KT has a smile; the other, teeth.
DOCTOR WHO: 5.02 “The Beast Below”
In the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ early episodes, they picked up epithets — the oncoming storm, the lonely god — that helped to emphasize a certain side of the character. In this episode, the Eleventh Doctor picks up another set of descriptors. They aren’t a new facet of the character, but they’re a part of him that hasn’t really been emphasized recently, and it goes like this: very old, very kind, and can’t stand to see children cry.
Awww. But more on that later.
Unlike last week, the story is the driving force here, and it’s a nifty one. I love the exterior shot of the spaceship that looks like a city in space, with skyscrapers that contain entire counties.
For all that we’re a thousand years in the future, most things look modern and familiar — but it doesn’t matter because those things aren’t the point. Oddly enough, the most striking design elements look old fashioned, and they’re the important things. The carnival-esque mechanical men in the booths, who turn out to be the “police” in “police state,” the cloaked Winders who may or may be working against the queen. And even the queen herself, who seems to be a little bit Errol Flynn and a little bit Phantom of the Opera with a big dose of bad ass. I like her, and I like how her mask turns out to be the key to figuring everything out.
The Doctor is quick to tell us why the entire British nation is on a spaceship, and just as quick to notice that there’s something rotten in the state of Starship UK. And while it may be hasty on his part to announce that still water equals no engines or a crying girl equals a police state, it’s effectively done and moves the plot forward quite nicely.
Now that they’re here, Amy and the Doctor are quickly forging a wary sort of friendship. Although she’s game for just about anything and eager to take it all in (after all, she never could resist a “keep out” sign), after the events in Leadworth, Amy seems skeptical when the Doctor trots out his line about non-interference. (Certainly those of us on the couch know better than to believe that!) But I wonder if the Doctor is trying to shed some of his demons by re-inventing himself a little bit. Which makes it all the more unfortunate when he winds up forced (or so he thinks) to euthanize the last of the star whales. And equally sad, is the episode’s suggestion that we, as a species, are pretty poor at recognizing altruism.
Amy figures it out, though, and I love that it’s Amy who saves the day and is able to prove her worth. She’s a quick study and she’s deductive, and I hope we’ll continue to see those qualities from her. And having been in the position of the terrified child helped by the Doctor, she’s uniquely able to see that both the Doctor and the whale go out of their way to help others because they are very old, very kind, and very lonely. That comparison was drummed out into our heads a little more than I needed, so I wonder if it will continue to be important throughout the season.
I’m sure we’ll also keep coming back to the idea of Amy’s impending wedding. Revealed only at the end of “The Eleventh Hour,” it’s clearly something she has mixed feelings about. Is she engaged to Rory the nurse from last week or is it someone else entirely? And why exactly is she running away from it?