Red Scharlach (redscharlach) wrote,
Red Scharlach

We built this city

Oh look, it's Doctor Who time again.

Some thoughts about The Beast Below:

  • "Bad boy, Timmy." - The Smilers are one of those retro-scary things, a bit like the gasmask folk of The Empty Child, which aren't frightening in the slightest to me now, but would have had me running for the back of the sofa like a mad thing when I was little. I suppose inhuman grinning is a lot less disturbing when one is exposed to Simon Cowell on a regular basis.

  • I rolled my eyes a lot at the "oops, somehow Amy floated away and I didn't notice" part. Silly jokes are one thing, but I'd rather they either made sense or were funny: this didn't do neither.

  • So by the 29th century, Scotland has devolved but Ireland still isn't unified? Wales, meanwhile, is conspicious by its lack of mention, but there'll be plenty of whales later in the show to make up for it (boom boom).

  • Oh, Doctor, don't pretend you have a prime directive. It's never very convincing when they trot it out on Star Trek, so it's especially unlikely coming from you. And by the way, Amy, if you're going to compare the Doctor's life to a wildlife documentary, don't think of him as David Attenborough: he's more like a scene-stealing meerkat, jumping on things and poking up his ridiculously fluffy head in an endearing fashion, in the hope of distracting us from the lack of serious scientific content.

  • "Are you a parent?" - And here we have number one in a list of traditional questions that the Doctor will be asked this week. However, since this isn't usually the first question that people ask (and since Amy presumably found out the answer to "Do you have two of anything else?" last week), he hasn't got a neat answer prepped and decides to pretend it didn't happen.

  • It's now Amy's turn to be asked a traditional question, and it's a version of that old chestnut "You and the Doctor, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G or N-O-T?" Likewise, she elects to ignore it in favour of confessing all about her upcoming nuptials to a small girl who doesn't care.

  • "Help us, Doctor, you're our only hope." - What do you know, this episode is sponsored by gratuitous Star Wars references. And coming up later, a trip down a chute into a pile of stinky rotting rubbish. What an incredible new smell you've discovered, Doctor.

  • Protest or Forget: oh look, it's a bit of topical metaphor about the upcoming general election! I don't know what the message is actually supposed to BE, however: possibly "get so drunk that you can't remember who you voted for". It's nice to see that the set from Newsnight is still being used in the 29th century, however.

  • "I'm way worse than Scottish..." - That's as may be, Doctor, but are the Scottish better or worse than everybody's aunt? And what if your aunt's Scottish? Which is worse then?

  • Time for the Doctor to answer a few more popular questions. Question 1, is he human, because he looks as if he is? Fortunately he remembers the snappy retort he came up with in Planet of the Dead - "No, you look Time Lord.", which is pretty good going since that was one of the few decent bits in an otherwise lamentable episode. Question 2 is "Where are the other Time Lords then?", but fortunately he's come up with a rather nice response to this one, and it's lot neater than the traditional "avoidance... avoidance... avoidance... okay, you asked for it... ANGST!!!".

  • When the Doctor announced that he and Amy were inside a great big mouth, he missed an opportunity for a shout-out to Tegan. But I suppose that would have brought up the delicate topic whether he was ever inside that mouth...

  • "I'm the bloody queen, mate. Basically, I rule." - Ha! Sophie Okenedo was clearly having fun, getting her swashbuckle on. She also gave an added canonical seal of approval to the Queen Elizabeth I/Doctor liaison: in other words, Liz 10 ships Liz/Ten! It was disappointing, then, that after her brief gun-toting moment of awesome, she promptly went on to have nothing to do, except look confused and slightly angsty. Personally I'd like to see her go off and have buccaneering adventures in high boots: it'd set an example for the current dull-as-ditchwater Royals, if nothing else.

  • Thanks to Twitter's trending topics, the nation and I now know that LizTen's helper bloke Hawthorn was played by The Demon Headmaster. My cast-iron excuse for not knowing this bit of TV trivia before is that TDH was after my time: I'd left both school and university by the time it began. (Crikey, I now feel older than Liz 10.)

  • Oh look, it's the Star Whale, the larger cousin to Torchwood's burger-tastic Emo Space Whale! Tell me, where have I seen or read about space-whale starships before? I know that Star Trek: TNG had spaceship-sized aliens a couple of times, but I can't help thinking that there was another variation of the theme from some other show, and I've just forgotten what it was.

  • I confess, the Oh-Emm-Gee revelation about whale exploitation fell a bit flat for me. It's another chip off the sci-fi block of Ursula LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas": the misery of the one versus the well-being of the many. If you're torturing a human, as in LeGuin's story, then that's a hard-hitting message, but it's a bit too grim and horrible for a family audience. However, if the torturee is replaced by something non-humanoid like the star whale (or like the silly fairy aliens in that episode of Voyager), the problem is that you have to keep yelling "This is a sentient being and therefore this is a terrible thing that's happening!" again and again, because it doesn't have the same emotional punch. So they're sticking it to a bit of CGI; who cares? The Starship UK would probably have been more horrified that its government was dropping underachieving children down the space-whale's gullet and then being disappointed when they didn't get eaten.

  • Likewise, the Doctor's holding-it-against-Amy thing seemed shoehorned-in; especially since Amy's involvement in the voting booth scene earlier felt Randomly Ordained for Future Angst Purposes, rather than fulfilling any driving logic. Amy's sudden revelation about what was really going on was better, however, mainly because her reasoning sounded very Donna-like (cf. Planet of the Ood). The pushing of the Abdication button was silly, though: nothing happened, apart from the fact that the floor shook and some people in a market fell over. Why would you set up a system to do that? Oh, it's because it's a red herring for the viewers, and not because it makes any sense or anything.

  • The Doctor/star-whale parallel was okay the first time, but I could have lived without the extra emphasis, double underlined, gone over with a highlighter pen and with seventeen exclamation marks, just in case we missed the SYMBOLISM (TM). But his hug with Amy was really rather sweet, and the parallel between his and Amy's running away was done with a much lighter touch, rather than being thwacked in with a sledgehammer.

  • So, err, what happened with all the rest of the machinery of the oppressive police state? Is it all going to be dismantled now the Star-Whale is Our Big Space Friend? I don't think the British government work that way, even in the 29th century, and suspect they are even now plotting to put the underachieving children in a cannon and fire them out into space, where they will trouble the digestion of extraterrestrial cetaceans no longer...

  • Oddly enough we get a look forward to next week without even seeing the trailer. It's Winston Churchill and a Dalek! Let's hope he's trained it to mix Martinis in his own special way: one bucket of gin, an olive, and a nod in the direction of Skaro.

  • Ah, so Spot the Crack is going to be this season's game of choice, is it? Shame Captain Jack won't be putting in an appearance, then.

  • In conclusion: an episode that felt cobbled together out of Things We Have Seen Before: the space views of The End of the World, the market stalls of The Long Game, the Smilers as cousins to the Clockwork robots and the Host, the big pulsating brain from Planet of the Ood, a load of retro-tech left over from The Idiot's Lantern, the getting-gratuitously-wet of New Earth, etc. etc. etc. Some neat lines and a few nice moments, but if this was Mr Moffat's attempt at a Message story, I would echo a certain bowl of petunias and say: not again, please...
Tags: doctor who
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