Doctor Who: The Beast Below

E: I think I’m the only fan out there who hasn’t surrendered themselves utterly to Eleven.  Everywhere I look I hear a chorus proclaiming “we love Matt  Smith.”  Let it resound to the heavens: everyone loves Matt Smith!  Everyone, that is, but me.

I’m getting more used to him, I will say that.  But when it comes down to it, I still think of him as Eleven, and not The Doctor.  I’m trying hard not to see him as a usurper, a mere pretender to the throne.

On the upside of the number scale, however, I’m a big fan of Liz Ten.

I suppose there’s a level to which Doctor Who is a role that you can’t be jealous of.  Perhaps we’re not supposed to play favorites.  And I’m trying, I really am.

M: I am just getting reintroduced to the show and the concept, after only a mild amount of watching when we were little, but I’m not sold on Matt Smith yet, either.  I think he’s quirky and fun, but not knowing as much of the history of the show, and not being able to compare him to other Doctors, I can’t tell if its the role, the writing, or if he just lacks a certain level of gravitas.  You’re right though, Liz 10 was great.

E: This episode had a fantastic start.  I loved the vision of the floating space ship U.K. – the campy skyscrapers, the compression, the tawdry noir visuals. I loved hearing that Scotland has their own ship.

M: I loved that they had London neighborhoods and other areas of Britain have their own towers, with their names in neon on the outside.  That was great.  However, as I digested it more, it’s a pretty bleak future for humanity, and I’m not a big fan of that.

E: No,  but Doctor Who isn’t so much about the happy shiny Federation future. You have to expect the dystopian.  Anyway, as I said, Sophie Okonedo (so brilliant in Hotel Rwanda though perhaps better known from The Secret Lives of Bees) as Queen Elizabeth the Tenth was pretty fantastic.  The plot?  After fleeing a dying Earth, the British people live on a space ship policed by alarming, freakish grinning carnival statues (called Smilers), creepy men with keys, and a strange creature below.  Any one who misbehaves (and, every five years, the entire adult population) gets to vote on whether or not the mystery should stay mysterious.  And everyone votes to forget, even Amy.  But not Eleven.   Eleven wants to blow it all wide open.  Eleven, he doesn’t fancyself-serving lies.

M: This part of it reminded me a bit of an original series Star Trek episode, ‘A Taste of Armageddon’, where there were two planets at war, but instead of destructive battles the people for centuries have volunteered to die in specific amounts at specific times.  Kirk, of course, decides to intervene and prevent the currently due batch of deaths, determining that they need to know the horror of war so that they will stop it all together.

E: That’s such a creepy episode.  And there was that girl.  Of course in Star Trek, there was always a girl; Doctor Who already has the cute girl in the companion, so there’s less of that.  As often as not, there’s a cute kid, like here.

Anyway, why did Eleven’s choice come off as sanctimonious?  It’s totally in character for the Doctor.  I suppose it’s not without precedent (I know he was iffy about Martha at first) but I thought he was really rather rude to Amy about it all.

M: Well, frankly, it was sanctimonious, but it had to be.  For the purposes of both the episode, and the characters development, you had to see the difference between his reasoning for hijacking them, and Amelia’s (I like that so much more than Amy) later when she figured out the reason the star whale came.  His reasoning is curiosity and trying to right what is wrong, hers is empathy and understanding.  We’re supposed to agree that he did the right thing, but we’re not necessarily supposed to like how he did it, I think.

E: Right.  It’s necessary for the plot.  And that’s how she wins the right to continue as his companion (ie, coming up with a better solution than his) but it didn’t make me think well of him all the same.

M: I don’t think they wanted us to, but I could be wrong.

E: I’m totally with you on the Amy/Amelia thing, by the way.  I wonder if later in the season she’ll go back to Amelia, as a way to say she won’t be selling herself short anymore?

M: I like it.

E: Another thing: oddly enough, I can’t always understand him.  Funny, because he doesn’t get the same sort of rapid fire dialogue David Tennant got, but I could always understand Tennant.  Smith is a bit more mushy mouthed, which I don’t love.

M: I didn’t have any trouble, but I can see where you could.  They just need to do a better job of sound editing.

E: I did like seeing the crack in the side of the space ship UK, though – you know, the same shape as the one in Amy’s bedroom.

M: That was very cool.

E: Speaking of Amy,  I have a question. When will Amy gets clothes, do you suppose?  And, from where?  Will she buy them, or sneak home, call off her wedding and pack a suitcase?  Or are there spare clothes somewhere in the Tardis?  Since there’s a library, and a swimming pool, perhaps there is also wardrobes? We know from the previews that she doesn’t spend the whole series in her nightie and bathrobe.

M: Maybe they’ll have an episode where they go shopping in London.  Honestly, I found that not in the least bit important or distracting.

E: I thought her running around in the bathrobe was funny, actually – especially the way she forgot about it herself.  Ah, and I’m forgetting my favorite bits of the episode.  Was it just me, or was there a slight nod to Empire Strikes Back?  Largely when they landed on the tongue, but when the Doctor asked the masked Liz Ten who she was, I was convinced she was going to say “someone who loves you,” pull off her mask and be Alex Kingston.  Guess I wasn’t watching the credits closely enough for guest star names…

M: I was with you on the tongue part, though not the Leia at Jabba’s palace bit.  I knew fairly quickly that they were inside some sort of beastie.  It was pretty fun, too, when the Doctor tried to explain to Amelia where they were without quite saying it.  And everyone saying they were covered in “sick”?  Very fun way to describe it.

E: I’m sure that’d be less funny if we were British.

M: I think that’s exactly why I found it fun.  In all, I thought it was a fun episode.  I liked the trick with the water glasses, I liked the Dark City kind of feel of the spaceship, and even though I couldn’t figure out how the Smilers could turn their faces 180 degrees to three different faces (E: nice trick, huh?), they did provide a creepy and menacing villain of sorts.  The Doctor was resourceful and kind of fun, and Amelia saving the day was quite excellent.

E: Honestly, I’m still trying to get over the whole Ten/Eleven thing.  I would have liked the episode a lot if I wasn’t so distracted by trying to like the interloper.

M: Here’s what I’m thinking about that.  Throw out trying to like him.  Don’t worry about it, just take him as a replacement, and judge him as such.  Compare him, judge him against the standard that you have.  If you’re trying to like him, even if you do you’ll always wonder if it was because you wanted to, not because he deserved it.  Plus, in a way it’s not fair to the prior Doctor if you don’t compare and just judge the new guy on his own.  Bring on the higher standard!

E: Wait, did you just tell me I wasn’t being picky enough?  Wow.  I never expected to hear that.  And perhaps your plan is so crazy it just might work.  Next week’s mission: NOT liking Matt Smith.  Alrighty then.

2 comments on “Doctor Who: The Beast Below

  1. PRT says:

    There is a wardrobe in the Tardis–after Eccleston turns into Tennant, we see him going through it. And it plays a larger role in some of the classic seasons.

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