I managed to come down with some bug on Thursday that kept me home from work and feeling far less than 100%. The sort of feeling I used get from a hangover in the days when I had hangovers.
So I spent a lot of time watching movies and listening to music while dozing in between. One thing I watched, several times in fact, in an episode of Doctor Who that we picked up on DVD while in England.
Called, 'The Beast Below', it's the second in the new season that introduces the 11th Doctor played by Matt Smith and his companion Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan.
I've been following Doctor Who since 1963, remembering, barely, some of those episodes that have been wiped and lost forever. I was very young, but I remember the Doctor better than The Beatles from that time.
So I'm pretty familiar with the whole series, and as far as I'm concerned Matt Smith is the best Doctor yet, much superior to the prior Doctor, David Tennant, who, by the end, was sinking under the weight of his own mannerisms. Karen Gillan is the best companion since Sophie Aldred played Ace during Sylvester's turn as the Doctor.
Add to this the heartening fact that the show is now under the guiding hand of Steven Moffat (who wrote this particular episode) and it's clear that we are potentially in a new golden age of Doctor Who.
However, in this particular case, The Beast Below, is not notable so much for its story, highly serviceable though it be, but for the atmosphere and attention to detail. As has been seen elsewhere many times since 1982, there is a strong Bladerunner influence in the portrayal of the dystopia that is the background to this tale.
The setting, a giant spaceship that is the United Kingdom fleeing from an Earth devastated by solar flares, closely resembles the Los Angeles of Bladerunner, complete with a dirty, shabby metropolis filled with frightened people. Some on little bicycles and rickshaws in absolute homage to the earlier film. All that's missing is the torrential rain and the air traffic.
What's new and what makes the show quite scary is a type of surveillance robot called Smilers. These monsters sit in little glass booths, closely resembling those you might see in an old fairground, and most often have a eerily friendly cracked porcelain visage. However, when displeased by the activities they unceasingly observe, the face rotates 180 degrees to reveal a frowning disposition. When angered to action, a further 180 rotation (yes, this makes no sense from a geometric point of view) brings a violent and convulsed face into view.
Personally, I think these are the most frightening monsters introduced into Doctor Who since the Cybermen. I love 'em! Although it seems hard to envisage a scenario for their return, I'd be very happy to see them again.