Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Unicorn and the Wasp"

I can scarcely believe how smug and stuck up its own backside this episode is. It tries to humorously pastiche the whodunnit style crime fiction story whilst at the same time incorporating an alien who, in all seriousness, is nothing more than a giant wasp. I mean, could they have come up with anything less imaginative and less alien than just a much bigger facsimile of an Earth insect? It's pathetic. What's more, it transforms into a human with a waft of purple smoke. The CGI's not bad and it looks reasonably convincing but really, a wasp? Why couldn't it actually have been something alien? There's nothing alien about a giant wasp. I just can't get over how desperately uncreative it is.
Then there's all this stuff with the Doctor and Donna providing grief counselling to Agatha Christie, bigging her up and telling her how great she is and the usual stuff which in many ways feels incredibly evocative of "The Shakespeare Code" and of which we haven't seen the last. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the Doctor having to big up a fictional artist from the future who we'd never heard of? Anyway if you're in the know you're probably aware that Agatha Christie in real life looked like every middle-aged woman from the first half of the twentieth century but in this is played by the steely Fenella Woolgar. She's pretty good but the character is presented as a bit tediously stuffy and the remaining cast of characters are very tiresome. They're obviously meant to parody Cluedo, or Clue if you're American, the board game, which is one of this episode's many incredibly lame jokes, with the professor, the reverend, the old military man, the maid, the young woman, the older woman and so on, and there are the usual sequences of the flashbacks and the denouement et cetera. But you know how when you watch an adaptation of Poirot or Miss Marple or something they go forever and an hour is filled out with all the little details the novels have? Well clearly Gareth Roberts and RTD couldn't think of that much for this one so they cobble some hackneyed nonsense together about a jewel thief and a woman who was impregnated by a giant alien wasp in India.
It's tedious, tries desperately hard to be clever and funny and only succeeds in a way which would seem clever and funny to morons, and the plot is absolutely bunk. The Reverend turns out to be Barbara from the Good Life's half-giant wasp son, and some kids robbing his church activates the "genetic lock", a piece of meaningless technobabble which causes him to turn into a wasp. This for some reason activates a pendant Lady Eddison aka Barbara from the Good Life has which somehow fills out his 'memories' even though he's been on Earth all his life and also somehow connects to his mother, apparently just because she was wearing the pendant at the time, and because she was reading an Agatha Christie novel this inspires the Reverend Wasp to act out a series of murders in the style of such a novel for... some reason. Now this is bad enough in terms of totally implausible nonsense but then because the book was involved somehow this causes Agatha Christie herself to be 'connected' to the pendant and when the Reverend Wasp is drowned this effects her and causes her memory to be unsettled, explaining the great mystery of the ten days in which she famously went missing. The telepathy used in pendants from the land of the giant wasps must be brilliant if it can make people perceive reality as the content of a book being read by another person and somehow connect inexplicably to the author of such a book as well. It's absolutely ridiculous, and it's embarrassing to have to see David Tennant standing there rattling off this huge reel of hokey hand-wavey garbage as if it has any meaning whatsoever.
I'm tired of this thing where the Doctor and his companion meet someone from history and get caught up in stereotypical events and in doing so get all excited to the extent of ignoring the death and horror going on around them and have to be chastised by other people, in this case Agatha Christie herself. Why can't the Doctor show a little more compassion instead of grinning like an idiot and offending people? After they find the Professor's body, Donna just stands there cracking jokes with the Doctor while a dead man is lying on the floor in front of them untended-to. I think what's worst of all is to see Christopher Benjamin, who played Sir Keith in "Inferno" and even more notably Henry Jago in "The Talons of Weng Chiang", playing a role in this dirge of an episode. Couldn't they have got this man, who appeared in two of the best serials of the Seventies, something better?
The murders are atrocious too. If the Reverend kills the Professor while in Wasp Form, why does he use the lead pipe if only for the sake of a cheap joke? And why does the housekeeper stand there like a lemon screaming as the gargoyle on the roof of the house is pushed off incredibly slowly? There's also a pointless reference to the events of "The Unquiet Dead" which was almost definitely inserted by RTD so he could have a self-satisfied chuckle as the episode was aired. This episode is so full of itself it's disgusting and the nonsense technobabble ending and use of the celebrity historical purely for the sake of jokes and pastiche is incredibly frustrating to watch.
Anyway, as the Doctor would well know having met him, Sherlock Holmes is the greatest fictional detective and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the best writer of crime fiction, so there you go.

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