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Recap / Doctor Who S27 E4 "Aliens of London"

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A brilliant disguise, layered in fart jokes...

Rose: My mum's here.
The Doctor: Oh, that's just what I need. Don't you dare make this place domestic.
Mickey: You ruined my life, Doctor. They thought she was dead. I was a murder suspect because of you.
The Doctor: You see what I mean? Domestic!

The one with fat people and farting aliens. Yes, really.

Also, the one where the show's timeline jumps ahead by one year until Series 5. Better remember that!

Also, the one with an ambitious MP from Flydale North. And if you don't know who she is, you will soon enough...

Written by Russell T. Davies.

One trip to the past, one trip to the future, and now the Doctor brings Rose home, safe and sound, twelve hours after she left...

But then the Doctor spies a peculiar missing person bulletin on a pillar and turns aghast. He walks up to it, and discovers the person in the photograph... is Rose. Meanwhile, Rose runs in to her mum's flat, thinking she hasn't been missed, only to watch Jackie drop a coffee mug in shock at the return of her daughter and fall apart in her arms. Rose then spots an enormous pile of posters in the flat, all saying Rose has been gone since 2005...


Make that twelve months after she left. Oops. Jackie's life has been hell, Mickey has been under police investigation for Rose's "murder" and is severely traumatized, the police question the Doctor on whether his relationship with Rose is sexual, and Rose now has to cope with everyone thinking she went mad and ran off with a random middle-aged northern bloke in a leather jacket.

Jackie goes all Mama Bear on the Doctor, Mickey sulks in the background, and Rose comes to grips with the fact that no one will ever believe the real story. There's no one out there she can tell about aliens or time travellers.

Not until an enormous spaceship clips Big Ben and crashes into the Thames, anyway.

The Doctor, hearing that the spaceship's pilot has been taken to Albion Hospital, sneaks off to investigate. But the only strange life form he encounters there is Tosh, working for Torchwood. (Also, covering for Owen, who was hung over that day.)


The British government is in full crisis mode, here defined as "a bunch of people running around, not sure what to do". Harriet Jones (MP, Flydale North) displays a crackerjack sense of timing as she decides that the middle of an alien invasion is the perfect time to advance her pet project (a scheme by which cottage hospitals don't have to be excluded from centres of excellence, in case you're wondering). Everyone fends her off, on the grounds that there's an alien invasion on, so she sneaks into the Secret Meeting Room and puts her project briefing folder inside the official alien invasion briefcase. Approaching footsteps warn her to hide in a convenient cupboard, so she's the first to discover that the acting heads of the British government have been taken over by aliens! Dun duh DUUUUN!

The Doctor goes back to pick up Rose, freaking out Jackie but acquiring the invaluable help of Mickey — who's kept himself busy with research in the past year and knows that the Doctor was officially a UNIT employee a few decades back. Jackie gets on the phone and reports an alien sighting of a specific alien, namely the Doctor, which makes the British government go even more apeshit. UNIT immediately sends their black helicopters after the Doctor and Rose, and pretty soon they're on their way to 10 Downing Street for a conference on aliens. The Doctor is able to join in as the UK's resident alien expert.

Rose isn't allowed in, so Harriet Jones (MP, Flydale North) takes her aside and confides to her about the alien thing. The Doctor comes to roughly the same conclusion a few minutes later, when he realizes that the conference on aliens is an excuse to gather all the people most knowledgeable about aliens in one room, and then kill them.


  • 20 Minutes into the Future: This episode starts the pattern of the Russell T Davies era of the Earth episodes being a year ahead of the air date.
  • Adult Fear: From Jackie's point of view, the Doctor is a stranger who ran off with her child.
    "Do you know what terrifies me, is that you still can't say. What happened to you, Rose? What could be so bad that you can't tell me, sweetheart?"
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Doctor decides that if this really is first contact, then it's something humans have to work out for themselves. Once he confirms it's a trap, it's back to business as usual.
  • Aliens of London: Trope Namer.
  • Annoying Laugh: In the finale of the episode, Joe's "evil" laughter continues all while the Slitheen disguised as General Asquith unmasks itself. In fact, Joe can't seem to shut the hell up in this sequence, so his laugh is anything but evil.
  • Arc Words: A kid spray-paints "BAD WOLF" on the side of the TARDIS. As a Brick Joke, the kid is seen at the end of the next episode scrubbing it off.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Being slapped by an irate companion's mum is one experience that's new to the Doctor.
  • Artistic License – Law: There is no official line of succession to the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, so even in the situation that the entire cabinet was unable to be contacted an obscure backbench MP like Joseph Green would not become Acting Prime Minister.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: "Defence Plan Delta!"
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The Doctor manages to get out of being held at gunpoint by a room full of soldiers by shouting "Defence Plan Delta! Come on!" after a scream is heard. He didn't even flash his psychic paper! Then again they are UNIT soldiers, so the Doctor might be using an actual command from when he worked with them.
  • Blatant Lies: When Jackie is chewing out the Doctor and Rose at the beginning.
    Jackie: The hours I've sat here, days and weeks and months, all on my own! I thought you were dead! And where were you travelling?! What the hell does that mean, travelling?! That's no sort of answer! [turns to the police officer in the room with them] You ask her! She won't tell me. That's all she says, "Travelling!"
    Rose: That's what I was doing!
    Jackie: When your passport's still in the drawer! It's just one lie after another!
    Rose: I meant to phone. I really did, I just... I forgot.
    Jackie: What, for a year? You forgot for a year?! And I'm left sitting here! I just don't believe you! Why won't you tell me where you've been?
    The Doctor: Actually, it's my fault. I sort of, er, employed Rose as my companion.
    Policeman: When you say companion, is this a sexual relationship?
    The Doctor & Rose: [look at each other] No!
    Jackie: [gets in the Doctor's face] Then what is it?! Because you, you waltz in here all charm and smiles, and the next thing I know, she vanishes off the face of the Earth! How old are you then? Forty? Forty-five? What, did you find her on the Internet? Did you go online and pretend you're a doctor?
    The Doctor: I am a doctor!
    Jackie: Prove it! Stitch this, mate! [slaps him hard across the face]
  • Board to Death: The aliens posing as Joseph Green, Margaret Blaine and Oliver Charles (later General Asquith) conveniently discuss their plan in the Cabinet room while Harriet Jones (MP, Flydale North) is hiding in the closet. Harriet gets to see them murder Asquith.
  • Calling Out for Not Calling: The Doctor brings Rose home after adventuring in space, saying it's only been 12 hours Earth time since they left. It turns out it's been 12 months. Her mother is quite relieved and upset when she just shows up, not knowing what the big deal is.
    Rose: I meant to phone, I really did, I just... I forgot.
    Jackie: What, for a year? You forgot for a year?
  • Catch-Phrase: "Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North."
  • Chekhov's Gun: The flatulence produced by the Slitheen.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: General Asquith threatens to remove Joseph Green and his comrades from power after their response to his accusations of doing nothing is to laugh and fart a lot. Then they start unzipping their foreheads.
  • Deconstruction: The Doctor takes a young girl up into space, as usual. She leaves her loved ones behind without saying goodbye, as usual. The TARDIS doesn't listen to the Doctor and vworps to the wrong time, as usual... and suddenly, we get to see what happens when all three of those things combine. Rose's mum is deeply traumatized, Mickey was suspected of murder and the Doctor has to explain to the cops that his relationship with Rose is not sexual. However, this doubles as a slight Call-Back to "Survival", where Ace finds her mother had her listed as a missing person and some people thought she had died.
  • Dramatic Drop: The Doctor brings Rose back to London after her first journey in the TARDIS. Problem is, he overshot the return date. He intended to drop her off only twelve hours after they left, but they arrive twelve months into the future. Jackie thought her daughter was missing all this time, and she's so stunned at her daughter's sudden return (while Rose has no idea of how much time really passed), she drops her coffee mug and it smashes into pieces... what a waste of good Joe. And then she furiously bitch-slaps the Doctor when she hears he's responsible for whisking away her beloved child for a year.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Although the Doctor is clearly not impressed with Mickey at all, when he points out how strange it is for the invading aliens to immediately put the entire planet on red alert, he admits this is a good point.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In retrospect: Tosh is there to perform the autopsy on the pig-alien.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: An alien ship crashing through Big Ben before landing in the Thames. The Doctor then deduces that this is a staged event just by the fact that this is too perfect a crash landing in terms of cinematography for just this reason.
  • First Contact: The Slitheen make up a "first contact" situation as part of a plan to destroy the planet.
  • Gasshole: The whole Slitheen family, due to how they compress themselves to fit into their meat suits. (In this episode "Margaret" implies this is actually an unintentional side-effect or result of an equipment malfunction, saying they've "got to fix it", although it doesn't come up again.)
  • Genuine Human Hide: The Slitheen turn the skins of their victims into suits they can wear as disguises.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: One of the Slitheen mentions that he's going to miss his human disguise. "He had a wife, a mistress and a young farmer. God, I was busy."
  • Human Disguise: The Slitheen kill people and use compression technology to fit inside their skins. Due to their size, the Slitheen have to use large humans because their compression fields only shrink them down so much, limiting their plans as they can't, for example, simply impersonate the incumbent Prime Minister. The main Slitheen are disguised as Margaret Blaine of MI-5, Oliver Charles (transport liaison), Joseph Green (MP for Hartley Dale, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Monitoring of Sugar Standards in Exported Confectionary), and General Asquith (for the Slitheen posing as Oliver Charles).
  • Invisible President: Well, Invisible Prime Minister. The episode was broadcast close to the General Election — when the Doctor asks Rose who the PM is, she points out that she missed a year. When they find the PM's corpse, we never see his face in detail.note 
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jackie waves off her persecution of Mickey with "Well what was I supposed to think?" She has a valid point, as Mickey was the last person to see Rose before she disappeared and obviously can't explain what happened.
  • Kill and Replace: The Slitheen murder certain people so they can disguise themselves as them, by wearing their skin.
  • Killed Offscreen: The real Joseph Green, Margaret Blaine, Commissioner Strickland and Oliver Charles have all already been killed some time before the story starts, as has the Prime Minister.
  • Malicious Misnaming: The Doctor insists on calling Mickey "Ricky".
    Mickey: I think I know my own name!
    The Doctor: You think you know your own name? How stupid are you?
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Doctor compares the humanoid pig "alien" to P.T. Barnum's monkey/fish "mermaid".
  • Monumental Damage: An invoked trope on the Slitheen's part. They deliberately crashed the ship into Big Ben to draw attention and make sure everyone saw it.
  • Never My Fault: When it's pointed out that Jackie (falsely) accused Mickey of murdering Rose, all she has to say is "Well, be fair! What was I supposed to think?!" To add insult to injury, she doesn't even apologize to him.
  • Not So Dire: It looks like the Doctor is being arrested in the belief that he's an alien from the crashed spaceship. Turns out the government knows exactly who he is, and are bringing him in as a consultant.
  • Perception Filter: Given that no one notices the zippers the Slitheen have on their foreheads when disguised as humans unless they're actively unzipping them, it can be presumed this is in effect.
  • Pig Man: The pilot of the crashed ship, actually an Earth pig altered to look like an alien.
  • Precision Crash: Subverted. The Slitheen hit Big Ben entirely on purpose, with a spaceship launched from elsewhere on Earth.
  • Reality Ensues: The consequences of the TARDIS' notoriously dodgy choices of "time and place" are in full force, and definitely not played for laughs. Jackie has had to spend a year living with the fact that her daughter vanished without a trace, assuming that Rose was quite possibly dead or worse. Mickey, meanwhile, was hauled in by the police five times for questioning and has become a social pariah on the estate as everyone believed he killed Rose — particularly Jackie, who turned people against him even further. Both of them are furious at the Doctor when he and Rose finally get back, and Mickey in particular finds it hard to forgive Rose.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Doctor casually reveals that he's around nine hundred years old. A bemused Rose can only say that it's one hell of a generation gap.
  • Really Gets Around: One of the Slitheen mentions that he's going to miss his human disguise. "He had a wife, a mistress and a young farmer. God, I was busy."
  • Retcon: Toshiko Sato is called "Dr. Sato" in the script, although she's not a doctor. Torchwood was able to effortlessly retcon it into "Tosh covering for Owen that day".
  • Revealing Cover-Up: The faked spaceship crash is organized by the Slitheen to cause worldwide panic and distract from events, such as the "disappearance" of the Prime Minister, that would be topping the headlines at any other time. While this does get them into power and allow them to wipe out the country's alien-invasion experts, it also alerts the Doctor and company to their presence.
  • Schmuck Bait: While arguing with the Doctor, who insists his name is Ricky, Mickey states he thinks he knows his own name. The Doctor instantly seizes on this chance to insult him further.
  • The Slow Path: Everyone connected to Rose. Jackie is thrown when she explains it's only been a few days for her.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The Doctor pulls one on Dr. Sato at Albion Hospital.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: The Doctor is rather excited about being taken to 10 Downing Street.
  • Tempting Fate: Rose admits to the Doctor that it's pretty cool being the only human on the planet who knows aliens really do exist. A moment later an alien spaceship flies overhead and crashes in the Thames.
  • Toilet Humour: The Slitheen and the entire matter with the gas exchange.
  • Tragic Monster: The poor little pig alien. Just a regular pig turned into an abomination against science, and crashed into the Thames. Poor thing gets shot dead by a spooked soldier.
    The Doctor: He was scared!
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The "Next Time" trailer for the following episode began immediately after the cliffhanger, and showed that all but one of the characters with lines (including minor ones who the viewers might have thought were going to die) would survive. Needless to say, many fans (and even casual viewers) were pissed off at the first Doctor Who cliffhanger in sixteen years being utterly ruined, and future episodes of the series would have the "Next Time" trailer moved to being after the end credits, giving viewers enough time to turn the channel.
    • To a lesser extent, the trailer for this episode after "The Unquiet Dead", which spoils which characters are actually the Slitheen. However, this episode doesn't bother keeping the identities of the Slitheen secret for very long, so it's much less of an issue than the aforementioned instance.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Whenever a Slitheen unzips their disguise, the universal reaction of government officials, military officers, civil servants and random civilians alike is to watch in stunned passive silence.
  • Troll: Russell T Davies deliberately inserted a line of dialogue for Rose where she said to the Doctor, "You're so gay!" to set off a heated discussion about homosexuality within fan circles. For the record, Davies himself is gay.
  • Unexpected Successor: Part of the Slitheen's plan. They murder the Prime Minister, making it look like he's mysteriously vanished, and arrange for the Cabinet to be stranded outside London, making the most senior MP available to become acting PM one Joseph Green, the identity assumed by the Slitheen's leader.
  • Whitehall: Number 10, Downing Street is the setting of most of this episode and the next.
  • The X of Y: "Aliens of London".
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The episode opens with the characters expecting this trope, only to discover that it's been subverted and Rose has been missing for a year, complete with missing person posters and a police investigation, meaning it's actually...
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: As Rose tells Jackie, "It's only been a couple days for me."

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 1 E 4 Aliens Of London


Example of: