Between the fifteen commercial breaks, we get small snippets of what might be an interesting prelude to next week's conclusion of this two-parter. The beginning's great: Rose and the Doctor return to Rose's little life, only to find that they've been gone twelve months rather than the twelve hours they thought. Meantime, we learn Jackie's been going nuts looking for her daughter, even going so far as to accuse boyfriend Mickey of doing something horrible. To Rose, I mean. Not the usual intrinsic horrible of Mickey. Rose can't come clean to Jackie about the whole time travel/space alien thing, for some reason, but Jackie lets it slide after some tears and hugs. And a lager. Rose ruminates on how special the whole Companion thing makes her -- for about five seconds, before her thunder is stolen by a crash-landing space ship that takes out Big Ben. Feeling sketchy about TARDISing all over London during an alien invasion alert, the Doctor and Rose watch the news of the aliens on the television. The Doctor's ADD eventually gets the better of him, and he investigates alone, starting with the pilot of the ship: a cruelly mutated pig in a spacesuit. An hysterical call from Jackie -- as London takes the whole "Welcome To Earth," Last Night approach -- to the authorities has the opposite of its usual effect in sci-fi, and actually helps the Doctor and Rose to get invited to 10 Downing Street, where "alien experts" are being gathered to discuss the situation. While Rose and awesome Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, are trying to figure things out downstairs -- and discover the PM's body in the process -- the Doctor realizes that the whole pig-flying-a-spaceship scenario was actually just cover for another, real invasion. Which realization, of course, does not come until the Doctor's stuck with two of the actuals, aliens called the Slitheen who've been wearing the skins of high-ranking officials like suits. There are zippers (actual!) in their foreheads and they are fat and pass a lot of gas, but that's the limit of the zany this week. It's surprisingly ignorable, although justly hated. The episode cliffhangs on the Doctor in a room with two of them torturing him; Jackie at home with a scary alien policeman; and Rose and Harriet in the PM's Cabinet Room with another one. While it's heavy on the payoff-less suspense (and the farting) this week, hopes are high for next week, when I guess we can assume some things are going to change in the governing structure at the least. When all your high-ranking governmental officials and military leaders are replaced by fat, farting monsters bent on world domination and personal gain, it would just be a clichÃ© to take the American route, wouldn't it?
Because this two-parter takes place in the present day, we begin at the end of "Rose," that slow-mo run, as we enter the story proper. The TARDIS fades in at the crook of the street where Rose's mum lives, in the Crap Estates. We'll see them here a lot, because that's the set they have. The piano is worried, but Rose and the Doctor are giddy as they hop out of the big blue box. The Doctor leans back against her doors and folds his arms, as Rose fairly hops about asking for clarification on just how long she's been gone, subjective to the folks she left behind. ("Excellent question, Rose.") He confirms that it's only been twelve hours, and they giggle at each other, and she sets off to see Jackie. He asks what she plans to say, and she nearly makes him snort trying to choose between "the year five billion" and "sleepover at Shareen's." She turns and says once, "Don't you disappear!" He smiles at her and wiggles his eyebrows, because the idea is so unspeakably weird, and she takes off for the flat. He settles back against the TARDIS to wait. We cut back and forth between Rose taking the (many, many) stairs up to the flat, and the Doctor loitering around in the courtyard. The music goes nuts, downshifting like in the original When A Stranger Calls or the scary THX sound from the movie theater, as the Doctor spots a poster on a lamppost opposite. Coming closer, we see a picture of Rose, with the caption, "Can You Help?"
Upstairs, the Tylers' apartment is not looking so very livable. Rose comes in yelling and -- I guess not for the first time -- blaming Shareen's emotional issues. Jackie Tyler walks in with a cup of tea, and is shocked to find Rose grinning at her: "So, what's been going on? How've you been?" Rose sequential-processes that her mum's freaking out, and jokes that it's "not the first time" she's been out all night, and Jackie drops her teacup, shattering it. The Doctor, downstairs, looks like he's been punched in the box, and he takes off towards Rose's flat. Jackie starts freaking out and getting snot all over Rose, who's confused by all the drama and sobbing until she spots, over her mother's shaking shoulder, a bunch of piles of different versions of the poster the Doctor found downstairs. The Doctor comes running in trying to explain that it's been twelve months, not hours, and Rose takes her time understanding this concept before the Doctor laughs nervously: "You've been gone a whole year. ...Sorry?" Jackie looks back to her daughter and strokes her hair, as Rose looks down, concerned and sad.