Sunday, 11 April 2010


[14.10 - French Time] Where else on TV can you find Britain in space, a political cover-up, some thoughts about the upcoming general election, a sexy tarantinesque queen and scary fairground automatons? Yes... Doctor Who.

[Minor spoilers]

A glass of water, the Queen wearing a mask to investigate on a conspiracy, nasty fortune tellers with a smile (or not), a voting booth with a terrible secret, and a tongue (!) are some of the intriguing elements of The Beast Below, the excellent second episode of series five. The Doctor (Matt Smith) and his new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) arrive on Starship UK, last refuge for the citizens of the United Kingdom.

« We are observers only. »

As usual the Doctor breaks his own rule about non-intervention in the affairs of people he visit when he spots a little girl crying. And the troubles begins for Amy and him in an episode whose atmosphere recalls series one episodes The End of the World and The Long Game. Last week, showrunner Steven Moffat properly introduced the regenerated Doctor and his companion. Now he goes back to the essence of Doctor Who: the adventures of a space and time traveler and his "plus one".

Starship UK, the giant colony ship looks like Manhattan except that the skyscrapers bear names of counties (Yorkshire, Devon, Surrey, etc.) The Beast below pre-credits sequence opens with a view of what sounds like a good old model from "classic" Who or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (« There's a girl in a nightie »). But it goes on with a perfect "behind the sofa" experience from the man who gave us The Empty Child and The Weeping Angels - which means something.

A child boy pupil has a bad mark to the disapproval a "Smiler" (« Bad boy, Timmy »). He tries to use elevator which doubles as a public transportation system - two of the most annoying things of modern life in one - and a descendant of the Test card F little girl tells a strange poem. Steven Moffat combines tradition and invention, goes on funnily his so-called "Scottish agenda", and delivers more than you'd expect with food for thoughts ahead of general election and a character who steals the episode.

« I’m the bloody Queen, mate. And I rule. » Sophie Okonedo is absolutely brilliant as Liz 10, Queen of Starship UK investigating secretly on a conspiracy against the throne. And why is the video about the truth almost as painful as a Zik-Zak Corporation commercial in Max Headroom (except that you don't explode)?

Matt Smith is stunning as the Doctor. Younger than Davison's incarnation, but sometimes reminiscent of Patrick Troughton or William Hartnell, particularly in the Tower scene. Tradition and invention again... And thank God and The Moff, for the moment Karen Gillan's Amy is not a groupie but a smart and lucid assistant with an attitude.

The phone rings (hey, the TARDIS is a phone box) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill wants to talk to the Doctor. But why is there the shadow of a much too familiar figure on the wall of his office and why is there another crack, on Starship UK this time.

Next week: Return of the pepperpots...

Series Five Episode One:

See also:

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