Recap: Doctor Who S30 E7 "The Unicorn and the Wasp"
aka: Doctor Who NSS 4 E 7 The Unicorn And The Wasp
Quick! Someone call the exterminators! Roll out the Daleks! We need massive pest control!
The Doctor has brought Donna to the twenties
for a nice garden party. Meanwhile, a Professor Peach is murdered, in the library, with the lead pipe.
Also at the party is Agatha Christie
herself. Pity she won't remember it: the date is 8 December 1926, and Agatha will mysteriously vanish and turn up ten days later, confused and with no memory of where she'd been. note
Which means that whatever freaked out (not-yet-Dame) Agatha is about to happen. But right now, there's a murder to be solved!
Agatha: Someone should call the police.
The Doctor: We don't have to! Chief Inspector Smith from Scotland Yard. Known as "The Doctor". Miss Noble is the plucky young girl that helps me out.
But who murdered Professor Peach? Was it The Flapper
? The Vicar
? The Colonel? The mother? The two secretly gay men? The Doctor and Donna are both delighted
to be solving a murder mystery together with Agatha, but Agatha reminds them that a) she only writes books and she knows nothing about actual crime solving, and b) murder is not funny
and could they please stop squeeing.
Over the course of an afternoon of wacky hijinks that cleverly recall the titles of many of Christie's works (seriously, try it as a drinking game!), the Doctor, Donna and Mrs. Christie all piece together a story of forbidden love, murder, secret identities, abandoned babies and alien bling. In the end, it turns out that the killer (a giant alien wasp — who is a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant
AND a giant actual space wasp) was telepathically linked with someone reading a Christie book, which explains why the world suddenly started behaving
like a Christie book.
Also, Donna snogs the Doctor, but it makes sense in context and he tasted like anchovy.
- The Alcoholic: Lady Eddison spends a very good fraction of her screen time holding something alcoholic. Including that time she said it was tea.
- All the Good Men Are Gay: After a somewhat overdone bit of flirting by Roger, only to then see some genuine flirting between him and Davenport.
Donna: Typical. All the decent men are on the other bus.
The Doctor: Or Time Lords.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: "When I say giant, I don't mean big, I mean FLIPPING ENORMOUS!"
- Big Damn Kiss: The Doctor needs a shock. Donna's got a proper one for him. Notably, it's the only bit of intimacy that the two ever share, and it serves to prove that they really are just best mates.
- Big Secret: Lots of them. Lady Eddison's Mysterious Past, Colonel Hugh's able-bodiedness, Robina Redmond's real identity, and Roger's relationship with the footman.
- Bizarre Alien Biology:
- The Doctor's ability to reverse cyanide poisoning using various substances. Actually some of the Technobabble he spouts is vaguely plausible.
- Lady Eddison having a baby with an alien wasp.
- Bitter Almonds
- Bury Your Gays: Roger. Which, per the trope, would have almost made his sexuality usable in the story in the real 1920's since he was killed, appropriately enough by the Vicar.
- The Butler Did It: Lampshaded but averted; "At least we know the butler didn't do it".
- Call Back: When Donna tries to blend in with socialite talk and by saying "topping day, what?", the Doctor tells her, "No-no-no-no, don't do that", like he did to Rose in "Tooth and Claw" when telling her not to try doing a Scottish accent. The same happened with Martha in "The Shakespeare Code". The very Edwardian Third Doctor greeted people with "topping day, what?" on occasion.
- The Cameo: The Very Rev. Sandy McDonald, David Tennant's father, plays the footman at the beginning: he's the one in the foreground when Donna orders a Sidecar. (A different footman from the one with whom Roger is in a relationship, by the way.)
- Changed My Jumper
- Chekhov's Gun: The big, dorky magnifying glass is a pretty short-term one; after the Doctor gives it to Donna, she ends up using it about ten minutes later to hold off the giant wasp.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: The Unicorn, although she gets a lot less classy when she's exposed.
- Continuity Nod:
- See Lampshade Hanging.
- Donna attempts at affecting an RP accent when meeting Lady Eddison... only to be told by the Doctor not to do that.
- We find out where the Doctor put the Carrionites: In a chest for all things that start with the letter C, which also included a Cyberman logo.
- Daydream Believer: Donna really wanted to meet Noddy...
- Death by Looking Up: Miss Chandrakala, in the courtyard, with the gargoyle.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Donna calls attention to this by sympathizing with Davenport, who has just lost his boyfriend yet cannot even openly mourn because their relationship was illegal in that era.
- Elephant in the Living Room: Agatha's just learned of her husband's affair, but doesn't want to admit to it (see Stiff Upper Lip). The Doctor reminds Donna of exactly why this was the case.
- Exposition Beam: Lady Eddison's fire pendant triggered an invisible one that sets off the real killer — her son.
- Expy: Between the red hair, the magnifying glass and being called a "plucky young girl," whether intentional or not, Donna virtually turns into Nancy Drew during this episode. Made even better by the fact that Nancy Drew first got her start at about the same time (The Secret of The Old Clock was published in April of 1930, only about three years after this story took place.)
- Faith Heel Turn
- Flashback... Back... Back...: The interrogated suspects have flashbacks (complete with wavy line dissolve) while establishing their alibis, revealing that none of them are exactly truthful. Then played with when Colonel Curbishley has a flashback within his first flashback. Then the Doctor has a flashback of his own when he recalls hunting in Belgium for Charlemagne, who'd been kidnapped by an insane computer....
- Foreshadowing: The one interrogation flashback that matches up with the spoken account is by the guy who did it.
- Genre Blind:
Professor Peach: I say... what are you doing with that lead piping?
- Genteel Interbellum Setting
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- The 1920s porn that Colonel Curbishley secretly looks at. That got more questions from the kids than the gay relationship.
- Roger and Davenport, after the Vicar recounts stopping two young men from robbing the church.
Roger: Some of these young boys deserve a decent thrashing.
Davenport: (with a meaningful look) Couldn't agree more, sir.
- The Doctor asks the (closeted gay) footman for ginger beer — cockney rhyming slang for "queer".
Davenport: I beg your pardon?!?
- When the Doctor runs to the guest quarter where he thinks the wasp is cornered and everyone peeks out of their rooms, Davenport is with Roger in his room. But he is fully clothed — from what we can see.
- Giant Flyer
- Green Rocks: Well, purple — the alien jewellery.
- Half-Human Hybrid
- Historical-Domain Character: Agatha Christie
- Historical In-Joke: Christie's historic disappearance.
- Improbable Antidote: Apparently, the Doctor can be cured of cyanide poisoning by drinking ginger beer, eating walnuts and anchovies and being kissed by a Fiery Redhead. (Technically, he asked for a shock, but Rule of Funny.)
- Improvised Weapon: Donna uses a magnifying glass to burn the wasp.
- Inspiration Nod: The references to Cluedo (Clue for Americans) aren't exactly subtle. They make sure to work in Reverend Golightly (Reverend Green), Colonel Curbishly (Colonel Mustard) and Professor Peach (Plum). Similarly, Robina Redmond, Lady Eddison and Miss Chandrakala the housekeeper fit the typical characteristics of Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, and Mrs. White pretty well. They really hammer it home with the "Professor Peach in the Library with the Lead Piping" line, because that's how you might say it when you declare that you want to make an accusation.
- Interrogation Montage: When the Doctor is questioning all the dinner guests about the murder of Professor Peach.
- Interspecies Romance: Lady Eddison and Christopher the Vespiform.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous
- Involuntary Shapeshifting
- I Want Grandkids: The Colonel comments that he and his wife are unlikely to have grandchildren, implying that he knows about Roger's sexual orientation.
- I Will Show You X: Donna will pluck you in a minute.
- Lampshade Hanging: Via a Continuity Nod — Donna finds the idea of Agatha Christie being involved in a real murder mystery as ridiculous as the idea of finding Dickens surrounded by ghosts at Christmas. The Doctor looks embarrassed, probably recalling the events of "The Unquiet Dead".
- Magic Pants: Apparently Vespiforms can transform their clothes too when they take on human form.
- Meaningful Name: Professor Peach, and possibly Miss Redmond, is a Cluedo (Clue for our American readers) reference. In fact the Cluedo-ness of the situation is lampshaded by Donna.
Donna: I mean... Professor Peach, in the library, with the lead piping?
- Mistaken Confession: As Christie and the Doctor expose the house's secrets, the Colonel cracks and admits he doesn't need his wheelchair... much to their surprise.
Agatha: Actually, I was going to say you're completely innocent. Sorry.
- Mistaken For Romance: Agatha Christie briefly mistakes the Doctor and Donna for a couple before pointing out that neither is wearing a wedding ring.
- Never One Murder
- Newspaper Dating: Played with. The Doctor uses sensory clues like Professor Peach's vintage car and the smells around him to determine that they are in the 1920s, then uses a newspaper to determine that they have landed on December 8, 1926. Subverted in that they are at a garden party on a sunny, warm, day with lush greenery all around. In England. In December.
- NOT!: The Unicorn, in the more antiquated version.
Ever so nice to meet you, I don't fink
- The Noun and the Noun: The Unicorn and the Wasp.
- Obfuscating Disability: A sympathetic take on it. Colonel Hugh pretends to be crippled, because he believes it's the only way a guy like him could keep his beautiful wife from leaving him for a more handsome man.
- Oh Crap: The Doctor's reaction upon looking at a newspaper and realizing that today is the day Agatha Christie will disappear.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: After the Mistaken Confession, Agatha, completely taken aback, slips from RP into Fenella Woolgar's Estuary English.
- Overly-Long Gag: See Suspiciously Specific Denial.
- Parlor Games: Charades, after the Doctor gets poisoned (and Donna is terrible at it — "How is Harvey Wallbanger one word?!").
- Pass the Popcorn: Donna seems to be doing this during the drawing-room reveal, though we can't see what it is she's eating. Some glances show that it may be green grapes.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: An Agatha Christie mystery WITH AGATHA CHRISTIE! AND ALIENS!
- Rummage Fail: At the very end, the Doctor digs through some of his junk in the TARDIS (of the starts-with-a-C variety); before he finds his copy of Death in the Clouds, he pulls out the C logo off a Cyberman's chestplate, the head of a statue (Julius Caesar?), a crystal ball full of Carrionites (still screaming) and a big jumble of cables.
- Running Gag: The one about the Doctor and Donna not being married and the one where the companion attempts an accent, and the Doctor tells her not to. Hilariously enough, the protestations turn out to be unnecessary; Christie noticed Donna didn't have a wedding ring. note
- Shoot the Dog: Or rather, Drown the Giant Wasp.
- Rusty and Gareth Roberts had a bit of fun with the script. Gareth would pop a reference in, send the draft to Rusty, and it'd come back with another one, and so forth. All told, there are about 18 titles of Agatha Christie novels directly referenced in dialogue. Such as...
- And Then There Were None
- N or M?
- Crooked House
- Taken at the Flood
- Endless Night
- Cat Among the Pigeons
- Cards on the Table
- Death Comes as the End
- The Murder at the Vicarage
- They Do It with Mirrors
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
- Dead Man's Folly
- Sparkling Cyanide
- The Body in the Library
- Appointment with Death
- The Moving Finger
- They also have The Man in the Brown Suit (explicitly referred to as such in one of the bonus scenes on the series 4 DVD) solving the mystery of The Body in the Library. The reveal scene has the Doctor doing The Moving Finger.
- The Doctor also has a copy of Death in the Clouds edited in the year 5 billion and then some, no less.
- And in a non-Christie Shout-Out, Colonel Curbishley's getting up from his wheelchair is from The Real Inspector Hound.
- At the beginning, a guy with a colour-related name is murdered in the library with a lead pipe. Lampshaded by Donna, even. (See Meaningful Name)
- Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: How Donna sees off the wasp the first time.
- Sssssnaketalk: Or rather, Wazzzzptalk: "Put thozzzzzze thingzzzzz back where you found themzzzzzzzzzZZZZZ!"
- Stealth Pun:
- At the end of the episode the Doctor pulls things filed under "C" from (what else?) a sea-chest.
- Also, wasp: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
- Stiff Upper Lip: "She's British and moneyed. That's what they do; they (posh accent) carry on."
- Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: In this case, she had "malaria".
- Summation Gathering
- Super Drowning Skills: Vespiforms are helpless against the might of a calm and peaceful lake.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Oh, yes, all alone. Totally alone. Absolutely alone. Completely. All of the time. I wandered, lonely as the proverbial cloud. There was no-one else with me; not at all! Not ever!" (flashback shows him flirting and holding hands with his footman)
- The Theme Park Version: The writer deliberately went for the popular perception of a Christie novel as opposed to what they're actually like.
- Title Drop: For the episode:
Agatha Christie: The Unicorn. He's here!
The Doctor: The Unicorn and the Wasp...
- Troperrific: And the Doctor clearly knows, and is loving every moment of it.
- Unreliable Expositor: Most of the "Where were you at a quarter past four?" flashbacks when the Doctor is asking the suspects do not come close to what the character says they were doing. Usually hilariously:
- Reverend Golightly says he was unpacking in his room. Notice that his is the only one where the narration and the flashback match up.
- Roger says he was going out for a stroll by himself behind the house. We see that he was actually meeting for a little tryst with Davenport.
- Robina Redmond says she went to the toilet. This one is partially true: what she isn't mentioning in the narration is that the flashback shows her checking a tiny pistol.
- Colonel Hugh says he was in the study remembering memoirs, when we actually see him looking at some erotic photos, which causes him to slip into a second flashback with some can-can dancers. The Doctor has to snap him out of each layer of flashback separately.
- Lady Eddison says she was drinking her afternoon tea when we see her actually drinking some spirits from a flask.
- Unstoppable Rage: Murder at the Vicar's Rage (*ahem*) when the boys are stealing things from the church.
- Vertigo Effect: On Lady Eddison when she realizes that the reverend is the child she gave up forty years ago.
- The Vicar: Subverted; he starts out looking like the embodiment of the trope, but then...
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Used by the Unicorn to hold the firestone.
- What the Hell, Hero?
The Doctor: Donna, that thing couldn't help itself.
Donna: And neither could I!