World War Three (Doctor Who)

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160b – "World War Three"
Doctor Who episode
World War 3 (Doctor Who).jpg
The Slitheen, in 10 Downing Street, await a call on the "red telephone" for the nuclear launch codes.
Directed by Keith Boak
Written by Russell T Davies
Script editor Elwen Rowlands
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Mal Young
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 1.5
Series Series 1
Length 42 minutes
Originally broadcast 23 April 2005
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Aliens of London" "Dalek"
List of Doctor Who serials

"World War Three" is the fifth episode of the first series in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who which was first broadcast on 23 April 2005. It is the second of a two-part story which began with "Aliens of London", on 16 April.

In the episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) team up with Rose's boyfriend Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke), her mother Jackie (Camille Coduri), and Member of Parliament Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) to foil the plan of the alien Slitheen family from selling the Earth for commercial purposes. The Slitheen, who have invaded 10 Downing Street, plan to get the United Nations to release nuclear activation codes so they can trigger World War III on Earth and sell the remains.


Following from the cliffhanger in "Aliens of London", the Doctor survives an electrical pulse from the Slitheen while Mickey Smith is able to push aside the impostor police inspector advancing on Jackie Tyler. The Doctor attempts to get the police, but by the time he has returned the Slitheen have gotten back into their suits. The Doctor escapes to the upper floors of 10 Downing Street and reunites with Rose and Harriet in the Cabinet Rooms. Just before sealing off the rooms, the Doctor confronts the Slitheen and learns that they are a family rather than a race. The Slitheen tell him that they are not invading Earth but raiding it for some commercial purpose.

Although the Slitheen have blocked all communications to the Cabinet Rooms, Rose's altered mobile phone allows her to make contact with Mickey and Jackie. The Doctor gives Mickey instructions on how to log into the UNIT website on his computer, and uses the information to determine that the Slitheen ship is presently in the North Sea transmitting a signal that the Doctor attempts to decode.

Green and the other Slitheen declare a matter of national security and request that the UN release the activation codes to launch a nuclear strike against a fictitious mothership supposedly hanging over London. The Doctor realises that the Slitheen actually plan to fire the weapons against other countries in order to start World War III. The Slitheen plan to sell the Earth's radioactive remains as a fuel source, which they have already begun advertising through the signal Mickey has decoded. The Doctor helps Mickey to hack into the controls of a Royal Navy submarine and fire a missile at 10 Downing Street. The Slitheen are caught in the explosion when the missile hits but the Doctor, Rose, and Harriet all survive. The press dismisses the events as a hoax.

Afterwards, Jackie invites the Doctor for dinner but he declines. The Doctor gives Mickey a CD to upload to the internet that will remove all mentions of the Doctor from the web. He also privately offers Mickey the chance to come travel with him, but Mickey admits that he's too scared and wouldn't be able to handle it. He asks the Doctor not to tell Rose about his concerns. Rose arrives with a full backpack and asks the Doctor if Mickey can come along, and the Doctor covers for Mickey by saying that he doesn't want him in the TARDIS.


In the 2006 episode "Love & Monsters", reference is made to a "Bad Wolf" virus that deleted all mention of Rose Tyler.[1] In the same episode, the Doctor learns that the Slitheen home planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius has a sister planet named Clom.

Continuing the "Bad Wolf" theme begun in "The End of the World", the American newsreader announcing the UN's decision is named "Mal Loup", a poor French translation of "Bad Wolf".[2]

As well as a reappearance in the episodes "Boom Town",[3] and Attack of the Graske, the Slitheen also return in the BBC books The Monsters Inside (along with another family of the same race, called the Blathereen) and The Slitheen Excursion. They also appear in The Sarah Jane Adventures episodes Revenge of the Slitheen, The Lost Boy and From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love.

Harriet Jones reappears in "The Christmas Invasion", by which time she has become Prime Minister.[4] She also makes an appearance in The Stolen Earth, where she refers to herself as the former prime minister.[5] A parallel universe's version of her is also mentioned in Doomsday.[6]

In the episode "The Sound of Drums", the Master sets up office in the newly rebuilt number 10 Downing Street,[7] referring to its destruction in this episode.


According to Russell T Davies (among others), this episode was called "Aliens of London, Part Two" until the last minute, when the name was changed to "World War 3", soon amended to "World War Three". The Telos Publishing Ltd. book Back to the Vortex cites "10 Downing Street" as another working title. This decision has proved to be a precedent, as in the original series all multi-episode stories shared a title from "The Savages" onwards. All multi-episode stories in the new series have continued to have individual titles except The End of Time.

Cast notes[edit]

Lachele Carl reappears as the American reporter seen in "Aliens of London". She is later seen in "The Christmas Invasion",[4] "The Sound of Drums",[7] "The Poison Sky",[8] "Turn Left",[9] "The Stolen Earth"[5] and the Sarah Jane Adventures story Revenge of the Slitheen.[10] In "Turn Left," it is revealed that her name is Trinity Wells. She also appeared in the spin-off Torchwood, in the five episodes serial Children of Earth.

Outside references[edit]

Elements of the story parody the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the actions of the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. This includes a pre-emptive strike based on information of the presence of "massive weapons of destruction" which could be deployed in 45 seconds, as opposed to Blair's "weapons of mass destruction" that could be deployed in "45 minutes".

The use of vinegar on calcium "just like Hannibal" references the story of how Hannibal's engineers, while crossing the Alps, heated boulders that blocked their way with wood fires, then poured vinegar over them. The rocks, weakened by the heat, were broken up by the vinegar into smaller pieces, which were then easily moved to clear a path.

When Sip Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, the Slitheen disguised as Police Commissioner Strickland, appears outside Mickey's flat, the word "Salford" appears as graffiti on the wall near the elevator. Salford is Christopher Eccleston's hometown.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"World War Three" received a final rating of 7.98 million viewers in the United Kingdom.[11]

The episode's initial Canadian broadcast on CBC had a programming error. The action before the title sequence which was supposed to resolve the previous episode's cliffhanger — by showing the Doctor turning the tables with the electrified ID badge — was omitted. This led to understandable confusion from Canadian viewers. The error was corrected on the repeat broadcast, although the sequence appeared after the opening titles.[citation needed]

This episode together with "Aliens of London" and "Dalek" were the first released on the UMD format for the PlayStation Portable.[citation needed]

Like the first part of the story, "World War Three" has received generally mixed reviews. Arnold T Blumburg of Now Playing gave the episode a grade of C+, finding it slightly better than "Aliens of London" because it minimized the "juvenile" humour associated with the Slitheen and had good performances by the actors portraying them, though some of the effects were lacking. He criticised the direction and "thin" resolution of the UNIT missile operated from a home computer, but he praised the storyline with Rose's family, highlighting the performances of Clarke and Coduri.[12] In 2013, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times felt that Wilton's performance as Harriet Jones was the best part of the "flashy but silly, disappointing story". He praised Rose's storyline due to the "vivid" characters, though he found Eccleston's performance lacking. He also was critical of the Slitheen as believable monsters to be taken seriously.[13] The A.V. Club reviewer Alasdair Wilkins gave the episode a grade of B-. He found the problem to be more in the execution than conception; there was a possibility of satire in the fart jokes of the Slitheen, but the direction and performances let it down. Because it veered close to being silly and not taking the Slitheen seriously, he argued that the televised version did not display its more nuanced parts, like each Slitheen having individuality, the exploration of the human race knowing about extraterrestrials, and Rose's home life. Wilkins also questioned why the Slitheen would invade a country that required the UN's permission to launch nuclear missiles.[14] In Who is the Doctor, a guide to the revived series, Graeme Burk noted that the story was "loved and hated by fans in equal measure" but it was an unexpected "delight" for him. He found the Slitheen's humour to work on many levels and highlighted the domestic conflict and the performances.[15] Burk's coauthor Robert Smith? called it the closest the new series and Davies "ever gets to pastiching the Classic Series' most beloved writer, Robert Holmes." He also praised the domestic situation, though he found the political satire "one-note" and the direction disappointing. "World War Three" he described as "slight" on plot with improbable Internet-ready missiles, but the ending was still "wonderful" and Eccleston's performance of the more serious material sold the episode.[16]


  1. ^ Russell T Davies (writer), Dan Zeff (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (17 June 2006). "Love & Monsters". Doctor Who. Series 2. Episode 10. BBC. BBC One. 
  2. ^ BBC. "American News Report" (RealPlayerher). Retrieved 11 October 2007. 
  3. ^ Russell T Davies (writer), Joe Ahearne (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (4 June 2005). "Boom Town". Doctor Who. Series 1. Episode 11. BBC. BBC One. 
  4. ^ a b Russell T Davies (writer), James Hawes (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (25 December 2005). "The Christmas Invasion". Doctor Who. Series 2. Episode - 2005 Christmas Special. BBC. BBC One. 
  5. ^ a b Russell T Davies (writer), Graeme Harper (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (28 June 2008). "The Stolen Earth". Doctor Who. Series 4. Episode 12. BBC. BBC One. 
  6. ^ Russell T Davies (writer), Graeme Harper (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (8 July 2006). "Doomsday". Doctor Who. Series 2. Episode 13. BBC. BBC One. 
  7. ^ a b Russell T Davies (writer), Colin Teague (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (23 June 2007). "The Sound of Drums". Doctor Who. Series 3. Episode 12. BBC. BBC One. 
  8. ^ Helen Raynor (writer), Douglas Mackinnon (director), Susie Liggat (producer) (3 May 2008). "The Poison Sky". Doctor Who. Series 4. Episode 5. BBC. BBC One. 
  9. ^ Russell T Davies (writer), Graeme Harper (director), Susie Liggat (producer) (21 June 2008). "Turn Left". Doctor Who. Series 4. Episode 11. BBC. BBC One. 
  10. ^ Gareth Roberts (writer), Alice Troughton (director), Matthew Bouch (producer) (24 September 2007). Revenge of the Slitheen. The Sarah Jane Adventures. BBC. BBC One, CBBC. 
  11. ^ Russell, Gary (2006). Doctor Who: The Inside Story. London: BBC Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-563-48649-7. 
  12. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (27 April 2005). "Doctor Who - "World War Three"". Now Playing. Archived from the original on 27 April 2005. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (7 March 2013). "The Aliens of London/World War Three ***". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Wilkins, Alasdair (1 December 2013). "Doctor Who: "Aliens of London"/"World War Three"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Burk and Smith? pp. 20-22
  16. ^ Burk and Smith? pp. 22-23


  • Burk, Graeme; Smith?, Robert (6 March 2012). "Series 1". Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who-The New Series (1st ed.). ECW Press. pp. 3–62. ISBN 1-55022-984-2. 

External links[edit]