For 2010 the budget for Doctor Who was quite substantially cut, and to be fair you’ll notice this more in The Beast Below than any other episode. But despite its extreme corner cutting, the story stands head and shoulders above the first outing for the fifth series.
Having boarded the Tardis, Amy Pond is taken into the future by the Doctor, to Starship UK, a space vessel that carries the last of the British inhabitants in space as they travel through the stars, either looking to exist or for a new home. What is immediately obvious to both our time traveling characters is that despite the hope, that something is very wrong, of course in typical Doctor Who style the Doctor needs to get to the bottom of it.
As you watch The Beast Below, despite similarities with other stories it all feels very new, much like Doctor Who did when it returned to British screens back in 2005.
The stories villains which initially saw on trailers etc as fairly silly looking characters actually do a very good job. Based on the fortune telling devices found at fun fairs, and possibly more appropriately the Zoltar machine seen in the movie Big. These characters are known as the Smilers, and while on the face of it, they do smile; you could call them rather two faced. As you look at them, there really is something quite chilling about them.
What you’ll have to get used to more so with this series than any other is the cameo role, and for this story the Doctor and Amy are joined by Liz Ten played by award winning Sophie Okonedo. Who plays a cockney character whose true identity I will not reveal. Personally despite her history and usually great acting, I was a little disappointed by both her performance and the character written for her, they both seemed a little hollow.
Sticking with actor criticism Matt Smith the new Doctor is not as compelling as he was in The Eleventh Hour, but this is not surprising as this story was filmed much earlier than its predecessor (the show is never filmed chronologically) and as a result he is still finding his feet, more so than before.
Luckily however and maybe intentional, the story really belongs to the character of Amy played by Karen Gillan, who for the first time in the series is almost like the grown up, the one who has the intellect to see what nobody else sees. If you had not found the character endearing previously, you will now.
Written by Stephen Moffat the shows new Producer, this is a prime example of class writing on a very low budget, this story only featuring maybe three of four sets, while you still get the feeling there is more there than there is. And on a personal note I found this the first really strong story since the Planet Of The Ood. Its dark, creepy, and with a real message to deliver. All in all though a great episode, that has me desperately wanting the next episode, something I’ve not felt since 2005.