Two episodes into his maiden series as Doctor Who‘s boss, and Steven Moffat has already firmly stamped his authority on the show. For if last week’s The Eleventh Hour was about setting up and introducing the new era for the programme, and introducing a new Doctor and assistant, The Beast Below wastes little time putting the pair to work. And it does it in a quite intricate adventure with plenty of small parts to it.
This time, the story is set far in Earth’s future (although it’s not as far forward as Rose Tyler had to travel on her maiden voyage!), where most of the United Kingdom is now represented on a floating spaceship. It’s not your everyday floating spaceship, of course, although we’ll leave it for you to discover more about that when the episode screens. However, it’s also a platform for Moffat to weave in some interesting subtext and character development work, and one that allows the Doctor to play detective a little.
Mostly, though, this is an episode where choices have a part to play, and it’s also one that for good periods feels like a more traditional era Doctor Who adventure. If you’ve yearned for the Doctor exploring the odd corridor and starting to put the pieces of a jigsaw together while his foes watch, you’re not going to be disappointed here.
Smith also develops, at times, quite an old-school approach to his Doctor, too, and we found ourselves warming to him even more in his second outing. There’s even a little bit of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor in his performance this time around.
There’s actually plenty more going on in the story itself, too. For The Beast Below starts to push at the challenges facing Amy and The Doctor, with youthful naiveté the asset of one, and centuries of experience the other. They’re both learning about one another here, and the episode explores that a little, and the different ways that they approach the same thing.
It’s also a very timely episode, layered with an interesting and well-realised political points. As usual, to say too much more would be to spoil things, which we’re absolutely not going to do. But even more than last week, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be thanking whoever in the world brought Steven Moffat and Doctor Who together. For given that this is a second episode in a 13 week run, it sets a really high standard, and unlike most second episodes, we can still see ourselves talking about this one many weeks down the line.
It’s not perfect. Once more, the effects department aren’t quite up to the level of ambition in Moffat’s head (although there are some nice shots packed in here, to be fair), and there’s a character issue that we’ll talk about in the spoiler-y review that we upload on Saturday night.
But for the second week running, it seems a little churlish and quibblesome to point some of these things out because, by the time the credits roll, we simply wanted to watch the whole thing again.
Finally, we loved the way the next episode, Victory Of The Daleks, is weaved into the end of this one. Little touches like that are really appreciated, and the clip you get at the end of The Beast Below will, we’d suspect, leave many of you salivating for the return of the daleks.
And who’d have thought we’d have said that a year or two ago?
Doctor Who: The Beast Below screens on Saturday on BBC One. Our spoiler-y review will be live on Saturday night…