“World War Three” – Review: Redux

“Raxacoricofallapatorius!” The Doctor

World War Three

“World War Three” had a job to do in my eyes, much like the military investigating the crashed spaceship in part one, it had to salvage something from the wreckage of the disappointing end the previous episode with its ruined cliffhanger and rubbish rubber-suited monster. This episode along with “Aliens of London” and “Rose” had collectively made up Block One of the recording schedule, under the directorship of Keith Boak. Given that the first episode of the renewed series was included in this batch, it’s importance should not be understated, but is there something rotten in the Estate of Powell?

I have heard rumour and speculation to the effect that it was problems in this recording block that led to the resignation of Eccleston, although I have never read this definitively. Much as I have never read why Keith Boak was never called back to direct again, or even read what Mr Boak’s thoughts were on the matter. If you, dear reader, are any more in the know, or if you can point me to some source or insight I would be truly appreciative, as I get the impression that the truth of this could be a fascinating insight in to these early days of the revived series as it feels to me like there is a story to be told. May be one day, there will be a follow up to “An Adventure in Space and Time” focussing on the start of the RTD era.

Unfortunately. this is one of my least favourite stories of Eccleston’s tenure. The reason for this, as I hinted at yesterday, mainly lies at the gnarly, green feet of the family Slitheen, along with one or two little peculiarities that irritate me.  I know that I shouldn’t take everything so seriously, and that this is a programme that is designed to appeal to kids as much (if not more) than adults, but oh my god, these are terrible, terrible aliens. When we meet the Slitheen in their latex, prosthetic suits, it just doesn’t quite work well enough for the ambitions of the script: the get-up is at best “ambitious”, at worst a throw-back to the 80’s Doctor Who special effects that ‘we’ should’ve moved on from. It’s ironic that they look so bad as humans in alien suits, whereas the plot reveals them as aliens in human suits. I thought that they were lumbering, clumsy and far from menacing although, admittedly, pretty memorable for the kids (and even I love my 5-inch Slitheen action figure). However, switch to the CGI shot of them running through the corridors of Number 10 that feature so heavily and suddenly there is a hint that they could be the deadly hunters that the script suggests, but the juxtaposition of CGI and prosthetic in adjacent scenes completely removes me from the drama. One can argue the case for or against either method but it might have been the fact they used both that grated with me. Furthermore, the bright, blue light that accompanied the unzipping annoyed the bejeezus out of me, as the effect could have been so much better. And if the belching bin in “Rose” was a bit poor, then the farting Slitheen was a bodily emission too far.

The much hoped for salvage operation was not the success for which I was hoping, but again, as ever with Doctor Who, there are always positives to be gleaned. I quite enjoyed many parts of the script and I began to start appreciating the depth of the performance of Christopher Eccleston, once we started to peak underneath that the cocky, gurning and holier-than-thou act that was all a facade to cover up a deeper guilt and sadness in Doctor’s past. Despite the fun and high velocity of David Tennant and Matt Smith’s later performances, I still wish that we could have had a few more performances from Nine. Everything from the wit of the “Narrows it down!” speech , to the stoicism of his reply to Margaret Blaine’s taunts “You? Trapped in your box?”“Yes. Me” and the heartfelt “I could save the world but lose you”, all served to show-off Eccleston’s skills, in a fashion that echoed the very finest moments of the classic years. I have a glimmer of hope that a certain Mr Capaldi might grant me that wish.

Also in evidence, somewhat inevitably given that much of the episode is set in Downing Street, we saw a little bit of social commentary being played out and I don’t just mean the cameo from Andrew Marr. The story that the Slitheen invented was that an alien threat had “massive weapons of destruction” that could be deployed in just 45 seconds; it was a not too subtle parody of the allegations in Tony Blair’s sexed up dossier that was all over the news back at this time and it’s good to see Doctor Who subtly undermining the establishment like this. When all said and done though, one particular fact pertinently sums up my feelings towards this story, and that is that my absolute favourite bit was the “Next Time” trailer after the episode… “Ex-ter-min-ate”

Highlight: The ‘Next Time’ Trailer

Lowlight: The rather too simplistic hacking of military hardware.

Talking Point: Why was Keith Boak never invited back?

Demon’s Run Rating: 9 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 23rd April 2005

Marathon Status: Five in the bag.

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