World War Three (TV story)

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World War Three was the fifth episode of series one of Doctor Who.

The episode concluded the story begun in Aliens of London. It was notable for featuring the first instance of Mickey Smith actively assisting the Doctor, and therefore behaving like a companion, something that he would eventually become in due time. It suggested a bright political future for Harriet Jones, something that the Tenth Doctor would later actively change about the timeline in The Christmas Invasion. It was also the first time in the history of Doctor Who that the Doctor's TARDIS was shown to have a working telephone — something that would feature much more prominently throughout the Steven Moffat era — the first Russell T Davies era of the show (2005-2010) preferring to use the mobile phone Martha Jones gave to the Tenth Doctor in Last of the Time Lords.

To coincide with this television story, the short stories Number Ten Pays Tribute to UNIT and Number Ten were released on the U.N.I.T. tie-in website, giving further details on the destruction of 10 Downing Street from UNIT's perspective.


With the threat of interplanetary war looming, the human race prepare for the end, little knowing their enemies lie at the heart of the British government. As the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler and new friend Harriet Jones battle for their lives in 10 Downing Street, the Slitheen family set their plans for the destruction of Earth into motion. With the world changing around him, the Doctor is powerless, and it seems only Mickey Smith can save the world...


Deadly electricity courses through all of the alien experts in the room, killing them, but the Ninth Doctor, not being human, is not as affected as the rest. The Doctor grabs his own electrified identity badge and attaches it to the collar of the Slitheen that was masquerading as Asquith. Somehow, as the electricity courses through Asquith, it affects Green, Blaine and the police inspector threatening Jackie as well. The Doctor makes his escape, running down and attracting the attention of the Metropolitan Police squad below. Mickey comes into Jackie's flat and sees the police inspector alien paralysed by electricity. He knocks it aside with a chair and grabs Jackie's hand, pulling her out of there — but not before taking a photograph of the alien with his mobile phone. Harriet and Rose rush past the writhing Margaret Blaine alien, running down the corridors of 10 Downing Street with her in hot pursuit.

Green struggles and manages to remove the badge from Asquith's neck, and they hurriedly scramble into their skins just as the Doctor returns with the police squad. The Doctor tells the squad that the Acting Prime Minister is an alien, but is met with obvious disbelief. Green accuses the Doctor of having killed all the experts, and Asquith orders the police, under the authority of the Emergency Protocols, to execute the Doctor. The Doctor, apparently backed against a wall, says, "If I was you, if I was going to execute someone by backing them up against the wall, between you and me, a little word of advice — don't stand them against the lift!" and ducks into the lift before they can shoot him. He rides it up to the top floor.

Blaine continues to chase Harriet and Rose through No. 10, and the two seek refuge in one of the offices on the upper floor. In the meantime, Asquith tells the police to isolate the upper floors, and he and Green ride upstairs in the lift, removing their skins. They join Blaine, who is enjoying the hunt, and they sniff out Harriet and Rose's hiding places. They are about to strike when the Doctor comes in, spraying the Slitheen with a fire extinguisher, causing enough of a distraction for Harriet and Rose to duck around the aliens. They run towards the Cabinet Room to get the Emergency Protocols to see what procedures they have for fighting aliens.

The Slitheen are just about to follow them in, when the Doctor grabs a bottle of port from a side table, threatening to use his sonic screwdriver to "triplicate the flammability" of the alcohol. He asks them who they are and why they are invading. The Slitheen, held at bay for the moment, say that they are not invading, and the Slitheen is not the name of their species, but their family; Green formally introduces himself as Jocrassa Fel-Foth Passameer-Day Slitheen. They are here for business reasons, but before the Doctor can get them to tell what that is, the Slitheen realise that the Doctor's threat is a bluff. They prepare to end the hunt, but the Doctor observes that the Cabinet Room has a special feature — three-inch thick steel walls that can seal off the room, making it the safest place in Great Britain. He does just that, shutting the Slitheen out... but also cutting off any avenue of escape.

The rest of the family arrive.

Satisfied that the Doctor no longer poses a threat, the Slitheen summon the rest of the family to Downing Street, and Asquith orders Price to keep the ground floor secure and await an emergency address from the Acting PM to the people of the world. Outside, Andrew Marr tries to make sense of the variety of people who are showing up: Group Captain Tennant James of the RAF; Ewan McAllister, Deputy Secretary for the Scottish Parliament; even Sylvia Dillane, Chairman of the North Sea Boating Club. All they seem to have in common is their remarkable girth and the fact that they've been invited to the upper levels of 10 Downing Street. They are all Slitheen in disguise, and when they get upstairs, they strip off their skin suits. Meanwhile, Mickey and Jackie have managed to make their way back to his flat, but the Slitheen who was Police Commissioner Strickland is still in pursuit, using his sense of smell to track Jackie.

In the Cabinet Room, the Doctor puts the Prime Minister and Indra Ganesh's bodies in the cupboard, and then checks for possible escape routes. Rose wonders how the Slitheen can fit inside smaller human skins. The Doctor explains that it is a function of the collars they wear — a compression field shrinks them down, leading to the gas exchange that causes their flatulence. The Prime Minister's skin was too small, even for them, which is why they did not use him as a disguise. The Doctor wonders why he finds Harriet Jones's name so familiar.

Harriet says she is not famous, but just a lifelong backbencher. The Emergency Protocols list all the people who could help, but they are all dead downstairs. Rose wonders if the Protocols have defence codes that they can use to launch nuclear weapons at the Slitheen. Harriet explains that due to the United Kingdom's past record, the release codes for a nuclear strike are in the hands of the United Nations, and a resolution has to be passed before the authorisations can be released. As they wonder what the Slitheen could be after, Rose's mobile phone beeps. It is Mickey, and he has sent a picture of the Slitheen in Jackie's kitchen.

Despite his dislike of Mickey, the Doctor admits that he needs him. He asks Mickey to go to the computer and log on to the UNIT website, using the password "buffalo" to gain access. As he does so, Jackie takes over the phone, pointedly telling the Doctor how dangerous his life is, and asking him if he can promise her that Rose will be safe. The Doctor does not answer. Once in, Mickey finds the signal that the Slitheen ship in the North Sea is pulsing out into space. The Doctor puts Mickey on the speakerphone and tries to decipher the signal. The doorbell to Mickey's flat rings and Jackie goes to answers it. It is Slitheen inspector Strickland, who unmasks and starts to break through the door. Mickey offers to fend off the alien with his bat.

Jackie and Mickey are covered in Slitheen.

Desperately, the Doctor and the others try to gather the information they know about the Slitheen so he can identify their race and hopefully their weakness. The various characteristics they have exhibited, including the fact that their gas smells like halitosis — calcium decay — helps the Doctor narrow it down to one planet — Raxacoricofallapatorius — and identify them as creatures of living calcium, which will be weakened by the compression. As the Slitheen crashes into the flat, the Doctor tells them through the phone to get into the kitchen and find anything with vinegar in it. Jackie dumps as many pickled foods into a measuring cup as she can and hurls the mixture at the Slitheen as it comes through. The acetic acid reacts with the creature, and it explodes.

In Downing Street, Green and Asquith sense the death of their brother. Green steps out onto the street and speaks to the media as Acting Prime Minister. He informs them of the death of the experts at the hands of aliens and that there are "massive weapons of destruction" capable of being deployed within 45 seconds above their heads. He urges the UN to pass a resolution and release the access codes that will allow the UK to launch a pre-emptive strike against the alien mothership. The Doctor, listening to the broadcast over Rose's phone, knows that Green is lying. He realises that is why the Slitheen made such a spectacle out of the crash — not just to attract the experts but to panic the world and make it more likely for the United Nations to acquiesce to Green's request.

He unseals the room long enough to confront the Slitheen outside. He correctly predicts that they plan to launch the missiles not into space but against other nations, triggering World War III. The Slitheen will ride out the nuclear holocaust in ther ship (which is parked, not crashed, in the Thames) and then sell off the radioactive remains of Earth to the rest of the galaxy as a fuel source; the signal from the ship is an advertisement that the planet is for sale. The Doctor tells the Slitheen he will stop them. Blaine sneers, expressing disbelief that he could do anything whilst sealed inside the room. The Doctor says grimly, "Yes. Me." He seals the room again, as uncertainty flickers across Blaine's face, her confidence shaken by the Doctor's demeanour.

As morning breaks over London, the streets are deserted. The Slitheen gather, unmasked, in the Prime Minister's office to await the call from the UN Security Council in New York. Jackie calls the Doctor, and says there must be something he can do. The Doctor reluctantly admits there is an option, but he cannot guarantee Rose's safety. He could save the world, but he could lose Rose. Jackie protests, but without even hearing what the option is, Rose tells the Doctor to just go ahead and do it. Harriet steps in at this point and, as the only elected representative in the room, orders the Doctor to take action.

The Doctor tells Mickey to use the "buffalo" password to access the Royal Navy's systems. Mickey locates the HMS Taurean, a Trafalgar class submarine off the coast of Plymouth, and under the Doctor's instructions, remotely selects and launches a harpoon missile. The missile streaks inland, on a direct course for 10 Downing Street, as the UN concludes their debate. Persuaded by the "proof" that the UK has provided, they agree to release the nuclear missile codes.

The missile is picked up on radar, but Mickey stops the counter measures taking effect. The Doctor, Harriet and Rose take refuge in the cupboard, hoping to ride out the explosion. The police squad sergeant orders the evacuation of 10 Downing Street and goes upstairs to warn Green. When he sees the Slitheen in their true forms, he makes a hasty retreat. The surrounding streets are cleared as the missile starts its final descent, and as the Slitheen still scramble around trying to get into their skins, 10 Downing Street is reduced to rubble. Thanks to the small and sturdy walls of a cupboard, Harriet, Rose and the Doctor "ride out" the blast and survive. The Slitheen are not so lucky.

Harriet wonders how they will rebuild from this, and the Doctor suggests that she become Prime Minister. She goes off to speak to the press and emergency services, announcing proudly that the crisis has passed; mankind stands tall, proud and undefeated. As he and Rose leave quietly, the Doctor remembers now why Harriet's name was familiar. Harriet Jones will be a future Prime Minister, elected for three successive terms, and the architect of Britain's Golden Age.

Rose goes back to Jackie's flat and watches the aftermath on television. Jackie grudgingly admits that she can't get rid of the Doctor now since Rose is so infatuated with him, something which Rose denies. Jackie offers to cook for the three of them and get to know the Doctor better. The Doctor calls Rose on her mobile phone from the TARDIS, where he is cancelling the Slitheen "advertisement" before any potential buyers arrive. When Rose tells him of her mother's offer, he refuses — Rose can stay there if she likes, but he has a universe to see. Jackie sees Rose packing and asks her not to go, but Rose doesn't answer.

The Doctor has caught the hooligan boy that defaced his police box with the words "BAD WOLF" and made him clean off the spray-paint. As the boy scampers away, Mickey stops by and speaks to the Doctor by the TARDIS. Mickey cannot believe that the papers, such as the Evening Standard, are already saying the whole incident was a hoax. The Doctor gives Mickey a compact disc containing a computer virus that will wipe all trace of the Doctor's presence on the Internet and asks him to use it. He also offers Mickey a place in the TARDIS, but Mickey says that the Doctor's world is not for him. He asks the Doctor not to tell Rose he said this, however. Rose arrives with a backpack full of her belongings, tossing it to the Doctor and playfully telling him that he is now stuck with her. Rose says goodbye to Mickey and Jackie, assuring her mother that the TARDIS is a time machine — she can travel all over the universe and be back within ten seconds. Rose asks Mickey to come along with them but the Doctor, following Mickey's wishes, pretends that Mickey is not welcome.

Rose and the Doctor enter the TARDIS and it dematerialises. Jackie waits ten seconds, but it does not return, and she walks back towards her flat. Mickey unfurls his newspaper about the aftermath of the recent crises, planting himself on a rubbish bin. He stays in the street and continues to wait.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


Food and beverages[[edit]]

Bad Wolf arc[[edit]]

  • The Doctor has found and scolded the child who spray-painted "BAD WOLF" on his TARDIS by having him scrub the TARDIS as punishment.



  • Andrew Marr appears playing himself as a television news reporter.
  • This episode had a working title of Aliens of London Part Two until the last minute.[1]
  • 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 incorrect information, namely the presence of "massive weapons of destruction" which could be deployed in forty-five seconds, as opposed to Blair's "weapons of mass destruction" that could be deployed in "forty-five minutes".
  • When a Slitheen disguised as a policeman appears outside Mickey's flat, the word "Salford" appears as graffiti on the wall near the elevator. This would appear to be an in-joke, as Salford is Christopher Eccleston's hometown.
  • Unusually, the repetition of the last episode's cliffhanger before the opening title sequence contains the cliffhanger's resolution: the Doctor removes the ID badge from his clothing and applies it to a Slitheen. The use of the "cold open" of the second half of a two-parter to resolve the first episode's cliffhanger would also be utilised in the later episode The Doctor Dances, after which cold opens for second parts (other than the recap of part one) would be almost totally abandoned for the remainder of the first Russell T Davies era. They would return under Steven Moffat, but would typically show more than simply the cliffhanger resolution.
  • Curiously, whenever the TARDIS's interior is seen from the outside, a normal police box interior, rather than the TARDIS's, is shown. While this was normal pre-2005, the TARDIS's interior is nearly always seen in the revived series.
  • The idea of a family of villains was inspired by Human Nature.
  • Russell T Davies added the scene of the boy cleaning the "Bad Wolf" graffiti off the TARDIS in accordance with BBC guidelines.
  • At Hensol Castle, the limitations of the Slitheen costumes became apparent, and it was later found that the digital Slitheen matched imperfectly with their live-action counterparts. As a result, the production team agreed to avoid such a hybrid approach in the future.
  • Russell T Davies expanded the ending when the episode underran. Originally, after surviving the destruction of 10 Downing Street, there had been just a short sequence of the Doctor and Rose leaving the Powell Estate to head back to the TARDIS.


  • 7.67 million viewers (UK final)[2]

Broadcast differences[[edit]]

  • 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 among Canadian viewers. The error was corrected on the repeat broadcast, although the sequence appeared after the opening titles. One contributing factor in the error was the original broadcast was originally preceded by a specially recorded introduction by Eccleston, which usually led straight into the opening credits.


  • The episode's working title was 10 Downing Street, and was changed to World War Three at a relatively late stage. (Despite the Telos Publishing book Back to the Vortex claiming this to be the case, Russell T Davies has categorically stated this to be a myth, and that 10 Downing Street was never considered as a working or final title at any stage of production)
  • The Doctor was going to kill Harriet Jones to stop her becoming prime minister. (RTD never considered killing Harriet.)

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In the shot that pans over the central London skyline, Big Ben appears to have been repaired since the spaceship hit it. However, in the next shot, the hole in it is seen again. Despite this in The Christmas Invasion it's still being repaired.
  • When on the estate, the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors and it is clearly just a normal police box inside, not the usual TARDIS walls.
  • There is an obvious disparity between CGI Slitheen creatures and the live action during chase scenes — the monsters move at far faster speed than their quarry, yet are repeatedly repositioned a considerable distance behind again in subsequent shots with the full-size (and different-colour) monster costumes.
  • When the boy is cleaning off the graffiti on the TARDIS, he opens the door and you can clearly see the glass windows from the inside.
  • When the Slitheen at Mickey's flat unzips his head, the blue light shining from his forehead fills the frame and seems to cast a shadow BEHIND him. Unless he was standing in front of a mirror, this would simply not be possible.
  • In some shots with the costume version of the Slitheen creatures, you can see the shoes of the actors as they walk away (around 13:45 min)
  • While Asquith changes to his Slitheen form in front of the experts, he swings his arms around wildly and one of his arms passes through a table behind him.
  • When the Doctor first closes the metal cabinet room doors they come down and up yet when he opens them to talk to the Slitheen then closes them again they come from left and right.


Home video releases[[edit]]

Series 1 Volume 2 DVD Cover
  • World War Three together with Aliens of London and Dalek were the first released on the Universal Media Disc format for the PlayStation Portable.(1)
  • It was also released as part of the Series 1 DVD box set.
  • This was also released with Issue 3 of the Doctor Who DVD Files.

External links[[edit]]

Online video Links[[edit]]