Thoughts on: The Unicorn and the Wasp

A story idea about Agatha Christie and a giant wasp is naturally going to incite scepticism. It just sounds too silly for words. Remarkably, though, this story managed to play out that idea totally convincingly and without a hint of self-conscious irony. Admittedly, the giant wasp was the most problematic aspect of this otherwise fantastic episode (as a giant chicken was in a subsequent story about a historical figure)—some other alien form could surely have been used?—but the story itself was so enjoyable and well executed that the ludicrousness of a giant alien wasp didn’t overtly detract from the quality of the story. The story premise of a murder mystery in a 1920s aristocratic house featuring the investigative team of the Doctor and Agatha Christie was inspired, and was played out onscreen as thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining viewing. Excellent use was made of classic Agatha Christie motifs in tribute to the latter’s stories: the charming setting of a party at an upper class country house, the interrogation of witnesses (who are all lying, of course), the dignified dinner scene in the midst of murders, the scene where the investigator gathers the witnesses and suspects to reveal the murderer…

Agatha Christie was played really well by Fenella Woolgar, who captured the novelist’s character perfectly. It was endearing seeing Christie cope with her insecurities about her works and her personal life, especially when she seemed irritated when the Doctor and Donna kept praising her works. Donna’s intimate conversation with Christie was especially touching. Seeing that side of Donna, caring and compassionate, always brings a smile to my face. The investigative partnership of Christie and the Doctor was excellent: the ultimate detective duo. I also liked how Christie, that paragon of respectable Englishness, was shown to be opening her mind to the weird and wonderful due to the Doctor’s influence, much like Charles Dickens did.

I didn’t have particularly much to say about this episode, just that it was an enjoyable and successful tribute to arguably the greatest crime novelist of them all. That said, there should definitely be a story in which the Doctor meets Arthur Conan-Doyle…

Rating: 8/10.

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