Tuesday, July 19, 2005


'Doctor Who' is back on Earth!

Fifteen years after the last regular episode, six years after the one TV movie for the Eighth Doctor, we've had a full series of thirteen episodes featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Incarnation.

The final episode for this year has aired, signaling the end of Eccleston's tenure and marking the debut of David Tennant in the role.

And so to celebrate, most of my essays and all of the Crossovers will be dedicated to the Doctor for the rest of the summer.

Be forewarned: In my essays during this summer salute to 'Doctor Who', there will be spoilers for each of the episodes, especially in regard to summaries.....

First off, here's a recap of the episode:

Location: London, Earth
Date: March 2006
Enemy: Slitheen

With the Doctor, Rose, and MP Harriet Jones trapped inside Downing Street, the Slitheen make their move: Nuclear War. If the human race is obliterated, the Earth can be sold on the Galactic Black Market for a very reasonable price. It's up to the Doctor to defeat the Slitheen before the population of the Earth falls dramatically below recommended amount...
[Thanks to TV.com]


This is the second part of a story begun last week with "The Aliens Of London". I thought that episode should have been entitled "The Gas Exchange", while this week should have retained its original title, "Number 10 Downing". That had a nice play on words in it, considering what happens in the episode.

As often as possible, I want all TV shows broadcast, no matter the country of origin, to be incorporated into the main TV Land, Earth Prime-Time, AKA Toobworld. I don't care if the show is crap on tape, it deseves its place within the TV Universe.

But sometimes a show comes along that violates some precept of the established facts of Toobworld and which just can't be splained away. Even then, I try my damnedest to get it included - even if I have to do the Limbo with my splainins. (It might have helped had I been like Mr. Loopner on 'Saturday Night Live' - born without a spine.)

Take 'Space: 1999', for example. We know that up to a point, the events of that show DID happen. There were secret government bases already established on the Moon; we knew that since back in the days of 'Get Smart'!

And there was an explosion on the surface of the Moon in 1999; it was caused by Orlando Jones in a 1999 TV commercial for 7-Up.

So his laser beam detonated one of the nuclear waste dumps up there on the Moon and that keeps the show in alignment with the rest of the universe.

But it did NOT cause the Moon to break free of its orbit and head out in Unknown Space! Otherwise, how could it still be around for episodes of 'Futurama' and 'Enterprise'?

So my splainin? Commander Koenig was thrown into a coma by the explosions and everything we saw after the blasts was all created in the deep sub-conscious of his mind. That way, we get to keep 'Space: 1999' in the TV Universe.

(A similar splainin was worked up for 'Jack Of All Trades'. It didn't really happen; what we saw were the syphilitic remembrances of a deranged old man looking back on his youth in 1801. Jack Styles was more of a Baron Munchausen than a Jeffersonian James Bond.)

But when even a convoluted splainin fails, thank God there was a show called 'Sliders', as well as all the other series that ever dealt with alternate TV dimensions! At least we can find these "problem children" a good home somewhere else.

These two episodes of 'Doctor Who' (as well as that of the upcoming "Boomtown") fall into that category. There are three incidents that occur during "Aliens Of London" and "World War Three" which violate the established facts of Toobworld.

1] An alien spaceship crashes through Big Ben.
2] Prime Minister Tony Blair is murdered.
3] Number 10 Downing Street is blowed up real good.

I think I've established my argument already in essays past as to why the death of Tony Blair should eliminate this episode from being included in Toobworld. The world leaders of Earth Prime-Time must correspond to the established world leaders of Earth Prime. Other TV shows may still come along and either have an actor impersonating Mr. Blair, or make joking references to him, or - as was the case on 'The Simpsons', - Tony Blair might even make an appearance as himself.

Not that I'm expecting him to have an affair with one of the 'Footballers' Wives', but he might still drop in for a chat with 'The Kumars At Number 42'.

So to have killed him off, that shunts these particular episodes off to another dimension.

And yet this doesn't cause any problems about keeping 'Doctor Who' within the boundaries of Earth Prime-Time. That's because the TARDIS is able to traverse both time and space - and that includes other dimensions.

After all, the name of the contraption was coined by the Doctor's grand-daughter as an acronym: Time And Relative Dimension In Space.

It wouldn't be the first time the TARDIS traveled outside its home dimension. It did so during the Second Doctor's incarnation, in the story "The Mind Robbers". ("The Fiction Makers", a two-part episode of 'The Saint', would have been a MUCH better title.)

This alternate dimension would also have its own Doctor and its own Rose Tyler, both of whom were conveniently elsewhere at the time so as not to cause any embarrassing incidents of mistaken identity - at least between themselves. This dimension also had its own versions of Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith who had not seen Rose for nearly a year since she had skarkerd off with the Time Lord.

So when Rose finally returned, they naturally assumed that she was their Rose, and conversely, Rose thought of them as her own mother and her own boyfriend.

For his part, the Doctor is never seen correcting them on these assumptions. But then he has expressed often during these episodes that humans are apes who wouldn't be able to grasp the basics of the science which he deals with on a regular basis.

As far as I know, the alternate Doctor and Rose could have landed in the home dimension of their counterparts, Earth Prime-Time. And that would be just another unrecorded adventure which so many TV shows seem to have.

So now we have the Doctor and Rose landing in another TV dimension, which one is it? If you can remember back to the lead-off to this essay, then you'll know that I chose Earth Prime-Time Jed, the dimension in which 'The West Wing' takes place.

Obviously, 'The West Wing' can't take place in the main Toobworld for the same reasoning as these episodes. The President of the United States is Josiah Bartlet, not George W. Bush. (Or Bill Clinton, as in earlier seasons of the show.) On Earth Prime-Time, Josiah Bartlet is a doctor in Boston, as was once mentioned on an episode of 'St. Elsewhere'.

And we can't try to shove 'The West Wing' into the near-future, as they dealt with the coming Millennium in this administration, as well as with their own version of the attack on the World Trade Center. So in TV Time, this show deals in "current" events.

President Bartlet is not the only world leader who has replaced his counterpart from Earth Prime. We have seen alternate versions for the Prime Minister of Israel and the leader of the Palestinian cause. We have at least heard the name of the Russian Premier, if not actually seen him, and it hasn't been Putin or Yeltsin.

But there isn't a hard and fast rule over this. The Queen of England is still Elizabeth of the House of Windsor. (White House Counsel Lionel Tribbie received his cricket bat from her personally.) And Fidel Castro is still in charge down in Cuba. (Leo went down there on a secret mission to negotiate talks between both nations.)

(By the way, the fact that Castro and the Queen are still in power is another indication that 'The West Wing' is set in the present timeline. Neither one of them is a spring chicken and they won't be around for too many more years, I'm thinking.)

So it is possible that Tony Blair was the Prime Minister, even though his American counterpart was a fictional character. And since this story is set in a fictional dimension where anything could happen, Blair could be killed off by the Slitheen family.

The other two reasons why I was setting these episodes in the dimension of 'The West Wing' were the destructions of Big Ben and Number 10 Downing Street. As was the case with the Moon's disappearance on 'Space: 1999', you can't have something like that happen in the TV Universe without having it mentioned in other TV shows. Once Big Ben shows up in the background of a scene from 'EastEnders', let's say, it's all over.

But it should be okay so far as 'The West Wing' is concerned. Remember, "Aliens Of London" and "World War Three" take place in March of 2006. Now, if NBC follows the same path they did last year, they might let 'The West Wing' run its course uninterrupted by interminable repeats and finish its run by March of next year.

That's what they did with this, the penultimate season of the show; and we as the audience were able to experience a continuous build-up towards the season finale. It's my belief that this only strengthened the show and helped restore the audience's interest.

However, this is also going to be the final season for the series. And it's possible that the Suits would rather stretch out the season with repeats and preemptive specials so that they could do a big finish during May Sweeps. That's when the ad revenue rates are re-negotiated based on the ratings.

Still it's possible we could make it through those two months following the 'Doctor Who' story without any need to mention Big Ben, Number 10 Downing Street, an alien invasion of London...... It just seems odd that such a thing wouldn't come up even in passing during any episodes of 'The West Wing' which take place afterwards.

Then again, how often did their version of the WTC attacks come up afterwards? By my recollection, aside from any ancillary topics like Homeland Security, I think there was only that one misguided episode that Sorkin wrote to address the issue.

Even if 'The West Wing' does make it past the date of March, 2006, "World War Three" provides an out for any discrepancies that might crop up. Before the dust had even settled after the defeat of the Slitheens, the British government and the country's newspapers were working in collusion to pass off the entire event as a hoax.

That ruse might be able to work in the dimension of 'The West Wing'... unless the CIA reports their findings to President Bartlet (or his successor). I doubt we'll ever see a scene in which Jed asks Ambassador John Lord Marbury exactly what was the story with that alien pig. Nor will we likely see a summit meeting between President Bartlet and the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harriet Jones, formerly the MP of Flydale North.

But no matter. This version of the Doctor and Rose Tyler don't hang around to find out, as they're off to the main Toobworld.......



WordsSayNothing said...

There are some other issues that you have to incorporate into your theory to make it work:

1. We're missing a year of The West Wing. The upcoming presidential election between Arnold Vinick and Matt Santos should really be the 2006 election. Furthermore, that means that a lot of what we've seen this past season really happened in 2005-06 rather than 2004-05. The problem that nobody has seemed to be able to resolve clearly, however, is where exactly the missing year goes (i.e., between which episodes or whatever). The best attempt I've seen is this.

2. We know that the British Prime Minister in The West Wing universe in the middle of season six (this past season) is a woman named Maureen Graty. We actually see her on a television screen on the show, so there's little wiggle room in actually identifying her. We also know at least one relative time and date when she is PM. The episode in which Graty appears, "The Wake Up Call", takes place between the two episodes around it, "King Corn" and "Freedonia", which respectively contain the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, both of which have relatively rigid timeframes in which they could possibly take place. Additionally, "The Wake Up Call" contains a direct mention of Valentine's Day--Bartlet and Abbey are going to see some opera to celebrate. So, on or around Valentine's Day 2006, Maureen Graty is British PM.

3. I don't recall if either "The Aliens of London" or "World War Three" refer to the former (dead) PM as a man or not, but if the PM is a he, then you have to have a different male PM come to power between February 14, 2006 and June 28, 2006, the established date when "The Aliens of London" takes place. Given the relative fluidity of the parliamentary election system, this is possible.

4. If we ever see Maureen Graty again on The West Wing, you will have to say that Graty returned to power and Harriet Jones doesn't come to power as PM for another few years.

Just a few things to keep in mind. And now my mind has turned to mush to process all of that info. If anything else comes to mind, you know I'll just post it here.

Toby said...

First off, I'd be interested in where the June date comes from. Everything I see has been March of 2006. (I'm watching the episode again tomorrow as part of my vacation plans. an episode a day!

Next, I should have pointed out that it was just my own supposition that the dead Prime Minister was Tony Blair. (No, it was NOT wishful thinking!) It's just that the body which tumbled out of the closet was male, slightly balding in the skullcap area, and could reasonably be assumed to be Tony Blair.

But even should he be a different character, your new additions to the West Wing timeline and the introduction of Ms. Graty do throw a monkey wrench into the works.

Does a changeover of government after a vote of no confidence take time over there? Would there be enough time for a change in PMs between Valentine's Day and March whatever?

You're right - I can't have it both ways when it comes to the West Wing timeline. If I insist that they adhere to our timeline for the Millennium references, then they have to adhere to the election schedule as well.....

Unless...... smell that smoke? the wheels are turning in my head!

Maybe their universe had a change in the constitution which is what led to the new line of succession among the Presidents? I'll have to give that more thought.

Thanks as always, WSN. Just add a few more letter to that and I get "Watson" - both you and Hugh are excellent when it comes to me needing somebody to bounce ideas off.

Toby said...

And another thing...

I did make the assumption that Harriet Jones would immediately become PM, but it might happen sometime in the future once they've come out of all this chaos. After the English people have had a chance to see what she's made of.

Hugh D. said...

No problem with the idea that the Doctor might visit an alternate Earth in
the Tardis--I've always felt the Doctor was landing on different dimensional
planes in episodes, even if his main visits were to a particular version of

The question I have, though--is this Earth you write about (ostensibly, the
world you've labelled for West Wing and, I think, Spin City) the same
alternate Earth seen in Inferno? Is UNIT in Aliens of London (you're
right--No. 10 Downing is much better)?

By the way, did you see that my memory of Morleys cigarettes has gotten a
thread going further at Tommy's Mind?


WordsSayNothing said...

The June date for "The Aliens of London"/"World War Three" I get from Wikipedia, which states: "A poster announcing Rose's disappearance states that she has not been seen since March 6, 2005. However, the BBC-produced 'official' UNIT website at http://www.unit.org.uk/ indicates that the climatic events of 'Rose' happened on March 26. The site also dates the events of this episode to June 28, 2006."

I'd say that cements things there. (Wikipedia is a tremendous resource.) In any case, the June date gives more wiggle room to play Prime Minister musical chairs, so I think that actually helps your theory a bit.

Toby said...

I'll accept it as well then - I can always use wiggle room!

And I'll back up the praise for Wikipedia; I already planned to quote from their entry with the next "Who" essay.