S5(31)E02 – The Beast Below – Broadcast Discussion

10th April 2010 • Blog Post by Seb Patrick •

As you may have noticed, it takes us a few days or so to actually get round to writing up our episode reviews – but we also clocked last week that plenty of you were chomping at the bit to discuss “The Eleventh Hour” the moment the credits rolled, and did so accordingly on whatever post you happened to stumble across. So in the interests of keeping things nice and simple, we’ll be doing these posts each Saturday afternoon for the next twelve weeks, enabling you to hop on here straight away and start talking about what you’ve just seen – before we then follow up with a review (some time between the Wednesday and Friday of the following week) that galvanises our own thoughts somewhat.

So : “The Beast Below”. Smilers, floating UK, Amy in her nightie. Can it possibly improve on “The Eleventh Hour”?

Seb Patrick once met Paul McGann, who immediately pretended to be Mark McGann. He writes for Den of Geek, BBC America, Film4 and the official Red Dwarf website, among others. He owns over thirty toy Daleks and wishes the Dapol factory tour was still open.

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21 Responses

  1. Short Answer: No
    Long Answer: No It Can’t.

    Lots to love about that episode, not quite sure it was a 5/5, but as 11th Hour proved Moffat eps get better with repeat viewing.

    The overall moral felt ever so slightly clunky, but you’ve got to love the retro feel of next week’s story gatecrashing this one.

    It’s pretty staggering the sheer range that Smith’s Doctor is rocketing through.

  2. Seb Patrick

    A few points, since I’m not reviewing it (Ben will be along to do so later in the week):

    – I never in a million years thought that New Who would ever evoke the McCoy era, but… well, there were *definite* shades of Seven in there, and Amy is absolutely Ace-ish. Fantastic.

    – Is the running visual arc going to be anachronisms caused by the crack? We had Rory’s badge in TEH, and now the Magpie Electricals sign. But there’s no way that company would have continued past the end of The Idiot’s Lantern – they were a one-man operation, and that one man is dead.

    – Interesting carrying directly over from episode to episode, though not sure if that’ll last throughout the series (where would the space for spinoff books be?) Loved the Dalek poster glimpsed briefly in the trailer. And note that after all the fuss over the “I am the Doctor and you are the DAAAA-LEKS!” line, they’re using AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TAKE.

    – It was pretty bloody marvellous, though, wasn’t it? The only thing for me is that so far, we haven’t been treated to an Extra Special Moffat Plot. But I imagine those will come later in the series. So far, he’s had two instances of doing the bread and butter stuff, and doing it perfectly.

    – Julian points out that the thing of going off into space for a bit to avoid solar flares even directly ties into old series continuity. Whereas I’d assumed it was just a way of having him do a “human race off in space” story without contradicting RTD’s continuity.

    – I’m not going to foolishly claim that Smith is going to go on to become Best Doctor Evar or anything like that. But I’m struggling to think of anyone who’s made such a sustained, absolutely perfect immediate impact. I mean, even Eccleston had the gurning-face-dance-bit in TEOTW.

  3. Seb Patrick

    And another: how gorgeous was the ’70s BBC-style “Spaceship UK” logo?

  4. It certainly was a very old school style of episode.

    It also reminded me of Neverwhere.

  5. Andy M

    I just bloody loved that. Moffat’s Who is very, very funny and Smith gets it completely. The resolution was perhaps slightly clunky, Moffat being restrained by the 45 minute length maybe.

    Well I’m off to watch The Ark In Space until it appears on iPlayer.

  6. First of all, I have to link to this.

    A very good episode! Although some budget tightness was apparent in both the way Amy, upon leaving the Tardis, only looks upwards to a static shot of a starfield and some catwalks rather than down the length of the market, and and in the slightly disjointed transitions between some scenes (why were they vomited into a corridor rather than out its mouth into space?)

    I got a strong Star Wars feel with this episode, what with “you’re my only hope”, the garbage chute sequence, and the wipe to a shot of the Doctor looking out into space. (And I don’t think Star Wars was only on my mind because of that 90-minute AOTC review.)

    > It also reminded me of Neverwhere.

    If it’s “fairytale” that Moffat’s going for, then Neil Gaiman’s script should fit in perfectly…

  7. Hendiadys

    I have only good things to say. Particularly enjoyed the aspects of the Doctor that we encountered just before he began to perform the lobotomy on the space whale. He’s capable of being a heartbreaking monster, and not because some Dalek is telling us to think he’s like a Dalek. Part of the way this episode felt “old school” came across here – he loves humans but is not one, and the way this line was drawn was different to what came across as arrogance in Tennant’s Doctor. He does indeed seem like an older Doctor in a younger body. Marvellous stuff.

    All I want to do now is watch it again.

    And I’m also hoping that Mark Gatiss is on the same “page” as Moffat. It’ll be interesting to see how his episode follows these.

  8. Hendiadys

    The resolution was perhaps slightly clunky, Moffat being restrained by the 45 minute length maybe.

    I have to say one of the things I appreciate about Moffat is his much better sense of time in this respect than RTD. Yes I love the writing itself, and think he “gets” the character of the Doctor, and feel the mood he’s going for is right, and all sorts of other things but what’s more he can set up a story, play it through and resolve it within 45 minutes without it feeling rushed or wrong in shape. Sometimes I do wish we had more time to explore the wonderful worlds we’re shown, but as far as the plot of The Beast Below is concerned, on first viewing I felt everything spread out mysteriously and tied up wonderfully in the time it had.

    I’m sure to feel different things on second viewing, though. Were there some specific ways that you thought The Beast Below didn’t quite “fit” time-wise?

  9. Andy M

    Normally I’d agree with all your Moffat observations but the stuff in the Tower Of London seemed quite rushed, to the point where I didn’t understand what the Doctor intended to do the Space Whale at all. Lobotomise it, it sounded like to me, which I’m not too happy with.

    I was also confused and then amused at them being spat out into a corridor. From a space whale. In space.

  10. Mammalian Verisimilitude

    Seb – Remember that RTD’s first series didn’t have a continuity break until the end of ep 5 (WW3), and again in S3 which ran straight through until Lazarus Expt. (even if he didn’t go so far as to start “next week”‘s plot early). I expect we’ll see something similar here, with an unbroken chain until the next “present day” episode, and then a gap for spinoffs.

  11. Rosti

    Argh! The Demon Headmaster!

  12. I wonder if the ‘thinking out loud’ approach is not only giving us insight into The Doctor’s mind, but Moffat’s approach to telling a story.

    Line of the night possibly has to be Liz 10 with “I RULE”.

  13. Good episode, nay GREAT episode overall in that I really enjoyed it and the generally high quality of writing/performing was kept-up from “The Eleventh Hour”.

    The only thing, though, was that it definitely gave-off the impression of having been designed as a two-parter and then relegated to a single-parter meaning it felt rushed. The details (the whole winders-smilers thing) were clearly meant for a longer, more detailed story and so were simply skipped over. The Doctor also didn’t get enough time to fully explore the situation and draw his conclusions meaning that his working-out what was really going on looked like wild mad guessing more than anything else. At least Amy’s sudden moment of revelation was well-telegraphed, though.

    It was good, but it could have been so much better given enough time to spread its wings a bit.

  14. Hendiadys

    I was also confused and then amused at them being spat out into a corridor. From a space whale. In space.

    Spat out? I thought we saw some fluid-based swallow-reflex stuff, then we cut to them in an overflow pipe. I agree there was a gap between these events, but didn’t assume they’d been spat out – more that they’d narrowly avoided a journey to the stomach.

  15. Hendiadys

    Lobotomise it, it sounded like to me, which I’m not too happy with.

    Yeah, that’s what it was. I’m not too sure either – I think it’ll take me more episodes to “get” what seems to be a nasty and heavy-handed streak to this Doctor. “If I do this, I’ll have to change my name – can’t be the Doctor any more”… the name River Song whispered in his ear, maybe?

  16. ChrisM

    “Yeah, that’s what it was. I’m not too sure either – I think it’ll take me more episodes to “get” what seems to be a nasty and heavy-handed streak to this Doctor”

    I think it’s understandable in the circumstances. He doesn’t see a way out so opts for what he sees as the lesser of two evils, the death of one (the whale, albeit a big ONE) or the death of millions (the human passengers). It could actually be argued Amy’s actions were equally dodgy. I.e. she was sure of the whale’s intentions, but it was still a big chance to take. Even if she’d guessed correctly how did she know the whale wouldn’t just shrug off the ship anyway, or that the ‘abdicate’ button wouldn’t set off some mechanism to decouple from the whale, etc? She didn’t know how it would work after all.

    Which isn’t to say she was wrong, but her moral gamble could arguably have been as great if not greater than the Doctors.

    Great episode overall I thought. I actually didn’t find the ending that clunky either. The solution came from the plot rather than some ‘reverse the polarity’ type resolution which seems pulled out of nowhere which was becoming quite prevalent in New Who. Not that I’m an RTD hater either, I hasten to add.

  17. ChrisM

    That last line should be, “I’m not an RTD hater either.” Oops.

  18. The Flatmate of the Site

    I agree with most of what Seb said, particularly the bits he attributes to me. I disagree with the view that the climax felt rushed- it all made sense to me. It was the mid-section which was lacking to me. The chamber which the Doctor and Amy were in was obviously far too small to be the primary mouth of the beast, but some dialogue to this effect would have been helpful in solving the apparent plot hole of how the ended in the corridor, particularly as the gap between the two scenes was simply an exterior shot of the ship. I’m wondering if there was originally an aborted effects sequence which had to be pulled due to CG limitations, given how the episode was short.

    I’m in two minds about the under-use of the Smilers, being unsure as to whether to be disappointed that such a brilliant design wasn’t fully utilised or pleased that even a throwaway monster has been given such a brilliant visual. Moffat is sticking to his past form on splitting up the Doctor and companion (compared to Davies’ fondness for dialogue between them). It’s an understandable approach, but frankly I want the eleventh Doctor to be on-screen for the entire episode, as he’s simply wonderful.

    All in all, extremely good, although not quite as strong as last week.

  19. Jonathan Capps

    It really smacked of a story that wanted to be a two-parter. So many great ideas were dealt with fairly quickly which seemed unsatisfying, but a surplus of great ideas is a nice problem to have.

    Smith continues to be amazing, and I think TFotS sums up my feelings on him. What’s interesting, though is that we’re currently going backwards in the order of shooting until it comes to a head with The Time of Angels, which was the first story to be shot so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes across because at the moment we’ve only seen him after he’s settled in to the role. In all likelihood, though, we wont notice a difference.

  20. Seb Patrick

    The Flatmate Of The Site – aka Julian Hazeldine.

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