are just embarrassing.