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12 April 2010 @ 05:35 pm
The Beast Below  
Well that was very interesting indeed, both in terms of the components that worked and in terms of the components that didn't.

Where The Eleventh Hour was clearly seeking to stress continuity with Davies' period at the helm while giving pointers to where Moffat would be taking the show, The Beast Below is almost a manifesto stating Moffat's take on the Doctor, the Companion and their dynamic and on those terms it is a success.

I always, I have to confess, struggled to appreciate Rose. With one or two exceptions, I struggled to find what it was in her that was supposed to be so independent and resourceful. In retrospect, something that held her back was that the Doctor nearly always kept her close, which was possibly a side effect of the very linear style of plotting Davies preferred. In The Beast Below the Doctor almost immediately sends Amy off to investigate on her own and in doing so we see a take on the Companion which is, first and foremost, Doctorish. Amy pond wanders around London Market in her nightdress with only the slightest qualm and the residents simply accept the fact. She is instantly curious, has an overwhelming desire to meddle, and is both bold and resourceful. At the end it is Amy, not the Doctor, who puts the pieces together and finds a solution to the problem. It has often been stated that the huge problem with the Doctor Who companion is that they are, by the very format of the program, inferior and subordinate to the Doctor. Moffat here turned that on its head and showed pretty conclusively that it doesn't have to be like that. I find I'm really excited to see a series where it could equally be the Doctor or the Companion who ultimately saves the day and I hope that's what we will get.

Moffat was also seizing the opportunity to state his vision of the Doctor. This wasn't quite as successful. I bought the very old and very lonely but Smith didn't sell very kind. His actions both here and in The Eleventh Hour seemed to follow more from the Doctor's instinctive need to meddle and investigate than a specific deep vein of compassion. It's an interesting idea, with a lot of potential, and turns the viewpoint of the series out from contemplating the Doctor's own pain, while leaving plenty of scope for emotion and character growth/exploration. Smith's Doctor did appear much more his own person in this episode, particularly in lines like `it was a bad day', but I feel he's still settling into the role and finding the performance.

The story also succeeded, where Davies' output so often failed, in making the two resolutions to the story (emotional and plot) intricately linked together so that the whole thing seemed like a coherent whole, rather than a character study with some explosions, set pieces, and strange jargon thrown in. Moreover the resolution followed clearly from the logic of the world that had been set up, again something NuWho has shown a tendency to sacrifice. However the casualty seems to have been an odd drop in pace at around the point where the Doctor and Amy fall into the space whale's mouth which somehow failed to pick up again until the moment where Amy starts piecing everything together. I'm not quite sure what caused that, but my attention began to wander a bit and I started noticing clunkinesses like the fact that the little girl has no lines at all to speak in that entire segment, and that Liz 10, for an apparently extremely bright and able woman had seemingly spent ten years learning nothing at all about how her kingdom worked (and wondering why the British Isles had apparently reverted to an absolute monarchy with only a thin veneer of democracy). I suspect Moffat ended up needing a little more exposition than the forty-five minute format can easily sustain. I would also have loved to see some more details and exploration of the world of Spaceship UK, but NuWho has never been good at world-building and I at least appreciated that the ambition here was larger than simply tacking some technology/technobabble into a world that to all intents and purposes was otherwise 21st Century Britain.

Once again this was a story with a distinctly fairytale feel to it, though in this case the kind of modern urban idea of a fairytale that brought us Gaiman's London Below and the 1980s Beauty and the Beast. On the whole I found this a more uneven episode than The Eleventh Hour, but at the same time I thought it a whole load more interesting and even the points which didn't quite seem to work, didn't work in ways that suggested the writer/production team's priorities were in interesting places.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/2970.html.
fredbassettfredbassett on April 12th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
I quite enjoyed this episode, but don't think it quite merited the degree of universal acclaim it seems to have received throughout my flist. But I've certainly seen a lot worse from Nu Who.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 12th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think it was a classic episode by a long shot. In fact my first reaction was that it was a little hollow, which seemed odd given the lovely stuff it was doing with the Doctor and Amy. In retrospect I think maybe Moffat has sacrificed the world, the story and the characters slightly in favour of something he wanted to say.

However I'd rather these things were getting sacrificed in the name of saying something (even if it's only something about Doctor Who) than in the name of adrenaline and headlines which sometimes felt like it was the case under RTD.
fredbassettfredbassett on April 12th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
I got totally sick of all the big bangs, arm-waving and running around that was starting to characterise RTD's writing. It really was tiresome and irritating. I'd certainly prefer a quieter approach.