Doctor Who Review: The Beast Below

In the future, the Earth has been made uninhabitable by excessive solar activity, so the UK’s population is now housed in a giant starship. There is, naturally, something terribly wrong with it.

Cast and Crew

Matt Smith as the Doctor
Karen Gillan as Amy Pond
Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10
Terrence Hardiman as Hawthorne
Hannah Sharp as Mandy
Alfie Field as Timmy
Christopher Good as Morgan
David Ajala as Peter
Jonathan Battersby as Winder
Catrin Richards as Poem Girl

Written by Steven Moffat

Produced by Peter Bennett

Directed by Andrew Gunn

Originally aired on the 10th of April 2010 on BBC One/BBC HD in the United Kingdom.

Premise

The Doctor takes Amy to a future when Earth is uninhabitable and the entire population of the UK lives on a giant spaceship. Except the Scottish, who built their own. There is, of course, something horribly, horribly wrong with Starship UK.

High Points

  • “A long time ago tomorrow morning. I wonder what I did?” As Douglas Adams observed, the tense formations involved in talking about time travel are complicated.
  • “It was a bad day. Bad stuff happened.”
  • The Doctor’s actually trying to teach Amy to spot things and figure things out, rather than letting her bumble along in ignorance.

Low Points

  • “Geronimo!” I suppose that counts as his catchphrase. Please no.

The Scores

Originality: I’m sure I’ve seen or read a story rather like this before. Three out of six.

Effects: Some very pretty space shots, if perhaps a tad overdense on stars. I wasn’t much convinced by the whale though. Four out of six.

Story: It’s a decent story with a few twists, and some of them I didn’t even see coming. Four out of six.

Acting: Karen Gillen and Matt Smith are both shaping up very well. I thought Hannah Sharp was superb, but Sophie Okonedo’s performance as Liz 10 seemed a little simplistic. Five out of six.

Emotional response: I felt sympathetic, but there’s nothing particularly gripping here. Most of the keep-watching factor comes from ordinary wanting to know what happens. Three out of six.

Production: Why is it that spaceships in the future always have their name taking up a ridiculous amount of space on every computer screen? Also, I didn’t feel the supposedly dirty starship interior was really dirty enough, and all the faux-1950s aesthetic was a little implausible given when this thing was supposed to be built. It’s just beating us over the head with the standard idealised vision of the UK. London Underground-style lift doors and signage, logos lifted more or less directly from the BBC in the 1970s… Three out of six.

Overall: Overall, actually I’m going to give it quite a high score because I did enjoy it despite its mediocrity in various areas. Five out of six.

The Beast Below receives a grand total of twenty-seven out of forty-two.

13 replies on “Doctor Who Review: The Beast Below”

  1. y42 says:

    Did you just now realize GERONIMO was the new catchphrase? They made that very clear back in Christmas time, I’ve been saying it whenever I was mentioning the new Doctor.

    As for this episode: Very clumsy storytelling, I like the emotional play between the Doctor and his slutty companion (“You don’t get me, GTFO of my TARDIS!” – “I get you so much I save the critter you couldn’t save!” – “You get me, I hug you now!”[/quote]), but on the whole I hope this was the low point of the season.

  2. y42 says:

    Also, I DEMAND a preview function so I’ll spot when I opened a spoiler tag and closed it as a quote :(

  3. Jethro says:

    My high point was “This won’t be big on dignity” or however he said it.

    It’d be nice if they had a few The Doctor Knows Everything episodes before the one where the companion is smarter than him.

    Also if instead of a “space whale” it was a giant space turtle. I’m just saying.

    And yeah a preview function would be nice!

    • Kiersten says:

      Yes, it was a nice twist. I loved the humility it gave the Doctor when he realized she figured out something he could not.
      AND she saved him! :)

      • J_W_W says:

        I liked that too. At the end for Tennent’s Doctor, he was becoming arrogant and condescending with his power. With this episode, they brought the Doctor back down to earth again so to speak.

        I liked this episode a lot more than most of the people here seem to have.

        • Kiersten says:

          Sadly, I was never really fond of Tennent… He always seemed a bit too cocky…
          I do like how the new Doc is more “down to Earth”
          *grin*
          And I love your “pun intended” ;)

  4. beppo says:

    Your review is well-balanced and I love it. I am very sorry that you had no time to review “The End of Time”.

    I agree with you about your Low Points. This episode shows that “Geronimo!” is not so good as a catchphrase. This catchphrase restricts the storyline.

  5. obiwan says:

    Anyone notice the crack in the spaceship?

    Looks just like the crack on Amy’s wall.

    • zocalo says:

      And the signal on the Tardis’ oscilloscope in the previous episode. This is probably the “signature” of whatever this season’s finale plot is going to be but, apart from some comments by “Prisoner Zero” in the first episode, it’s pretty meaningless at the moment. It’s connected to The Doctor though, and given the finale of the previous season my money’s on it somehow having something to do with the Time War and/or Gallifrey.

    • Kiersten says:

      Missed the crack!! Good catch!! ;)
      Kris

  6. Kiersten says:

    “Geronimo” is horrible.
    Otherwise, I felt that you were completely unfair to this episode.

    Emotional response, I loved the “very very old and very kind” bit. That was beautiful. She knows the Doctor better than he knows himself. The, “I’m going to have to find a new name after doing this” and “Nobody human has any right to talk to me right now” so, I suppose the high points didn’t really come till the end, but the “Hey. Gotchya” and the whole ending bit just had me flying.

    As for production / setting: We always look towards the past. The past was always better. Why not take it from our history and make it so. It would be, in my mind, more comfortable for the people to remember happier times and maybe for a moment forget they are on a space ship.

    Now, I do have questions. Why do they need to go faster? Where are they GOING? Did they have a goal in mind? And how were people able to age so well? And were the people aging at all or was it just the queen that did not. Did the children ever grow up?

    The part that got a groan out of me, is “Help us Doctor, you’re our only hope!” ;) But I did love Sophie!!

    But, 27/42.
    OUCH!

    Kris

    DAMMIT, where is the preview button?!?!?

  7. GSVNofixedabode says:

    “Help us Doctor, you’re our only hope” should have had a “you look good for a hologram” or similar quip in response just as a nod to such an overused line. Reminds me of that lovely line from the start of Tennant’s period “how very Arthur Dent“.

  8. At my house, I’ve watched it a few times. Moffat’s was seems to be going for ‘a strange dream’ rather than ‘strange sci-fi’.

    Also, the ‘new catch phrase for each Doctor’ is just too forced. I thought it was forced with Alonzi. (Disclaimer: We do say it around our house, now.) I don’t know if “Fantastic!” was scripted quite so heavily to be a catch phrase, of if Christopher just was so excellent at saying it that it became noteworthy.

    Also, the Smilers were masks that spun around. Not creepy. I was more creeped out by K9.

    That said, I’m still enjoying the show immensely.

    I did notice both episodes so far mentioned ‘Zero’ prominently, Prisoner Zero, and then the grade of the child in the opening. Also, the first episode was the Eleventh Hour, this one featured “Liz Ten“, I wonder if they next will mention ‘Nine’, and count down to zero?

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