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Home > Series 4 Reviews > The Unicorn and the Wasp

The Unicorn and the Wasp - Guest Reviewed

After the disappointments of ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’, the fourth series came back on track with this sublime and witty episode. How best to summarise it? “Black Orchid” with a plot!

We were treated to a beautiful representation of 1920’s England and a whodunit-style plot that kept the attention of the viewer right to the end.

The comedy elements were pitched at the right level. Even the cyanide scene that could have gone horribly over the top was beautifully played out.

The guest cast were all on excellent form. Under the wonderful direction (as ever) of Graeme Harper, we saw fantastic performances by all. Particular credit should go to Fenella Woolgar as Christie and Christopher Benjamin as Colonel Hugh.

After the annoying ‘shouty’ behaviour of the Doctor the previous week, Tennant delivers us with one of his best performances in this episode. His pairing with Catherine Tate continues to impress and will no doubt stand the test of time as one of the all time great partnerships.

There are some minor issues. Why is Christie deposited outside “The Harrogate Hotel” rather than the Swan Hotel in Harrogate? How does the Reverand regain his clothes once he has transformed back from being a wasp?

The power of this episode is that the strength of the script and the performances allow us to forgive these indiscretions. Granted, Gareth Roberts repeats his ploy from last year’s “Shakespeare Code” by having the Doctor’s team prompt the main character of the episode with plot and title ideas for their future, but once again it works well.

As good as it gets – and a Moffatt two-parter to come next. Happy times and places indeed.

Andy from Doncaster

A Minor Classic

Some people might say that a comic Doctor Who episode has no place in the show. To those people I say, "What show have you been watching for four decades?" Go and watch The Romans, or City of Death. Or Battlefield. Actually no, don't.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Unicorn and the Wasp, and I particularly enjoyed the humour. The wobbly-flashback effect was almost a bridge to far, but in the context of the episode it worked.

The "Salt - Too Salty" line is possibly the funniest thing ever seen in the show.

I only have two minor gripes. Firstly it was a shame the wasp's appearance was merely that of a giant Earth wasp. I had hoped that on closer inspection it was must more alien, but just had a passing similarity to a wasp. However this critism falls a bit flat considering I don't have any similar qualms with The Web Planet.

Secondly, I thought that the sci-fi ultimately got in the way and the story could have stood quite happily with lots of the techno-babble removed. The killer could still have turned out to be a shape-shifter, but all that business with the books imprinting on the alien child's mind via the necklace, all seemed to clutter up the ending. So skillfully crafted was the rest of the story that I think the audience would have happily accepted the events without the additional explanations.

But this is minor griping in an otherwise stunning gem of Doctor Who. I think a lot of people will draw parallels to Black Orchid, but the similarities are very superficial. Beyond the era and the murder mystery, the stories are worlds apart. Black Orchid has no wit, no logic and very little entertainment value. It drags along at a snail's pace with erksomely twee moment after another. The Unicorn and the Wasp crams more into the first ten minutes than is to be found in the whole 45 minutes of Black Orchid.

Season four currently remains the most consistently entertaining of the new series.

Phil Shaw - Newton

The Unicorn and the Wasp - Guest Previewed

I loved it! A really funny episode, especially the bit with the salt. It was an all round cracker of a story and welcome light relief after last weeks gloomy episode.

It is very well observed, with Gareth Roberts clearly knowing his Agatha Christie. It played out like an episode of Piorot with twists and turns all the way.

We've had Rose attempting Scottish, Martha had a go at Shakespeare-speak and now Donna goes all "jolly spiffing hocky sticks" ... with hilarious results!

I'm not sure the CGI directing was that great. The wasp is fab but the actors don't interact with it in a particularly convincing way.

Those are small complaints though, and it was lots of fun. If I had to find one other negative it would be why the lovely Felicity Kendel has decided to plump up her lips with collagen - or maybe it's a wasp sting!

Gary Strang - London

Next episode - Silence in the Library


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