Impatiently waiting for a glimmer of April’s bounty of new Doctor Who, my fellow Whovians usually dull the pain of withdrawal by spinning up the DVDs we have squirreled away for emergency viewing. In some cases instead of the private stash, we use online services so that we can get our much needed dose of The Doctor. No matter our preferred viewing methods. we usually go through the episodes that give us the most joy, the greatest sense of wonder, or the ones that move us to tears. Then we have the people like me who obviously like to hurt themselves and go back to episodes that are so dumb, so painful, so down right bullshit that to watch them is proof that medication is not being delivered to those who need it. With that, let us begin World War Three.
Airing April 23rd, 2005, World War Three sees Russet T. Davies continues the story left in a cliff hanger in Aliens of London. Once again, the tone of the episode is scattered. The writing feels rushed in places, incomplete in others. Once again we are faced with an episode that can’t decide if it wants to be comedic, dark and gritty, heartfelt, or an adventure. What we end up with is a hot mess of bile inducing crap. The “witty” bits of the dialogue feel forced and fake. The usual flow and banter that we felt between characters in previous episodes is reduced to jerky cringe inducing moments. The worst sin of this episode though is the dragging of feet to wrap it up. Ten minutes after the Defeat of the Monster of the Week, we are still sitting through halting, jerky and painful dialogue that is used for character development in this episode. I love a well rounded character that grows and becomes so much more as the series progresses. I don’t like it when character development is shoe horned in as an afterthought.
Speaking of afterthoughts, lets bring up Christopher Eccleston’s performance. Afterthought is a good description. Through out this garbage fest, all of Eccleston’s emotional reactions to everything happening always felt as if he had to think about them, choosing from a wide array of possibilities, then decided if he was choosing the right one , then decide if he was positive he wanted to display that. After an eternity, the emotion is displayed but it just a bit off in the timing. Now I’m not sure whether to blame the script, Eccleston being uninterested in this episode, or a combination of the two. No matter what the cause, it was distracting at the best of times, and scene ruining at the worst. When The Doctor, Harriet, and Rose are running for their lives from The Slitheen; Eccleston can’t decide if the Doctor is excited or scared, there by destroying the tension that should be building up from the chase. When outwitting The Slitheen with a sonic screwdriver and a bottle of alcohol; Eccleston takes so long to decide if he is going to be arrogant and smug that you really don’t feel the Doctor is in control even though you should because it is so important to his bluff. His interactions with Harriet and Rose lack so much that you don’t ever really feel that the Doctor has anything to offer.
Billie Piper continued to give a lackluster performance as Rose this episode. Faced with an imminent threat to her life, a threat to her world, and an overwhelming threat to those she loves; Rose reacts as though her cooking had burnt. She is in the center for the battle for Earth, her birthplace, her home for all of her life; and she acts as if it not that important. Her distance and almost cold demeanor about the fact that she could not only die, but loose everything that makes her life worth living really turns her from a sweet relatable character to a bitch you want to slap. Her main purpose in this episode is to be a plot device for the Doctor to get in touch with the true hero of this mess on a screen, Mickey.
After saving Jackie from a Slitheen who inhabited a high ranking police officer’s body, (remember these creatures kill the humans they need, then wear their skins like a suit,) Noel Clarke’s Mickey Smith then hides Jackie at his flat, calls Rose, gets ahold of the Doctor acting as his hands in the outside world, then when the Slitheen finds them again, closes doors, makes obstacles, and buys time for the Doctor to brainstorm a way out of the situation Mickey and Jakie face. Then he puts himself between Jackie and the monster that wants to kill them, giving Jackie time to create the vinegar based slush that is used to destroy the calcium based Slitheen. (Trust me I know how fucking stupid that sounds. But by this point of the two part assault to your mind, you just go with it so that you can get through the story.) After most of us would have called it a day, Mickey then gets back on the phone with the Doctor, stops Jackie from throwing a monkey wrench into the plans that are being made to save the world, hacks into a military data base, accesses a submarine fire control, and launches a missile at 10 Downing street. (Again, I am quite aware of how preposterous this is, even by Doctor Who standards, but at this point in this two part assault on your mind, you are willing to accept anything just to make the story move along and get over this damn mess.) Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri gave the most believable and genuine performances of this episode. At this point I would also like to give recognition to Penelope Wilton for keeping Harriet Jones determined to do the right thing for the people that elected her, no matter what the personal cost. She truly was a high point in this unrelenting attack of stupidity.
The Monster of the Week was once more the fart making, idiot grinning, Slitheen. After killing humans in power, the Slitheen wear their victims’ skin and take their place in society. Which leads to the question, how do the humans who interact with these replacement not notice the personality change?? It is a huge change and it even states that one the Slitheen was wearing a skin of a family man with a mistress. How could the family not recognize the differences in personality and actions of the person taking over?? Their constant farting and acting like buffoons quickly become annoying. By the time they are blown up by Mickey, you are so apathetic to them that the most you can feel is a “So?”
The special effects were well done, the model of 10 Downing Street blowing up adding a nice touch. The use of puppetry and CGI to brig the Slitheen to life was well done and completely believable in context.
The score…was misused. There were some wonderful pieces that could have really enhanced the mood and feelings of the story, yet they were used at the wrong time or were badly placed with the action on the screen. This really lead to a feeling of discord that did not help the feeling of total screw up this episode.
Final Thoughts. Was this good T.V? Gods no. It was painful to watch, and worse the second time around. Was this good Doctor Who?? Frell NO!!! This was a travesty of writing, a piss poor job of half botched ideas, and total lack of tone and direction. The only thing that this episode has going for it is that you need to watch it for plot points and the introduction of Harriet Jones.