Twin Dilemma: The End of the World or The Beast Below?
Which is the better first off-world episode? Guest contributors Tyler and Thomas debate.
With The Rings of Akhaten just around the corner, we thought that it would be appropriate to have a Twin Dilemma article to lead up to this (hopefully) truly fantastic episode. Twice in the modern series the first trip in the TARDIS for a new major companion has been to a place off this world: The End of the World and The Beast Below. (Mickey and Adam don’t count as a major companion as their appearance didn’t start a new era of Doctor Who). So which episode of these two gave a better first trip in the TARDIS?
The End of the World
By Tyler Davies
When a companion first agrees to travel with the Doctor they have the clear intention of wanting to experience something unique and to explore the wonders of the universe. The Doctor is obviously very eager to fulfill this wish so that he can exhibit the capabilities of the TARDIS. There is no better way of doing that than to take the companion five billion years into the future – where a space station hosts a menagerie of aliens who have come to see the end of the world. That is exactly what the Doctor does in The End of the World.
What distinguishes this story from others of its sort is how far into the future it goes. Not many Doctor Who stories have dared to go that far and it certainly was a treat to see that kind of intrepidity already in the second episode of the revived series. It’s also what makes it a perfect first-excursion for Rose. She is awestruck when she realises that the Doctor has brought her to the distant future and I presume the audience had the same reaction. The companion is, you might say, the audience surrogate and this trip into the future left me as amazed as Rose was in the episode.
Already on her first trip with the Doctor, Rose is introduced to several aliens, all of them bizarre and with their own individual peculiarities. It was a delight to see all those amazing beings together in one episode and especially since they all share one unique feature. I’m referring to the fact that they’re relatable to the audience. Better yet, they’re relatable to Rose. It allows for her to interact with some of these aliens and through this we get a better understanding of her character. It is essential for the companion’s first venture into time and space to have elements in it that help define the character. The End of the World has exactly that!
To be fair though, The Beast Below has such elements too, but they are few in comparison to this episode. Rose’s phone call to her mother is an especially poignant moment which stands out from the rest of them. It is a testament to how greatly Russell T. Davies writes his characters, because despite her overwhelming surroundings Rose’s thoughts are with her mother back at home. This gives her a more affectionate persona and is a commendable attempt at making her an amiable companion. While its counterpart, The Beast Below, does have some character development for Amy, it doesn’t have enough considering that it is her first trip into outer-space. You could safely say that it is a great companion-episode, but it pales in comparison to The End of the World.
There’s just so much to enjoy about the episode and its grandeur makes it into a perfect first trip for Rose. The Doctor shows her such incredible things and that is its biggest strength. There are plenty of aliens, danger at every turn, a view to the end of the world and it is truly an experience of a lifetime for Rose. Brimming with wonders, it sets a great standard for the upcoming episodes. The Doctor and Rose do share some marvelous adventures after this, but their first journey together in the TARDIS will always be one of the best.
The Beast Below
By Thomas Capon
The important question that I’m going to put to you is this: what do we expect from a companion’s first trip in the TARDIS? Surely we want something spectacular, something mind blowing. After all, it’s the companion’s first trip, why not make it amazing? However, The Beast Below doesn’t really give that, does it?
If that’s the way you’re thinking then, I’m not sure that you understand what the first trip is really there for. Perhaps, a slight misconception has been born about what a good first trip involves.
A first trip by my reckoning should have the following objectives:
- To give the new companion the opportunity to prove their worth to the Doctor
- To give the new companion a new look at beauty
- To give the new companion a better understanding about the Doctor
Let me justify my three statements:
You might argue that the first one is an objective for the introduction story. After all, the introduction is the story that persuades the Doctor to invite a companion on board. If the Doctor decides to take the companion with him after that first story then he must have discovered their worth, no? I disagree. The reason for a first trip is to test them in the eyes of the viewer. More often than not the introduction story takes place in the companion’s natural surroundings. They have the upper hand to begin with. To really test their worth, you have to put them in not only an unfamiliar situation but also an unfamiliar location. That’ll show the viewers if they are made gold or not.
‘A new look at beauty’ was my second objective. This one is kind of obvious. We’re quite use to our society and civilization that we sometimes fail to appreciate the sheer complexity mixed with simplicity of it. When you take a step back, you start to see the beauty of the way life works. However the first trip in the TARDIS, to a place off this world, gives you straight away a chance to observe a new culture, a new way of life. Fascinating and beautiful!
Our third objective was ‘to give the new companion a better understanding about the Doctor’. Once again, this may come as kind of obvious. The companion in the introduction episode has seen the Doctor in the light of their home environment. But once you travel with him, it is possible to look past the personas that the Doctor uses for the different cultures he visits. You start to see the man himself. The more time you spend with him, the better you understand him.
The question now is: are these three objectives true of The Beast Below?
Number one definitely is. The episode shows a prime example of the Doctor’s need of a companion and Amy’s ability to fit that slot perfectly.
Number two is also true. The episode gives us the new beauty of a spaceship mixed with touches of traditional British culture. Also what about the wonderful beauty of the old being, the last of its kind, who couldn’t stand to hear children cry. The Star Whale is a beautiful creature, truly lovely.
And of course, number three is also true. Through the analogy of the Star Whale, Amy gains a new look at her ‘raggedy man’. He isn’t just the mad man in a box, but also the old grandfatherly figure who cannot bear to hear children cry. Also we see a different Doctor ourselves. This episode is one of the few occasions where the Doctor takes no action against those in the wrong aka the leaders of Starship UK. Instead he acts very much like a grandfather, by guiding humanity away from their error and back into a better path.
As we can see, The Beast Below passes the test with flying colours. But does The End of the World?
While number three is definitely true, number one and two are more open to debate. What exactly does Rose do in The End of the World? Not much more than being kidnapped by the Meme. Jade plays the role of companion more than Rose does. What about the ‘beauty’ of Earth being destroyed? While it may hold some deep sense of beauty, it isn’t really the ideal beauty to give a companion on their first trip.
So, to conclude, The Beast Below is a prime example of a first, ‘out of this world’ trip in the TARDIS for a companion. It reaches the mark set for it and passes it with ease. On the other hand, while a fine episode, The End of the World isn’t really the ideal first trip for a companion. Let’s see what The Rings of Akhaten can do.
Well, you’ve heard both sides of the argument. Whichever one you prefer, I think that it isn’t unfair to say that The Rings of Akhaten has a high standard to live up to. Thank you for reading and feel free to post your views in the comments.
To repeat that which was said last time: ‘We hope that you enjoyed this article and that the opinions on either section are just about divided equally.’