This was a vastly better Slitheen story than Aliens of London/World War Three. It built on the few strengths of Aliens of London whilst rolling back the cheesiness and Marvel Who-y-ness. This episode was pitched at a more mature audience than its prequel. It was darker, more sombre and more intelligent. It dealt with themes of homicide, justice and mercy. We saw Blon Fel-Fotch captured by the Doctor, who promised to take her back to her home planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius to meet the justice of her people. “Not my problem,” said the Doctor when Blon objected that she would be met with the death penalty upon returning home. By any measure, Blon deserved the highest punishment of the law for her crimes, but… death? Is it really right to kill someone for their crimes? That was the point the episode was discussing, and it was telling that none of the Doctor’s entourage could look Blon in the eyes as they held her prisoner, awaiting sentence. It was also interesting the way the episode portrayed Blon as unable to face up to her guilt and that she deserved punishment—she tried to justify herself in a number of ways, that she had changed, that she was not all bad, that she was captive to her violent upbringing, but never did she admit guilt or sorrow for what she’d done. Some monsters will blame anyone and anything but themselves. The episode also waded into murkier waters when it was revealed that, at the very moment Blon was imploring the Doctor to believe that she could change, her plan to trick the Doctor and destroy the world was proceeding. Was the point being made that some people are irredeemably evil? In any case, the entire sequence between Blon and the Doctor in the restaurant was really compelling viewing.
It was interesting, in this episode, to observe how the Doctor’s character arc has (subtly) progressed over this series. “Not my problem,” sounds a lot like “Everything has its time and everything dies,” from The End of the World. But observe how the Doctor, although insisting that Blon must be taken back to her planet to be dealt justice, nonetheless seemed somewhat unsure of himself. He, too, couldn’t meet Blon’s eyes. Moreover, he seemed relieved when Blon regressed to an egg after looking into the heart of the TARDIS. He isn’t the cold, PTSD-stricken war survivor that we met at the beginning of the series anymore. Imperceptibly, he’s changed, and the way this character arc was carried out over the course of Series 1 was really well-written and -executed, culminating, of course, in the amazing finale.
The Rose-Mickey drama was really well done. As a paid-up Moffat partisan, even I’ll admit that if there’s one thing RTD was good at, it was character drama. It wasn’t often in Classic Who (never, in fact) that we got to see the unhappy effect of the companions’ travels on the people and the lives they leave behind. Rose left Mickey behind, and it obviously hurt him considerably. I felt bad for Mickey, and rather annoyed at Rose that she couldn’t see how much she’d hurt Mickey, how inconsiderate it was to leave him, and how galling it was that she should expect Mickey to remain loyal to her, obediently awaiting her beck and call like a trained lapdog. I don’t dislike Rose as a character for that, it makes her flawed, which is good, as her character was just becoming slightly too much of a perfect Mary-Sue before now. That said, the blame can’t be placed all at Rose’s feet—Mickey had the opportunity to come with them in the TARDIS at the end of the last Slitheen incident, but declined. It’s just slightly hypocritical to be berating Rose for leaving him out in the cold when he could have come with her long ago. Either Mickey is just a bit of a bitch or that was a slight authorial oversight on RTD’s part.
The sequence in which Blon was bathed in the light of the heart of the TARDIS was really well produced, it all seemed very ethereal, with the Doctor seeming almost angelic as he spoke out of the ghostly TARDIS light. The moment when Blon raised her eyes, a look of perfect tranquillity on her face, and whispered “Thank you…” was really hair-raising—eerie, but in a good way.