The Beast Below

DVD NTSC
Region 1
13-episode
box set

DVD PAL
Region 2
13-episode
box set

Ltd.
DVD PAL
Region 2
3-episode volume
See below for Blu-Ray options
(Doctor Who Story No. 209, starring Matt Smith)
  • written by Steven Moffat
  • directed by Andrew Gunn
  • produced by Peter Bennett
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 42 minutes
Story: The Doctor and Amy visit a British colony ship escaping the solar flares that devastated Earth in the 29th century. But what is the dark secret of this ship that everyone conveniently votes to forget every 5 years and no one talks about? Why are there persisting legends and nursery rhymes about the beast below?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: All About the Girl (14 min.) with Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond),
    writer Steven Moffat, director Andrew Gunn, producer Peter Bennett, designer Edward Thomas,
    executive producers Beth Willis and Piers Wenger, and casting director Andy Pryor.
  • Video Diary entries by Karen Gillan
  • Outtakes & Bloopers
  • Story Trailers

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.


Hmmm, not so great. There are some redeeming ideas here including a spotlight on the season's Remember/Forget theme, nicely linked in a pseudo-satire style to a society's choices in governing themselves. But this is primarily a tale with all the typical entrappings and faults of the "candy-horror" sub-genre of Doctor Who, which typically proved problematic in Sylvester McCoy's era. Specifically, too much emphasis goes into the fairy tale aspect of making everyday sweet things turn scary and nasty, while the general audience's ability to suspend disbelief and invest emotionally in the reality of the situation totally flops.


Let's look at the setting first. I'm typically quite vocal about getting this show off of the Earth, simply because it spends too high a percentage of its time there. "The Beast Below" is one of the few stories this season that actually does that.... but it doesn't really do that either. We go all the way out into a bizarre situation in space just to get Britain all over again. What's more, it's got all the look, feel, and social structure of today's Britain, including today's clothing fashions, use of today's city locations (that REALLY doesn't work for me), up to and including the outdated monarchy which still features too heavily in Doctor Who. Adding to the disbelief is the idea that though we're still unimaginatively looking at an extension of the same royal family line as in Britain today, the future queen is now a black woman. What the hell? I've no problem if you want to give a future society a black female leader, but I think that really goes hand in hand with the logical step of chucking the monarchy. And what's with the mask and the aging? How has this managed to supersede the continuation of the royal family? Where are Liz 10's descendants and heirs? Does she do nothing else in life besides dig out this mystery, then forget everything and start over? Where is the rest of her life?

The setting does get a minor boost by building on some of the backstory from "The Ark in Space" (story no. 76) and "The Sontaran Experiment" (story no. 77) back in season 12 with Tom Baker, which I think had a far more successful look and social structure.

Ultimately, the main premise here in "The Beast Below" is too bizarre for us to believe it would ever logically be formed. Moffat seems to have a fixation with illogical mergers of organic and mechanical systems for gruesome effect. Been there, done that. This is one of the less credible instances.

Story content scene for scene also leaves much to be desired. This one really played too deeply in the muck and rubbish, which reaches the heights of distaste during the tongue scene. As much as I do like the emotional place that the two leads explore and end up in at the end of the story, it is deeply marred by the fact that they went swimming in beast barf in the middle of the story and have still not seen fit to physically clean themselves up story-wise. Production-wise, I thinking they're conveniently forgetting and cheating.


A lot of the not-so-great aspects of the season arc also get dumped on us in this particular story. The idea of Amy running away from her wedding is only just made clear to the audience here, and is less interesting than what the previous story may have inadvertently suggested. And while the monarchy may have left the aftertaste of unoriginality in our mouths, it is compounded by the mundaneness of dreading more British government next episode with Winston Churchill phoning the Doctor at the end of this tale, and the shadow of the overused Daleks looming behind him. All very dreary, really.


To sum it up, there is much to dislike here. The story will be a prime candidate for the Wooden Turkey Award for the worst adventure of the season. Doctor Who really is at its best when it is treated as explorative, heroic science-fiction first and foremost, instead of fairy-tale fantasy/horror as seems to be the case here. Thankfully, better things are in store later in the season.....



This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.:

(Limited Edition)
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
for the U.K.:

Blu-Ray NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada

Blu-Ray PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.

(Limited Edition)

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.


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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Victory of the Daleks"



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