Ten points of discussion inspired by the 2005 Doctor Who episode, Aliens of London.
It’s been a few weeks since we departed the Cardiff rift. Apologies – pressures of work, and all that. But we continue a revisit of 2005’s Doctor Who series with the TARDIS’ return to the Powell Estate.
A quick reminder that my collection of Ten Things About Who posts for the 2012/13 series is now available for Kindle devices and Kindle e-reader apps for the bargain price of £1.99 – that’s 14p per episode discussion Thanks to everyone who’s bought it so far – if you have, please do leave a review or, at the very least, a star rating. And if you haven’t bought it yet, you can do so at mtthw.mn/whoebook.
1. A quick recap…
OK, so I said that The End of the World starts with what is, for Doctor Who, a rarely-used device: a “previously…”-style recap, that has “rarely been needed since”.
And then, two episodes later, that device gets used again. Still, I’m right – it tends not to be used much after this. To be honest, its usefulness in a series where the setting can change so drastically from episode to episode is debatable. But notice, even here, that it’s a recap of events solely from Rose. There’s no glimpse of Platform One or Victorian Cardiff at all.
Conceptually, it fits – this episode is a thematic sequel to the first episode, and deals directly witht he consequences of Rose’s impetuous run into the TARDIS at the end of that episode. For me, the recap here feels alien, if you’ll pardon the expression.
While what we now call “classic” Doctor Who used the old B-movie serial of replaying the previous week’s hangover to remind viewers of where they’ve got to, this “remember this from three weeks ago?” style of reminder has never sat well with Doctor Who. And it really isn’t used much after this. I promise.
No amount of foresight could have anticipated that this episode of Doctor Who would be aired in the week of Margaret Thatcher’s passing. As it was, though, it meant that the schedules in the week leading up to this broadcast were full of echoes of the 1980s.
The pre-credits sequence refers to “NATO exercises”, which the Captain dismisses as “sabre-rattling”. Given that the story is set in 1983, this could be a reference to Able Archer 83, a ten-day exercise in November which led to the USSR’s own escalation, in the belief that the war games could be masking preparations for a genuine conflict.
Due to Elisabeth Sladen’s death, production was halted at a critical point in the series’ history: the production team were asking all sort of questions about where the show would go in its following year. Circumstances would mean they would never get round to answering those questions – but that gives TV historians a unique opportunity…
Over on TV Today, I’ve penned some inadequate words about the loss of Elisabeth Sladen, and in particular the character of Sarah Jane Smith. A full Stage obituary will be published soon, and that will include more details about her long theatre career as well as her record-breaking role as Sarah Jane Smith, which she played from 1973 onwards, in Doctor Who, K9 and Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
I had the privilege of meeting Elisabeth a few times, starting at The Stage New Year party in 2008 and several CBBC events after that. Even though she never got my name quite right (at one point I did consider changing my name to ‘Steve’, as it would be easier than contradicting her), she was always full of smiles and greeted everyone with genuine warmth.
Lis, it was a pleasure and a privilege to have known you. My thoughts are with Brian and Sadie at this time.