The Doctor and Donna arrive at an English country estate in the 1920s and meet none other than the renowned murder mystery writer Agatha Christie. The Doctor also realizes the importance of the date - it's the day when Christie famously disappeared for 10 days creating headlines across the country and around the world. History records that she reappeared 10 days later claiming to have no memory of where she has been or what she has done. They no sooner arrive than there is a murder, which Donna can't help but find it amusing since the victim is Professor Peach who was killed in the library with a lead pipe. In true Agatha Christie's fashion, the solution to the murder and Agatha's disappearance is found in a false identity and events that occurred long ago. Written by
I recently rewatched this episode to find that a lot of elements worked very well indeed. It's greatest strengths, I think, are in its idyllic evocation of upper-class 1920s England and the sheer blithe charm that it brings along with this. Fenella Woolgar is perfectly suited to the piece and very believable in her performance as Agatha Christie, and the script is an extremely witty one. David Tennant's Doctor is in his element here in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, jumping into the mystery with relish, and it makes one wish he would spend more time in this time period.
The main failing of "The Unicorn and the Wasp" is that, in an episode about a mystery writer getting involved in a real mystery, the actual mystery and alien-involvement plots get a little bit of the short shrift. This means that the long scene near the end in which the Doctor and Agatha Christie solve the mystery, while fun in its evocation of a genre-staple scene, seems a little unnecessary. This episode unashamedly goes over-the-top in its mimicry of the 1920s and '30s mystery genre. Sometimes this is really clever, and sometimes it feels a little too clever or gets a little too sweet in its loving homage.
However much it ironically lack fully-developed mystery plot while paying tribute to a classic crafter of mystery plots, it wins us over by being purely funny and fun all the way through, with a lot to love for those who appreciate the books and films of Agatha Christie's era, several great comic scenes, and many great turns for the Doctor and Donna. They, by the way, are developed very well through action as far as their friendship and working relationship are concerned, and Donna especially gets some nice character moments. It's nice to see the Doctor's relationship with a character grow quietly like that, without being underscored six times by a script and director eager to make a point of it.
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