Episode two of Doctor Who‘s new season found our titular hero getting it wrong, and his new companion Amy Pond daringly saving the day — on her first outer-space adventure, no less! However you feel about that turn of events, you’ve got to appreciate the daring imagination of writer (and now executive producer) Steven Moffat, who’s been responsible for some of the show’s very best episodes (“Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” “Forest of the Dead”).
In “The Beast Below,” the Doctor and Amy traveled to 29th-century Britain (detached from a decimated Earth and floating through space in search of a new home planet). There, the Doctor discovered “The impossible truth in a glass of water”: The massive, floating country/spaceship had no engine, and therefore no vibrations. The intriguing twist of this episode, though, was that the force of evil didn’t turn out to be the “beast below,” which sustained itself on a diet of “protesters and citizens of limited value,” but instead, the human beings who had enslaved and tortured said creature into serving as an intergalactic freighter. I loved how every British citizen was forced to face the truth every five years — and to vote whether to “forget” or “protest” what was being done to ensure their continued existence. And the addition of Liz Ten (guest star Sophie Okonedo) provided that extra splash of cheekiness (“I’m the bloody queen, mate. Basically, I rule.”)/late-episode gravitas (Liz’s realization of the horrible conundrum in front of her) that are hallmarks of the best Doctor Who installments.
You might argue that Amy’s realization of the Star Whale’s selflessness was a bit too hokey, but I rather liked the image of the tortured beast tenderly interacting with those irresistible British moppets. And, of course, the setup gave us Amy’s insightful parting shot: “If you were very old and very kind — and the last of your kind — you wouldn’t just stand by and watch children cry.” It’s clear the Doctor’s new companion understands the importance of the work being done in the Tardis. Whether or not that work will prove more alluring than her suspended nuptials, however, remains to be seen.
What did you think of “The Beast Below”? Are you enjoying Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as the new stars of the show? Sound off in the comments below, and to get alerted to all my Doctor recaps (and other pop-culture musings), follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.