Doctor Who’s The Unicorn and The Wasp

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If you haven’t seen this episode, go away now. Really. Truly. Everything that follows is spoilers in the extreme.

One of my favourites of the newer episodes of this series is a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of meta-narrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.

Needless to say, the Doctor and Donna Noble arrived in the TARDIS at the grounds of the country house just before afternoon cocktails. The Doctor (David Tennant) uses his psychic power to convince The Lady of The Manor that she has met them previously and invited them for the weekend.

A murder will soon happen when Professor Plum is killed in The Library with a lead pipe. Yes, a Clue board game reference which his plucky companion (Catherine Tate) gleefully notes. And so it goes for the entire episode in a rather delightful manner. It’s silly, it’s fast-paced, and it’s one of the most British episodes that the new Who does. And it’s one that shows how clearly this series is fantasy, not science fiction.

The Unicorn of the title is simply the code name of an infamous jewel thief, but The Wasp of the title is a wasp, a bloody big one on that. A wasp that’s the love child of a shape shifting alien who made Her Ladyship pregnant in India forty years ago. A wasp that’s so big that it couldn’t survive in Earth’s gravity, but this is fantasy after all. (I firmly believe that almost all science fiction is fantasy — some are just more blatant about it.) And do keep an ear out for the many, many references to the novels Christie wrote.

A delightful romp which fits very nicely into the genre of Manor House mysteries which of course the future Dame Agatha would write a few herself. Oh and Agatha Christie was played by Fanella Woolgar, who was cast at the urging of Tennant who may or may not have known that the actress had appeared in the Poirot series several years previously.

(BBC Wales, 2008)

Cat Eldridge

I'm the publisher of Green Man Review. My current audiobooks are Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace, Nicole Galland’s Master of The Revels, and Walter Jon William’s Deep State. I’m reading Neal Asher’s latest Polity novel, Jack Four. My music listening as always leans heavily towards trad Celtic and Nordic music.

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