Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The 2-part Doctor Who story The Aliens Of London / World War Three feels like being told a story by that guy from Memento who has such a short-term memory.

The first episode begins by claiming that the last 12 hours of story-time actually took a few days to happen. Okay, that’s fine, maybe there was a lot of other stuff that we didn’t get to see.

The Doctor and Rose also don’t seem to remember the last time they returned to present-day London, in episode 2, and had some chips.

The Doctor and Rose - have they actually had their chips?
Rose then returns to her mum’s flat to find that, in fact, 12 months have passed at home, so her mum had assumed that she must be dead. Lots of emotional angst and crying. Hilarious.

Sobbing, her mum demands to know why Rose never even phoned. “Why didn’t you phone?” Also sobbing, Rose protests that “I was busy.”

Unfortunately, at this point flatmate Dave voiced the words surely on the entire regular audience’s lips: “But she did phone!”

Indeed, only 2 episodes ago…

Jackie, on Wednesday
The Doctor and Rose phone home
Well, y’know, Rose was 5 billion years in the future when she made that call, so maybe she got through to her mum at a point in time before she’d actually left. In fact, if you go back and listen to that scene really carefully, you can read that in. So that makes it okay, doesn't it? Yes, it would. Except that Rose doesn’t seem to remember making the call either.

Fortunately there’s an obvious answer to the whole problem, and again it’s flatmate Dave to the rescue: “Why don’t they just go back in time a year?”

More to the point, Dave, why don’t they just phone back in time a year?

Sheesh, we would have so much more fun with a time machine than these two…

Anyway, back to the story.

Big Ben breaks down, so BBC News 24 doesn't know what time it is
Aliens invade. Everyone is shocked, including the Doctor, Rose, Rose’s mum and Mickey Smith, who have all forgotten the last alien invasion only 3 episodes ago. Really – it never occurs to Rose’s mum that their last words to each other had been just after being shot at by lethal plastic mannequins.

The ones we just saw again in the recap.

The Doctor and Rose stand behind a military cordon, unable to get through, because they have forgotten that they have a hypnopass. (maybe they’d stared at it for too long)

But if you can live in denial, or actually are the above-mentioned guy from Memento, then it must be said that episode 1 has plenty of good things to distract you with. Billie Piper’s shockingly good acting, the terrified alien pig in a spacesuit, the fickle public gathering together to watch the invasion on the telly, before ultimately losing interest. (maybe that's what we're meant to do)

The best scene however had to be the Doctor sneaking off in the TARDIS late one night and walking straight in on all the soldiers having tea, particularly everyone's frozen embarrassment at each other. Priceless.

And the military capturing the Doctor and surrounding the TARDIS. Brilliant sequence. There's really no going back now.

Except that, in the following week’s episode, they just forgot about that as well. The Doctor got back to the TARDIS, where there were no soldiers. I guess they’d all forgotten too.

In fact, it all seems as though we - the viewers – were expected to not remember.

By the end of the second episode, all this selective memory was becoming rather frustrating. I mean why take all these plot-developments in, if next week you might have to forget half of them again?

The two-word headline at the end - "Alien Hoax" - hardly undoes the UFO that crashed into Big Ben, the bombing of 10 Downing Street, or the gigantic media frenzy and international politics of part one.

I think the pleasure in all fiction lies in, on some level, believing it all to be true.

When a plot-development only remains true for a short time, then the pleasure can only last that long.

6½ out of 10.

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