Doctor Who

Season 4 Episode 7

The Unicorn and the Wasp

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM May 17, 2008 on BBC America
out of 10
User Rating
419 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Location: England, Earth
Date: December 3rd 1926
Enemies: Vespiforms

The Doctor and Donna meet Agatha Christie at a manor owned by Lady Eddison. When Agatha Christie goes missing and a body turns up in the library, the adventure turns into a pulp sci-fiction murder mystery, with a murder, a jewel thief and a wasp alien. Can they solve the mystery?moreless

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  • The Unicorn and the Wasp

    The Unicorn and the Wasp was a perfect, brilliant and exciting episode of Doctor Who. I really enjoyed watching because the story was remarkable, the actors were amazing and the over all production value was outstanding! I love when shows incorporate their heroes into a historical event and let things unfold from their perspective and influence. There was a lot of suspense and I loved the murder mystery dinner format of the story. Every thing played out perfectly and the ending was astonishing. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Clever "explanation" of the mystery of Agatha Christie's missing 11 days.

    Clever "explanation" of the mystery of Agatha Christie's missing 11 days.

    If memory serves me, The X-Files used this kind of gimmick a number of times.
  • No doubt best episode of the entire series let alone season.

    No doubt best episode of the entire series let alone season.

    It was funny, fast, informative and clever.

    I'm into murder-mystery-type stories and this didn't disappoint. It was full of humour with Catherine Tate pulling off her best performence. The CGI team out did themselves with the vespiform which looked brilliant, beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. The storyline was thick and full of twits and turns and excitement around each corner. Every second was enjoyable and it had me on the edge of my seat right up until the end.

    This is the best episode since Dr Who came back to our screens and I hope there is more like this in the future.moreless
  • I swear i have seen this before

    I'm not completely certain but this kind of story happens in every series of near every sci-fi program. Its simply were someone gets trapped in a book and every thing from the book is recreated. And why didn't you just look at the end of the book for the answer. This is again a real let down. The season is hitting rock bottom with those annoying cheap laughs. But once again this episode is saved by Donna. If you have a episode without her you have shot yourself in the foot. The writing is bleack. There is to little time travelling this season. I dislike the time travelling but the places they've been going are boring. I mean no one cares about pompei. At least in the older episodes things make sense. This is gibberish. I did like the bad guys because they were scary bad guys. The murder mystery story is also good but is there any other time period you could of done it in. So once again they bring back the cheap laughs which arn't working for me.

    But now I suppose as the season is near ending the better episodes are at the end. It seems things can only get better.moreless
  • In one of the best episodes since the reboot began, the Doctor faces a giant wasp, and butts heads with Agatha Christie. There's also a cook who gets squashed by a gargoyle and lots of running...and some intrigue too.moreless

    I didn't expect much from this episode. At all. The adverts didn't seem that great, the plot seemed amusing but ultimately average, and the Wasp Monster reminded me too much of the awful Tom Baker episode "The Leisure Hive". But this was good, classic, fun, amazing Doctor Who.

    The plot revolves around an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, involving an elusive jewel thief known as the Unicorn, a few murders, and a giant wasp. And it has a twist that is genuinely "oh my god" brilliant - though, I'm sure some will find it weak and irritating.

    Catherine Tate puts on a fantastic show, dropping subtle Agatha Christie novel references during her conversations with the lady herself. David Tennant has some of the funniest moments of the series. And yet again, there is no Rose reference (which is the only real problem I have with an otherwise perfect tale).

    The best scene comes in the form of a Poirot-like interrogation scene that shows what the suspects were really doing, while they lie to the Doctor, saying they were doing something else. It's all brilliant. The comedy is fantastic. And that's what makes this episode even better than the average Who-tale.

    It has the scares, too. The giant wasp will either make you laugh or crap yourself every time you see it. And the actress playing Christie gives a showstealing performance.

    Unfortunately, though, there's no episode next week. Instead, we have to wait two weeks - bloody Eurovision!!

    Overall, a fine example of Doctor Who, and a surprise gem.

Fenella Woolgar

Fenella Woolgar

Agatha Christie

Guest Star

Felicity Kendal

Felicity Kendal

Lady Clemency Eddison

Guest Star

Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones

Robina Redmond

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (8)

    • During the flashback of the Can-Can dancing, the Agatha Christie detective, Hercule Poirot, can be seen painted on the wall behind the dancers.

    • While searching the sealed room, Donna says 'in 1926, they've still got bees', referring to comments she made in Partners In Crime about bees disappearing.

    • Donna mentions Murder On The Orient Express in front of Agatha, and the Doctor reminds Donna it hasn't been written yet (the book would not be published until 1934). A similar thing happened in The Shakespeare Code when the Doctor corrected Martha when she mentioned Shakespeare writing about witches (before he had written Macbeth).

    • The disappearance of Agatha Christie was a real event, occuring on December 8th, 1926. She was gone for 11 days. An unusual time of year for a garden party, though it could have just been an unseasonably warm day as depicted in this episode. More generally, "the setting was changed using artistic license".

    • As The Doctor predicts what will happen to Christie, she is shown near "The Harrogate Hotel". The hotel still exists, and is now called "The Old Swan Hotel".

    • Fenella Woolgar who plays Agatha Christie in this episode previously worked with David Tennant in He Knew He Was Right. They also appeared together in the 2003 film Bright Young Things directed by Stephen Fry.

    • Among the items The Doctor takes out of the "c" chest in the TARDIS is a Cyberman chestplate and the sphere in which the Carrionites were imprisoned in The Shakespeare Code. There also appears to be the head from a shattered bust, presumably from The Fires of Pompeii, filed under 'c' after the patrician 'Caecilius'.

    • The Doctor uses the psychic paper to give his name as "Chief Inspector Smith", referring to his repeated alias of John Smith.

  • QUOTES (23)

    • The Doctor: She is the best selling novelist of all time.
      Donna: But she never knew.
      The Doctor: Well, no-one knows how they're going to be remembered. All you can do is hope for the best. Maybe that's what kept her writing. The same thing keeps me travelling. Onwards?
      Donna: Onwards.

    • (At the lake, Donna throws the Firestone into the water; the Vespiform goes in after it and drowns)
      Donna: How do you kill a wasp? Drown it. Just like his father.
      The Doctor: Donna, that thing couldn't help itself.
      Donna: Neither could I!
      Agatha Christie: Death comes as the end and justice is served.

    • Agatha Christie: The Firestone has quite a history. Lady Eddison…
      Lady Eddison: I've done nothing.
      Agatha Christie: You brought it back from India, did you not? Before you met the Colonel. You came home with malaria and confined yourself to this house for six months in a room that has been kept locked ever since, which I rather think means…
      Lady Eddison: Stop. Please.
      Agatha Christie: I'm so sorry, but you had fallen pregnant in India. Unmarried and ashamed, you hurried back to England with your confidante, a young maid later to become housekeeper, Miss Chandrakala.
      Colonel Hugh: Clemency, is this true?
      Lady Eddison: My poor baby… I had to give him away. The shame of it.
      Colonel Hugh: But you never said a word.
      Lady Eddison: I had no choice. Imagine the scandal. The family name. I'm British. I carry on.
      The Doctor: And it was no ordinary pregnancy.
      Lady Eddison: How can you know that?
      The Doctor: Excuse me, Agatha, but this is my territory, but when you heard that buzzing sound in the dining room, you said 'it can't be'. Why did you say that?
      Lady Eddison: You'd never believe it.
      Agatha Christie: The Doctor has opened my mind to believe many things.
      Lady Eddison: It was forty years ago, in the heat of Delhi late one night. I was alone, and that's when I saw it. A dazzling light in the sky. The next day, he came to the house. Christopher. The most handsome man I'd ever seen. Our love blazed like a wild fire. I held nothing back. And in return, he showed me the incredible truth about himself. He'd made himself human to learn about us. This was his true shape. I loved him so much it didn't matter, but he was stolen from me. 1885. The year of the great monsoon. The river Jumna rose up and broke its banks. He was taken at the flood, but Christopher left me a parting gift. A jewel like no other. I wore it always; part of me never forgot. I kept it close. Always.
      Robina Redmond: Just like a man. Flashes his family jewels and you end up with a bun in the oven.

    • Agatha Christie: In examining this household, we come to you… Colonel.
      Colonel Hugh: (after a long pause) Damn it, woman. You with your perspicacity. You've rumbled me!
      (The Colonel stands up from his wheelchair)
      Lady Eddison: Hugh, you can walk! But why?
      Colonel Hugh: My darling, how else could I be certain of keeping you by my side?
      Lady Eddison: I don't understand.
      Colonel Hugh: You're still a beautiful woman, Clemency. Sooner or later, some chap will turn your head. I couldn't bear that. Staying in the chair was the only way I could be certain of keeping you. Confound it, Mrs Christie! How did you discover the truth?
      Agatha Christie: Actually, I had no idea. I was just going to say you were completely innocent.

    • The Doctor: This thing can sting. It can fly. It could wipe us all out in seconds. Why is it playing this game?
      Agatha Christie: Every murder is essentially the same. They are committed because somebody wants something.
      The Doctor: What does a Vespiform want?
      Agatha Christie: Doctor, stop it. The murderer is as human as you or I.
      The Doctor: You're right. Oh, I've been so caught up with giant wasps, I'd forgotten. You're the expert.
      Agatha Christie: I'm not, I told you! I'm just a… purveyor of nonsense.
      The Doctor: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 'Cause plenty of people write detective stories but yours are the best. And why? Why are you so good, Agatha Christie? Because you understand. You've lived. You've fought and you've had your heart broken. You know about people. Their passions, their hope and despair and anger, all of those tiny huge things that can turn the most ordinary person into a killer. Just think, Agatha. If anyone can solve this, it's you.

    • Donna: That poor footman. Roger's dead and he can't even mourn him. 1926? It's more like the Dark Ages.

    • The Doctor: A terrible day for all of us. The Professor struck down, Miss Chandrakala cruelly taken from us. And yet we still take dinner.
      Lady Eddison: We are British, Doctor. What else must we do?

    • Agatha Christie: These murders are like my own creations. It's as though someone's mocking me, and I've had enough scorn for one lifetime.
      Donna: Yeah, thing is, I had this bloke once. I was engaged and I loved him, I really did. Turns out he was lying through his teeth. But you know what? I moved on. I was lucky. I found the Doctor. It's changed my life. There's always someone else.
      Agatha Christie: I see. Is my marriage the stuff of gossip now?
      Donna: No. I just… sorry.
      Agatha Christie: No matter. The stories are true. I found my husband with another woman. A younger, prettier woman. Isn't it always the way?
      Donna: Well, mine was with a giant spider but... same difference.
      Agatha Christie: You and the Doctor talk such wonderful nonsense.
      Donna: Agatha, people love your books. They really do. They're gonna be reading them for years to come.
      Agatha Christie: If only. Try as I might, it's hardly great literature. No, that's beyond me. I'm afraid my books will be forgotten, like ephemera.

    • Mrs Hart: A murder? That's put the cat among the pigeons and no mistake!
      Miss Chandrakala: It is not the stuff of gossip, Mrs Hart. Continue with your work.
      Davenport: But who'd want to do in the old Professor? He was always asking questions about that book of his. What's that all about?
      Miss Chandrakala: A dead man's folly, nothing more.

    • The Doctor: Right then. Solving a murder mystery with Agatha Christie. Brilliant.
      Agatha Christie: How like a man to have fun whilst there's disaster all around him.
      The Doctor: Sorry, yeah.
      Agatha Christie: I'll work with you, gladly, but for the sake of justice- not your own amusement.

    • Donna: Agatha Christie didn't walk around surrounded by murders. Not really. I mean, that's like meeting Charles Dickens and he's surrounded by ghosts. At Christmas.
      The Doctor: Well…
      Donna: Oh come on! It's not like we could drive across country and find Enid Blyton having tea with Noddy. Could we? Noddy's not real. Is he? Tell me there's no Noddy!
      The Doctor: There's no Noddy.

    • Donna: 'The plucky young girl who helps me out'?
      The Doctor: No policewomen in 1926.
      Donna: I'll pluck you in a minute! Why don't we phone the real police?
      The Doctor: The last thing we want is PC Plod sticking his nose in. Especially now I've found this. Morphic residue.
      Donna: Morphic? Doesn't sound very 1926.
      The Doctor: It gets left behind when certain species genetically re-encode.
      Donna: The murderer's an alien.
      The Doctor: Which means one of that lot is an alien in human form.

    • The Doctor: She just discovered her husband was having an affair.
      Donna: You'd never think to look at her. Smiling away.
      The Doctor: Well, she's British and monied. That's what they do. They carry on. Except for this one time. No-one knows exactly what happened. She just vanished. Her car will be found tomorrow morning by the side of a lake. Ten days later, Agatha Christie turns up in a hotel in Harrogate. Said she'd lost her memory. She never spoke about the disappearance til the day she died. But whatever it was…
      Donna: It's about to happen.
      The Doctor: Right here, right now.

    • Lady Eddison: Is Mr Christie not joining us?
      Agatha Christie: Is he needed? Can't a woman make her own way in the world?
      Colonel Hugh: Don't give my wife ideas!

    • Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie.
      Donna: What about her?
      Agatha Christie: That's me.
      Donna: No! You're kidding!
      The Doctor: Agatha Christie! I was just talking about you the other day. I said 'I bet she's brilliant!' I'm the Doctor, this is Donna. Oh, I love your stuff. What a mind. You fool me every time. Well, almost every time. Well, once or twice. Well, once. But it was a good once!
      Agatha Christie: You make a rather unusual couple.
      Donna: We're not a couple.
      The Doctor: No, no. We're not married.
      Agatha Christie: Well, obviously not. No wedding ring.
      The Doctor: You don't miss a trick.
      Agatha Christie: And I'd stay that way if I were you. The thrill is in the chase, never in the capture.

    • The Doctor: (introducing themselves to Lady Eddison) I'm the Doctor and this is Miss Donna Noble. Of the Chiswick Nobles.
      Donna: Good afternoon, my lady. Topping day, what? Spiffing. Top hole.
      The Doctor: (aside, to Donna) No, no, no, no, no. Don't do that.

    • (The Doctor has been poisoned with cyanide)
      Agatha Christie: I'm an expert in poisons Doctor, there's no cure, it's fatal!
      The Doctor: Not for me, I can stimulate the inhibited enzymes into reversal. Protein! I need protein!
      Donna: Walnuts!
      The Doctor: Brilliant...!
      (With his mouth full, The Doctor resorts to charades to mime what he needs)
      Donna: I can't understand you... How many words? One! One word! Shake... milk-shake... milk?! No, not milk. Shake, shake, shake?! Cocktail shaker! What do you want, a Harvey Wallbanger?
      The Doctor: Harvey Wallbanger?!
      Donna: Well, I don't know!
      The Doctor: How is "Harvey Wallbanger" one word?!
      Agatha Christie: What do you need, Doctor?
      The Doctor: Salt! I was miming salt, I need salt, I need something salty!
      Donna: What about this?
      The Doctor: What is it?
      Donna: Salt!
      The Doctor: That's too salty!
      Donna: (Sarcastically) Oh, that's too salty!
      Agatha Christie: What about this?
      The Doctor: Mmm
      Donna: What's that?
      Agatha Christie: Anchovies.
      Donna: What is it? What else?
      (The Doctor mimes open and closing palms with arms outstretched)
      Donna: It's a song - Mammy!? I don't know, Camptown Races?
      The Doctor: Camptown Races !?
      Donna: All right then, Towering Inferno?
      The Doctor: It's a shock, a shock, I need a shock!
      Donna: All right then, big shock coming up... (Grabbing the sides of his head she kisses him full on the lips, and once she lets him go The Doctor violently expels the toxins).
      The Doctor: Ahh, detox. Oh, mah, I must do that more often (pauses and looks at Donna) I mean, the detox...

    • Lady Eddison: Nobody knows who he is. He's just struck again. Snatched Lady Babbington's pearls right from under her nose.
      Donna: Funny place to wear pearls!

    • Donna: There's a giant wasp.
      The Doctor: What do you mean a giant wasp?
      Donna: (exasperated) I mean a wasp... that's giant!
      Agatha Christie: It's only a silly little insect.
      Donna: When I say giant, I don't mean big. I mean flippin' enormous!

    • The Doctor: Oh, smell that air, grass and lemonade, and a little bit of mint. Just a hint of mint, must be the 1920's.
      Donna: You can tell what year it is just by smelling?
      The Doctor: Oh yeah.
      Donna: Or, that big vintage car coming up the drive gave it away.

    • Donna: Yeah but think about it. There's a murder, a mystery and Agatha Christie.
      The Doctor: So? Happens to me all the time.

    • (Donna notices the body language between Roger and Davenport).
      Donna: Typical all the decent men are on the other bus.
      The Doctor: Or Time Lords.

    • (Donna steps out of the TARDIS wearing a flapper outfit).
      Donna: What do you think, flapper or slapper?
      The Doctor: Flapper. You look lovely.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Overnight UK viewing figures for this episode were 7.7 million, with the final viewing figure at 8.41 million.

    • International Airdates:
      United States: 13 June 2008
      Australia: 17 August 2008
      New Zealand: 24 August 2008
      Turkey: 20 March 2011

    • Although similar to the Doctor Who theme the music playing on the gramophone at the garden party is actually Twentieth Century Blues, a song from Noel Coward's 1931 play Cavalcade, which premièred five years after the date of this episode.

    • According to Doctor Who Confidential David Tennant's father, Alexander McDonald, was visiting his son during the filming of this episode and was given an uncredited role as a footman. He can be seen arranging items on the table when The Doctor and Donna are meeting Lady Eddison.

    • Writer Gareth Roberts based this episode on two Agatha Christie stories - the novel Crooked House and the 1982 movie adaptation of the novel, Evil Under the Sun.

  • ALLUSIONS (19)

    • The title is an allusion to "The English and the Wasp". The Unicorn, along with The Lion, is a classic symbol for the UK (although The Unicorn usually represents Scotland). Considering that this is a part of scriptwriter's Gareth Roberts' intention (per various sources) to observe classic British attitudes and manners, it is appropriate.

    • Donna: (guessing what the Doctor is trying to say with his charade) All right then, Towering Inferno?

      The Towering Inferno was a 1974 American disaster film about a fire in a (fictional) high-rise in San Francisco called the Glass Tower, starring Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.

    • The Doctor: Agatha Christie! I was just talking about you the other day, I said, "I bet she's brilliant".

      This is a reference to the end of Last Of The Time Lords where he suggests to Martha that Agatha Christie would be 'brilliant'. At the time that Last Of The Time Lords was being recorded, the production team knew that a story where the Doctor would meet Agatha Christie was due for the fourth season so a foreshadowing reference was put in.

    • (after The Doctor has shrugged off cyanide poisoning)
      Agatha Christie: Doctor. You are impossible!

      A running joke, last appearing in The Doctor's Daughter

    • The Doctor: I was deep in the Ardennes, trying to find Charlemagne. He'd been kidnapped by an insane computer.

      A reference to the online Doctor Who story, "The Lonely Computer", which can be found on the BBC Doctor Who web site.

      Charlemagne (747 – 814), aka Carolus Magnus aka Charles the Great, was King of the Franks from 768 until his death. He conquered Italy, was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III in 800, and founded the Holy Roman Empire. His rule, called the Carolingian Renaissance, led to a revival of art, religion, and culture. Through his conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped shape Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

    • The book the Doctor showed Donna in the final scene was Death in the Clouds, written by Agatha Christie in 1935. In the story when a passenger, on board of a flight from Paris to Croydon, is found dead it´s first assumed that it was a reaction to a wasp sting.

    • The Doctor tells Donna that people never stop reading Agatha Christie's books, and that she is the best selling novelist of all time. In the original Doctor Who series episode Terror of the Vervoids (series 23 - The Trial of a Time Lord, Part Three), on the star liner in the Earth year 2986, Professor Lasky is reading Agatha Christie's book Murder on the Orient Express.

    • Colonel Hugh: Started reminiscing. Mafeking, you know. Terrible war.

      The Siege of Mafeking was the most famous British action in the Second Boer War. It took place over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, and turned Robert Baden-Powell, who went on to found the Scouting Movement, into a national hero. The lifting of the Siege of Mafeking was a decisive victory for the British and a crushing defeat for the Boers - and happened on May 17th - the date of the first airing of this episode. Although he makes no response to Colonel Hugh The Doctor implied that he was present at the siege in both The Daleks' Masterplan and The Invasion Of Time.

    • Roger Curbishley: I wandered lonely as the proverbial cloud.

      This is a reference to William Wordsworth's famous poem- also known as 'The Daffodils' (written 1804, first published 1807), which begins 'I wandered lonely as a cloud'.

    • Reverend Golightly: Beautiful day. Lord's in His heaven, all's right with the world.

      This is a slight misquote from the last line of 'Pippa's Song', a poem written by Robert Browning in 1841 and included in his dramatic piece Pippa Passes. The final line is actually 'God's in His Heaven; All's Right with the World'.

    • Donna: Oh come on! It's not like we could drive across country and find Enid Blyton having tea with Noddy! Could we?

      Enid Blyton was an British novelist, most noted for her books designed for children and young adults, she had a penchant for the young adventurer stories, with groups of children solving mysteries with little adult help, such as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. However her most famous creation is Noddy, a wooden boy who lives in Toyland and drives a red and yellow taxi.

    • The Doctor: Dame Agatha

      After frowning at Donna for letting slip some of Agatha Christie's later creations The Doctor himself refers to her as Dame Agatha, a title she would not earn until 1971 when she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to literature.

    • Agatha Christie: Doctor, I'm an expert in poisons, there's no cure it's fatal!

      Agatha was indeed an expert in poisons having spent the First World War working as a nurse and the years following as a pharmacy dispenser, she used the knowledge gained in a great many of her subsequent books.

    • Agatha Christie: (to the Doctor) Again, you talk like Edward Lear.

      Edward Lear was a 19th century English writer known for his literary nonsense. He is best known for his limericks which made use of invented words.

    • Story Titles

      Other than the obviously intended mentions of Murder on the Orient Express and Miss Marple, the script is littered with titles of various Agatha Christie stories, spoken by almost the entire cast including Cards on the Table (1936), Cat Among the Pigeons (1959), Dead Man's Folly (1956), Endless Night (1967), They do it with Mirrors (1952), The Moving Finger (1942), Nemesis (1971), The Body in the Library (1942), Sparkling Cyanide (1945), Taken at the Flood (1948), Death Comes as the End (1944), Crooked House (1949) and Appointment with Death (1938). Funnily enough one of her earlier novels written in 1924, The Man in the Brown Suit is not mentioned, but The Doctor is wearing his brown suit for this episode. In addition, N or M? (1941), with Lady Eddison reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and The Doctor almost saying Murder at the Vicarage (1930), he in fact says "Murder at the Vicar's Rage". There is also an oblique reference to Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1934) by Professor Peach at the beginning and Agatha Christie herself mentions The Secret Adversary (1922).

    • Poirot

      Hercule Poirot, along with Miss Marple, is one of Agatha Christie's most popular and famous sleuths. He is alluded to many times throughout this story.

    • Reverend Golightly: Don't make me angry.

      This is a reference to the Marvel Comics character "The Incredible Hulk", whose human form, Bruce Banner, often says "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

    • Donna: Professor Peach, in the library, with a lead pipe?

      This references the board game Cluedo (also known as Clue in North America), in which the players solve the game by stating the murderer, the room the murder took place in, and the murder weapon. Professor Peach has a similar name to Professor Plum, one of the characters of the game, several other characters draw parallels to characters in the game, including a woman in red (Miss Scarlett), a woman in blue (Miss Peacock), a Colonel (Colonel Mustard)and a Reverend (Reverend Green).

    • Donna: Like meeting Charles Dickens and he's surrounded by ghosts... at Christmas.

      The events Donna mockingly mentioned did of course happen in the series one episode "The Unquiet Dead".