Doctor Who reviews: The Beast Below
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
The quality of last week's episode proves no fluke...
Surely I can’t be alone in being totally knocked off my feet by this?
OK, here’s a proposition: We haven’t had Who for a while, and say what you like about last year’s specials, the one thing you couldn’t help but notice is that they were pretty far apart. So I’m thinking it might be the dizzying thrill of having Who two weeks in a row that’s making me a bit over-enthusiastic. But then I remember that the two halves of The End of Time were exactly a week apart, and I didn’t really think much of them. So I guess that leaves only one conclusion: This is some pretty fucking good Doctor Who.
"There’s a warped poetry to Moffat’s imagination that just sits so well with Who, and it’s firmly in evidence here"
One thing that helps is the absolute wealth of little mysteries Moffat sets up in the first few minutes – the significance of a glass of water, the masked lady, giant spiky tentacles, take your pick – which compels you to watch just so you can see how all these pieces fit together. And when they do, they do so so perfectly it’s almost like a wonder of engineering. But it’s not only the intricacy – there’s a warped poetry to Moffat’s imagination that just sits so well with Who, and it’s firmly in evidence here with Smilers, the two-faced winders and a spaceship that’s the UK.
The Beast Below is a massively quick-paced episode. One of the things I liked about The Eleventh Hour was the manic pacing of it, and it’s firmly in evidence here too. There’s a lot going on and a lot of plot, and as such it grabs you quickly and keeps your attention with both character and story. There were certainly a lot of relatively high-concept ideas behind Spaceship UK’s predicament, but the whole thing was so genuine and well-pitched that even casual viewers must’ve been drawn in.
"Matt Smith just gets better and better"
And Matt Smith just gets better and better. Every scene he was in was a gem, from the decadently witter banter with Karen Gillan as they find the root of the rot in the ship to his fuming rage at the eventual decision he is forced to make. RTD always said he wanted to challenge The Doctor with new situations and new challenges: I’m sure even he’d agree that here, Moffat pulled off a doozy in terms of forcing The Doctor to choose. That, so far, has been the defining point for me regarding Smith’s Doctor and Moffat’s direction for the show, and I’d like to think it’ll become of a bit of classic in the broader range of Doctor Who history too.
Gillan was similarly ace. I’m falling just a little bit more in love with her each week, dagnabbit.
But Moffat’s masterstroke here – and that’s a masterstroke in the middle of (what I consider, anyway) to be a masterpiece in itself – was the last scene. Winston Churchill. A Dalek shadow. Man, I’m looking forward to next week.
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