Monday, October 05, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who's 9x03: "Under The Lake"

Written by Toby Whithouse
Directed by Daniel O'Hara

The Doctor (to Clara): "My God, every time I think it couldn't get more extraordinary, it surprises me. It's impossible, I hate it, it's evil. It's astonishing, I want to kiss it to death."

And this was both something that felt very familiar and kind of extraordinary in a way. Let's imagine for a second this was The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit meets The Waters Of Mars but underwater. In a way, it would be an accurate enough description but at the same time, it might come across as a tad dismissive of the first part of what looks to be another impressive two part story for this series.

The Doctor and Clara ended up in an underwater base in 22nd Century Scotland called The Drum and before I get to the main threat of this story, I have to talk about the crew. Without a doubt they are one of the best crews I've seen on this show - except for Pritchard but he wasn't around too long to be a total problem but the rest of them are fabulous to watch though.

You've got Mason Bennett - a shy man, slightly afraid but still able to help when needed and ask intelligent questions while Alice O'Donnell might be the more toned version of a Doctor fangirl than Osgood (which should please some viewers) and then there was Cass and Lunn, who were two of the best guest characters we've had on the show.

Cass in particular was in command of the Drum who happened to be deaf and who deafness was never turned into a negative by anyone while Lunn (first name, Tim) was her interpreter but that didn't stop the Doctor from being able to communicate with Cass and the episode also used Cass's deafness as an asset in relation to figuring out clues to the main threat of the episode.

As for the main threat - it's ghosts or is it? This show never really likes anything supernatural to be supernatural and even here, there was some sort of scientific explanation creeping about. The ghosts in question included a Tivoli named Prentis as well as deceased crew members Richard Pritchard and Jonathan Moran, all of whom terrorised the remaining crew members along with the Doctor and Clara throughout the episode before the cliffhanger moment.

If you were fearing that this episode was playing it a little too straightforward (or actually delighted by that), the timey wimey twist kicked in at the end while Clara, Cass and Lunn were trapped in the Faraday Cage of the ship (the only place the ghosts couldn't enter), the Doctor, Bennett and O'Donnell went back in time with only one of them coming back as a ghost for the cliffhanger moment. You'll never guess who - oh wait, yes you will but it works though.

Also in "Under The Lake"

The original title for this episode was Ghost In The Machine. We did have a Torchwood episode titled Ghost Machine in that show's first series.

Clara (re ghosts): "What are they?"
The Doctor: "I haven't a clue. Isn't that exciting?"

I liked that the Doctor confronted Clara about her reckless behaviour but I have a feeling it's going to be a bigger problem as this season unfolds.

The Doctor: "But what about the things that aren't ghosts?"
O'Donnell: "Oh, they only come out at night."

Clara: "So what do we do?"
The Doctor: "Put the handbrake on."

UNIT got a prominent in this one. In fact they felt more relevant in this one than they did in the opening two parter.

Clara (to the Doctor/Drum crew): "Beginning to think we should have let the ghosts in on the plan."

The Doctor: "Clara, why don't I have a radio in the TARDIS?"
Clara: "You took it apart and used the pieces to make a clockwork squirrel."

There was some nifty mentions of Shirley Bassey and Peter Andre (yes, really) as well as the co-ordinates of the Dark, the Sword, the Foresaken and the Temple.

Bennett (to everyone): "At least if I die, you know I will come back to haunt you all."

Chronology: 2119 Caithness, Scotland for the whole episode.

Definitely a rather strong episode. It'll depend how the next episodes brings everything together but either way, Under The Lake is an impressive start and another in a streak of excellent stories for Toby Whithouse who just gets this show so effortlessly.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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