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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Unicorn and the Wasp”

(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: Episode 6: “The Doctor’s Daughter”)

Just after this episode first aired in England, I suggested that it may well be the funniest episode of the show ever (including the old show), and now that I’ve had a few weeks to think about it, I’ll stand by that. I was thinking, at that time, mostly about That Kitchen Scene, when the Doctor’s trying to self-administer an antidote for cyanide poisoning:

Ginger beer, walnuts, anchovies, and a kiss from Donna… That’s funny. Tennant’s and Tate’s performances are a riot — I don’t know how they don’t constantly crack each other up, and maybe they do: I’d love to see outtakes.

But now I’ve seen the episode a whole bunch of times, and now I’m struck by how wonderfully ridiculous it is. Basically, what it comes down is this: a woman had sex with a giant wasp, and now her half-human, half-alien-wasp child is on a rampage. That is just absurd in the extreme. I love it. The buzzing vicar? It’s like a Monty Python sketch. It’s enough to reduce all the tweaking of the clichés of murder mysteries to just so much minor silliness. I mean, it would have been enough on its own to have a Doctor Who story that’s like a game of Clue — “Professor Peach in the library with a lead piping?” — or a sendup of PBS Mystery! — the “I’ve called you here” climax scene, with the endless rounds of finger pointing (and the Doctor loving watching it, like he’s watching a movie) — and the playing with multiple levels of flashbacks, and even the Doctor getting caught up in his own flashback (including a gratuitous use of the word Belgium — brilliant!). But it all pales next to the proper Victorian girl aristocrat who had sex with a giant alien wasp.

And how naughty it all is, too:

• “You humanzzzz, worzzzzhipping your tribal sky god.” Zing!

• Roger with his servant boytoy:

• The colonel in his study with his girlie magazines!

And yet no booze for the Doctor? Why does he get stuck with lime soda on the lawn? C’mon, surely someone has invented an alcoholic sonic screwdriver… (Actually, they have. It sounds gross.)

On the other hand, he flirts with Agatha Christie, and she flirts back:

That bit of chastising he gets from her — “How like a man to have fun while there’s disaster all around him” — does not put him off one bit. In fact, it probably does the opposite: he likes those smart women who stand up to him, which is why he likes Donna, too, even if it’s nothing romantic or sexual on his part:

The Doctor: “Ah, smell that air: grass and lemonade. And a little bit of mint. Just a hint of mint. Must be the 1920s.”

Donna: “You can tell what year it is just by smelling?”

The Doctor: “Oh yeah.”

Donna: “Or… maybe that big vintage car coming up the drive gave it away.”

As long as, in the long run, they worship and adore him, he’s happy to take their little smackdowns once in a while.

Random thoughts on “The Unicorn and the Wasp”:

• Donna attacked by the giant wasp: She calls for the Doctor, but that’s more out of surprise and a need for him to know what’s going on. She’s not expecting rescue, and she doesn’t panic: she uses the magnifying glass to defend herself. Fantastic.

• The Doctor always loves the weird creatures: “Oh, you are wonderful,” he coos on his first look at the wasp.

• “Plenty of people write detective stories but yours are the best. Why? Why are you so good, Agatha Christie? Because you understand. You’ve lived. You’ve fought and you’ve had your heart broken. You know about people. Their passions, their hope and despair and anger, all of those. Tiny huge things that can turn the most ordinary person into a killer.” You get the sense that the Doctor understands all these things, too… perhaps even more than he used to.

• Great quotes:

“Never mind planet Zog. A party in the 1920s? That’s more like it!”–Donna

“Typical. All the decent men are on the other bus.”–Donna
“Or Time Lords.”–the Doctor

(next: Episode 8: “Silence in the Library”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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