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15 April 2015 @ 08:55 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Beast Below  
When I first viewed The Beast Below, I assumed that Amy's observation "very old and very kind" was intended to be a manifesto for the Eleventh Doctor, much as "never cruel or cowardly" was used as a manifesto for Benny Summerfield. However, much like the concept of Doctor Who as Fairy Tale I'm not sure it really stuck.

We are still in Doctor Who as Fairy Tale land here. The Beast Below is riffing on the concept of London as a fairy tale landscape, with its fairy queen walking disguised among the commoners. I suspect [personal profile] sir_guinglain may have a better grasp than me of the evolution of this idea. It's prevalent in modern Urban Fantasy, but its also clearly perceptible in Gaiman's Neverwhere and I suspect in a number of earlier Children's books - Carbonel perhaps? The idea is underscored by the children's rhyme that frames the story.

I think The Beast Below also joins a group of Doctor Who stories where the world building is ambitious but falls apart because of the parallels it is trying to draw to our own lives. I'm thinking of Gridlock here, and also Paradise Towers which we were watching on the Randomizer in parallel to this. Their societies don't quite make sense and are a little too subsumed to the point, here I think that communal decision making can allow a communal abdication of responsibility. It's a shame because there is a lot to like about The Beast Below. It gives the impression it knows what its doing. It's a good story for both Amy and the 11th Doctor, the guest cast are engaging and the central plot is well constructed. It's just it gives me the itchy feeling at the back of my mind that "this all doesn't quite make sense".

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/152455.html.
bunnbunn on April 15th, 2015 08:23 pm (UTC)
Exactly. The thing with the children and the weird heads in booths and the lift that take naughty children away Below - it's all so atmospheric, but it just doesn't make any sense in relation to the end of the story.

Nice tale as long as you don't stop and think.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 15th, 2015 08:38 pm (UTC)
I particularly struggle with the fact that it wants to suggest it is a basically benign society forced to do a terrible thing, and yet they are feeding children who get low marks to the beast which doesn't appear remotely benign.
bunnbunn on April 15th, 2015 09:02 pm (UTC)
Well exactly - particularly as I think there is the suggestion that they aren't really aware it's sentient?

Very alien culture this, quite happy to send off their own small children to become whalefood if they misbehave, but terminally traumatised by cruelty to a single non-sentient alien individual. Actually, maybe that's the answer, this is a much much more alien culture than it looks? I suppose that could make a weird kind of sense!

Edited at 2015-04-15 09:03 pm (UTC)
a_cubeda_cubed on April 15th, 2015 11:01 pm (UTC)
Dr Who rarely has properly worked out culture-of-the week. There's just not the time (on-screen or off) to work it out. Dr Who is ALL atmospheric. Those few which work out are more luck than judgement. Consider Genesis of the Daleks where one can walk between the two domed cities which are the final redoubts of high tech civilisations which had been at wars for decades...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 17th, 2015 11:35 am (UTC)
You are correct, Who's attempts at world building are often a lot less detailed and, often more hole-filled, I suspect this may be one of those occasions where the level of detail we are given highlights the inconsistencies.
a_cubeda_cubed on April 17th, 2015 01:09 pm (UTC)
Dr Who's "Uncanny Valley": put too much detail about your one-episode culture in and it becomes too real for people to ignore, but too fake for people to accept.