Harnessed beneath the floating future British metropolis, a star whale labored against zero gravity, acting as a gentle, unassuming engine to carry humans toward some uncertain destination. This is a near-spoiler, I suppose, since it gets at the gradually unraveling premise of “The Beast Below,” the second Dr. Who episode to air this season– Sat. night on BBC America. For the second consecutive week, I watched, not fully sure whether I would grow bored with Who’s kitschy special effects or impatient with the show’s fantastical excesses. Yet, like the week before (unlike some), I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Episode Two was well done–well enough that I recommend it: an army of creepy fortune-telling machines (think Zoltar Speaks with extreme mood swings: called “Smilers”), a blaring, flickering civics quiz after which participants have the option to forget or protest (mass, self-selected forgetting preserves the Queen’s authority; too much protest dethrones her), and, of course, the city’s hefty, bottom-floor host, a schizophrenic giant merciful toward the children but unkind to adults. Enough.
All the more striking in this episode was the unmistakable family resemblance between the star whale and the withering, abused avanc in Mieville’s The Scar, that massive underwater creature yoked to Armada as their floating conglomeration of warped hulls and things drifted toward the water’s edge.