Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Beast Below - So Far So Good

"I'm the bloody Queen, mate. Basically, I rule!"

The official BBC description from The Beast Below:

The Doctor takes Amy to the distant future, where she finds Britain in space. Starship UK houses the future of the British people, as they search the stars for a new home. But as Amy explores, she encounters the terrifying Smilers and learns a deadly truth inside the Voting Booth.
The second episode of Series Five picks up pretty closely where The Eleventh Hour leaves off. Amy, still in her night attire and is floating outside of the TARDIS only with the Doctor holding onto her ankle to stop her flying off into oblivion. It’s a nice change to see the series have some fun. The specials were very heavy with a deep undertone of sadness knowing that David Tennant would be leaving the role. Now, the slate is clean and there is room for more fun.
There is a great scene at the beginning of the episode where the Doctor and Amy are watching Mandy, the little girl, on the TARDIS scanner. This is right after the Doctor explains that they are only observers. As Amy watches Mandy cry on screen, she laments the fact that it must be difficult to watch but not get involved. Suddenly, as Amy is still watching Mandy, the Doctor goes up to Mandy meaning he is outside and the TARDIS has landed. It’s a fun moment and possibly one of my favourite moments from Series Five. Its one small example of what Moffat does really well which is putting unique spins on how to tell the story.
The Beast Below is a pretty good story but I had to admit that I needed to watch it a couple of times in a row to get all of it. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first. I didn’t think it was a strong as The Eleventh Hour which was written as if the whole Doctor Who franchise depended on its success. To me, where The Beast Below goes a little off is when you think about Liz 10 and how the entire population on Starship UK seems to be unaware of the star whale even though it showed up to Earth at their hour of need. I understand that people voting would hit the forget switch but wouldn’t they forget everything? Wouldn’t they wonder about their existence onboard this ship and never knew they had to flee the Earth?
There are some great things about this story. I think the design is very strong. I like the idea of the classic television motif. The logo for Starship UK is based off a 1960’s version of the BBC logo. The poem girl on the monitor is surrounded by a test card design. Test cards were big on UK television and were used when stations such as the BBC were not on the air. The Smilers are suitably scary. They also look like they are made out of ceramic or porcelain with minute cracks detailing around the joints of their mask. We don’t really know what the Smilers are there for apart from policing but they are quite scary. Out of the 3 faces of the Smilers, I actually think the middle one, the disgusted one, is scariest because it is close to the “smiling” version but there is enough of a difference to be really creepy.
It’s been interesting to listen to the music for this series. Murray Gold is still writing the music but he really has gone out of the way to create a break from the last four series and do something very distinctive for this. The music with Amy floating outside of the TARDIS at the beginning is refreshing and beautiful. I can’t wait for the Series Five soundtrack to be released.
It is clear that Moffat is not a big fan of the NEXT TIME trailers. Each episode is made in a way that gives it very clean break from the episode. One nice touch with The Beast Below is that we get a lead in to the next episode as part of the narrative for this episode. Winston Churchill calls the Doctor and requests him to come over and see him. When he is on the phone with the Doctor, we see the unmistakable silhouette of a Dalek projected on the wall. That is more powerful than any NEXT TIME trailer can possibly be in terms of getting me revved up for the next episode.
NEXT TIME: We travel back to World War II. We meet Winston Churchill and the Daleks in Victory of the Daleks.

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