Sunday, April 11, 2010

Doctor Who: ''The Beast Below'' Inside Trekker Review

This is both a review and a recap. There will be spoilers.

The Mighty Starship UK

Whereas ''The Eleventh Hour'' served as an introduction to a new Doctor, a new companion, and a new Tardis (as well as an all new behind the scenes team), the second episode titled ''The Beast Below'' jumps right into an old fashioned Doctor Who adventure.

Written again by showrunner Steven Moffat, we are back into the darker territory we are used to from the author. Many of his stories feature monsters with terrifying faces and masks, and although the Smilers are not the real monsters of the story, neither is the Beast Below. Rather it is the humans' decisions to keep the status quo, to ignore what is happening around them, that is the real horror.

Weeeeee!! I'm floating in space and I'm not being sucked up by the void and my eyes are not being popped out of their sockets!

After a terrifying opening in which a young boy who has gotten zero on a test or other is apparently sent to his death down ''below,'' followed by the opening credits, we are then greeted to a truly beautiful scene where Amy, still in her nighty, is floating freely in space with the Doctor looking up at her with total glee while he's holding her by the ankle. Insert lewd comments here. In fact, funnily, Amy is in her nighty the entire episode.

You can't see it on the picture but the sign reads Magpie Electrical - the same Magpie as in series 2's ''The Idiot's Lantern''? What could it mean? Oh, and Amy's in her nighty still.

In the episode, we are told that humanity is now floating in space because in the 29th century, solar flares started burning the Earth. But there is a dark secret on Starship UK, as well as politics, and the monarchy is at the centre of it. There's a 300 year old Queen, Elizabeth X called Liz Ten (played by Sophie Okonedo) who roams the starship in long billowy red robes, her face covered by a white mask, and who goes about quoting Star Wars to the Doctor. She too has been investigating the ship's mystery.

Liz Ten pretending she's Princess Leia

Liz Ten also knows about the Doctor. She has heard the many stories of his dealings with her predecessors. She refers to the events of ''Tooth and Claw,'' when he was both knighted and banished at once by Queen Victoria and ''The End of Time, Part 1,'' when the Doctor married and, hum, well slept with Queen Elizabeth the First amongst other things.

Amy leaving herself a message to stop the Doctor from investigating and getting him off the ship. It obviously won't work.

It's terrifying to know that the people of Britain are told the truth every 5 years and are given the choice to either protest or forget – with almost all choosing to forget because the truth is so horrible to bare. The truth is that the ship doesn't have an engine; something the Doctor discovers almost upon arriving on the starship. We later discover that the whole ship is powered by a gigantic Starwhale, who happens to be very old old and the last of it's kind. Much like the Doctor is. Nice parallel here.

Can anything be more exciting than finding ourselves in the mouth of a space creature?

Steven Moffat puts the Doctor into darker territory in this episode by having the Time Lord make a decision that ultimately makes the viewers and the other characters uncomfortable. He has a dilemma to solve, and as the Doctor he sees it as his duty to resolve it. He has to choose between freeing the Starwhale and thus risk the death of everyone on board Starship UK or leave it to endure continuous torture, under some sort of pulse laser, that continuously shoots into the creature's exposed brain. The Doctor chooses to mentally kill the Starwhale in what he sees as an act of mercy.

Those are big teeth!

We have to remember that the Doctor has been travelling alone for a long time after the end of ''Journey's End.'' And we are reminded yet again that the Doctor needs someone to stop him, as Donna once told him. Adelaide also passed that remark in ''The Waters of Mars,'' the darkest Doctor Who episode of the new series yet. We get glimpses of that darkness here again. Will Steven Moffat show us more of the dark Doctor in upcoming episodes? Perhaps. Matt Smith can get very dark and brooding as seen here. He's well up to the task.

The Doctor and Liz Ten sharing a moment. It's all about the mask.

Though the series was not filmed in order, we get a clear sense that Matt Smith is already stepping away from Tennant's shadow in the second episode. Whereas in the first episode there were remnants of his Tenth incarnation, he is clearly established as the Eleventh Doctor here.

Karen Gillan also shines again as Amy. She makes a decision mid episode that doesn't sit well with the Doctor which makes him angry. He will take her back to Earth as soon as he's finished with the problem at hand. Amy protests that she can't remember making that decision. She also makes another decision towards the end, this time the right one. Decisions, decisions.

The Doctor making the humans listen to the Starwhale's pain.

The theme of the episode is to look, to use your eyes and notice everything. And that's what Amy does and that's why she saves the day. She saves the Doctor from making a terrible choice, she saves the beast from death and she saves the people on Starship UK.

There were many references to the Doctor not being human although he looks human. At one point the Doctor replies to Amy that she looks Time Lord when she points out that he looks human. Exactly what he said to Lady Christina de Souza in ''Planet of the Dead.'' I like that although it's a new team, they've decided to stick closely to what's happened before and not make a point in forgetting it. It is, after all, a continuation of the Doctor's story.

Awwwwwww hugs!!!

This week's special effects were again a bit sub-par compared to the ones used in the specials that aired in 2009 (BBC budget cut remember) but they were mostly OK. I laugh every time someone makes it a point to say that in an age where we have a movie like Avatar blah blah blah. Avatar was a MOVIE with a HUGE budget. I think that the special effects were fine with the budget that they have. The sight of the floating city was beautiful and the monster was well realized – well, except maybe for the interior parts.

Getting THE British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Phone.

The end of the episode segues nicely into the one coming up, with the Doctor receiving a phone call from his old friend, THE British Prime Minister a.k.a Winston Churchill. Mystery of the old friend solved. I'm looking forward to the next adventure already.

Once again, the crack in space and time appears. This time at the end of the episode. It clearly is the overall arc of this season.

My grade for the episode: A-

Some favourite quotes:

Amy: ''My name is Amy Pond. When I was 7, I had an imaginary friend. Last night was the night before my wedding and my imaginary friend came back.''

The Doctor: ''We are observers only. That's the one rule I've always stuck to in all my travels. I never get involved in the affairs of other peoples or planets. Ooh! That's interesting!''
Amy: ''So . . . we're like a wildlife documentary, yeah?''

Amy: ''What are you gonna do?''
The Doctor: ''What I always do. Stay out of trouble. . .badly.''

Liz Ten channeling her best Princess Leia: ''Help us Doctor, you're our only hope.''

Amy: ''You look human.''
The Doctor: ''You look Timelord.''

Amy: ''So there're other Time Lords yeah?''
The Doctor: ''There were but there aren't it's just me now. . .Long story. It was a bad day, bad stuff happened and you know what, I'd love to forget it all. Every last bit of it, but I don't. Not ever. Cause this is what I do, everytime, every day, every second, this...

The Doctor: ''Right then, this isn't going to be big on dignity. Geronimo!''

Liz Ten: ''I'm the bloody Queen mate. Basically, I rule.''

Amy: ''Very old and very kind and the very, very last. Sound familiar?''

Amy: ''Hey!''
The Doctor: ''What?''
Amy: ''Gotcha.''
The Doctor:[laughs] ''Gotcha.''

Amy: ''Have you ever run away from something because, because you were scared or, or not ready or just because you could?''
The Doctor: ''Once, a long time ago.''
Amy: ''What happened?''
The Doctor: ''Allo!''

Amy: ''People phone you?''
The Doctor: ''Well, it's a phone box.''


  1. I'm enjoying your reviews so very much! it's like I'm watching it all over again and it helps me to see things I didn't see either bc I'm not into details or bc of the language barrier.

  2. Thank you so much for the compliment :D