Doctor Who – The Unicorn and the Wasp

Since its rebirth, Doctor Who has stuck with a policy of “headlines” for its episode concepts. “Agatha Christie” is a pretty good headline concept, and it does grab the attention, but something was missing for me and I’m not sure what.

Everything seemed to be there. It had a frightening monster. It had great actors. The plot wasn’t dull either. I mean, Doctor Who has a flexible format – it should be able to tell any kind of story, and it’s pulled off the murder mystery commendably before. The End of the World anyone?

There was a lot to like about The Unicorn and the Wasp. It had a great balance of action and humour, for one thing. The traditional drawing-room revelation scene was both surprising and funny in all the right ways. And I felt a good tingle of suspense and fear during the dinner scene. The cast played their parts superbly, especially Fenella Woolgar as Christie herself. In fact, the episode even pulled off the old Doctor Who tradition of explaining historical mysteries perfectly. All this leaves me baffled as to how I came away from this brilliantly put-together piece feeling so dissatisfied.

I think the answer is subtle. The End of the World was a similar kind of murder mystery with a very traditional format, but it had a major difference: new ideas. The Unicorn and the Wasp was full of tropes. The jewel thief was just plain unnecessary – she didn’t serve as much of a red herring suspect even before the womping great big wasp turned up. And there was too much pseudo-Christie cheese in there. Okay, the reason was logical, but that doesn’t detract from the sense that you’ve seen it all before. Agatha Christie – a great headline that deserved a better plot.

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~ by Scary Rob on 20 June, 2008.

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