Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #7 – The Unicorn and the Wasp
The hit BBC series Doctor Who is now in its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel, and since we’re all big fans here at ComicMix, we’ve decided to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic.
Every week, I’ll do my best to go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the "sonic screwdriver" equivalent might be) and call out the highlights, low points, continuity checks and storyline hints I can find to keep in mind for future episodes. I’ll post the review each Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode once it airs each Friday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel before I spoil anything.
Missed a week? Check out the "Doctor Who in Review" archive or check out any of the past editions of this column via the links at the end of this article.
Keep in mind, I’m going to assume readers have already watched the episode when I put fingers to keyboard and come up with the roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #7: "The Unicorn and the Wasp"
IN BRIEF: The Doctor and Donna Noble arrive at a dinner party on 1920s Earth, just in time to meet famed mystery author Agatha Christie. Not long after introductions are made, one of the guests is found dead in the mansion of Lady Eddison, the party’s host. The Doctor, Donna and Agatha Christie team up to investigate the mysterious murder — only to discover that (surprise!) the culprit might not be human. One big bug and a few murders later, it’s time for big revelations and keen deduction as, like in any good mystery, it turns out that everyone there has something to hide. The notorious thief known as "The Unicorn" is revealed, but the actual murderer turns out to be a Vespiform — an alien shape-changer whose natural state resembles a giant wasp. Agatha Christie saves the day and history falls back in line as The Doctor and Donna head off on their next adventure.
FOR THE LAST TIME, WE’RE NOT TOGETHER: Once again, The Doctor and Donna find themselves needing to clarify their relationship in this episode. Just as I mentioned in last week’s review of "The Doctor’s Daughter," the dynamic between these two characters has become a big part of this season, and while I was slow to warm to Donna as The Doctor’s new companion, I find myself wondering where she’ll end up far more than I did with previous companions. (Although Martha Jones is still my favorite of the new bunch.)
Oh, and as ComicMix reader Vinnie Bartilucci pointed out last week, Donna hasn’t been the first companion to really challenge the Time Lord/companion status quo, as former companion Liz Shaw was known to engage in a bit of intellectual sparring with The Third Doctor back in the original series, too. Good call, Vinnie, but now I’m wondering why they never had these problems with people thinking they were married all of the time.
A GAME BY ANY OTHER NAME: Much like last week’s mention of "Chinese Whispers," I’ll admit to puzzling a bit about the "Cluedo" game Donna mentions. Apparently, popular terminology in use across the pond just isn’t my strong suit, as I wasn’t aware until this episode aired that the original name for the game I know as "Clue" (and am quite good at, I might add) was actually "Cluedo" in its initial, British iteration. In fact, there’s a very interesting entry about it over on Wikipedia, so if you’re feeling ambitious, go have a look.
THE CREATURE REPORT: As the episode progressed and it became clear that the Vespiform creature was posing as a human, I wondered how the Doctor Who special-effects team would handle such a transformation. Would we get the graphic transformation style seen in "Planet of the Ood?" Unfortunately (but understandably, given the budget these things require) the FX team went the pink-gas-and-fade-out route for the Reverend Golightly’s transformation.
All the same, the big wasp was a lot of fun, and the Reverend’s little buzzing tic that revealed itself late in the episode gave the whole scenario a goofy, old-school Who vibe. As longtime Doctor Who fans will certainly attest, it could’ve been a lot worse, right? On that note, feel free to share some of your bad Doctor Who creature memories in the comments section.
CONTINUITY CHECK: When The Doctor flashes back to his last visit to Belgium, he appears to be wearing the same outfit and quiver he was wearing at the end of last season’s episode titled "Blink." (And the Doctor Who Wiki seems to confirm this similarity.) This unseen adventure can be found on the BBC Doctor Who website under the title "The Lonely Computer."
Also, continuity geeks have to love Donna’s passing reference to the notion of seeing ghosts and Charles Dickens on Christmas Eve — which occurred way back in the first season of the new series, in the episode "The Unquiet Dead."
The Doctor advises Donna not to try and fit in by imitating local lingo. He advised Rose about the same thing in "Tooth and Claw" and also did so with Martha in the animated adventure "The Infinite Quest."
This episode mentions the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. In the audio play Storm Warning, the Eighth Doctor was wandering around the TARDIS and picked up a copy of this same novel (although the last page was missing). In the later audio adventure Terror Firma, it was revealed that this had been a birthday present from his old companions Samson and Gemma.
Also in the Big Finish Productions audio plays, the Eighth Doctor told a friend of his that Agatha Christie had once traveled with him, yet the Tenth Doctor acts as if he’s never met the woman before. There are ways around this. You can say you don’t consider the audio plays in continuity and thus there’s nothing to worry about. You could say that the Eighth Doctor was just name dropping (as he often did) and was maybe exaggerated/fibbed a little. Or you could say that the Eighth Doctor met Agatha at a later time in her life and thus had to pretend they had never met before.
WELL, IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN: The Doctor Who creators’ efforts to keep The Doctor’s relationship with Donna purely platonic seems to have been successful, as their kiss in this episode was as much a shock to me as it was to The Doctor. Of course, for anyone keeping count, that means The Doctor has now kissed almost every traveling partner he’s had during the new series — even the ultimate swinger himself, Jack Harkness.
BOX "C," PLEASE: At the end of the episode, when The Doctor raids his box of things with names that begin with "C," the decision to name-check the Cybermen and Carrionites was brilliant — but does anyone recognize the stone bust (or possibly, decapitated stone person’s head) that also comes out of the box?
WHAT’S IN A NAME? Once again, The Doctor finds himself fielding questions about his name. This happened in last week’s episode, and as you all know by now, has been one of the most obvious recurring themes this season. Apparently, even the great Agatha Christie doesn’t have a clue about this mystery.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEXT EPISODE, "Silence in the Library": It’s a big ol’ two-parter next week, and the terrifying subtlety of The Doctor’s instruction to "stay out of the shadows" makes it seem like this could be a scary one. Also, when an episode is set in the "universe’s largest library," you know there will be major hints about future storylines to be found in this one. (Or you can just read some of ComicMix reader Mike Weber’s spoiler-filled comments from last week’s episode!)
Thanks to various ComicMix contributors for help with this week’s analysis. Credit also goes out to the good people at The Doctor Who Wiki for information related to several of this week’s story notes.
Screencaps courtesy of SciFi.com.
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