This is another story written by Gareth Roberts, who wrote the third season episode The Shakespeare Code. It’s very similar in how it visits a famous writer from history, litters the script with lots of references to their works and creates a fantastical story out of a real life mystery. It’s also quite funny and rather more memorable than the somewhat forgettable Shakespeare Code.
Agatha Christie is the subject of this story, which positions itself as a mystery comedy mash-up set in 1926, just prior to her famous disappearance. It’s full of clichéd scenarios, reverends, lead pipes, libraries, lightning flashes in a blackout at dinner, and so on, but it can get away with it because that’s the point. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither does the Doctor, which is a bit off for him because, despite this being an exciting time, people are dying around him!
It’s an ensemble piece, like any good mystery, with just enough time to learn about the characters. It’s all stiff-upper-lipped Britishness on the outside with scandalous secrets inside, and to the episode’s credit, it manages to fit all this in and make the characters enjoyable to watch. Donna, much like the audience, has fun mocking their vocabulary – pip-pip and tally-ho, indeed! Her and the Doctor’s “we’re not a couple” thing continues with comedic regularity. Meanwhile, Agatha is the most normal of the lot, portrayed as a down-to-Earth woman who lacks faith in her own abilities as a writer while struggling to deal with her failed marriage.
Unfortunately, there’s barely any time left to deal with the whole “giant wasp” issue, so its motivations have to be relegated to an incredibly brief backstory by the Lady Eddison and a contrived psychic jewel. There’s also the fact that, well, it’s a giant wasp. It’s in keeping with the animals-as-aliens theme that the production designers are so fond of, but it’s not very imaginative (nor is it likely something that size would be able to fly). Nevertheless, humour can make up for silliness, and this is a funny episode with witty writing and good performances. I must say, I rather enjoyed it, what-what!
PS. The butler didn’t do it.