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?orld War Three? the second instalment of the first two-part DOCTOR WHO adventure of the rebooted Saturday night perennial, was exactly what I? hoped the new series would be. Fast, furious, funny, frightening?rankly, fabulous! This is Russell T Davies on stellar form, blowing any of those lingering doubts I?e been harbouring about his ability to pen a succinct, well-plotted adventure story for his TV idol. Here he? done it in style and, for all sorts of very clever reasons, ?orld War Three?was not only better than its already-illustrious predecessor, it might just be the best episode of the new series so far.

Previously on DOCTOR WHO we lucky viewers were treated to the awesome sight of a spaceship slicing into Big Ben before crashing into the Thames, a terrified augmented pig in a spacesuit on the loose in a London hospital, the British Government infiltrated by sinister farting aliens squeezed into human skins. As ?orld War Three?kicks off (the episode, not the actual World War) the Doctor – in best with-one-bound-he-was-three style – uses Slitheen technology against the aliens who, in a classy three-way cliffhangar, are threatening him, Rose and Rose? Mum in three different locations. A breakneck chase around the corridors of power ensues until the Doctor, reunited with Rose and bewildered backbencher Harriet Jones (Wilton) find themselves trapped in the Cabinet room by a trio of angry Slitheen. Using Rose? mobile phone the Doctor manages to forge a link with some very unexpected allies – allies who may just hold the key to saving the world from a very strange bunch of entrepreneurs?n

In the already well-established style of new DOCTOR WHO, ?orld War Three?doesn? let up the pace for a moment. It? an exhausting, exhilarating romp of a story, peppered with Davies? characteristic slick dialogue – here encompassing some sly digs at recent UK military policy – and some genuine moments of both real emotion and real tension. There? a palpable sense of Armageddon cranking up in the last half of the episode as if seems as if the Slitheen family? plan to turn the Earth into a highly-profitable ball of irradiated mud might just succeed. The story? ability to contrast the fantastical – eight-foot tall bug-eyed monsters rushing around 10 Downing Street – with the mundane – the plight of Rose? dowdy Mum and witless boyfriend Mickey – plays to Davies? strengths as a writer. He? equally at home writing dialogue for profit-mad green aliens and for mundane single Mums on run-down housing estates in South London. Although much of the episode is set indoors there? still a sense of scale here thanks to the judicious use of a New York reporter monitoring the progress of a United Nations meeting and a British reporter on Westminster Bridge preparing his audience for what seems to be the end of the new world ushered in by the arrival of the spaceship the day before. It? a brave series which traps its two star names in a single room and leaves two supporting characters to save the day – but Davies pulls it off with wit and elan, strengthening the characters of both Jackie and Mickey whilst giving the ever-energetic Eccleston plenty to get his teeth into (although Billie Piper is a bit side-lined for much of the action).

Only he most mean-minded could find much serious fault with ?orld War Three? There? the odd niggle, of course; the CGI Slitheen are a lot more nimble than the lumbering full-size costumes would have you believe and some of the logic behind the nuclear missile codes and the ease with which Mickey is able to hack into the launch codes of a nearby missile-bearing submarine probably require a larger than normal portion of disbelief-suspension. But such criticisms are rapidly becoming pointless in a series as much fun as this. There? so much sheer vitality and enthusiasm on display here that the viewer? just swept up in it all, revelling in DOCTOR WHO? newfound ability to engage and entertain a modern television audience.

The story itself is resolved with a good fifteen minutes to go – which gives us plenty of time to drift back into the ?haracter arc?stuff Davies is so keen on – and it works so well here. In the space of just five episodes Rose is as real a character as has ever travelled aboard the TARDIS and by the end of this episode not only do Jackie and Mickey know a lot more about the Doctor but we know a lot more about them too. At the end of the story Rose decides she has to resume her travels with the Doctor because the mundanity of her home life – shepherd? pie for tea, a visit to Grandma tomorrow – just hasn? changed and Rose most definitely has. DOCTOR WHO has changed along with her. The trip of a lifetime indeed?n

Next week I suspect 21st century DOCTOR WHO will scale new heights and we might well see the first five-star rating of the series, of not a six. Next week, my friends, is a long-awaited episode simply called ?alek.?]>

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