Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #7 – The Unicorn and the Wasp

Rick Marshall

Rick Marshall was Online Managing Editor for ComicMix before joining MTV's SplashPage. Previously, he was Online Content Manager for Wizard Entertainment. He has written for several daily newspapers, alternative weekly newspapers, trade magazines and online media, and was named "Writer of the Year" by the New York Press Association in 2005.

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2 Responses

  1. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    A wonderful episode, quite the treat for the literary minded among us who got the fun of trying to identify all the titles of the Christie books peppered amonsgst the story. There are over 20 novels alluded to in the story, from those explicitly mentioned like Murder on the Orient Express, to "The Silent Pool" where the climax of the story happens.

    This is Gareth Roberts’ second episode for Who (After a raft of Virgin adventures and Tardisodes), the first being The Shakespere Code. The two episodes have a common thread of The Doctor needing the help of a extraordinary mind of the past (namely William Shakespere and Agatha Christie) who could see things in a special and unique way to solve the problems of the issue. It’s an interesting idea, and it’s a common belief that certain genius minds are just plain built differently.

    "I’m wondering why they never had these problems with people thinking (Liz and The Doctor) were married all of the time."
    Primarily, they didn’t bicker the way he and Donna do. Old People like myself will remember a series of commercials to Polaroid cameras starring Mariette Hartley and James Garner. The way they bickered and snipped at each other, and had such chemistry, people assumed they were married in real life. When Mariette (with the kind assistance of her actual husband) got pregnant, she took to wearing a t-shirt that read "This is not James Garner’s baby".

    To simplifiy the Wiki page, "Cluedo" was the original British name for the boardgame, mainly as a pun on the game that the game’s board was based on, "Ludo". Ludo also served as the base for Parcheesi, and is a close cousin of the Parker Brothers game "Sorry". The hip-hop band Dream Warriors did a song about it, referring to it as "Ludi", which I believe a Southern malaprop.

    GUEST STAR ALERT – Felicity Kendal (Lady Clemency Eddison)is well known to Britcom fans as the female lead of "The Good Neighbors" (original British title "The Good Life") with Richard Briers, who’s also made a couple of appearances on Doctor Who and Torchwood.

    Christopher Benjamin, who played Colonel Hugh in this episode, was last seen on Doctor Who as Henry Gordon Jago in the Tom Baker episode "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". back in the day, Jago (and his fellow character Professor Litefoot) were so well received there was a rumor of a spinoff series featuring them as "Scientific detectives". Just in case you thought crazy rumors were solely the creation of the Internet Age.

    My personal favorite use of Agatha Christie in a Sci-Fi show was on Red Dwarf. Holly (Norman Lovett), the ship’s computer has had millions of years alone, has read every book in the history of history itself (With the exception of "Football’s a Funny Game" by Jimmy Greaves), and as such is bored to tears. He asks Dave Lister (Craig Charles) to erase all the Agatha Christie novels from his memory so he can read them again. Dave types a few commands and says "Right, I’ve done it"
    "Done what?"
    "Erased all references to Agatha Christie."
    "Who’s that then?"
    Holly spends the rest of the episode devouring the novels. Caught reading Orient Express, he confides "You ask me, I think they all did it."

  2. Neil Ottenstein says:

    Another fun episode. There were loads of interesting bits in the commentary with writer Gareth Roberts, director Graeme Harper, and actor Tom Goodman-Hill (Reverend Golightly). They mention (as Vinnie does above) that there are loads of Agatha Christie book titles throughout the episode. They were trying to put in as many as possible and they pointed out a few during the commentary at various places. David Tennant's father has a cameo as the footman (seen about 5 minutes into the episode).They moved Agatha Christie's disappearance from December to the summer. They mention a few Brideshead Revisited references as well. The Doctor's flashback was the first shot filmed for this series. The magnifying glass was Russell T. Davies' idea. There was originally a framing sequence of Agatha Christie on her death bed which was removed and may find its way onto the DVD. Gareth Roberts says that he took the poisoning scene from one he wrote in a 9th Doctor DWM comic strip. Tom Goodman-Hill said that the two lads playing the burglars had no idea of what he was going to do and his buzzing scared them. He adds that it was "really hard work – a big suit and I had to learn to fly" joking about becoming a wasp (which really was CGI). I believe they say that they used helicopter sound samples for the wasp. In an early draft they had the dead body of Reverend Golightly float to the top of the lake, but they realized that this body might be more noticeable than Agatha Christie's disappearance so they removed it. Russell T. Davies came up with the use of book cover at the end. The director said wrt to the working environment that it was one of the happiest episodes.As mentioned before, you can get the commentaries from iTunes, though they appear just the week they are aired in England, so you get them in advance and need to save them until they appear in the US.