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Doctor Who Episode 2, With Spoilers…

Thanks to some of the blogs I read regularly discussing & reviewing the “new” Doctor Who series, and thanks to some good luck, I discovered that my cable package does include BBC America, and I can renew a tradition I had when I was a youngster. That is the tradition of faithfully parking my butt in front of the TeeVee on Saturday night for Doctor Who. I’m especially excited because I can not just carry on the tradition, but pass it on to the next generation. After tuning in for the first time in two decades – a mere three weeks ago (as season 4/30 was being re-capped prior to the release of season 5/31 in the U.S.), I found that one by one, the living room chairs filled up with butts. Much younger than my own. We had a full house of young butts for the season 5/31 premier, and again for the second episode, “The Beast Below”. Apparently, these episodes air earlier in the UK than they do here… and apparently there are means other than BBC America for viewing them here. For this reason, I was seeing reviews of this episode well before I got to see it.

Before I say more… three reviews, some with spoilers and some without, from various Bibliobloggers… James McGrath,
Loren Rosson III,
Mark Goodacre.

All very good. Don’t count this as a review. I’m a watcher, not a critic. But I do want to bitch a little bit about something none of these reviewers mentioned explicitly. Mine’s all spoiler… so if you haven’t watched yet, come back later.

Before I bitch, I’ll say I enjoyed the episode and I agree with all of the positive comments in the reviews above.

But, as soon as it was over, I was left with some very serious questions that hampered my ability to savor the program afterward. I don’t know if it is something everyone does, but I suspend disbelief *entirely* while I’m watching… I am an extremely passive viewer, just soaking it up. That’s half the fun. The better half, though, is the time spent afterward reflecting on it. Replaying it in my head. Re-experiencing it. But that was a problem for this episode.

You see, at the opening, we had a police state. As the plot developed, we learned a few surprising things about why there was a police state. We learned that dissidents (presumably willingly) and undesirables (presumably unwillingly) were fed to the Starwhale.

So, the whale has to eat – half of the horror of the situation that the Doctor was called upon to solve. I don’t mind at all – I’m glad – that Amy solved the problem of starwhale torture instead of the Doctor. What I cannot deal with is that the other half of the problem is left unsolved, yet the characters all express the sort of satisfaction as you would expect if the day was really saved.

Will the society continue to *attempt* to feed unruly children to the Starwhale (and if so, why? They seem to know that the whale won’t eat them…) Will there still be enough “protesters” to keep the whale from starving?

Will “undesirables”, loosely defined, still be fed to the whale against their will, without trial?

How will the whale eat? Will the police state be liberalized now that society need no longer remain willfully ignorant of the torture being performed on their benefactor?

I’m not trying to be childish about this. If Moffat decided to tell us that the police state continued and that the human race continued to cannibalize its own for whale fuel, and that we just had to sadly accept it… especially if the Doctor chose, sadly, to accept it… I would be troubled. But I would at least feel that the issue had been dealt with.

It would be a tad cheap to throw out a technological solution… cheaper yet if that solution didn’t involve the Queen sacrificing her artificial longevity… spending her remaining years dismantling the police state, and providing warm corpses instead of live people to feed the whale. But I can live with cheap. I expect a certain amount of it from Doctor Who. That’s part of the charm.

But to leave the Doctor and Amy in exultant embrace while the system continues to crush dissent and feed living individuals to the whale… Ruins my post-watching reflection. I don’t like it.

Better luck, I hope, next week… after which I can read the reviews and spoilers already written about it.

More importantly… Yay for the next generation of Whovians!

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