The Beast Below – S31 (5) 2
27 July 2013 at 11:48 #14463Craig @craigEmperor
The Doctor and Amy discover Britain on a spaceship. Starship UK takes the British people through space as they look for a new home. But something isn’t quite right about the ship and there are secrets that the inhabitants choose to forget.
After the brilliance of The Eleventh Hour I think this was a bit of a let down. There are some great ideas but it doesn’t quite work for me. After the frenetic introduction last week Moffat seems to want to take a bit of time to lay out his idea of who the Doctor is, who HIS Doctor is, but the analogies are laid on a bit too thick.
There are some great moments though, and Matt gets to show more range – he gets to be the angry Doctor, the wronged Doctor and the just plain wrong Doctor. It’s also interesting that the first few stories were very British and the colour scheme is still very red, white and blue, considering the more US focus the start of Moffat’s second series had.
And “I’ll have to choose a new name because I won’t be the Doctor anymore” now has much more resonance.27 July 2013 at 13:47 #14504Anonymous @
I remember liking this episode for showing Amy in a similar light to how Rose was shown – as someone who could stop the Doctor doing something wrong because of her intuition. The next episode (not Moffat, so not being screened here) did a similar thing when Amy instinctively knew that love, not anger, was the key to stopping a Dalek bomb.
A couple of points, though; some are simple observations, and others questions:
“Twenty-ninth century, and solar flares roast the earth” (see below)
“Are you a parent?” (unanswered, conversation deflected) When are we going to stop being teased by the Doctor’s progeny? Was Susan really his granddaughter? And if so, who were her parents?
Magpie Electricals – nice nod to The Idiot’s Lantern.
A ring that shoots tranquiliser spray – where is that from? Have we seen it before, BG?
Amy in the ‘voting booth’: “Age – 1306” – I had a silly question about this but I’ve resolved it. If Amy was born around 1989 (being 21 in 2010 or so), then being 1306 would make this episode happen in 3295 or so (which fits with Liz 10 being 300 from a 29th century earth departure). Still, at least it’s a Moffat episode that doesn’t take place in the 51st century. 😉
‘And then I find a new name because I won’t be the Doctor any more’ – as @craig pointed out, it’s interesting for any Moffat episodes to be re-watched once the denouement happens (which hasn’t happened yet, of course, but we’re getting there …) because clues are littered throughout all of his reign as showrunner which refer to points later picked up on.27 July 2013 at 15:56 #14508Craig @craigEmperor27 July 2013 at 17:08 #14509Anonymous @
After the near perfection of The Eleventh Hour, this was a bit of a disappointment. I tend to think of it as a bit of a RTD-like episode in that it has masses of plot holes and things that are just Cool Ideas but which don’t make a lot of sense.
But Matt continues to be great and as @craig says gets to show his Doctor’s range. The moment when he loses his temper did — and still does — send shivers up my spine and was the moment for me when he became his own Doctor. I mean, could you imagine Tennant losing his cool like that? It demonstrated perfectly that where Doc Ten had self-pity bubbling beneath the surface, the Eleventh had rage.
And the interaction with Amy is great too. They had a great chemistry that, I’m afraid Doc 11 and Clara just don’t seem to have yet. I’m hoping that Clara becomes a companion that comes into her own with her new Doc, much like Sarah Jane did…
Oh, and @craig, love that prequel clip. Always did. (Sigh. I miss Amy.)27 July 2013 at 17:57 #14513PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
I think I agree with a growing consensus here that it’s not the best episode. I think there was a lot more attention to detail on the other 5 episodes that SM wrote in that fifth series.
Having said that, there is a lot to enjoy here. Ever since it was revealed that the Royal Family were closet fans of Who there have been cheeky republican digs at the Royal Family, and I can’t help thinking that Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10 may have caused some spluttering over the Port. It’s a great turn though, and she’s obviously having a ball.
In context, there were a hell of a lot of episodes in that series that seemed to resonate with real world events. Even to the extent that the football scene in The Lodger coincided with the England v USA World Cup match.
This was broadcast in the runup to our last election, and the satire of a restrictive choice in selection, possibly choosing the least awful option available (“forgetting”) was not lost on me. You could take it further and argue that the Smilers are the Political class – either benignly smiling at your “correct” life choices, or adopting a Daily Mail-esque snarl of distaste as your life choices disappointed them. It’s weirdly reminds me of the broad political satire of stories like The Sun Makers from the 70s – with much better production.
And it is a good point by @craig. The line about he considers his actions will mean he will need to use a different name is great foreshadowing. I think that needs to be added to the Girl in the Fireplace “The Doctor – it’s more than a name isn’t it”.
For all its faults – still really fun, and the scene with Amy outside the TARDIS embracing the stars is a beautiful one.27 July 2013 at 20:04 #14516
Yeah, this is the episode that I think got rushed because he was working so hard on writing the Eleventh Hour. It just doesn’t quite work.
In the days when Steven Moffat was on Twitter, he quoted one of his little boy’s comments. “Dad, what happens when you can’t think of an ending? Is that what happened with The Beast Below?”
So the Moffat household is also clearly of the opinion that this one didn’t quite work. 🙂
But that said, this is an interesting one from the bonkers theorising point of view, especially now we nearly are at the denouement. Amy directly links ‘the beast below’, the Star Whale, to the Doctor. She’s referring to the Star Whale being very old, the last of its kind, loves children and is naturally kind – even when terrified people torture and enslave it.
But in the light of the ‘hidden John Hurt Doctor’, you can see that there might be other comparisons with the Star Whale. Firstly, the Star Whale is hidden. When we first see Starship UK, we don’t see that it’s there. Whenever we see all the faces of the Doctor, the John Hurt Doctor is hidden.
The Starwhale, while hidden, permeates Starship UK. Its tentacles are everywhere. And it is the most terrible secret, kept from all the children until they’re old enough to understand (and forget). Likewise, the John Hurt Doctor is the Smith Doctor’s ‘secret’. The Star Whale is treated as a ‘monster’ and is in constant pain. And the Smith Doctor clearly sees himself as a monster; refuses the title of ‘The Doctor’ to the Hurt incarnation and seems to be in constant pain from all that self-loathing.
The Starwhale, it’s implied, eats the protesters, the ones who want to change their world. Rather like the way the post Time War Doctor has ‘eaten’ his companions. Name me a post Time War Companion who’s managed to walk away from the Doctor unscathed.
Finally – like the Doctor, the Star Whale manages to save the whole of the UK. It probably turned up on a Saturday, around tea time. 😀 When it’s free of the burden of all that pain – things are actually a whole lot better. Now it can really concentrate on its self-imposed job, rather on all that artificially imposed agony.
Anyway, the initial rhyme – also rather interesting if you see the hidden ‘Beast’ as the John Hurt Doctor.
A horse and a man, above, below,
One has a plan, but both must go.
Mile after mile, above Beneath,
One has a smile, and one has teeth.
Though the man above might say “hello,”
Expect no love from the Beast Below!
And the second one:
In bed above we’re deep asleep
While greater love lies further deep
This dream must end, this world must know
We all depend on the beast below.27 July 2013 at 21:30 #14522Anonymous @
@bluesqueakpip @phaseshift @jimthefish – you all have expressed disappointment with this episode, especially in contrast to The Eleventh Hour. I will agree that the latter was explosively and magnificently well-done (for many reasons, not least being another complete re-boot – new Doctor, new companion, new showrunner – but also for introducing Matt Smith as the Doctor with such verve and style [leaving out the Moffat-stylee planted clues for several future series of plot points].)
But the ‘masses of plot holes’ and ‘no ending’? I see a huge plot hole myself, in that the uneaten children are left wandering around the floor of the ‘Tower of London’ – and no-one in 300 years has put two and two together with respect to why they remain uneaten. But I thought the ending was perfect – the Doctor realises that he needs the intuition and instinct of a human companion to keep him far from the worst of his own personal excesses.
Jim, you’re so right on the chemistry between Matt and Karen. That came through as well in the Confidential (thanks @craig), although I have to say, I felt my original feelings when re-watching that today – Karen G comes across as far more of an airhead than Amy ever did on-screen.
Phase, good call on the echoes to real-life events in these episodes. Not to mention that Scotland apparently has won independence from the UK! Is this a harbinger for next year’s vote result?
Blue, you’re so clever to equate the Starwhale (the hidden ‘monster’ with inverted commas) with the Hurt Doctor.
Name me a post Time War Companion who’s managed to walk away from the Doctor unscathed.
OK, I’ll take that gauntlet and answer, Martha. My least favourite AG companion; but she did have a fabulous ‘this is me, walking away’ moment in her good-bye to 10. No-one can escape a series or two time-travelling with the Doctor totally ‘unscathed’ but she did a darned good job of appearing whole, confident, and hopeful about her own future post-Doctor in that good-bye scene.27 July 2013 at 21:48 #14523
OK, I’ll take that gauntlet and answer, Martha.
Hmm… well, if your definition of unscathed is ‘not giving a damn about my Mum, Dad and little sister being the slaves of a bonkers psycho for an entire year’, then yes. 😈
Martha found she was strong enough to look after her family. But I wouldn’t define her as ‘unscathed’; rather, she was someone who was also strong enough to survive the Doctor. And strong enough to walk away.27 July 2013 at 22:08 #14525Anonymous @
@bluesqueakpip – here is where we will have to debate semantics. What did you mean by ‘unscathed’? I’ll take your point on Rose – swept into an alternate universe; and Donna, left to drool on her mobile inanely with her friends; and Amy, left to die in the past from a Weeping Angel Incident. But you seem to agree that, relatively, Martha escaped unscathed – “she was someone who was also strong enough to survive the Doctor. And strong enough to walk away.”
I don’t think that she ‘didn’t give a damn’ about her family being imprisoned / enslaved by the Master for a year – but I’m defining ‘unscathed’ as exactly what you said: She was strong enough to survive, and walked away of her own accord. So, in this context, and to refer to your original comment,
Rather like the way the post Time War Doctor has ‘eaten’ his companions.
Martha singularly didn’t seem to be ‘eaten’ by the Doctor in comparison with other post Time War companions have been.
Gauntlet over to you … 😉27 July 2013 at 22:09 #14526
Re-reading #14532, I didn’t intend to imply that Martha didn’t give a damn – just that I don’t think ‘having your family kidnapped by a psycho because you’re the Doctor’s current Companion’ counts as ‘unscathed’. 🙂
Her family was destroyed – or at least severely damaged – because she was Companion to the Doctor.27 July 2013 at 22:16 #14527Anonymous @
@bluesqueakpip – you’re a genius in more ways than you can know. I came into this conversation completely convinced that Martha was a rubbish companion character; her love-sick puppy-eyes at the Doctor were stomach-churning I thought, and her ‘character development’ (nothing ever deserved inverted commas like that phrase) was woeful.
But you have changed my mind tonight – Martha is indeed the only post Time War companion, to date, who has escaped relatively unscathed from travelling with the Doctor. (Let’s agree to disagree on the effect on her immediate family – I believe I remember that the awful year of Master slavery actually brought her parents together again, but I could be wrong). She was far better in her post-Doctor (and post-doctor, he he) life than she was whilst travelling with him.27 July 2013 at 23:11 #14532PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
It’s an interesting one this one. I’ve read a couple of appraisals denouncing RTD as a “gay man who can’t write women”. The Case largely rests on Rose and Donna, who are listless in life and need a Timelord to fill a hole in their lives. They are aimless and need the Doctor to somehow complete them. Almost make the decision for them and be the misogynistic “
woman-hater he always was (you can probably see I have a couple of issues regarding this. )
Martha is atypical in this scenario. But she had more in common with Amy in that she did not appear listless. Like Amy (and as a product of a heterosexual man who can’t write women) she has issues, and wonders whether they are the right choices, but they are still her choices, at the end.
For all Martha and Amy’s supposed “obsession” with the Doctor, they both reject him in the end. I still find it odd that sometimes, in TV, that really attractive people (like Amy/Mrs Phaseshift) will bond with someone who isn’t actually like them?! (Rory/Phaseshift). If we can’t understand that, then maybe that’s our problem?”27 July 2013 at 23:56 #14535
@phaseshift – oh, Rory’s attraction for Amy has always been something completely obvious to me. He’s her anchor; the person whose sheer stability and ordinariness means that she can bound off in her crazy life without it becoming so insane she can never get back.
And Amy’s attraction to Rory is that she keeps pushing him out of his comfort zone and stops him being exactly like his Dad. 🙂 They may look as though they have nothing in common; in fact, they complement each other.27 July 2013 at 23:59 #14538
Another theme that turns up in The Beast Below which keeps turning up in Moffat’s work: the loop. The eternal circle that people can’t get out of. Liz 10, especially, who keeps reliving the same ten years over and over and over.
Hmm… I think I’ve bonkers-ly theorised before that possibly the reason we only see Eleven Doctors plus Hurt Doctor in the Doctor’s time stream is that he never gets past Eleven; that he’s in a loop.28 July 2013 at 10:49 #14543Miapatrick @miapatrick
It’s been interesting watching BG Who in the old format, and it’s made me think that some stories- like this one- really might have benefited from that. There is a great, sinister set up of the mystery during the first part of the episode, and some really good moments- when Amy has just pressed the forget button, then listens to the message she sent herself before doing so- it might have been nice to stew on that for a week before we discover what it was she chose to forget. And the moment when Liz X discovers that she has, for so very long, constantly been constantly uncovering the mystery then forgetting it again (reminded me a little of Memento) which might have been more effective if we had spent a little longer with her.
I get the feeling that a lot of rather dark issues got overshadowed with the discovery of the Starwhale, and end up glossed over. Especially the people being fed to the Whale. It’s good, though, as @Shazzbot points out, bit of a clue, that the whale won’t eat the children- but given the crime that the boy was fed to the whale for was, basically, using the lift rather than the stairs despite doing badly in his school work- you have to wonder what kind of crimes adults were, very literally, being sent down for. Were the kinds of people who might vote against continuing being weeded out? Had the Queen, by choosing over and over to forget, unwittingly rubber stamped policies she wouldn’t have approved of? I can’t help thinking that if Rory had been there, some heads would have been banged together.
There is one nice, retrospectively Rory bit in it. Amy is attracted by the doctors kindness. Of course, by the second series, Rory is, in a fashion, both very old and very kind. The doctor himself seems to find his penchant for humans almost inexplicable, this episode shows that very nicely, with him moment of disgust for our species. I think this is where Rory was important. The way the Doctor keeps shouting at people that they could be ‘so much better’- Rory is.
And Amy is very good in this episode, despite making a major mistake. In fact I think having her make a bad decision was a good sign. She isn’t supposed to be perfect.28 July 2013 at 12:23 #14544Nick @nick
I have to say this was one of my least liked stories in Season 5 mostly because the overall episode didn’t completely jell for me. There were lots of interesting ideas, but they never quite managed to make it all work together in the 45 minutes. I was also disappointed by the star whale design, which was for too whale like to satisfy me.
Nobody has mentioned the link back to the Torchwood episode “Meat” (had to look up the name) where a similar Beast was euthanised by Captain Jack. In hindsight I wonder if SM is making some comparison between Doctor 11 and Captain Jack at one level with the Doctor being less concerned with the element of the population who have been fed to the Beast as <a href="mailto:a@miapatrick“>@miapatrick points out and the need for Amy to step in and make the right choice for the Doctor, something that Gwen wasn’t able to do.
With my tongue firmly in my cheek, could we not now say that this was a piece of GI interference with D11 and that (off screen) Clara had had a whisper in Amy’s ear to encourage her to realise the alternative the which hadn’t occurred to the Doctor ?
@phaseshift political satire rings true for me, but I’d argue it applies more widely than just to the UK so SM could have made it as much as a general zeitgeist point rather than something specific to the election.
I have been convinced that SM pretty much had the idea for the 50th anniversary show for a while and had been dropping hints into the show for quite a while (I think I read someone here say it had been two years in the planning). @craig quote about the name and @bluesqueakpip analysis of the Beast below concept now suggests that he had the beginnings of the idea from the outset. I don’t find that surprising at all.
Looking back, I rather think it would have been better for this to be a 2 parter rather than Hungry Earth/Cold Blood or if not to have another 10 minutes added to the show time (aka padding 🙂 @jimthefish). A two parter would have been an intolerable load for Steven Moffat to cope with – a co-writer might have help ? The alternative would have been to edit out some of the ideas and make it fit as a simpler story than we were given.
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