Doctor Who The Beast Below Review

So with the taxing prob­lem of how to intro­duce a new Doctor and new compan­ion out the way the second episode of this season of Doctor Who gives us perhaps our first glance at what the season is really going to be like. And if it is then we are in for an inter­est­ing synthe­sis of new and old Who.

The setting for The Beast Below is straight out of clas­sic Who. We’ve got a star­ship. We’ve got corri­dors. We’ve got a mystery. But the presen­ta­tion is new Who. It moves fast (some­times too fast). It has a scope that the older series never had the budget for it. 

Moral dilem­mas are certainly noth­ing new for the Doctor, but it was nice to see him in a situ­a­tion where he didn’t have a good answer. Amy Pond certainly isn’t a token “girl power” compan­ion. In only two episodes she a remark­ably rounded char­ac­ter who is capa­ble of hold­ing her own even against as strong a person­al­ity as the Doctor. 

Karen Gillan again nails her perfor­mance as Amy Pond and it’s the chem­istry between her and Matt Smith that really keeps this episode moving. Take that out and while the plot is inter­est­ing, it’s not really anything special. There’s noth­ing wrong with it, but it’s Doctor Who by the numbers. The char­ac­ters and the dialog are what makes it so fun to watch. Some of the strongest moments involve the Doctor and Amy talk­ing to each other with no one else involved. There are some shots where Gillan’s expres­sive face and eyes speak volumes.

Visu­ally though it’s a treat. I loved the smil­ers. They are the perfect creepy monster for Doctor Who and the “star whale” was wonder­fully cosmic and kooky. The sets are great, keying in on a lot of things that are seen as typi­cally “British” and combin­ing them in a way which tells us we’re in the future but also makes it obvi­ous this is a future where they are look­ing back at the past.

Unfor­tu­nately for the second week in a row there are some weak CGI effects. I don’t know if it’s the result of the budget cuts for the show or if it’s Steven Moffat over-reach­ing what his team can produce. It’s not a show stop­per, but it does distract a little.

If I have any real crit­i­cisms of The Beast Below it’s that the secondary char­ac­ters don’t get much time to develop. The only one that gets as much as a person­al­ity is Sophie Okonedo’s Liz Ten (a char­ac­ter I’d be happy to see again).

So the season is shap­ing up nicely. We’ve got a story-arc hiding in the back­ground (cracks in the universe), we’ve got a Doctor and compan­ion who spark off each other. We’ve got aliens old and new. And I have a feel­ing the best is yet to come.

Oh and of course next week we have Daleks!

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?

Comments

  • The reason it’s far too fast paced [I think frenetic would be more apt] and that the secondary char­ac­ters remain unde­vel­oped is that the produc­ers have squashed what should have been a great two-parter into a single highly compressed episode. The result being that our good friend, The Doctor, has to do some very fast explain­ing at a speed that would leave an auction­eer gasp­ing for breath.

    My advice to the Dr Who produc­tion team is not to be afraid of 2-parters and to always have longer story arcs running in the back­ground.

    • I think that’s a fair point. I’ve seen a lot of crit­i­cism this week of some of the plot logic and while I can forgive that because of the fairy­tale aspects of the story, I think a lot of it could have been solved if there had been more time to build up the char­ac­ters and show what was going on.

  • The reason it’s far too fast paced [I think frenetic would be more apt] and that the secondary char­ac­ters remain unde­vel­oped is that the produc­ers have squashed what should have been a great two-parter into a single highly compressed episode. The result being that our good friend, The Doctor, has to do some very fast explain­ing at a speed that would leave an auction­eer gasp­ing for breath.

    My advice to the Dr Who produc­tion team is not to be afraid of 2-parters and to always have longer story arcs running in the back­ground.

  • I think that’s a fair point. I’ve seen a lot of crit­i­cism this week of some of the plot logic and while I can forgive that because of the fairy­tale aspects of the story, I think a lot of it could have been solved if there had been more time to build up the char­ac­ters and show what was going on.

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