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Who Review – Episode 2: The Beast Below (Series 5)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Doctor and Amy find themselves in a futuristic England, where the shires have been turned into skyscrapers, and the whole kingdom (excluding Scotland, natch) floats about the universe on a giant spaceship. A child is crying and no one seems to be concerned about her. The Doctor immediately senses something is wrong, and he and Amy go about trying to figure out what it is. And, as in every single DW story ever (with the possible exception of Silver Nemesis), suspense, danger, and an appropriate amount of hilarity ensue.

In typical Moffat fashion, the monster is not bug-eyed, but rather an eerie face, like a creepy version of those carnival fortune tellers – think Zoltar with an attitude. Easy on the budget, and big on the imagination of the audience. As a threat, they’re pretty good, especially when they suddenly get up from their booths and begin to lumber around.

Amy (Karen Gillian) is given some nice moments, in fact, she has a bigger part in this story than the Doctor, and certainly the most pivotal. I like Amy. She’s plucky, and I like the notion that the Doctor was her imaginary childhood friend, as opposed to her falling head over heels in love with him, a la Rose and Martha. It doesn’t mean that a romance is out of the question, but it’s nice to have a companion who has ‘known’ the Doctor longer than he has known her, even if it is all in her head. The dynamic between Matt Smith and Gillian is a pleasure to watch.

This episode may grow on me with future viewings, but from just the first go round, I felt a bit left out in the cold by it. It definitely feels like more of a throw away episode, and maybe that was the point. We get a little bit about the Doctor, and about Amy, and it was nice to see their chemistry develop. But the story itself may have been a little uncooked. Strong foundations, but lacking a decent emotional pay-off. The world felt incomplete, and Amy’s revelation at the end of the episode seemed a bit obvious. And was it just me, or did the brain of the beast seem way too small? I mean, the tongue was enormous, so you’d think the brain would have been even bigger. Perhaps a nit-picky thing, but there you go.

I did find it interesting that the Doctor began lecturing Amy about not interfering with other cultures and worlds. I believe Doctor #5 was, at times, guilty of doing the same thing. Of course neither incarnation appears to take that advice to heart (especially when children are involved), and I like the continuity there to the old series. And in general, I am liking the Moffat/Smith take on the Doctor. He can be wonderfully loopy and absentminded, but then darkly serious and crotchety (dare I say Troughtonesque?). Okay, so it’s not necessarily a revolutionary spin on the character but if it worked for #2, then I see no reason why it cannot work for #11.

So while I didn’t find the plot all that satisfying, that doesn’t mean you should give the episode a miss – there’s some brilliantly witty bits, and the speed of the story-telling is consistent with the previous seasons. It even includes a Batman style ending (no, not the modern one; think Adam West in the bat cave receiving a call from Commissioner Gordon), which, yes, is actually a good thing (“Which British Prime Minister?”).

Bring on Churchill and the Daleks!ohwrotcodllewopemearg

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