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TV: The Beast Below \ Doctor Who \ BBC

April 10, 2010

If you’re a die-hard fan of a TV series, a season openers are exciting because they’re something to look forward to. If the TV producers meet the fan’s expectations then the fan feels a heady concoction of gratification and relief. Some of the more self-obsessed fans might even blog their feelings on the subject.

More importantly however, it’s the second episode of any TV series which demands close scrutiny, I find.

How did episode two – “The Beast Below” – do? Very well.

Smith feels like he’s been in the role for ages. Karen Gillan (playing Amy Pond) demonstrates an impressive grasp of her role in the series. She’s feisty. She’s does ‘scared’ without screaming. And she represents the audience in the drama in a gratifyingly intelligent way. There’s plenty of dialogue. There’s oodles of showing not telling illustrated in scenes where budget has clearly been spent wisely on classy CGI.It fits together well. It has pace. The proposition is plausible. I’m happy.

The ‘in-joke’ for this series (or rather, exec produer Moffat’s tenure) is clearly the Scottish ‘gag’. And even though I’d had reservations about this being yet another story based on the UK, the story was as dark and thought-provoking as it was topical.

Yes, whilst there were moments when the parallels with the current general election campaign seemed more ham-fisted than beautifully coincidental, this was more than made up for by the stylish throwbacks to the Doctor’s past and indirect references to the equally dark Colin Baker story Vengance on Varos.

‘The Beast Below’ achieved one other slightly more difficult to explain important thing. Both the Doctor and Amy now occupy my mind as real people. My over-indulgent imagination prompts me to wonder what both characters say to each other inside the TARDIS when they leave Starship UK at the end of episode two. Does Amy have any idea what she’s about to see when her and The Doctor arrive in 1940s London? Where does she find a different outfit? And, more importantly, will we get a decent Dalek story next week?

That’s the kind of excitement I last experienced when Peter Davison was in the top job.

And really, I’m not being sarcastic about that.

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2 Comments
  1. I agree with nearly all of this Jon. Despite not finding Matt Smith gorgeously watchable (unlike both Ecclestone and Tennant), strangely I’ve warmed to him much more quickly than I did to either of his predecessors. He’s edgy and quirky and funny and utterly believable.

    And I too like Amy Pond’s underplaying … she says more in her facial expressions than there’s time to say aloud and I loved the twist at the end where grumpy Doctor got put firmly in his place because he had forgotten the truth about himself and had lost patience with humans. But it’s just…

    The writing. Oh god, the bloody terrible writing! Didn’t linger enough on the wonderful conceit of the Smilers. Skipped over the video playback scene so it wasn’t entirely clear what it meant to the plot. Far too long teasing out the Liz 10 thing without explaining clearly why it had come about or how it worked in that society.

    And as for the ending when Amy sussed the truth about the Spacewhale and the Doctor… surely 8 year old children the nation over were screaming at their tellies tonight?

    Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe the writing was fine but the editing was shit! Either way, a cracking opening scenario was let down by pedestrian pacing thereafter. After last week’s pedestrian plotline I’m going to get very cross if the rest of the series doesn’t raise its game.

    I give this episode 6/10. Must try harder.

  2. Glad you’ve become convinced!

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