Series 1, Episode 4
Aliens of London
By Russell T Davies

Coming of age in an alien invasion

200-word synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive back in contemporary London. They think it has been 12 hours since Rose left, but it has actually been 12 months. Rose has been registered missing and Mickey has been questioned by the police on suspicion of murder.

A spaceship crash-lands in the river Thames. An “alien” is recovered from the wreckage, which turns out to be a pig modified with alien tech. The Doctor concludes that the spaceship was launched from Earth.

We meet a trio of flatulent characters in Downing Street. One of them is the acting prime minister, assuming the role while the real PM is missing. The farting bigwigs are actually aliens called the Slitheen who have successfully seized control of the government. Interfering MP Harriet Jones sneaks into the cabinet room and then hides in a cupboard, witnessing the aliens reveal their true identities.

The Doctor and Rose are escorted to Downing Street for a summit of alien experts. Rose is led away for a chat with Harriet Jones. The Doctor recognises that he is in a trap. The cliffhanger sees the Doctor, Rose and Rose’s mum (in separate incidents) face-to-face with the alien invaders under imminent threat of death.

This is the first of a two-parter, so perhaps the important stuff of life and death and saving the day will come to the fore next time. For now, though, it is the domestic troubles Rose finds herself in that take centre-stage.

Being human

This is the most “human” or domestic story that we have seen so far in Doctor Who. By returning home a year late, Rose walks into a tense situation. She has been registered as missing, her useless boyfriend Mickey has been accused of murder, and the implication is that Rose’s mum was among those making that accusation.

These are just some of the unintended consequences of travelling with the Doctor. He will whisk you away to fantastic places, but it will have a terrible effect on those you leave behind. The consequences for him arriving a year late are non-existent. The consequences for Rose herself don’t extend much beyond guilt. But the consequences for her mum and boyfriend are awful.

Not that this is the only domestic problem Rose is facing. Now that the Doctor has returned, her decision to swan off with him in the first places looks even more harsh on Mickey. He has been waiting for her to return, day after day, looking for the TARDIS. When she finally does come back, she makes no effort to look for him. He eventually finds her curled up on a sofa watching the TV surrounded by lots of people that we assume are friends of the family – she has appeared to have forgotten all about him.

The Doctor has no patience for these sorts of things. When he goes off to find the alien body that the authorities have taken off the crashed spaceship, the reason he gives Rose for leaving her flat is that “it’s just a bit human in there for me. History just happened and they’re talking about cheap top-up cards.”

Likewise, when Jackie and Mickey see the TARDIS land, his first concern is the protection of his personal space:

Rose: My mum’s here.
The Doctor: Oh, that’s just what I need! Don’t you dare make this place domestic!
Mickey Smith: You ruined my life, Doctor. They thought she was dead. I was a murder suspect because of you!
The Doctor: See what I mean? Domestic!

For the Doctor, to be “human” is to be concerned with cheap top-up cards and family gossip. It is to be concerned with the domestic; with the un-profound. It is to focus on the trivial banalities of every-day life when one of the most significant events in history has just ocurred.

Growing up

The Doctor seems strangely upbeat about the events that have been taking place. An alien ship crash-lands in London? Brilliant. This could be the start of a new world order, he says:

So maybe this is it. The first contact! The day mankind officially comes into contact with an alien race.

In trying to persuade Rose that he’s not going to investigate, the Doctor explains that the human race is ready to face up to its place in the universe on its own. It has come of age.

I’m not interfering. Cos you’re going to handle this on your own. That’s when the human race finally grows up. Just this morning you were all tiny and small and made of clay. Now you can expand! You don’t need me. Go and celebrate history.

He is lying, of course. He is going to interfere. Clearly he doesn’t think the tiny, small, clay people are able to solve their problems on their own. In other words, he doesn’t believe that they are ready to grow up.

Human beings are too busy thinking of themselves that they cannot see the possibilities of the universe open in front of them. Their energy is so taken up with boring and ultimately pointless concerns, like watching the TV during an alien invasion, that they cannot recognise the deeper significance of their experiences.

The Doctor cannot leave us tiny, small, made-of-clay humans to our own devices. For now that seems like a wise decision, because planet Earth is facing an alien invasion and the human race seems more concerned to watch developments on the TV than it does to fight back.

Next time we will see whether the Doctor’s view of what it means to be human – and what it means for humans to grow up – is a fair one.

Doctor Who Doctrines

  • Human beings are too busy thinking of themselves that they cannot see the possibilities of the universe open in front of them.

Posted on 04/09/2016  •  969 words