Review: Doctor Who – 4×7 – The Unicorn and the Wasp

Bloody murder?

Agatha Christie: the world’s favourite novelist. 

Except for me. I bloody hate her. Apart from putting together novels populated by ciphers, who are mere components in intellectual exercises with no resemblance to reality, she single-handedly reduced most of British crime-writing to the same level – a state it didn’t recover from for decades, leaving the US to take over and monopolise proper crime-writing.

Even on its own terms though:

  • Miss Marple: pages of no proper clues whatsoever then three pages before the end. "Have you ever noticed the extraordinary resemblance between cipher x and cipher y?" No we bloody haven’t because it’s a book, Miss Marple, and we haven’t had any decent descriptions that would reveal this familial connection and motive for murder.
  • Hercule Poirot: pure anti-Belgian xenophobia.

And let’s not get started on The Mousetrap as the ultimate example of inter-changeable Christie characters. 

Some people disagree. Bah, and indeed, humbug to them. They’re wrong. I will brook no disagreement on this one. They must think about what they’ve done until they realise the sheer depth of their wrongness. Yes, even my wife. I won’t be telling her that though.

Anyway, this week’s Doctor Who. It seems when you want to do an ‘homage’ to an author, you call Gareth Roberts. Writer of last year’s slightly uninvolving Shakespeare Code, he’s back again with a moderately better but still similar effort, this time a blatant piece of recidivist pro-Christie propaganda. 

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 10 days. Was it amnesia? A nervous breakdown? Or a Giant Alien Wasp..?

Was it any good?
There should be a whole streak of nu-Who analysis called "when literary fanboys turn bad and bludgeon plots into odd shapes so they can worship their heroes". It’s not very catchy, but it’s accurate. We’ve had Charles Dickens worship (The Unquiet Dead), Shakespeare worship (The Shakespeare Code), Peter Davison worship (Time Crash) and probably a few others I haven’t even thought of.

And it’s really tedious to watch this hero worship. You can cope with it for a few minutes, but after that, it’s "get a room guys – preferably one I can’t see into".

Now, The Unicorn and the Wasp was lovely in many ways. Director Graeme Harper (god of "lots of energy… action!") proved he can do more than just future sci-fi with some lovely… well, everything really. The script was head and shoulders above The Shakespeare Code in terms of providing useful things for the companion to do, the baddie, humour, strength of plot, things for the Doctor to do and more.

The central conceit – that someone is killing people according to an Agatha Christie/Cluedo plot – did at least have an explanation and if you like your Christie in-jokes, you were probably chortling to yourself all the way through. 



Ooh, is that another one? No. It’s not.

But, really, it was just daft – yet enjoyable enough and filled with some nice individual moments. A little bit slow in places, as indeed anything Christie-esque has to be because it doesn’t have proper characters to drive it. The constant repetition of jokes was tedious. And, of course, the unicorn was ultimately a red herring.

Pretty funny nevertheless. One of those ones where everyone will remember the giant wasp, Agatha Christie, and the cyanide charades but every other detail will blur away into the mists of time in mere days. I only watched it half an hour ago, I can’t remember much of it already. No classic, but no dud either.

Next week: Talentless Euro-disco fanatics from the Balkans produce identical tunes for each other to vote for while the UK produces something jingoistic, insulting and ultimately empty and banal. The only difference this year? The French are going to be singing in English! Sacre bleu! Yes it’s Eurovision time.

All right, the week after that then: Stephen Moffat’s two-parter set in a library begins – if you thought you were scared of the shadows before, Stephen has a new wrinkle for you….

Who continuity references
There were references to The Unquiet Dead (Dickens and ghosts), The Shakespeare Code (The Carrionites) and others I’ve forgotten already.

The Murray Gold Watch
This week Murray Gold was doing a surprisingly good job, although why he decided to have some Bix Beiderbecke in there, I don’t know.

Other reviews
A mass grouping of Christie-ites and others has been spotted fighting a rearguard action. Their reviews can be found in the following artfully constructed locations: Marie, Jane, Stuart, Anna. If you have a review, you can slip it under the door just before midnight before emitting a blood-curdling shriek that wakes the whole house except for Miss Broomingfield – where might she be then? – or leave a link to it in the comments below.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.