Doctor Who: The Unicorn and the Wasp
The British have always been proud of their history. This is evident in the excellent quality of most historical dramas done by the BBC. Doctor Who, being a BBC production, has displayed this in spades having had the Doctor already meet two of their most famous writers in previous seasons (Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare). The tradition continues in this episode when the Doctor and Donna travel to England in 1926 and meet Agatha Christie in the midst of a set of murders.
Spoilers after the jump...
Gallery: Doctor Who: The Unicorn and the Wasp
The writer of this episode, Gareth Roberts, has written a previous Doctor Who episode ("The Shakespeare Code") in which the Doctor meets Shakespeare. He has also written several Doctor Who novels, Big Finish audio plays and magazine articles. He co-wrote the pilot for the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. If Steven Moffat is the best writer the show has to offer, Gareth Roberts is certainly a close second.
Going against the tradition of a locked-door murder mysteries, this episode was intended to be light-hearted and fun (calling back to some William Hartnell Doctor Who episodes intended to be historical comedies, The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters). The team also intended to use the episode to solve a mystery about Agatha Christie's life. Agatha Christie actually did vanish for 11 days in 1929 with no memory of where she went. It was attributed to a breakdown resulting from her divorce from her first husband due to his infidelity. Naturally, a program like Doctor Who would create a more sinister, extra-terrestrial motive to spice things up.
There are numerous, subtle references to the works of Agatha Christie throughout the episode, hinting that this episode subconsciously influenced her future work. The list of them can be found here. On a related note, the first episode of this season was titled "Partners In Crime" which is also the name of one of Agatha Christie's books.
Doctor Who (and quite possibly the entire BBC production staff) is a small universe. In trying to remember where I had seen the actress playing Agatha Christie (Fenella Woolgar) before, I realized that she was in Jekyll, a BBC mini-series written by future Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat.
Actually, the episode deals with two separate mysteries. The first are the murders, which end up being performed by a wasp-like alien called a Vespiform which has taken on a human body. The second is the attempted theft of the Firestone necklace owned by Lady Clemency Eddison (played by Felicity Kendel) by a jewel thief known as the Unicorn. Roberts chose the title because it sounded like one that would have been used by Agatha Christie. I wonder if he wrote the plot around the title?
Doctor Who is becoming dangerously self-referential. The episode contained callbacks to "The Shakespeare Code," "The Unquiet Dead," "The Runaway Bride." The Doctor takes out of his "C" chest the crystal ball containing the Carrionites from "The Shakespeare Code" as well as a Cyberman chest plate from "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel." Even the disappearing bees are mentioned again.
If anybody is curious about the "missing adventure" the Doctor was talking about while he was being interrogated which involved Charlemagne, the short story can be read on the BBC website here.
On another related note (literally), David Tennant's father had a non-speaking cameo in this episode as a footman.
This episode was a fun, light-hearted romp and thoroughly enjoyable. Next week begins a two-parter written by Steven Moffat so expectations are sky high. I doubt it'll disappoint either.
|William Shakespeare||88 (42.9%)|
|Charles Dickens||41 (20.0%)|
|Agatha Christie||76 (37.1%)|