Not completely phew, but largely phew. Part 2 shared many of last week’s faults, but to a lesser degree, and crucially it balanced the silly stuff with more serious stuff.
Rose’s Mum and Mickey come into their own this week, without becoming either annoying converts to the Doctor’s cause, or two-dimensional antagonists. Both feel a lot more layered, and Rose’s Mum in particular triggers more serious drama and less sit-com or soap material than I would have expected. That’s also true with regard to the Doctor, whose relationship with Rose is seriously questioned for the first time. We also get to see the many facets of the Doctor’s personality; his flippant side, certainly, but also foolishness and self-doubt, grim determination, genuine compassion, arrogance and selfishness. Eccleston is a good here as he’s ever been, and in particular his grimmer moments later in the episode demonstrate why he’s such a strong choice for the role.
Plotwise the aliens are not quite as predictable – either in their nature or their plans – as we might have expected. Physically the Slitheen are pretty well-realised, with both the monster suits and the CGI being inconsistent but leaving an overall impression of strong design and competent execution. I did find it a bit peculiar, not to say contrived, that they kept jumping in and out of their human suits, but otherwise they were adequate to the demands of the story.
On the downside the plot is deeply implausible on all sorts of levels. Even assuming the alien plot makes sense, the speed with which the UN acts is somewhat staggering. It’s impossible to miss the massively unsubtle satire on the Iraq War which is hammered home several times, but the satire doesn’t really make it any more plausible. The whole thing feels rushed. Likewise a U.N.I.T. website with a single master password that lets you remotely launch conventional missiles from a submarine is, just perhaps, stretching credibility a tad. Even Buffy didn’t quite have this much blind faith in the power of the internet, although recent series of Spooks can probably give this episode a run for its money.
Other weak stuff includes plenty more fart gags (crucial to the plot, no less) and some silly running around corridors and lifts that feels more suited to Benny Hill. The incidental music is occasionally dire, although most of the time it’s merely unsubtle rather than actively cheesy.
Overall, however, this episode is a big improvement on last week, and even leaves me looking a little more kindly on part one. It’s certainly back in the realms of quality occupied by the pilot episode, which is no bad thing.