TV REVIEW: Doctor Who 4.7 "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

Original UK airdate: 17/5/08

Written by: Gareth Roberts

Directed by: Graeme Harper


It's 1926, and the time travellers are embroiled in a country house mystery with crime queen Agatha Christie. Naturally, there’s a sting in the tale...

Gareth Roberts gave us series three’s The Shakespeare Code and this is another piece of pseudo-historical Who featuring a legendary writer (it’s almost part of a trilogy, given series one’s encounter with Dickens in The Unquiet Dead). It’s a frothier, giddier, more playful effort than the Shakespeare tale, told with a real wit (though the endless unintentional references to the Christie canon feel a little too much of a parlour game). There’s a joy in the way it bends the programme’s traditional structure – the flashbacks come complete with wobbly screens and harp music – and Graeme Harper directs with an eye for colour and a deft way with the comedy, helped by a fine cast. The plot may not have the watchmaker’s precision of a true Christie, but this is Doctor Who dancing on the edge of send-up, and getting away with murder.

The killingly funny sequence where the Doctor tries to remove the poison from his system, dousing himself with lashings of ginger beer and taking it on the lips from Donna.

Superb, sincere performance by Fenella Woolgar, bringing an understated melancholy and self-doubt to Christie. But she’s strong, too – just watch the moment where she scolds the Doctor, saying she’ll pursue the case “for justice, not your own amusement.” Not many people can make a 900 year old Time Lord look like a brat.

That was a gorgeous shot of the Delhi skyline. Freeze frame and savour.

Now am I going mad, or was that really the immortal Doctor Who bassline that found its way into the party scene music?

Interesting glimpse of the Doctor’s untold adventure with Charlemagne in Belgium. So where do you reckon that one fits in, continuity hounds?

Christopher Benjamin did a memorable turn in the original Doctor Who, playing verbose, lily-hearted impressario Henry Jago in Tom Baker era classic The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The character was so popular that a spin-off series nearly materialised.

Donna: "What do you think – flapper or slapper?"

Nick Setchfield

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