Friday, 30 May 2008

Doctor Who, Series 4, Episode 7: Unicorn and hte Wasp

I haven't got round to blogging my thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who, "The Unicorn and the Wasp", which aired a couple of weeks ago. I don't have a lot to say about it that hasn't been said better by others. My enthusiasm levels for this episode were not quite as high as they have been for the series' highlights. It was a perfectly fine episode, beautifully shot, looking every bit like an authentic BBC adaptation of an Agatha Christie story (even if Agatha Christie's disappearance was on December, not a bright summer's day). Fenella Woolgar was excellent as Agatha Christie and it was nice to see Christopher Benjamin and Felicity Kendal on screen again. The episode was pretty funny too, now standard in this series. There is no competition for the highlight of this episode -- the doctor is poisoned:

The episode didn't quite reach the heights of others in this series for me, though. Everything about it was perfect except the conclusion of the story. I liked a lot of the story's absurdities, even the giant wasp murdering Professor Peach in the library with the lead piping, but it was a whodunnit that in the end only went through the motions of whodunnit. You couldn't possibly work out who the murderer was, except that the contemporary TV and film convention recently mentioned in another context ("All Things Considered") by Paul Cornell [spoiler alert] dictates that the vicar must be the murderer. But it's a sign of the strength of the current series that this superb offering was not one of the stronger episodes. My favourite review this week is by Tom Dickinson, Murder Most Funny, on Behind the Sofa; here's an excerpt:

Probably the most exciting thing about Doctor Who is its capacity to be absolutely anything each week. We can go from a morality play on an ice planet, to an invasion by alien thugs being stopped by military thugs, to an impromptu war between two different ragtag armies on an alien planet, to a murder mystery in the 1920s. It's a little bit sad that we've reached the point where nearly every story seems composed of recycled material dressed up to make it look pretty. This episode, on the surface, might seem to fall victim to those problems. We get all that we expect from a celebrity historical. The companion tries to put on an accent, and the Doctor tells them not to. The Doctor and the companion try to make reference to things that haven't happened yet. The historical figure of note is called upon to solve all of the episode's problems with his or her incomparable genius.

But for all of its superficial similarities to The Unquiet Dead, Tooth and Claw, The Girl in the Fireplace and The Shakespeare Code, this episode nonetheless delivers something fresh and exciting, funny and sad, touching and terrifying. But mostly funny . . . . . .

Revised series 4 ratings:

Partners in Crime: 4 1/2 TARDIS groans
Fires of Pompeii: 4 TARDIS groans
Planet of the Ood: 4 1/2 TARDIS groans.
The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky: 3 1/2 TARDIS groans.
The Doctor's Daughter: 4 1/2 TARDIS groans.
The Unicorn and the Wasp: 3 1/2 TARDIS groans.


Loren Rosson III said...
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Loren Rosson III said...

I just watched this one again and am a bit less enthused than on first viewing (getting a distance and watching again is important). But anyway, here are my revised ratings. In descending order:

Fires of Pompeii (5)
Planet of the Ood (4)
Unicorn and the Wasp (3)
Doctor's Daughter (3)
Sontaran Stratagem/Poison Sky (2)
Partners in Crime (2)

Note that I've kicked Fires of Pompeii up to 5 (which I wanted to give it right from the start but thought it early in the season) and Planet of the Ood to 4 (rounding up from 3 1/2 -- the climax and Song of the Ood is just to powerful to be stingy).

Loren Rosson III said...
This comment has been removed by the author.