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The Beast Below

Since last episode was the Introducing Eleven story, this was the Introducing Amy story. It had good and less good aspects, with perhaps some of the weaknesses of Moffatt's storytelling style showing.

The good first: Karen Gillan is excellent. Amy already feels more three-dimensional than many of her predecessors. She has a disarming combination of confidence and uncertainty. I cheered when she picked the lock with the hairpin; I want to know more about the wedding, as does she. It's only two episodes in, but she is charming her way to the top of my favourite companions chart.

Moffatt does scary very well. The 'orrible tentacles, the sinister two-faced creatures, the hooded brethren, the repeated memory wipes, the terrified children, the queen with her untroubled glasses of water, all made a brilliant set of images. The fact that it all turns out to be something of a misunderstanding could have made the whole thing flop, but was handled poignantly (as in The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances.

Liked also: Sophie Okonedo, Terence Hardiman, the child actors.

A great lead-in to next week's episode as well, rather better than, say, the unseen time-space telegraph which summons the Fourth Doctor to a part of Sussex pretending to be Loch Ness.

The less good: Moffatt sometimes lays it on a bit thick. (Does anyone remember The Girl With Two Breasts?) The parallel between the fate of the Space Whale and the Doctor was a beautiful concept, but hammered home without subtlety.

There were also some significant plot holes, though perhaps I just wasn't paying attention. I did not catch how the Doctor and Amy managed to clean themselves (and their clothes) so rapidly after their Jonah experience. I was also left a bit confused as to who had set up the machinery of repression, and how. The whale itself, and its tentacular sensory extensions, seem to be completely separated from the Demon Headmaster and the brethren, who themselves of course are allowing the queen to go her own, potentially dangerous, way. It didn't quite hang together for me.

Also - and this is a peculiar point reinforced by having watched the episode in Belfast - the framing of the UK in the story is a bit problematic. The towers all seemed to bear the name of southern English counties - the remark about Scotland was ambiguous, no trace of Wales or Norn Iron. It will have played well enough in most of the mainland but jarred with me a bit (similarly the Ninth Doctor's display of British patriotism marrs The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances) and I wonder if it will really help in the export market.

Still, the good outweighed the bad, even if it wasn't quite up to the standard of The Eleventh Hour.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
andrewducker
Apr. 11th, 2010 10:42 am (UTC)
I agree about the lack of subtlety with the parallels - by the time she finally said it completely explicitly I was getting frustrated.

And yes, a little more backstory might have been nice, to show that the Queen had originally handed off control to the advisers so that she could remain "pure", and how corrupt this actually was.

I think I saw a "Yorkshire" tower block, but I'm not 100% confident of my memory.
nmg
Apr. 11th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
No, there was a Yorkshire, but Nicholas' point still stands.
mizkit
Apr. 11th, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
I think they *said* it included Wales and Northern Ireland, but I didn't see any visible evidence of it.

I'm personally over Moffatt's Scary Mechanical Men, but I do admit they continue to be creepy and are probably exactly the right amount of scary for kids.

I like Amy a lot. I think Amy/Gillan, in fact, has got her feet under her better than the Doctor/Smith does, yet. This, of course, may be because she has no baggage, whereas Smith has ten predecessors, but still, I'm liking Amy a lot.
nwhyte
Apr. 11th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
There's a nice story in the current Doctor Who Magazine that Moffatt insisted that Smith watch lots of old Who episodes, but equally insisted that Gillan shouldn't watch any. Smith's character needs to know what the previous Doctors have seen and felt; Gillan's character, as far as she is concerned, is the first Amy to be a companion. The latter is (slightly) easier than the former.
ianmcdonald
Apr. 11th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
there was a sly little line early on about the ship being the United Kingdom opf Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
nwhyte
Apr. 11th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
Indeed - I twitched at that point, esp since there was no supporting evidence for it subsequently!
alexmc
Apr. 11th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Spoilers Maybe?
Yep - pretty much agree with all that.

> I was also left a bit confused as to who had set up the machinery of repression, and how.

I assumed that the official British/English government had always been in power - presumably with more advanced technology they had back on Earth.

The English/British/UK dilemma was (I think) a plot hole where Moffat was going down one route - but then decided against it but left the original plot in. The ship was supposed to be the English section of the UK - the Scots left in their own ship - no mention of Wales or Northern Ireland that I can remember. This sounds plausible until we reach the end of the story when we discover how many ships were actually launched.

During the first two episodes of this series I am repeatedly reminded of Hitchhikers - and this particularly reminded me of the Golgafrincham B-Ark.
alexmc
Apr. 11th, 2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
Sorry - can you clarify whether we are allowed to write spoilers in comments - I'm not sure if it is allowed here. If not then please delete my previous comment. Thanks!
stevegreen
Apr. 11th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
What (or who) will the whale eat in future? Moffat didn't exactly tie up that loose end.
raycun
Apr. 11th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
It's already eating lots of organic waste. It doesn't seem to rely on soylent green.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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