Doctor Who – The Beast Below – Episode review

The Doctor and Amy Pond visit Starship UK in [[The Beast Below (Doctor Who episode)|The Beast Below]]. It’s the distant future, and whole nations have taken to space while the Earth has been uninhabitable. The UK (including Northern Ireland, but not Scotland – they insisted on having their own craft) have bundled aboard Starship UK and are crossing the galaxy looking for a temporary home.

The mysterious Smilers preside over the ship, visible almost everywhere. The Doctor quickly cottons on that something’s amiss. He also notices that there’s zero engine vibration from the ship. Unable to investigate both at the same time, he sends Amy to follow a little girl while he looks at the engines.

The pair quickly become embroiled in a fantastic adventure – Amy getting caught by the sinister Winders and waking up in a voting cubicle, while The Doctor encounters Liz 10, the latest in a long line of British monarchs. What was most interesting about this monarch was that she was a gun-toting, tough talking kind of queen. And I only really noticed the significance that she was black upon my second watching of the episode.

Kudos to Moffat for the references to The Doctor’s other encounters with royalty – like in Tooth And Claw and the first episode of [[The End of Time (Doctor Who episode)|The End of Time]].

[[Matt Smith]] blew me away with his performance in this episode. He was gloriously quirky when he was reciting his “rules of non-engagement” to Amy whilst disappearing to console a crying child. His fury at being forced to choose to kill the space whale or destroy the starship was brilliant. And then there were some very glib comments on democracy – via Moffat, of course – about how we go five years and then choose to forget everything and then start again.

Plotting

Perhaps not the most tightly plotted adventure – I wondered at the Magpie Electricals sign, a nod to the Mark Gatiss penned episode [[The Idiot’s Lantern (Doctor Who episode)|The Idiot’s Lantern]]. Magpie got vapourised in that episode, so to imagine his business continued centuries later is strange. Unless it has something to do with cracks in the universe.

More importantly, how did Amy manage to leave herself a message from the future? She advised herself to stop The Doctor from investigating, but then was with The Doctor for the rest of the episode.

And we get our third hint at the “cracks in the universe”. The first was the crack on Amy’s wall in [[The Eleventh Hour (Doctor Who episode)|The Eleventh Hour]], and the second was the crack that appeared on the TARDIS monitor at the end of that same episode. And as this episode ended, we saw a crack on the outside of Starship UK. Did you spot any other clues in this episode?

Magic

Amy’s inaugral outing in the [[TARDIS (Doctor Who)|TARDIS]] saw her getting dumped into the mouth of a giant space whale and receiving a telling off from The Doctor for not keeping him informed. On the other hand, her insight prevented The Doctor from making a terrible decision – one which would have caused him to change his name.

I’m finding myself watching episodes two and three times this series. There’s something captivating about Matt Smith’s Doctor and his relationship with Amy. Smith’s professorial hand-wringing at the beginning is a reminder of Moffat’s comments about Smith being able to convince us of The Doctor’s age, despite Smith being so young.

I like how Smith peers at things with his eyes – whether it’s Amy noting that she’s been dead for centuries (he looks right into her face) or looking for ripples in a glass of water.

For a second episode – normally these are quite lightweight – The Beast Below was a fantastic episode. It manages to keep my expectations for this new series high, and I’m actually looking forward to a very clever use of the Daleks in the next episode!

Quotes from this episode

  • Amy Pond: Is that how it works, Doctor, you don’t interfere with affairs of peoples or planets unless there’s children crying?
  • The Doctor: Sorry, checking all the water in this area. There’s an escaped fish.
  • Amy: A long time ago tomorrow morning. I wonder what happened?
  • Amy: So there other Time Lords, yeah? Doctor: No. There were. But there aren’t. Just me now. Long story. It was a bad day, bad stuff happened.
  • Doctor: Blimey! If this is just the mouth, I’d love to see the stomach. (Beast growls) Though not right now!
  • Amy: You’re 50? No way! Liz 10: They slowed my body clock. Keeps me looking like the stamps.
  • Liz 10: I’m the bloody Queen mate, and basically I rule.

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6 Comments

  1. do me a melon

    I really enjoyed this episode.  I found myself rewinding every now and again to see some quirk or other again – often Amy’s expressions.  I was starting to question Matt Smith’s ability to convey details about the Time War until his line about ‘a bad day’. No more questioning!

    Loved the crack on the side of the ship; the impossible choice and the Doctor’s reaction to it;  Amy out-doctoring the Doctor; and Liz 10.  Watching her I was reminded a little of early Captain Jack Harkness: a swashbuckling character, different to the Doctor and his main companion.  More please!

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Are you finding that too? Yes, I’m revisiting each episode a few times. There seem to be many more layers to Stephen Moffat’s work, and the acting from Karen Gillan and Matt Smith is far more complex than anything we’ve seen in the RTD era. And I’m not criticising the RTD era, it’s simply different and enjoyable in a different way.

      I loved the way The Doctor dismissed the Time War as a “bad day”. I think the Lonely God version of The Doctor has run its course anyway.

      Hey – if you’re a Doctor Who fan, consider joining the fan group on Shout – you can share your own blog posts and get emails when someone adds a new blog post to the group.

  2. do me a melon

    You’re right, different and enjoyable is how I’m looking at the Moffat Who.  I have been a big fan of the RTD Who; every new companion added something new (although Martha’s crush was a mis-step), and I’ll be honest I was concerned when the replacement was announced.  But I never felt the need to rewatch scenes or episodes until much later.  There’s something ‘else’ about this incarnation of the Doctor, and Amy, that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. 

  3. John Finnan

    More importantly, how did Amy manage to leave herself a message from the future? She advised herself to stop The Doctor from investigating, but then was with The Doctor for the rest of the episode.

    I thought it was perfectly obvious that the message was recorded by Amy in the voting booth, during the 20 minutes or so that is deleted when she presses the “FORGET” button.

     

  4. Jeffrey Scott

    I could be wrong but wasn’t the Queen’s name Liz Taylor? That’s what I thought I heard but wasn’t able to check that out. If it was, I wonder if that was some reference to a Liz Taylor movie. I also liked how she mentioned to the Doctor various run-ins he had with previous Queens.

    Research this bit for one of your qutoes Gerard. Something along the lines of, “Knighted and banished in one day.” Loved that throw back line.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Liz 10, short for Elizabeth the Tenth (funny, because Matt Smith is Doctor the Eleventh!), continuing on from Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II.

      There were so many great quotes in this episode, a lot of them flew past me. I’ll be updating the Beast Below wiki page shortly, so I’ll add a quotes section to that page.

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