It might amaze you to learn that Rose Tyler's first trip to an alien world as companion to the Ninth Doctor came not on screen but in novel form! Welcome, then, to The Monsters Inside. But there are some old enemies awaiting them on the Justicia prison camp...........
Yes, the farty green things otherwise known as the Slitheen are back! Unveiled by their creator Russell T Davies in the two-parter Aliens Of London/World War Three and later revisited in Boom Town. Here Stephen Cole gets the honour of expanding their story a little more, with this story set somewhere between The Long Game & Father's Day.
While Ms Tyler marvels at her first alien environment, the Doctor is remarkably matter of fact about it. ''Oh, yeah, right. The alien planet thing''. He's saved the Earth ''so often we should get T-shirts made up'' into the bargain. Of course before Rose even entered his life he'd spent quite a lot of time down here, helped by a sentence of enforced exile passed by the Time Lords! ''You will be sent to Earth in the twentieth century, and will remain there for as long as we deem proper, and for that period the secret of the TARDIS will be taken from you....''
All thoughts of that trial & his subsequent Earthbound efforts will have to be pushed to the back of his mind, though. He's got absolutely no idea how they got to their latest destination! "We landed quicker than normal, like something in the area drew us down....''. It's not somewhere they particularly want to stick around, and perhaps inevitably given that they've landed on a space-faring prison they're soon captured and split up. Having been scanned and found to be alien, his intellect is put to work for SCATs ( Species-led Creative and Advanced Technologies)- a little good work in that regard could see time slashed off his sentence.
Rose has something of a rougher ride! Assigned to Detention Centre Six- basically a borstal- after having ''crossed the void between star systems in a small blue projectile, with no visible means of propulsion'' & 'breached three lines of defences without even noticing'', she meets two of the warders, Norris & Blanc. And there are a couple of fellow inmates with an agenda of their own.
The Slitheens ability to disguise themselves as human drives much of the drama and suspense of this novel, with Rose never quite sure just who is human and who isn't. Their skinsuit technology has previously allowed them right into the heart of government!
ASQUITH: What do you think? How's the compression? I think I've got too much ballast round the middle. Oh, that's better.Whether or not you were amused by the ''gas exchange'', Doctor Who- speak for ''fart gags & lots of them'', possibly cooked up as part of a pub bet by Davies & his friends/fellow writers- the fact remains that they therefore became the reborn series' first recurring monsters. The Doctor can probably remember his first encounter with them inside Downing Street, too! ''Well, evidently he's some sort of expert in extra-terrestrial affairs. The ultimate expert. And we need him, sir. We need him here right now! ''.
MARGARET: We've really got to fix the gas exchange. It's getting ridiculous.
GREEN: I don't know. Seems very human to me. Ah, better get rid of his skin.
ASQUITH: Shame. I quite enjoyed being Oliver. He had a wife, a mistress, and a young farmer. God, I was busy.
GREEN: Back to work.
ASQUITH: I have an army to command.
MARGARET: Careful, now. We're not there yet.
Reference was also made to his past working alongside UNIT, which has left him in prime position as a candidate to assist in the event of legitimate alien invasion of Earth- one of his earliest encounters with the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce ironically having come in The Invasion. (A Cyber-head from that adventure is on display in Henry Van Statten's vault in Dalek, and the animated DVD reconstruction of The Invasion features the words '' Bad Wolf'' as graffiti on Isobel Watkins' wall!)
To add to the complexity of The Monsters Inside we also have another family of Raxacoricofallapatorians on the loose, we already know the Slitheen are trouble....we'll soon see their rivals the Blathereen are too.
Overall the plot is wonderfully straightforward, though that's not to say it doesn't hold its fair share of surprises, and if you we're ever frustrated that the Ninth Doctor never seemed to leave the Green Planet for his television adventures then you can get your fix of off-Earth action before we return to London's Powell Estate for Winner Takes All.