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DW 4x07 What

4×07: The Unicorn and the Wasp

Series four of Doctor Who reached is mid-point with last Saturday’s murder mystery featuring none other than Agatha Christie herself and, to be honest with you, I really didn’t know what to make of it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had a busy week at work, I’d probably attempt to kid myself that the reason this blog post is so late is the very fact that I have had no idea of whether to fall in the pro- or anti- camp… or not bother with a camp at all. It was clearly an homage to the writer herself but was it supposed to be a pastiche, or a comedy, or a proper whodunnit, or just harmless fun, or, more simply, the calm before the storm of the end of the season? May be all of the above.

Eventually, on my third viewing I began to realise it probably didn’t matter. “Why watch something that was “only okay” three times?” I hear you cry. Well, the reason is probably that I am just a big old fanboy at heart and will inevitably quite enjoy any old tosh that comes with a Doctor Who label. However, the first time was a midnight viewing, having been out all day and night to celebrate Pompey’s cup final win and a I was a touch too inebriated to remember all the details, in fact, almost all the details were lost on me. It was, as they say, a heavy night.  I awoke the next day with vague memories of standing on a chair and singing while a really big wasp buzzed outside the window.

DW 4x07 Murder

So, I watched again over breakfast to fill in the blanks and, while I loved Fenella Woolgar as Christie, I still wasn’t sure about either the wasp, which was an absurd creation, nor the detox scene, which was just unnecessary clowning around and should have been re-written or written out. I don’t like anchovies either, so that bit made me feel a little queasy given my over hung state.  The melting, wishy-washy screen as we moved in and out of the flashbacks and the newspaper headlines whirling into view were all a little too much for my tastes, and served only to distract me from the whole story.

The third time was my now traditional commentary run through. The commentaries are always insightful and often good fun, depending on who we get in the studio.  This time we had Gareth Roberts, Graeme Harper and Reverend Golightly himself and on hearing their views I started to forgive all the foibles and really begin to enjoy the episode and also appreciate the directing talents of Mr Harper.  The ensemble cast had little time to develop as three dimensional characters, so, by necessity, had to fulfill a stereotype and simply be plugged into the story.  Perhaps this lack of roundedness was why, with the exception of the aforementioned Fenella Woolgar and, of course, the main duo, there was a degree why it didn’t matter to me who had done it after all.

DW 4x07 Agatha

And here we get to the nub of it.  Once I had realised that none of this mattered, that there were no clues or nods to the ongoing story arc, that this was, in fact, just a comedy interlude, then the whole thing fell into place beautifully.   Get a solid cast that is able to hit the ground running in their archetypal roles for a romp around a 20’s country house; hand the script to one of the show’s biggest fans and the directorial responsibilities to an irrepresible and enthusiastic sort; insert a fair dollop of humour so that everyone from the bloggerati to the “normal viewers” don’t take it all too seriously and Robert’s your mother’s brother.

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