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23 September 2012 @ 12:19 pm
The Randomizer: The Beast Below  
This is the first time I've had an opportunity to revist an episode I had already reviewed. One of the interesting things about the exercise is how much I'm still in agreement with my previous review while, in my head, I had felt I was noticing contrasts and shifts.

In my memory, I had viewed The Beast Below as a flawed episode that stood out mainly for the fact it presented a manifesto for Moffat's vision of Doctor Who - that the Doctor is old, lonely and kind. Even in 2010, however, I was taking issue with the "kind" label and I don't think we've really seen much of it since. Moffat has toned back on the Doctor's tendency to act as a self-appointed judge and avenging angel, but his Doctor still frequently makes hard and dubious decisions, motivated as much by selfish reasons as disinterested ones.

Broadly speaking I also remain in agreement that The Beast Below is a good story for Amy, but the world-building leaves too many gaps. In particular the nature of the choice each citizen makes, whether to support the status quo or... well it's not precisely clear how explicit the or of "get fed to the star whale" is - but the choice is too stark an "agree with us or die". I'm far more inclined to forgive people choosing to support a dubious consensus when the alternative is certain death, than the more difficult choice the episode seems to be aiming for in which people are choosing between the good of the one and the many. It's not entirely clear why the society thinks it a good idea to feed children to the star whale either, to be honest.

In fact there were things I spotted the first time around that I didn't really notice the second. For instance this time I was happy to enjoy Sophie Okonedo's performance as Liz 10 without worrying much about exactly what she had (or had not) been doing to investigate her kingdom in the past ten years - not a lot, apparently, broadly speaking. Similarly last time around I complained that I felt the story started dragging around halfway through, which I didn't think this time.

In retrospect, this story appears less significant than it did first time around. Whatever Moffat's intentions at the time, it has not turned out to be a manifesto for the character of the 11th Doctor. It also misses the points it appears to be attempting to make more often than it hits them, which unusual in a Moffat script. It is an inventive script, with many good points and strong performances but, at the end of the day, it doesn't quite hold together.

My last review of the Beast Below (for reference).

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/76862.html.