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Doctor Who: The Unicorn and the Wasp (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Unicorn and the Wasp originally aired in 2008.

Oh, it’s you… I was just doing a little research… I say, what are you doing with that lead piping? But that’s impossible. Oh, no!

– Professor Peach discovers the point of crossover between Agatha Christie and Doctor Who

The Unicorn and the Wasp is the most fun episode of the fourth season, by a significant margin. It’s a high-concept high-energy run-around that has a great deal of fun playing with a genre mash-up, as the Doctor intrudes on an Agatha Christie mystery (starring Agatha Christie!) to create curious horror/sci-fi/mystery/class drama hybrid of an episode. It’s an episode that really benefits from the lighter tone of the fourth season. Despite some of the darkness creeping in at the edge of the frame, especially towards the final scenes, it’s an astonishingly light-hearted and playful episode.

In spite of Christie’s stern admonishings, it’s hard not to seize on the story with same glee as the Doctor does.

A sting in the tale...

A sting in the tale…

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Who Spoils the Spoilers? On the Right Not to Be Spoiled…

Apparently, spoilers are good for you. Well, that’s what one survey from August suggests:

UC San Diego psychology researchers Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt wanted to test if being spoiled hurt someone’s enjoyment of a story. So they took 30 test subjects and let them read 12 short stories by famous authors like John Updike, Roald Dahl, Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie and Raymond Carver. Some they just read straight, others they read with a paragraph beforehand that ruined the ending or major twist in the piece. In almost all of those cases, the reader liked the story more when they were spoiled.

Published way back in August, this generated quite a bit of on-line discussion, and a lot of people were quick to suggest that the logic held true for movies as well, and modern blockbusters at that. It seems like a ready-made defense for those posting a constant stream of spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises, or leaking plot twists for various popular television shows. However, I’m not necessarily convinced by this logic.

This survey is suspect…

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