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Doctor Who, “The Beast Below” (5.02)

Now, here’s an episode of Doctor Who worth dissecting, both story- and character- wise. Read the review after the jump…

How’s The Doctor?

The whole scene as The Doctor and Amy are about to become star-whale food seems like a great sample of The Eleventh Doctor’s quirkiness. The scene as he’s about to vegetate the star-whale is a great example of when his quirkiness must be challenged by the horrible duty that frequently falls upon him. It will be interesting to see how he’ll balance his quirk with his turmoil in further episodes.

How’s Amy?

This week, it was Amy’s time to shine. Maybe not performance-wise but certainly in plain ballsiness and smarts. In what seems like a rare moment (The last time being in “The Waters of Mars”), The Doctor’s companion needs to step in and stop The Doctor. Bob, this blog’s editor, theorises that this was Amy’s one and only strike: The Doctor was about to kick her off and while he went back on that decision, there’s going to be a next time when she will screw up for good. I actually see it as the entire opposite: Amy’s educated guess not only saved Starship UK and the star-whale, it also showed The Doctor that he can be wrong and that he needs another brain to think things through. Amy is shaping up to be nearly The Doctor’s equal in sheer cleverness.

How’s The Story?

Oh, this was a treat of a story this time! First, let’s go through the basic observations:

-More little drops from the former seasons: The Doctor comments on the… odd situation his fellow Time Lords are in.

-I wish Elisabeth II was as badass as Liz X. Then again, I don’t know if the Queen actually is fighting crime and injustice on the streets of London with a porcelain mask.

-Another crack in time and space! The plot seems to be thickening. Although, I’m not sure exactly what the crack could have to do with this episode’s story: it seemed fairly complete with no big, hanging question that could be attributed to an external force.

Now that the small stuff is dealt with, it’s time for…

Philosophical Wonderings with Professor Stéphane De La Chance

This week, we look closer into the ideas behind the Doctor Who episode “The Beast Below.” Let’s start with…

The Torture Question

This was certainly one of the central themes of the episode. All that was missing was for someone to utter the words “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” Not so surprisingly, the show seems to bend towards the “Stop torturing and they’ll be nicer to you” angle, seeing how the star-whale was glad to not kill all of Starship UK even after they stopped electroshocking his brain. Still, as an analogy to our current debate, the episodes doesn’t work all to well: The star-whale never held – initially – any hate towards humans and wasn’t planning any evil attacks as those being tortured in real world are being accused of. Plus, I doubt giving Al Qaeda our under-performing children is really a viable option… or I might be misreading the episode on that front.

Vote: Forget or Die

It’s rather fascinating how the integrity of the Starship UK project was being kept up. The voting booths represent a rather eerie future where humans can do the worst things possible, as long as they all agree to never remember. Even more interesting than the system of mutual agreement is the way it was being enforced at every turn: When you vote, you either choose to forget or get flushed down to be eaten. If you are able to escape, you must choose to forget or be “persuaded” by stalking Smilies. Even the Queen created an eternal loop for herself where no matter how many times she discovers the injustice of Starship UK, she is able to  (and ultimately decides to) forget. It’s really an image of the worst things people can accept and live with as well as the worst the government can do to bring out those feelings in people.

“You are being monitored”

Ah, the Smilies: The best camera/security guards you can build and/or combine with a human being. They scare small children and, as The Doctor observed, no one dares approach them. I’m sure this is just another technique the government is using to avoid “Protest” by the public. That said, the whole idea of surveillance is a rather potent one to use with the UK in particular.

In Conclusion

That certainly was much darker in tone than the premiere. In retrospect, it’s not that surprising: “The Fires of Pompeii” came right after “Partners in Crime” in the last full series/season. I certainly wasn’t annoyed by this, mind you. While the last episode offered up some great moments for the characters, this one had a nice meaty story to work with. I just hope we’ll be seeing more of both kinds of episodes soon. Maybe even one with a good balance of both.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Signal, Stéphane Lachance. Stéphane Lachance said: Look who's been busy: Already done, it's my Doctor Who "The Beast Below" review! http://bit.ly/dkxXJf […]



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