“World War Three,” Doctor Who, Season 1, Episode 5 (2 of 2)

This show’s entry follows the style of Dan Harmon’s story circle.

Dan Harmon's story circle

World War Three

Let’s all say it together: “Raxacoricofallapatorius!”

The Doctor, Rose, Harriet, Jackie, and Mickey face off against the Slitheen family. This episode is banana pants. As the second part of the story, it doesn’t have all of the hallmarks of a full-blown Dan Harmon-style circle. I don’t think anybody at BBC is looking at the Dan Harmon circle, I just think it’s a useful tool to look at story structure with. This one doesn’t follow it exactly, so I’m going to get close.

1) In a zone of comfort

We start with a grand escape. At the end of the last episode, the Doctor was in the process of being electrocuted to death in a room full of scientific experts. Things were not going well for anybody and he had to get the heck out of there. Rose and Harriet are hiding and evading the aliens as best they can. So I don’t see this as a zone of comfort unless you think in terms of characters who have their comfort zone inside of being in extreme danger.

2) They desire something

The Doctor desires to stop the aliens from carrying out their plan. He has a plan of his own, but he’s hesitant to use it because of the desires of Rose’s mother. Jackie rails the Doctor the entire episode about the safety of her daughter as she travels with him. It keeps the Doctor from acting as quickly as he could.

The alien crime family is interested in profit, but we don’t exactly know how they could get their profit. We just know that they are going to cause a lot of havoc by creating something that they can sell.

3) Enter an unfamiliar situation

After encountering the aliens and running into and out of danger with the UNIT guards, the Doctor, Harriet, and Rose lock themselves in the cabinet room. The Doctor, who is used to being able to run around and do things, is sort of grounded. This puts him off guard and vulnerable, a place he does not like being. I think this is the most unfamiliar thing about the episode. We are all used to the Doctor who runs everywhere, but now he has to stop stand, and face what’s going on.

4) Adapt to the situation

The one link to the world inside the sealed-off room is Rose’s superphone. It’s got a connection when nothing else does. Much like my Internet this afternoon. Sorry, my Internet is dodgy today as I write this. Anyway, they get online with Rose’s superphone and call Mickey. Mickey the idiot, he takes continual abuse from the Doctor, who mispronounces his name on purpose just to tick him off, has to do the one thing that he never wanted to do to get out of the situation. He needs Mickey’s help. It’s not a small order either. The Doctor wants Mickey to hack into the national defense system, eventually, so they can launch rockets.

5) Get what they desired

In this episode, getting what they desire is sort of one-sided to the aliens, but the Doctor gets in there too. The aliens have the world in an uproar, and the Doctor and Mickey launch that missile. The missile comes right at the end though, almost a part of paying the heavy price for winning.

I love Doctor Who. I’ve been watching it since I was 11 or 12. I’ve been watching Doctor Who almost as long as there has been Doctor Who. I love the characters; I love the situations and all the gadgets. I love the fun. I live in South Georgia. I grew up in Atlanta. I lived there for 40 years. The way I grew up, the shows I was exposed to, and the experiences all contributed to turning me into a big anglophile, but I got it honest. To a certain extent, I feel more connected to London and Britain than I do to the United States, and I’ve never been there. It’s not to say I don’t love my country. I’m just saying that it’s a tremendous influence. Can you imagine hacking into the national defense system, from within the White House, and clicking a button that would send a missile from a submarine, directly into the building and blow it up? In this episode that’s the idea, except it’s 10 Downing St. and not the White House, that’s essentially what they’re doing. That is the way to defeat the aliens. To launch a missile at yourself, while inside the capital building of your country.

6) Pay a heavy price for winning

That leads to the best line in the entire series, at least as far as I can tell. The Doctor is dealing with Rose’s mother and her not-so-wrong attitude that a life with him is super dangerous, and the alien threat at the same time. He has a plan to stop the aliens. That plan might kill Jackie’s daughter. He’s in a dilemma. Thank goodness Harriet takes control and tells them to fire the missile.

He says, “I could save the world but lose you.” He means it. You could tell that the Doctor, who is infatuated with Rose, a guy who keeps his distance from everybody because he knows how dangerous his life is, is kinda falling for her. He has feelings, and he’s playing them all out there. 900 years old, and he’s talking to a 19-year-old woman like he’s afraid of losing her.

Mickey, who also loves Rose, but understands the situation, clicks the button.

7) Return to their familiar situation

Things get cleaned up. Harriet Rose and the Doctor crawl out of the wreckage, and Harriet runs off to save people. The Doctor and Rose return. The Doctor hangs out in the TARDIS and fiddles with things while Rose packs at the flat. The Doctor is still teasing Rose, giving her inflated stories, and trying to be a badass and get her excited to come back with him. He knows he’s competing with her mom and that old regular life. He’s trying to make it look exciting when he does not know what’s coming next. Rose has already decided. She’s packing and getting on board.

8) They have overall changed

Rose is now less indecisive about what she wants. She wants to travel with the Doctor and find out everything she can about that life out in the stars. Before it was an impulse, and now it’s a decision after what she and the Doctor have gone through.

I think the Doctor has a lot more to learn from her.

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