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Friday, June 13, 2008
Doctor Who: The Unicorn and the Wasp
After last week's...unpleasantness...it was refreshing to get back with another fun, light adventure that showcases the comedic talents of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, which Gareth Roberts' The Unicorn and the Wasp does quite nicely, in addition to being a strongly written episode. And don't make a mistake, this is one of the most deliberately comedic episodes of Doctor Who I can ever recall seeing, and it is to the episode's credit that the comedy comes from a strong sense of the character's and the setting, never devolving into a Murder by Death-lite farce, which a story involving Agatha Christie and a murderous alien wasp was easily in danger of. Instead, we got a story that balanced humor with an appropriate seriousness regarding the events from the characters.
If there's a fault in the episode, it's in the lack of character development in the supporting cast. Fenella Woolgar gives an outstanding performance as Agatha Christie, playing her as a sparklingly intelligent woman, beset by personal doubts and the fear of irrelevance. The rest of the guest cast, however, are left with fairly one-dimensional roles. There aren't any bad performances in the episode, to be sure...though Charlotte Eaton as the mysterious Miss Hart does grate in a few scenes, but slightly more depth to the characters might have made their secrets and fates more affecting.
That I've found this to be one of the most enjoyable episodes of the current series, despite that flaw, isn't surprising. Gareth Roberts also wrote one of the better episodes of last season, The Shakespeare Code, and both episodes share a strong sense of the main character's personalities and crisp dialogue, rich with allusion and wordplay. It was also worth noting that, despite how the new series of Who overall has been very gay-friend and gay-positive, this is the first episode in which we get an explicit gay rights sub-plot, instead of just the casual, matter-of-fact inclusiveness that has characterized almost all the other occurrences of gay characters and themes on the show. It goes without saying, then, that this episode really annoyed a certain type of Doctor Who fan, not to mention those fans who were outraged by the (hey, spoilers) anti-Christian sentiment of the episode that those prone to over-analysis in search of something to be offended by found. I'm just enough of a contrarian to be pleased that something I enjoyed annoyed people I find stupid and unpleasant.