Thursday, January 20, 2011

Postclassical Who - "World War Three"

Beginning this review I'm not sure whether World War Three is better or somehow worse than Aliens of London. They're both crap, that much is certain. It could of course be argued that Doctor Who is a family show and that there should therefore be content for children; that is of course completely missing the point. A family show should be watchable by both adults and children, which is to say it doesn't contain gratuitous violence or inappropriate sexuality but that doesn't mean it should condescend, be filled with meaningless stupidity, or aim for cheap laughs or thrills. World War Three only confirms this two-parter to be a complete waste of time, and I found it difficult to watch for this review, having not seen it in full since it was first broadcast.
Again, for what I believe is the third time in four stories, the Doctor solves the problem by blowing the aliens up. Not only is it ridiculous that Mickey can just go on the internet and launch an ICBM by inputting a few passwords, but the idea of the Prime Minister making a public televised appeal to the 'nations of the world' as if public broadcasts are ever internationally proliferate apart perhaps from the Queen's Christmas Speech and appeals in this way to the United Nations for nuclear access codes is just ridiculous melodrama you would expect from a motel room paperback political thriller. I don't mind the idea of the Slitheen wanting to nuke the planet to sell it as ship fuel but why on Earth would they choose such a ridiculously complicated means to put it into action? Of course it reeks of RTD thinking 'Aliens in 10 Downing Street, now let's make a plot to fit' but that doesn't justify it at all. It also doesn't counter the fact that a) radioactive debris has absolutely no fuel value, it would need to be a purified metal, and b) no advanced spaceship could ever be fuelled by the crude process of Nuclear Fission, which is the only Nuclear power process which involves the use of radioactive heavy elements in any way, although as I've stated randomly irradiated pieces of junk would still be completely useless. Maybe I'm asking for my sci-fi to be too hard, and as a motivation it's better than nothing, but I still think it's a weak justification. Maybe the Slitheen are just stupid; it wouldn't surprise me considering what a poor alien concept they are. Bodysnatchers are one thing, people with zippers on their foreheads that only appear occasionally are another. Again they only take the skin off for the sake of narrative drama or sometimes for no reason at all. The CGI of them running isn't bad even though at the rate they go compared to the actors there's no way the Doctor, Rose and Harriet Jones could have escaped on foot.
One thing I like is the idea of a family/criminal enterprise being the villains rather than the whole race; most sci-fi shows have an unpleasant habit of painting the character profile of an entire species in rather broad strokes, never suggesting that an alien civilisation could have different countries, families, factions and corporations just like ours. It's a shame the idea is wasted on the Slitheen, because the idea is never explored. It just seems to be so that RTD can coin the name 'Raxacoricofallapatorius', another lame joke. The 'gas exchange' explanation is equally tiresome; why not just have the Doctor explain their farting as 'because it's funny'? It probably wouldn't be any less puerile and meaningless. Speaking of which, if they Doctor knows their chemical structure based on what planet they're from, how come he doesn't know what they look like? And why would a quarter of a bucket of vinegar from food cause a huge alien to violently explode and totally disintegrate? The acidic process doesn't work that way. But as we've already discovered, scientific realism is not on this show's mind at the moment. In fact it only seems to be a backdrop for RTD to explore issues of leaving home and the effect of time travel on families and so on, which is disappointing to say the least because it's explored in such a predictable way, with Jackie telling Rose to not go and so on. At least the Doctor invited Mickey to come, and I wish he'd said yes (although he eventually would) because he's actually a pretty decent character in this one.
There's some very heavy-handed romance stuff like the Doctor saying "I could save the world but lose you", evoking the "I'm so glad I met you" dreck from The Unquiet Dead, as well as some whinging from Jackie about Rose's safety like a concerned in-law and a lot of meaningful looks from Rose to the Doctor. I really don't buy this Ninth Doctor/Rose malarkey even if I can almost buy it from Tenth Doctor/Rose, although we'll get to that. I suppose it's okay though, since the Ninth Doctor does ask her boyfriend to come along, so whatever infatuation Rose is denying is clearly a bit different from the Doctor's end.
There's really not a stinker like Aliens of London/World War Three. It's probably the worst of the Ninth Doctor's tenure (with the possible exception of an incoming episode) and diminishes the already mediocre quality of a generally unimpressive first series for the show's return. People in the media go on about how this era brought back the show in the only way that could make it work for modern television but not only do I think that's untrue but I think pandering to the decay of public culture only exacerbates the problem.

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