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part of a small rebellion | 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
posted in:
tv buzz
  • C’mon, surely someone has invented an alcoholic sonic screwdriver… (Actually, they have. It sounds gross.)

    The Mrs & I had played around with blue drinks for a Sonic Screwdriver, and I think we settled on Hypnotique – a blue tropical-fruit liqueur, made from a blend of premium french vodka, pure cognac and natural tropical fruit juices.

  • boz

    year 5 billion book was a stretch. I mean forget 5 billion, after 10000 years I don’t believe we would be keeping time by birthyear of a religious figure.

  • MaryAnn

    So true! Sex with alien wasps is, on the other hand, totally plausible. :->

  • The beginning of the kitchen scene, when the Doctor grabs the boytoy by the lapels and shouts: “Ginger beer!”, is even funnier if you know that it’s rhyming slang for “queer”.

  • I thought this episode was brilliant. Another thing I loved (along with all the things you mentioned) was how many Agatha Christie titles they managed to work into general conversation. I counted at least thirteen.

  • Ginger beer, walnuts, anchovies, and a kiss from Donna…

    Beats the traditional jug of wine and loaf of bread. As long as it’s the fictional Donna you’re talking about and not any of the real-life Donnas I know. (Among other things, they’re all married.)

  • Gaynell Bates

    David Tennant’s father played one of the servants during the lawn party at the beginning of the episode. He is standing by David when the line about all the decent men being on the other bus is said.

    The Doctor Who Confidential for this episode was interesting showing David going on a visit to Pompeii.

  • Weimlady

    I didn’t understand the “Flapper or Slapper?” question so googled it and found this:

    slapper n person on the prowl for anything they can get. Anything. The word is applied more often to females, arguably because it is a built-in function of blokes and doesn’t deserve a separate word. “Slappers” wander around the dance floor looking for the drunkest blokes and then, when they’ve found them, woo them by dancing backwards into them “accidentally”. They are invariably spotted at the end of an evening telling the bouncer how lonely they are and trying to sit on his knee.

    Now it all makes sense! Thought I’d share with other Brit-slang-challenged viewers.

  • Maddie

    You know, that’s really not what most people in the UK – and I daresay Donna – mean when they say slapper. I mean, I suppose a slapper would end up in that situation, but that’s waaaaay too specific. I’ve only ever heard it to mean trampy but usually not actually attractive.

  • Weimlady

    Thanks for the clarification, Maddie. “Trampy” works in American English, too! (And much more concise than what I found.)

  • Jackie

    I suspect that the first person who springs to the Doctor’s mind when he hears the word “slapper” is Jackie Tyler in predator mode (his “I bet she did” response to Rose telling him that Jackie went out with a sailor once proves that, as does his rather horrified realisation post-regeneration that he was wearing the pajamas of Jackie’s fruit and veg-loving boyfriend).

    Think desperate female who really isn’t fussy.

    The other funny thing is that the term flapper, which is now used to describe a woman wearing clothing of a particularly (for then) racy style in the 1920s then had connotations very similar to a modern slapper. The Doctor has clearly learned enough tact to answer Donna’s question with the tactful modern meaning without dilgently explaining that they mean the same thing before answering…

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