Monday, June 16, 2008

Doctor Who, "The Unicorn and the Wasp": The butler didn't do it

Spoilers for the latest episode of "Doctor Who" just as soon as I gather all of you into the sitting room...

If I only had a TARDIS -- or a willingness to subvert the law -- I'd jump straight ahead to next week's Steven Moffat-penned episode, which I've heard is up to his usual standards, and ignore "The Unicorn and the Wasp" altogether.

(Insert usual warning here about how we're going to respect the American broadcast order and not discuss any details about episodes that have only aired in the UK.)

"The Unicorn and the Wasp" wasn't so much bad as it was awfully thin. By now, these episodes where The Doctor encounters a legendary British author and gets caught up in an adventure that resembles one of his/her stories have become perhaps the most formulaic part of each season, and they become largely dependent on your knowledge of/affection for the author in question to work. I've read precious little Agatha Christie, and so telling a Christie-style story, with the only twist being the addition of a giant alien wasp, didn't do much for me.

And yet, the entire episode was almost worth it just for another game of Doctor/Donna pantomime. For the most part, the writers haven't tried to re-jigger the show to showcase Catherine Tate's comic side, but I get a kick out of occasional moments like their re-introduction in "Partners in Crime" or, here, Donna being the world's worst Charades partner during The Doctor's attempt to un-poison himself.

What did everybody else think?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

is there a Tim Russert blog coming? I'd love to see something.

Grunt said...

I enjoyed it. I mean it wasn't "Blink" or any of the other brilliant episodes. But it was certainly fun and I liked how The Doctor was pissed at Donna for killing the wasp and her response was a kind of matter-of-fact, "well, he was going to kill us" comment. Seems she's learned a lot from her time with the doctor. It's okay to kill in self defense, but not otherwise.

Girl Detective said...

The episode was thin, but I enjoyed it still, perhaps because it reminded me pleasantly of the Hugh Laurie/Stephen Frye Jeeves & Wooster.

M.A.Peel said...

I liked a couple of things about it:
the sentimentality behind "Agatha Christie is the greatest mystery writer EVER"--I love when the hometeam really rallies around a favored daughter;

and one arc point: Christie says to the Doctor something like "I'm more than happy to work with you to solve this, but it's not here for your amusement" a theme that's been building about how the Doctor drops into tragic situations and finds mirth and an ego boost when he can fix something.

Satyros said...

I think if I had to come up with one word to describe this episode, I would say "fun." I thought it was well-crafted and well-acted, even if the material was a bit silly.

Take this episode as a bit of a breather ahead of what's to come.

J said...

It was piffle, and it would have felt better had it not followed a bunch of bum episodes, but it was enjoyable as piffle.

And it was nice to see Felicity Kendal from The Good Neighbors as I crushed on her pretty hard way back when.

Karen said...

I agree with @J: it was FANTASTIC to see Felicity Kendall. I've loved her since the 1970s.

I agree that it was thin, and that was even with my having a great familiarity with Christie. I liked the way they dropped the titles of her books into the dialogue very casually. (I only really picked up on "Appointment with Death" and "Cards on the Table" though I felt many more wafted past me. There's a full list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_unicorn_and_the_wasp#Outside_references.)

But it felt...contrived. And very much not one of their more sophisticated and challenging episodes. Oh, well. I'm looking forward to next week, too!

Amasea said...

I agree with the "fun piffle" type comments. I was reminded that some of the "fun piffle" episodes of the X-Files turned out to be among the ones I remember as my favorites. This could be because I'm not generally a comedy fan, yet I find myself enjoying it when my favorite dramatic actors take comedic turns. Hmm. At any rate, I was amused.

Niffer said...

I enjoyed it. Yes, it was a bit thin, and it was contrived. But, I enjoyed it, in part because it reminded me of my tween years watching Agatha Christie murder mysteries and Tom Baker/Peter Davison Doctor Who on PBS at my grandmother's. It was a nice little combination of happy memories for me. But, I can certainly understand why others didn't like it.

stevie said...

I thought it was fun. Better thin and fun than thin and meh, as the most recent two-parter was.

The woman who played Agatha Christie was pretty good, too.

Nicole said...

It was a pretty fluffy episode, but clicked a lot better than the Sonatran episodes and it was nice to see the Donna / Doctor interaction work so well.

The confidential stated that this was the first episode Catherine Tate filmed, so it probably makes sense that they started with a light one (although there was the kiss, but it was played off well).

Also, Tennant's Dad is a butler at the beginning. I had to rewatch to catch him.

But as stated by others, it's a nice breather for the upcoming two-parter.

Polter-Cow said...

Oh, I thought this episode was great fun! One of those lovely episodes that can be enjoyed without any prior knowledge. The woman who played Agatha was fantastic, and the giant wasp was very silly. But I enjoyed the whodunit aspect. I was really surprised by how much I liked the episode. It may be one of my favorites.

XWL said...

If they have to do another of these 'Doctor meets famous British Author and plot details resemble that author's stories', my vote is for a Long Dark Teatime with Douglas Adams.

(who did work on Who back in the day, so seems a natural, and you could make it very meta by setting it in the 70s while he was working on the Baker Who shows)

floretbroccoli said...

I enjoyed seeing how many Christie titles they could work into the dialogue. Quite a few, it turns out.

Loved seeing Felicity Kendall! But the picture of her character as a young woman in India looked nothing like her. I was hoping for a real picture from her actual youth in India. Or a still from "Shakespeare Wallah."

KLE said...

The actress who played AC is Fenella Woolgar. She give a great performance in Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things, an adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel. (DT is also in it.)

Dark Tyler said...

I also loved Woolgar on 'Jekyll'.