"World War Three
" is an episode
in the British science fiction television
series Doctor Who
that was first broadcast on April 23
. It is the second of a two-part story. The first part, "Aliens of London
" was broadcast on April 16
As the Doctor, Rose Tyler and their new friend Harriet Jones battle the murderous Slitheen in 10 Downing Street, the Doctor realises that the fate of the Earth rests on Mickey Smith.
Following from the cliffhanger
in "Aliens of London
", the Doctor
, being extraterrestrial, is able to survive an electrical pulse triggered by the Slitheen Green
that has killed the other alien experts
in the room; he manages to direct the charge to Asquith
, and the shock spreads to Green and the other Slitheen: Margaret Blaine
is temporarily stunned, allowing Harriet Jones
and Rose Tyler
to escape from 10 Downing Street
, while Mickey Smith
is able to push aside the police inspector
that was advancing on Jackie Tyler
and pull her from the apartment. The Doctor attempts to get the police, but by the time he has returned, the Slitheen have gotten back into their suits, and the Doctor's claim that the Acting Prime Minister
is an alien is rebuffed, with Green instead pinning the deaths of the alien experts on the Doctor, and orders his capture. The Doctor escapes to the upper floors of 10 Downing Street
, and helps Rose and Harriet to escape back to the Cabinet Rooms so they can determine what Emergency Protocols are in place for an alien invasion. The Doctor shortly follows them, after learning that the Slitheen are a family, and they are not invading Earth but here for business reasons.
The Emergency Protocols are found to be of no help as they list the alien experts already dead in the room downstairs, and that they cannot launch nuclear weapons at the Slitheen as the codes for the United Kingdom can only be released after authorization by the United Nations, due to a past incident. With no other course of action, they attempt to learn what they can about the Slitheen, and determine they are a calcium-based lifeform from Raxacoricofallapatorius, and that they use compression collars to squeeze their bodies into the human skins, which accounts for their flatulence. The group is called by Mickey and Jackie, having taken refuge in Mickey's flat. The Doctor gives Mickey instructions on how to log into the UNIT website, and uses that to determine that the Slitheen ship is presently in the North Sea, transmitting some signal that Mickey attempts to decode. However, as he works, the Slitheen posing as a police inspector breaks in, but thanks to advice from the Doctor, Jackie is able to douse it with copious amounts of vinegar containing acetic acid, which react with the calcium-based creature, causing it to explode.
At the sense of loss of their brother, Green and the other Slitheen declare a matter of national security and request that the UN release the activation codes to strike against a fictitious mothership that is hanging over London. The Doctor realizes that the Slitheen actually plan to fire the weapons against other countries, starting World War III and leaving the world as a radioactive dump, which they would then sell off to the rest of the galaxy as a fuel source, that fact being advertised through the signal Mickey has decoded. The Doctor recognizes a solution but tells Jackie he cannot promise Rose's safety, but before Jackie can react, Rose tells the Doctor to go ahead, further ordered by the highest elected representative left, Harriet Jones. The Doctor tells Mickey to access the Royal Navy HMS Taurean, a Trafalgar class submarine off the coast of Plymouth, and to fire a Harpoon missile at 10 Downing Street, where all the Slitheen have gathered to try to deal with the Doctor and his group. The area around 10 Downing is cleared while the Doctor, Rose, and Harriet take shelter in the Cabinet Rooms. The Slitheen attempt to escape though are delayed by putting on their human suits as they do not want to reveal themselves to the world at large, and are caught in the explosion when the missile hits. The Doctor, Rose, and Harriet all survive, and the Doctor encourages Harriet to take the position of Prime Minister and help rebuild the government. The entire event is stated in the press as a hoax, and the Doctor has Mickey use a special computer virus to wipe all records of The Doctor from the Internet.
The Doctor cancels the Slitheen advertisement, and declines an offer by Jackie for dinner so she can get to know him better, now that she knows the Doctor is part of Rose's life. The Doctor offers Mickey an opportunity to be part of the crew, but he declines, saying the Doctor's world is not for him. Rose, after packing some her belongings, rejoins the Doctor for more travels.
- Using the date of the crash as given on the UNIT website and from the passage of time seen on-screen, the main events of this two-part story take place on June 28 and June 29, 2006. This means that both the UNIT website and Mickey's website are one year in the future from the broadcast date.
- Rose echoes the Doctor's previous claim that "lots of planets have a North" when Harriet Jones questions his accent.
- The Slitheen scheme is also what the Dominators were intending to do to the planet Dulkis in the Second Doctor serial The Dominators (1968).
- The fact that the UN is the caretaker for the codes to launch a nuclear strike harkens back to the very first Fourth Doctor serial, Robot (1974), where the UK was the guardian of the "destructor codes" that could launch the world's nuclear arsenals.
- Although the Doctor asked Mickey to erase his presence from the Internet, Mickey's website, http://www.whoisdoctorwho.co.uk, indicates that he may not have done so. In the 2006 episode "Love & Monsters", reference is made to a "Bad Wolf" virus that deleted all mention of Rose Tyler; whether this is somehow related to the Doctor's virus is unclear. Another mention of a virus is on the UNIT website.
- Continuing the "Bad Wolf" theme begun in "The End of the World", the American newsreader announcing the UN's decision is named "Mal Loup", French for "Bad Wolf". The name appears not in the televised clip, but the version on Mickey's website. (See Story arcs in Doctor Who.)
- 10 Downing Street is also destroyed in the Doctor Who-related Big Finish Productions audio play UNIT: The Longest Night.
- The "World War Three" of the episode's title is averted by the Doctor's plan. However, a World War Three may be presumed to occur at some point in the Doctor Who universe, since the Doctor has referred to World War Five (in "The Unquiet Dead") and the almost-starting of World War Six (in The Talons of Weng-Chiang).
- As well as a reappearance in the episode "Boom Town", the Slitheen return in the BBC book The Monsters Inside along with another family of the same race, called the Blathereen.
- Harriet Jones reappears in "The Christmas Invasion", by which time she has become Prime Minister. She also re-appears in "The Stolen Earth and names herself as former prime minister and surenders herself to the Daleks in order to save mankind. A parallel universe's version of her is also referenced in "Doomsday".
- In the episode "The Sound of Drums", the Master sets up office in the newly rebuilt number 10, referencing 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 as a precedent, in the original series since the Third Doctor all multi-episode stories shared a title. All multi-episode stories in the new series have continued to have individual titles.
- Elements of the story parody the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the actions of the 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.
- The Doctor mentions that the Slitheen scheme to make a profit will cost "5 billion lives". The human population of the Earth in reality, as of January 2005, is estimated at approximately 6.4 billion.
- When a Slitheen disguised as a policeman 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 DVD releases
- 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.
- This episode together with "Aliens of London" and "Dalek" were the first released on the UMD format for the PlayStation Portable.