Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review: Doctor Who episode 5.2: The Beast Below

Matt Smith seems to be a good Doctor Who. I don't know if he's better than David Tenant (we'll just have to watch and find out,) but I think he's better than Christopher Eccleston. This is all to the good, because Doctor Who has been getting more and more shitty recently. Hopefully the departure of Russel T. Davies will mean that this show stops sucking. Steven Moffat is now in charge which is awesome, because he wrote two of my favourite shows growing up: Press Gang and Coupling. He is also much, much better at story structure than Davies ever was. What Arrested Development did with jokes, Moffat does with plot. Everything makes perfect sense as you go along with it, but it's only when you're well past an event does its full significance become aparent. The best example of this is the Doctor Who episode Blink, which has such an ingenious and labarynthine plot that the most remarkable thing about it is that the audience never actually stops understanding what's going on. Another good example of Moffat's ingenious plotting is the episode The Beast Below.

The Beast Below was amazingly well done. Never in a million years did any one of the audience members watching the show think the line, "until you hear a child cry," was a setup for the final plot reveal, because it was just so damn naturally woven into the story. You might have started to work out what was going on when someone said, "it won't eat the children," but before that, no way. It just felt so naturalistic and correct at the time, so when it becomes important at the end, the whole episode suddenly makes so much more sense, even though before that point you didn't really think there could be much more sense to be made. The 'tough moral decision' section of the episode did teeter on the edge of becoming Russel T. Davies-esque Melodramatic bullshit, but Moffat's plotting saved it. So rather than feeling melodramatic and forced, it felt natural and inevitable, and above all right.

Of course, the actual political message of the episode was somewhat hackneyed (can't we all just get along?) but that doesn't really matter. It's never revealed why those creepy Smiler things are everywhere (rather than just cameras and/or military police,) or why they look like those robot-fortune teller booths, or how they have three sides to their faces. But none of that matters. These are minor quibbles, and do not dampen what was a really, really good episode of Doctor Who.

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