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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Beast Below”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: “The Eleventh Hour”)
And so it begins. Honestly, it’s a miracle that it didn’t begin with the previous episode. The complaining. The whining. The nitpicking.

It’s Doctor Who. We’re in the TARDIS. With the Doctor. Visiting amazing places and meeting neat-o people. With the Doctor. What is there to complain about? Plotholes? I don’t understand. You people call yourself fans?

Okay, sure: I don’t really get why the Starship U.K. people feed their kids to the monster (or what they think of as the monster, at least) for doing poorly at school. That’s harsh, man. And sort of pointless, too. Unless it’s like a recycling thing. I mean, the starwhale has to eat something, right? Starwhale Kibble is people!

But do I care? I do not. Especially with the stinging satire of the Protest/Forget choice. Only one percent of the people have to protest in order to fix a horrific wrong, but that never happens? Everyone is happily, willfully ignorant? Ouch. Nicely done, Moffat: nicely done.

Especially with the unexpected beginning to the Doctor and Amy’s relationship: she finds an option in a terrible situation that he did not see. His arrogance comes so easily to him — he’s just gonna take her home for withholding information from him, and I’m not sure that he’s wrong to be angry about that — that it never occurs to him that there could be another way to fix this awful thing, or that he may not have an entirely accurate basic understanding of the situation. He assumed the worst about the behavior of the humans — and not without good reason — but never thought to assume the best about the starwhale’s motives.

I wonder, though, whether Amy’s eventually going to discover that the Doctor is not entirely kind all the time. (And how does she know he’s very old? Is that a bit of information that’s fallen through the crack in the universe somehow?)

I doubt, too, that had the Doctor succeeded in putting the starwhale out of its misery without hurting Starship U.K. would be “the worst thing [he’s] ever done.” All that “bad stuff” in the Time War, all the stuff he’d “love to forget it all, every last bit of it”? Some of that has got to be worse…

So I don’t care about plotholes, not when the emotional stuff here is so right. Not when watching Amy learn who the Doctor is becomes an opportunity for us to see him change. After all this time, he can still grow as a character? That’s worth a few plotholes.

Random thoughts on “The Beast Below”:

• I still don’t like the new arrangement of the theme music…

• Oy, Pond! Hands off my Doctor!

• I hope we’re eventually going to discover where those stairs on the left go to:

• I’ve decided that I’m calling the motif of the new TARDIS — and perhaps this entire new series, as this episode and the next appear to be hinting — vacuum-tube-punk, or just vacuumpunk:

It’s all a good 50 years beyond steampunk. And somehow windup-punk (after the “windup streetlamps” the Doctor mentions) doesn’t have quite the same ring.

• Speaking of vacuumpunk:

Magpie Electricals (from “The Idiot’s Lantern”) returns…

• Is it my imagination, or does that bit of graffiti kind of look like this new Doctor?

• Sophie Okonedo is made of awesome, with awesome sauce on top:

Basically, she rules.

• What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!

No, wait, it’s: Ground feels all funny — it’s not like rock at all…

• No, seriously, Pond. Hands off:

“Hey, gotcha”? WTF is that all about? He’s mine. Get your own Time Lord. You don’t gotcha anything…

• Did the Doctor called Winston Churchill “dear”?

• Ah, and the crack in the universe is here too. It’s gotta be everywhere, what with Daleks with Union Jacks on them, serving in the British army in WWII and all. Oh yeah, and obviously Amy’s wedding is in temporal flux, and may or may not happen…

• Great quotes:

“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.” –the Doctor

“What are you gonna do?” –Amy
“What I always do: Stay out of trouble. Badly.” –the Doctor

“This isn’t going to be big on dignity.” –the Doctor

“You’re a bit hard to miss, love…” –Liz 10, to the Doctor

“The Doctor: Old drinking buddy of Henry XII. Tea and scones with Liz II… And so much for the Virgin Queen — you bad, bad boy.” –Liz 10

“Nobody talk to me. Nobody human has anything to say to me today.” –the Doctor

(next: Episode 3: “Victory of the Daleks”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Leslie Carr

    Ouch. I think it started earlier, with someone being disappointed with the slapdash final David Tennant episode.

    Still, it actually hurts that I didn’t enjoy that episode – that I failed to connect with the Doctor. I do feel on the wrong side of the fence, and I’m worried that it’ll happen again next week. What would it mean if I didn’t like the Doctor two weeks in a row? Would I have to hand in my credentials as a fan? Would I be forced to burn all my Dr Who books and magazines and DVDs? (What would I fill my bookcases with instead?) Would I drift into a Doctor-free outer darkness, surrounded by the gnashing teeth of The Haters?

  • Pat Mustard

    I’m a little surprised that this exchange didn’t make it into the ‘great quotes’ section:

    Little Girl: Are you Scottish too?
    Doctor: I’m worse than Scottish.

    Deep-fried Mars Bars all round?

    Can I just call time on the naysayers too? Slating what’s only the second episode?! Bit like stationing a taxi outside the restaurant before a first date..

  • Isobel

    I got a little annoyed with all the people whining that Amy saved the day. I thought that was a fantastic touch, particularly because the way she saved the day was through emotional intelligence, which is I think going to be a great companion to the Doctor’s very cerebral brand of genius.

    Personally, I was extremely happy with the episode. Sure, some things could have been better plotted but it flowed well, it was great at letting us get to know the new Doctor, Amy and their relationship and had some political satire on the side. What’s not to like?

    Also, I think the writers have to walk a very fine line between creating a plot satisfying enough for all of us adult geeks, whilst keeping it simple enough so that it doesn’t mystify the children in the audience. It can’t be easy and I’m willing to accept a few plot holes here and there, especially if the episode is as good overall as this one.

  • You know what I hated most about the episode? The overuse of the color lime-green. It just hurts my eyes dammit!

    …actually I didn’t see the episode. I’m just complaining so I could be like all the others who are complaining. >;-)

  • Vanessa

    Thanks Maryanne for a reminder that we need to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, and enjoy the rest.

    I think Steven Moffat may turn out to be far more socially conservative (not politically conservative) that RTD, though. I see this in the treatment of the companion and to an extent in casting for the show so far (early days though).

    For example, Amy Pond. I put aside some of my reservations because I like Karen Gillan so much and the opening episode was handled so beautifully, but I wonder if she is a great role model for kids watching.

    First of all, is every little girl in Britain going to think that if she sees a friendly man in her neighborhood who asks her for an apple, that he might someday turn out to be the doctor and come back and take her away in the Tardis? I would be having some serious discussions with my kids if I lived there.

    Second, a kissogram? Steven Moffat said at one point that every little girl would want to grow up to be like this new companion (he later was quoted saying that about the actress, but at first it was the companion) and I’m not loving the idea of my daughter thinking that “kissogram” should be the height of her ambitions. I am not being prudish, but I just don’t think it is an empowering role model for girls. I hope that the character grows enough to make it worth that initial dress-up joke.

    With regard to casting, I don’t see as much color blind casting yet as in the RTD era (but it is early). In particular, I think that it is interesting that the character of Liz Ten is an Afro-British cockney, which removes the upper class from the responsibility for the police state. I really wish she had been a proper posh member of the royal family. BTW: am I right that in this episode the government is actually led by the queen? Is there no prime minister or parliament? Does this mean the monarchy attains greater power in a thousand years?

  • Vanessa

    Almost forgot–my personal favorite moment–

    Amy Pond is still on the electoral roles despite having disappeared 1000 years before! That is bureaucracy for you!

  • H

    My problem with this episode is not the plot, which was quite good, and not the effects, but Smith’s acting. It was so poor in this episode, that I really hope that it was the first shoot for him as doctor. As wonderful as he was in the first episode, he was just not good in Beast Below. His anger or his suppose to be sadness of 900 years old Time Lord, was not convincing. And Karen Gillan is clearly overplaying him in every scene. Matt doesn’t make me emotionally connected to his Doctor as it was with Eccleston and Tennant. And Eccleston was not even my favorite Doctor. So, I really hope that this episode was Matt Smith’s first one as a doctor and that he just need to grow into the role. Still looking forward to the next week, though.

  • Pat Mustard

    Is there no prime minister or parliament?

    You could hardly have 600+ MPs sneaking around in masks, could you?

    Although, given our current crop, the masks might be something of an improvement.

    Personally, I’d much rather see one of the Doctor’s drinking bouts with Henry XII..

  • Isobel

    There was a PM – the old guy in the brain room, surely? The point of LizX wandering around trying to work out what was going on was that she thought her government was against her, and her subjects, so she was trying to do something to help them, I thought?

    Interesting, the divergence of opinions, as I also thought the point of LizX being black and having a rougher London accent (sounded South London to me, not cockney?) wasn’t removing the ‘upper class from the responsibility for the police state’ but rather that the monarchy had stopped being aloof and upper class but was instead of the people and actually doing something active to help the population.

  • I’m still not comfortable with Amy’s characterization yet, she seems to oscillate between timid and dauntless with very high frequently. For instance, she’s appears alarmed when the Doctor tells her to go off and investigate the little girl because she’s unsure of what to do, but then after finding her she carelessly decides to investigate a big hole in the ground that’s been locked up by picking the lock without any real fear. Also, what really changed between Amy finding out about the whale the first time and the second time such that the first time she fell apart in tears but the second time she’s shocked by contained?

    On the other hand, I think it’s too early to look at the Doctor. He’s clearly a mutable character, with quirks and attitudes depending on the writer and actor. But given that RTD seemed to be working along a vague plan since ‘Rose’, it’s probably not unfair to ask people to treat Matt Smith as a brand new character that we’re going to find out a bit about in several episodes first before the plot tries to change him into something else.

    Moffat, I think, views this as similar to the start of Eccelson’s Doctor creating a new path after the long haitus, instead of Tennant’s Doctor, who was just continuing the trajectory established by Eccelson.

    Time will tell, of course.

  • Rob

    Okay, sure: I don’t really get why the Starship U.K. people feed their kids to the monster (or what they think of as the monster, at least) for doing poorly at school. That’s harsh, man. And sort of pointless, too. Unless it’s like a recycling thing. I mean, the starwhale has to eat something, right? Starwhale Kibble is people!

    The best theory I read about this was that, since the whale wouldn’t eat the children and clearly the government must have known that, they were sent down there to learn the secret and eventually become android hybrids. They need people in each generation to maintain the secret.

    It’s possible that doing poorly at those specific assignment is indicative of someone who would be likely to press the “Protest” button when s/he came of age.

  • Kenny

    I loved this episode. It was just right. Smith’s doctor remains more childlike and charming than Tennant’s, and Amy Pond is, in my humble opinion, the best companion I’ve ever seen. (I have probably got a wee bit of a cultural bias though.)

    I think Amy has inferred the Doctor’s extreme age based on a few things. Firstly, she was there when the Atraxi played holographic images of the Doctor’s ten previous faces. She also heard Liz 10 talking about all the previous monarchs the Doctor has met. He’s “A family legend”.

    I LOVED the final 10 minutes of TBB… the emotional stuff was perfection. I could see the Doctor re-evaluating Amy… I think this was the episode he decided she was here to stay. And yes, Amy saved the day… so what? Martha saved the day, so did Rose.. why can’t Amy?

    I will say this though. Terrible casting choice for Winston Churchill :(

  • @Les Carr: surely, if you made it through the Colin Baker years with your love of Doctor Who still intact, you cold most likely make it through a year or two of MS, if you don’t love him.

    @Vanessa and TempestDash: you can’t be serious. i am certain kissogram wasn’t high on amy’s ambition list — it’s what she’ll become in her character after being with the Doctor a while that i’m sure moffat was referring to. give her a chance to grow. did anyone complain because rose was sleepwalking her days working in a shop before she met the Doctor? no, because she grew as a person. no one’s character is set in stone at 19 or 20 (or shouldn’t be, anyway).

    also, really? you’re worried every little girl in britain is going to be approached by men with apples and think he’s the Doctor? really?

  • Keith

    Bad Crack (or Mysterious Crack) is the new Bad Wolf. I wonder if it will show up in every episode this season, something to watch for.

    Loving the new Doctor and Companion. Great choices. This episode’s Doctor Who Confidential was more about Karen Gillan as the new companion. Moffat also talked about how fairy tale like this episode was with Amy Pond being Wendy (even running around in her nightie) who ran off with Peter Pan right before she was to get married (and grow up). This episode was really about Amy proving herself as the new Companion and becoming someone even the Doctor can look up to.

    In the previous Confidential they made a comment about TARDIS stairs on one side probably leading around to the stairs on the other side. “Vacuumpunk?” that sucks (hehe, j/k, pun :D Appropriate, thew new center of the TARDIS (the part that goes up and down) is blown glass, too.

    The two-faced guy, they rotated him in a hood in front of a green screen for that effect. He then acted the rest of the scene with his back to them. Moffat says he loves to have characters that look ok transform into something sinister, which we’ve often seen in the previous episodes he’s written (the Library episodes, Girl In The Fireplace, etc).

    What the Scottish having their own “ship”? If the starwhale was the last of its kind, did any other humans really escape Earth? How is it that the humans know there used to be so many starwhales at one time, but the Doctor hasn’t seemed to have encountered one before? Not critical, just curious.

    I’ll be interested to find out what the rest of the US viewers think about the new Doctor (as opposed to the superfans who couldn’t wait).

    For those who haven’t fallen in love with the new Doctor as fast as some of us, just give it some time. We are only on episode two.

  • Keith

    @TempestDash: The first time Amy found out about starwhale, she had the entire horrific history downloaded into her brain all at once. The second time she learned second-hand from being told by the Doctor. Two different learning methods, two different reactions.

  • Mo

    If I remember right, Steven Moffat said in the confidential for Blink that you know when you’ve written a good Who episode when you think, well there goes that major movie idea.

    Which is kind of my reaction to this one. It was very good, but it was meant to be an allegory, and I wonder if people are reacting to that instinctively. A lot of the great science fiction is allegorical but the point can sometimes get in the way of the ideas and this was a really freaking cool idea. I want to see more of the ship. I want to see the big open spaces and the way the buildings connect and how all the subcultures on board have evolved. Where does the food come from? Are there gardens? How do Starwhales stay alive in space normally? I’m wondering because I think Moffat knows some of those answers, not to complain.

    I really did like the plot- I think Midnight has had a big influence on Moffat, but I hope we come back here for a different type of story some day, because all the things in my head were overshadowing what was happening.

    One thing I thought was cool about it though: I haven’t seen too many of the old episodes, but this really reminded me of the tone of the ones I have seen- more than any other episode of new Who so far. I wonder if that was on purpose.

    As for the whiners, I think this just shows how good the first episode was, that an episode this good could seem so pale in comparison. I’d gladly take it over half the specials. ^.^

  • Kenny

    I loved the bit about the Scottish having their own ship :D
    I think the implication here was that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish just left it too late. Everybody else left, and they hung around hoping it would all get better…

    Also, it wouldn’t be too much of a bother if the Scots wanted their own ship. Most of the ship building that takes place in the UK today happens in Scotland… (all six of the Navy’s brand new Type 45 destroyers, both of the proposed new aircraft carriers…) presumably in the future, Scotland retains that ship building ability. Also there are currently only five million people in Scotland… our ship would only need to be a tiny fraction of the size of Starship UK… so an engine wouldn’t be as hard to construct.

  • Vanessa

    really? you’re worried every little girl in Britain is going to be approached by men with apples and think he’s the Doctor? really?

    lol :)
    No, not every one, but depending on the age of the child I would really be having the conversation:
    -“Now, how would you know that a nice man you meet on the street is not the Doctor?”

    -“That’s right–if he didn’t climb out of an upended blue police box he is still just a stranger”

    Here in the US no worries–mainly adults watch it–even in the 80’s when I started watching Tom Baker, it was on at 11pm weeknights.

  • RyanT

    For sci-fi/fantasy shows such as Doctor Who, Lost, and Torchwood I tend to be quite relaxed in putting them down when it comes to the nitty gritty. For me it’s all about the characters and if I care about them, it goes a long way.

    For this second episode of Doctor Who, I was less focused on the plot and more on how Matt and Karen got along with one another and I liked what I saw. The premiere was a tough act to follow, but I think they did well. Not looking forward to yet another Dalek episode though next week. Hoping Moffat gives us something new and exciting.

  • BTW: Not VacuumPunk – ValvePunk.

    Just sayin’

  • Leslie Carr

    @bronxbee: thank you for your support. I shall watch TBB again tonight and see if my emotional connection with it improves. Yours, Leslie “Bad boy timmy” Carr

  • I doubt, too, that had the Doctor succeeded in putting the starwhale out of its misery without hurting Starship U.K. would be “the worst thing [he’s] ever done.” All that “bad stuff” in the Time War, all the stuff he’d “love to forget it all, every last bit of it”? Some of that has got to be worse…

    He didn’t say it was the worst thing he’s ever done, he said it’s the “worst thing I ever do” meaning an ongoing action, something he has to do sometimes. I thought it was nice.

    Here’s where we gotta take a moment and realize what’s happening to Doctor Who. Dreaded Continuity!

    There are obviously many more things wrong with this 29th Century Starship UK, not least of which is the children being tossed away for doing badly in school. It got glossed over in this episode, but not because of bad writing, but because another Bad Thing took priority, and the Doctor can’t fix everything at once. He’ll be back, that crack in the ship is evidence enough of this.

  • Me:

    It got glossed over in this episode, but not because of bad writing, but because…

    Heh, speaking of bad writing! MaryAnn, let’s get an EDIT button for these comments. It’s 2010!

  • MaryAnn

    He didn’t say it was the worst thing he’s ever done, he said it’s the “worst thing I ever do” meaning an ongoing action, something he has to do sometimes. I thought it was nice.

    Just cued up that moment again, and in fact he says, “the worst thing I’ll ever do.”

    Heh, speaking of bad writing! MaryAnn, let’s get an EDIT button for these comments. It’s 2010!

    I’ll see if I can find a plugin that allows that in the new version of Movable Type that I’m working on upgrading to.

  • Kenny

    MaryAnn, I think “the worst thing I’ll ever do” is a fair description here. I mean, yes, he did bad things during the time war… but to get the humans out of the situation they’d found themselves in, he thought he was going to have to murder an innocent being. Ouch.

    He may have had to make decisions along the lines of “I’ll save this group of people rather than that group because there are more of them…” Maybe he had to step back and let some people die because he knew it would ultimately lead to less deaths in the long run… but these are passive actions. He feels he is responsible for “bad things” (because he’s the Doctor, and part of what makes him so wonderful is that he cares so deeply) but the blood isn’t on his hands.

  • Just cued up that moment again, and in fact he says, “the worst thing I’ll ever do.”

    I Just did the same thing! Yeah, I was mistaken. Just like the Doctor!

    I also just watched the Doctor Who Confidential episode that aired after this… it was really good, and the stuff they got into about comparing The Doctor to the Star Whale made me tear up AGAIN! They were playing this awesome music behind it… totally worth watching if you’re into behind the scenes stuff.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m totally into behind-the-scenes stuff, but I never watch the Confidentials. Must have more hours in the day…

    He feels he is responsible for “bad things” (because he’s the Doctor, and part of what makes him so wonderful is that he cares so deeply) but the blood isn’t on his hands.

    Except I suspect that he has done some things that are much worse than what he was going to do to the starwhale (which was, how awful, an act of mercy, in his eyes). I think the Time War must have forced him into far worse things than this, things that he absolutely should take blame for.

    But that’s just me, who thinks waaaay too much about this silly show and this silly character.

  • NickT

    I hope we’re eventually going to discover where those stairs on the left go to.

    On the first Confidential when they toured the new TARDIS set, they said that the stairs on the bottom left lead to the platform on the top right.

    Yeah.

    They may have just been joking around, but this is the TARDIS, so that wouldn’t even be in the top ten of impossible things that it does on a daily basis. I’m assuming it’s true until they show us otherwise.

    I loved the episode enough to gloss over the nitpicking, and the casting did a fantastic job at throwing a lot of us off our game by casting The Demon Headmaster as the Head Winder. Never thought that guy would turn out not to be the Big Bad.

  • Juliet1555

    Hmm…wonder if the character Liz 10 was a shout-out to our current Maj – the rumour is she’s a major Doctor Who fan.

  • Dave

    I’m putting most of the criticism of this episode down to the amazing quality of the first episode more than anything else. Nothing could have matched Eleventh Hour. All in all it was a solid episode. Only disapointment is the lack of an Arthur Dent joke since Amy spent the whole episode in her nightie and robe.

  • Kenny

    MaryAnn, I wonder about the Time War too. What could have have done that he considers to be so bad? I still have doubts that he ever directly committed murder though.
    I think that our Doctor is too morally good to commit anything which might be construed as a war crime.
    I think that the Doctor’s nature means that the bad things he has done in the war must be the kinds of things that have led, ultimately, to less demonstrably less harm than would have occurred otherwise.

    I think that the Doctor feels such guilt because he couldn’t prevent all of the horrific atrocities which were carried out by other parties in the war. (Such as the destruction of Galifrey.)

  • Lisa

    ^Naw Dude took everyone out -he possessed the moment and he used it

    so Scotland has independence and Northern Ireland doesn’t?

    If it came down to it … between the torture of a star whale or the death of me and mine – I’d say torture the whale. I didn’t believe the secret was that horrific I’d been in the less than one per cent going really? meh!

    I think it’s the worst episode Moffat has written but he has a high standard to write to.

  • Kenny

    Yeh I was showing my ignorance there. I missed the Christmas special.. Youtube is helping out.

  • MaryAnn

    If it came down to it … between the torture of a star whale or the death of me and mine – I’d say torture the whale. I didn’t believe the secret was that horrific I’d been in the less than one per cent going really? meh!

    And what if it comes down to, Your comfortable Western lifestyle paid for at the expense of poor undeveloped nations? Because that’s the way it basically is today, in many ways. And we all live with that fact even without a big Forget button.

    Surely that’s the point that Moffat is getting at…

  • Lisa

    ^ that’s a fair point and one that was made as recently as Planet of the Ood in DT’S era.

    But really shocking enough for Amy to choose forget? I’d been hey Dr we’re being flown thru space by a giant space whale ! cooooool! maybe he was right to want to chuck her off the Tardis

  • Lisa

    take me, doctor, take me!

  • Ah. I’m offline for 48 hours, having left a vague comment about this episode not doing it for me, and I come back to find a string of people saying: “Actually, I didn’t like it either, and here’s why…” And these people being the subject of a link about nitpicking. Oh dear.

    I actually enjoyed it much more on second viewing, which suggests I may have been in the wrong mood for it the first time. But if casual viewers watch each episode only once, and respond as I did, that’s worrying. Or me catastrophising.

    I just didn’t connect with the plot first time round, and found Matt’s performance to be gauche, callow, affected – everything other people feared before The Eleventh Hour aired. Strangely, I didn’t have that reaction the second time I watched this episode. Go figure. Maybe it’s me.

    I do sympathise with Leslie Carr’s comment, though. What if this continues? It would be very ironic, considering how I’ve been standing up for Matt since last January, to discover I’m in agreement with the naysayers, who by now have changed their minds and think he’s great!

    Personally I think this episode was just a blip. The clip of Matt in the vampire story, shown on Jonathan Ross’s chat show, was fabulous.

    Must… be… positive.

    Oh, and bronxbee, Colin is one of my favourite Doctors.

  • Lisa

    I just wasn’t that shocked by it. If you build something up to be horrific and then it isn’t, it’s obviously a let-down. Animals are tortured every day for make-up companies. At least this one is being tortured so that life can continue. If the kids were being sacrificed in a Children of Earth type deal, then yeah, that could have been society’s darkest secret.

    I really didn’t understand the relationship between the smilers and the whale. Why did they let the kid fall at the start of the episode? It looked like they were trying to feed it but they knew it didn’t eat kids, so that didn’t make any sense. Did it eat adults? I’ve only watched it once, I’ll have to watch it again to see if it makes more sense. My sister loved this episode but her favorite episode is Voyage of the Damned so we can discount her opinion!

  • @ProperDave: i know a lot of people who have love for Colin Baker’s Doctor… i don’t actually blame him (too much)… but i found his Doctor to be rude, arrogant and obnoxious without the other characteristics of his sense of justice, his humour, his innate kindness… it may have been the writing, his acting, the direction and/or JNT — or a combination of all of the above, but sometimes i can barely sit through a full episode of a Colin Baker Doctor story… whereas, even the worst Tom Baker, Peter Davison or Sylvester McCoy will merely make me roll my eyes and say (internally, of course) “Very silly!”

    of course, i have gotten used to a much more “grown up” Doctor Who over the past few years and while i still don’t *love, love, love* Matt Smith, i still do love the Doctor because at least he’s being written in a way i can still love him.

    perhaps that’s all a bit much … for a simple comment about liking Colin Baker, but i think you see where i am going with it… i think.

  • VT

    The first thing this episode made me think of (other than the trash compactor scene in Star Wars, and MaryAnn caught that, too), was the story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin. Strong parallels, I think: the fate of a society resting upon the abject misery of one individual; the need to make the decision to accept the way things are, or to protest and face the consequences. I’d be shocked if Moffat has not read the story. Everyone else should, too–it’s great!

  • Something weird happened to me last night. I stumbled across a picture of David Tennant as the Doctor and was momentarily confused… That’s not the Doctor, I said to myself, before realizing what was happening.

    I guess I like Matt Smith?

  • EnglerP

    i don’t actually blame him (too much)… but i found his Doctor to be rude, arrogant and obnoxious without the other characteristics of his sense of justice, his humour, his innate kindness… it may have been the writing, his acting, the direction and/or JNT

    Since he’s really good ( at least imho)in the audioplays, i would say: Primarily the writing.

  • allochthon

    Oh, VT! I was going to remark on the parallels to The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas too! I couldn’t stop thinking about it all during the episode. Thank you! (TOWWAfO is one of the best SF short stories ever. It won the Hugo Award for short stories in 1974. Go read it! Then buy it!)

    MS hasn’t won me over yet, but I’m not worried. I remember not being terribly fond of DT in The Christmas Invasion and New Earth when they first aired, but the more I watch those, the more I love them (and him!). I expect the same will happen here. Especially as we see running threads start to pay off.

    I have to admit I really dislike the whole Virgin Queen running gag. All that angst over Rose, and the emotional trauma of Waters of Mars, and then he goes and does that?

    Um …. no.

  • @Engler P:

    Since he’s really good ( at least imho)in the audioplays, i would say: Primarily the writing.

    i’ve never heard the audio plays… i’ll make it a point to find one or two and give them a listen. thanks. just what i need! more Doctor Who! ;-)

  • Leslie Carr

    Good point, @allochthon. New Earth and Beast Below feel similar to me. Perhaps the presentation of a few scenes that are supposed to represent an enormously complex future society just don’t capture my imagination.

    I didn’t find a problem with the Virgin Queen. A TimeLord on the rebound is obviously a timelord off the leash. And bless him, he has taken long enough to work through all his angst – Rose (unfulfilled), Martha (unrequited) and Donna (strictly mates). When was he going to get back on the dancefloor?

    Back to my unpopular comments on TBB. I think that as fans, a regeneration event requires us to regenerate as well. It’s not like we’re just “objective consumers of Dr Who output” – we actually have to renegotiate our relationship with the show (with the Doctor).

    I have really loved the heroic/epic/emotional core that was established in the RTD series:

    • He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe and… he’s wonderful.
    • I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that? No? In that case, allons-y.

    And now the Doctor has been stripped back to “I am definately a mad man with a box”. Before I really didn’t care about plot holes and monsters that weren’t really scary and any number of things that The Whiners complained about because RTD, CE and DT were giving me Big Emotional Experiences every week. Now the Doctor is working out who he is and I’ve got to cope while he becomes a match for the man he was before.

    Anyway, enough of my angst. I’ve just seen the latest issue of the Radio Times, and the Daleks are on the front cover! Yippee.

  • Matthew

    because RTD, CE and DT were giving me Big Emotional Experiences every week.

    To paraphrase John Nathan Turner, I think your memory is cheating a bit there. You’ve watched the equivalent of Rose and The End of the World or The Christmas Invasion and New Earth or Smith and Jones and The Shakespeare Code or The Runaway Bride and Partners in Crime (with maybe a bit of The Fires of Pompeii) give it time to develop its emotional themes, like every other season has.

  • @ allochthon and @ Leslie Carr:

    Yep, I’ll go along with the New Earth parallels. I loved David in The Christmas Invasion, went off him during New Earth, wobbled a bit for most of series two and didn’t fully accept his Doctor until Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. In fact I remember being quite disparaging about him on an online ‘I miss Chris’ discussion, which with hindsight was unfair of me. But as Leslie says, us fans are having to regenerate too. So I’m not too worried about Matt really. Like David, he’s given us a glimpse of what he’s capable of in his first episode, and very promising it was too.

  • VT

    @allochthon:
    I agree about the Virgin Queen gag. It’s kinda funny, yes, especially given Liz One’s reaction to seeing the Doctor in “The Shakespeare Code”, but it’s ultimately a pretty cheap joke, and seems out of character for Ten, at least at that particular point in his arc. Not that I’m denying he probably needed to get back on the “dancefloor”!

  • allochthon

    re: the Virgin Queen.

    Maybe I’m just jealous.
    ;-)

  • Kenny

    @allochthon … in those days, soap was not widespread, nor was any form of shaving. She also had no teeth… (she was VERY fond of sugar)

  • in those days, soap was not widespread, nor was any form of shaving.

    and yet, people managed to fall in love — or at least in lust — and have sex and produce children…. amazing.

    perhaps the Doctor, being a man of the Universe, is a little more open-minded when it comes to the squishy bits and the species specific body enhancements. hairy women were once looked upon as being of a particularly passionate nature. the childlike forever thing is pretty recent (well, recent again. it seems egyptians also liked smooth bodies)…

  • JohnnyInc

    I liked when he grabbed the glass off the table set it on the ground and told the couple at the table he was on the lookout for an escaped fish. Very Doctor-ish that bit. Almost channeling the older Doctors.

  • How about TeslaCore for the new Tardis aesthetic?

  • Newbia

    Have you ever read “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin? Extremely similar to this episode. I would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t (it’s just a short story so it won’t take long).

  • pokeypie

    Did anyone yet mention that the boy in the opening scene was called “a zero?” After Prisoner Zero — I’m wondering if the number zero will be part of an arc.

  • Alice

    I am late to this and perhaps I’ll be talking to myself, but I am having trouble with the new doctor. I am especially having trouble because everyone else seems to love him. Maybe it’s a generational thing. (I’m a early Baby Boomer). Here’s the problem. I find 11 cold and detached. He hardly ever looks anyone in the eye. (He’d be great at twittering and texting rather than actually talking to people) He seems all gob and intellect and no heart to me. I really loved David Tennant and thought at first I would hate any successor. But as the new season approached, I was very excited. The first episode where he spat out everything on the floor bothered me as it was discourteous, something 10 would never be. Silly, I know, but a symptom of the problem.

  • LaSargenta

    Well, it does seem to me that that is part of his nature…he IS rude. He reminds me a bit of the 6th Doctor, actually. (Colin Baker)

    I liked this episode, although I have read a lot of complaints about it, I kinda don’t see those things as problems.

  • This wasn’t my favorite episode of the series but I will admit that it’s kinda early to start complaining about the new guy and the new girl.

    And Moffat apparently has a thing for stories about creepy British schoolchildren. Who knew? I’m guessing “Remembrance of the Daleks” was his favorite episode of the old-school series…

    And I’m glad I saw “Victory of the Daleks” before I finished seeing this episode all the way through. I know most of you don’t mind spoilers but I generally find that the episodes work better for me the less attention I pay to spoilers and trailers. Otherwise, there’s a big temptation to keep going, “Now when’s this scene going to happen?”

    And I’m guessing the reason they called it a “starwhale” is because the term “starfish” was already taken, right?

    Plus there was no way they were going to get David Bowie sing a changed version of “Starman”–called “Starfish,” natch–for this episode anyway…

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