Doctor Who: The Beast Below

Posted: April 18, 2010 in Review
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502: The Beast Below

‘It’s a… tongue.’ – The Doctor

Last week’s opener was an absolute barnstormer, kicking the Doctor back up into high gear. This week sees the pace lagging once more.

The Doctor and Amy travel hundreds of years into the future and discover a massive spaceship that houses the entire country. Unfortunately, there are sinister forces at work on Starship UK, as the Doctor quickly finds himself up against a hideous, smiling enemy.

It’s an episode in two parts. The first part is roughly half an hour long, with expert precision in setting up the arena, the villains, the world and the characters. The second half is the final fifteen minutes, and it’s here that everything goes completely to hell.

The setup is great, fantastic even, with a genuinely creepy enemy in the form of the rotating head Smilers and the location is a hugely interesting one. Liz X is a wonderfully campy, gun-toting Marvel ass-kicking bitch that brings an enormous amount of fun to the episode.

Matt Smith is, again, brilliant in the Doctor’s fairly hefty shoes, bringing humour, charm, wit and genuine glee to the role, while Karen Gillan is still both smoulderingly sexy and so innocent she’ll make most of the male viewers feel very bad about themselves. There’s even, quite brilliantly, a link to next week’s show, which is something that really needs to be done all the time, because it creates a sense of continuity in the show.

The problem is that the final fifteen minutes, the dungeon scene, to be specific, utterly destroy all the prior goodwill. It’s so jarring and random that it really feels like the BBC filmed it at the last moment because it was too heavy on the political commentary that runs rampant throughout the rest of the episode. The Doctor’s character changes randomly, Amy’s character, Liz X, the children, even the revelation at the heart of it makes no goddamn bit of sense and it’s so infuriating.

Nothing is explained or resolved. Why are kids being dropped down lift shafts for bad scores? Why is everyone afraid of the Smilers? What are the Smilers? Why are the Smilers there? Has the power never cut out, not even once, in over two hundred years?

It’s a crushing shame because the Doctor was just getting back to his feet. If the final ten minutes had a better twist – actually, that’s the wrong word because even twist endings make sense – and there was some kind of explanation for any of the events, then this would be just as enjoyable as the first episode. As it is, this is simply disappointing.


  1. Alex says:

    Yes it was, and I may have said it before but the story is based on a far better X-Men concept found in the story arc from Uncanny X-Men 165-166 from 1983 which features an enslaved space whale called an Acanti, which is used as a space ship and is freed by the X-Men.

    Major geek reference but its true and probably what Moffat ripped off (probably the right era for Moffat’s uni days/early working life).

    Which is dissapointing that he couldnt come up with something more original really.

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