Crimson Eleven Delight Petrichor

Learning life lessons from the Doctor

Aliens of London

Oh yeah, don’t think I sat on my backside for twelve months, Doctor. I read up on you. You look deep enough on the Internet or in the history books, and there’s his name, followed by a list of the dead.

So, Aliens of London. I have to admit it’s far from my favorite one. I’m not really convinced by the rather juvenile humor of farting aliens. Also, it’s the first one of a two-parter, which means that not a lot is resolved here. All that does not mean, however, that there is no value in this episode. There are some hidden gems!

Let’s start with the comical side of things. The (in)famous “Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?” quip from the Doctor is of course funny a bit, but let’s admit it, the humor here is not very sophisticated. Also, the scene when the Doctor and Rose are transported to 10 Downing Street made me laugh, even though the Doctor grinning to the reporters seemed odd and out of character. Still, his rhetorical question to Rose, “who's the biggest expert of the lot?”, shows that even with Nine’s generally withdrawn attitude, the Doctor still loves to show off from time to time. (Of course, Ten will wholly embrace this behavior, and Eleven will, well, take it up to eleven.)

One of the things I liked a bit more was when the Doctor enters the room full of UNIT soldiers, who immediately trained their guns on him. He then shouts “Defence plan delta! Come on. Move!”, and they listen to him. An obvious theory is that this is some standard (and perhaps secret) UNIT command, and they are trained to obey those. The scene quickly becomes much sadder when one of the soldiers shoots the pig (played by Jimmy Vee, by the way), and Doctor berates him for that. This is such a common story – someone is afraid, their fear breeds aggression, and things go downhill from there… And as usual, we can see the Doctor’s compassion for the poor creature.


Killing a helpless creature, even if not sentient, in front of the Doctor… You’re really lucky, anonymous UNIT soldier, that the Doctor didn’t want to have a word with you.

Let me also mention the little piece of dialog between Doctor and Rose, when he says to her: “This is what I travel for, Rose. To see history happening right in front of us”. Again, Nine is not often seen in awe of the world – but this is one of those beautiful moments when the Doctor’s constant wonderment at the universe, its life and history surfaces. This is something quite dear to me – the appreciation and admiration of God’s creation is in fact one of the reasons Doctor Who appeals to me.

All these, however, were not the main things Aliens of London can teach us about life.

How mothers work

The first part of the episode, starting with Rose entering her apartment and her mom dropping the mug in shock, is truly heartbreaking. As a parent, I don’t even want to try to imagine what she must have felt. (In fact, it was really difficult for me to even watch this for the first time – I had to pause the video to calm myself first…) And what really drove it home was when Jackie told Rose, “what terrifies me is that you still can't say”… It’s really a great relief for me that Jackie later learned about the T.A.R.D.I.S. I like to imagine that Rose told her about her first adventures with the Doctor later. (Also, let’s not forget poor Ricky – er, Mickey – but that is another topic.)

But I suppose the most important bit about Rose and her mother was when Rose told the Doctor that “I can't tell her. I can't even begin. She's never going to forgive me”. Well, to put it simply, that is not true. That is not how mothers work! Forgiving their children is literally in the job description. Of course, there are exceptions, but the general rule is that mothers love their kids, and that means they will always forgive them. Everything. That doesn’t mean you won’t be punished, or that bad things will be forgotten, or that you won’t suffer consequences, or that your relationship with your mother will be all sunshine and roses – but you will be forgiven. And even though Jackie was deeply hurt, she still cared for Rose a lot. This is best visible when she called the helpline and told them that “she’s not safe”. (By the way, there seems to be a small error – Jackie told them that Rose called the blue box “a T.A.R.D.I.S.”, but at that point she hasn’t heard that name yet!) Needless to say, those of you who believe in God know that He takes that motherly attitude to a whole new level (see Is 49:15 and Mt 18:21-22, for example). This is something worth remembering if you ever do something really bad and are afraid of confessing it.


You are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven. –

MP for Flydale North

The second bit I like a lot about Aliens of London is what Harriet Jones says and does. I mean, she is a treasure for many reasons (most of them rather comical, at least in this story), but one of them is her deep wisdom. The first moment we can see she is special is when she says, “And I know we’ve had a brave new world land right on our doorstep, and that's wonderful. I think that’s probably wonderful.” I am amazed at the quality of writing (and acting) here. These two sentences convey the observation that it’s a big turn for the human civilization, but not necessarily for the better. It is so often that people mistake “something new” for “something better” – but that is not always the case. Well, I’d even argue that it is seldom the case… Human history is full of things touted as new and better only to be revealed later as terrible ideas instead of “progress”. (The three examples I gave in the previous sentence are just that – a few examples I came up with within a few minutes, you can easily find more.) By the way, I won’t give more contemporary examples, even though I have a few in mind – I don’t want to have the Internet police at my door;-) – but it would be rather bold to assume that right now is the unique moment in history when we just happened to get everything right. We saw the reactions to the “crash landing” of the Slitheen – people partying, Matt Baker showing kids how to make a cake in the shape of the spaceship… Harriet Jones was one of the very few who reacted realistically instead of enthusiastically, and it turned out that she was right. I am not entirely sure what qualities you need to be able to see things for what they are, but I think it can be called a good connection to reality, and it probably can be a result of both upbringing and experience. (And let me just mention in passing that the first reaction of the Doctor was also very enthusiastic and very wrong, although I would excuse him by the fact that he knew all along about various alien races existing in the universe and just thought it was the first time humanity at large met them.)


You've seen through my cunning plan.

But Harriet Jones is even better than that. Putting aside the question if meeting the Slitheen was good for the mankind or not, and how aynone could know that right from the start, here is another gem from her:

Nevertheless, ordinary life keeps ticking away. I need to enter this paper.

And this is a really wonderful piece of wisdom. No matter what is happening – alien visit, alien invasion, anything else – small but important matters are still just those – small, but important. People in hospitals are still in need of care, garbage must still be collected, trains must still operate, etc., etc. When big things happen, we have a temptation to drop our duties and go watch those big things. It takes a lot of prudence to know which duties can stay neglected (if only temporarily) and a lot of discipline not to neglect the important ones. (Here’s a funny anecdote illustrating that. Many years ago, when me and my wife exchanged our wedding vows, I used to work at school. Between our wedding ceremony and moving to the new flat to start living together after the party, I lost a file of tests I needed to mark – even worse, I completely forgot about them! My students were probably not very happy when I tried to convince them that no, I don’t owe them any grades;-). When I finally found those tests after a few weeks, I was pretty embarassed…) Anyway, sticking to your daily routine – the “ordinary life” – even in extraordinary circumstances – can be very helpful for both your mind and your job…

And finally, let’s notice how Harriet Jones stayed calm even when watching the Slitheen kill general Asquith. It was only later, when talking with Rose, when she finally broke down in tears. It must have taken a heavy toll on her to remain so strong, but that was what she needed to do to survive and help others. She is a real hero of this episode! I am extremely wary of telling people in difficult situations that they “have to be strong” – when someone goes through some hardships, it’s all too easy to give them advice instead of actually help them, and the “actual help” may mean just being there for them and relieving them of some burden instead of patronizing them – but there are times when just gritting your teeth and not breaking down is the best course of action. This was definitely one of them, and Harriet Jones surely was not any weaker for crying to Rose afterwards.

Last but not least

I could go on about many other things in Aliens of London. Even if I don’t care for this episode too much, there are quite a few moments I do like. The Doctor saying “Take me to your leader” with a grin on his face (neither the first nor the last time he says that!). Jackie slapping him hard in the face. The look on the faces of all three witnesses when “Margaret” undressed from her skin – Indra Ganesh looks disgusted, Harriet Jones a bit shocked, but Rose is just curious. The Westminster tower scene. (By the way, did you know that they built a miniature of Big Ben to shoot it, and that they initially thought the left wing of the Slitheen ship is going to destroy it, so for the final version – with the right wing – they had to flip the image horizontally? If you watch closely, you’ll see that the hour marks go counter-clockwise!)


This is not going to end well, Mickey the Idiot.

But I decided to end this post pointing out Mickey. He’s gone a very long way from the whimpering mess at the end of Rose. First of all, he apparently took over Clive’s website and a mission to tell the world about the Doctor. () Also, he learned a lot about the Doctor by studying various accounts – for example, as the quote at the top of the page says, he knew about the Doctor’s involvement with UNIT. (By the way, did you know that is a real thing – or at least it used to be, since it is mostly dead now? Here are two articles mentioning the events of Rose and The unquiet dead on The Wayback Machine, which is part of Internet Archive.) But the greatest thing about Mickey in this episode is that the Doctor seems to start appreciating him:

– Funny way to invade, putting the world on red alert.
– (in a surprised voice) Good point!

The lesson here is obvious – you can fail completely but still redeem yourself. As long as you still live, it’s never too late, and you always have a chance!