Doctor Who Under the Lake Series 9 Episode 3
The Doctor and Clara have returned to their normal life of adventures. And this time the adventure is a ghost story.
The TARDIS lands on Earth inside an underwater base in the year 2119 where several months earlier, the small crew had discovered a spaceship in the water and brought it on board to examine. During the examination something caused the ship’s engine to fire which killed the base’s commanding officer Moran (Colin McFarlane), turning him into…..a ghost. When the TARDIS lands, it knows that something is wrong, and so does the Doctor. First they find the ghosts. An old looking man and Moran lead them to the abandoned spaceship with odd writing on one of it’s walls. Was it a trap? The ghosts appeared almost indifferent to the presence of Clara and the Doctor at first, but now they’re trying to kill them. As Clara and the Doctor run through the base, they find the surviving crew members hiding in a room that is actually a giant Faraday cage, which the ghosts cannot enter. Why is there a base on the bottom of a lake? If ghosts aren’t real, what are these creatures? Are ghosts real? What are they after?
The base is underwater because years ago it was a military base/town situated by a dam that burst, covering the area with water. The crew of the underwater base are military but the base is owned by a petroleum exploration company, represented by Pritchard (Steven Robertson), who want to dig up the oil that was found on the site. The Doctor introduces himself with his psychic paper which reveals his UNIT credentials to the crew. Remember the crew are military, so they are connected with UNIT, and all fall in line under the Doctor’s leadership. One crew member, O’Donnell (Morven Christie) seems especially starstruck meeting the man that she has heard so much about in the UNIT archives. I really liked O’Donnell, and wondered what it would be like if she were to become the Doctor’s next companion. Following the Doctor’s lead, the crew run from and fight the ghosts (they really don’t seem to be able to handle electromagnetism), and eventually decrypt the message they keep repeating, and we start to understand that they are after a stasis chamber from the spaceship that was removed at some point. The ghosts up their attacks on the Doctor, Clara and the crew, as they begin to use the base’s technology to their advantage. As the episode closes, the ghosts have caused a malfunction and the base is being flooded with water. Racing to safe quarters, and to the TARDIS, the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett (Arsher Ali) are cut off from Clara, Cass (Sophie Leigh Stone) the deaf senior officer who is now in charge, and Lunn (Zaqi Ismail) her sign language translator. The Doctor can still get to his TARDIS, so he takes O’Donnell and Bennett with him, on a trip some three hundred years into the past, to a time before the village was covered by the lake so they can solve whatever is going on in their present; but that leaves Clara trapped with the ghosts…
This was a pretty good episode, and it was in fact the first of a two-parter. I was unsure if the entire season would be made up of two part episodes, and didn’t think that this one would be, but it turns out I was wrong. I don’t mind that really though, because this episode really packed a lot of energy. Horror, excitement, a good mystery and the clever and interesting crew characters had me drawn in. I’m hoping that the mystery isn’t as easy to solve as I immediately thought. My quick interpretation based on the clues from the episode is that the missing power cell would be either in the village or in the stasis unit itself and that once it is returned to the spaceship, it would bring the “ghosts” back into phase with our reality. I also really liked how they left the cliffhanger for this episode, as the Doctor is separated from Clara so next week we’ll get to see her do a few things on her own. Plus we’ll get to see the Doctor on his own a bit too. Some of my favourite episodes from the “New Who” era have been the “Doctor-less” episodes (like Love & Monsters, Blink and Turn Left) or the “Companion-less” episodes (like Voyage of the Damned, Midnight, The Lodger, Christmas Carol, and The Doctor’s Wife), and we may get a small taste of both styles next week.
As I said, this was another pretty darn good episode and I'm quite happy with this very young ninth season. That is not something I expected to be saying at all this year! I've been a fairly vocal "Moffat hater" the last few years, I really didn't like the direction he took the show, the characters, the plots, virtually everything. This year things seem to have turned around. I'm not saying the show is out of the woods, I'm not saying that everything is perfect or just as it should be, but it seems, for now at least, to be headed in the right direction. Gone is what I called "Moffat music", the orchestral crescendo that got louder and louder to remind the audience that something exciting was happening. Back is the "smart" storytelling, and gone are the "clever" stories, which upon inspection were anything but clever, but also couldn't help but come across as though they were screaming at the audience to ensure us that we were watching something very clever. Gone is the sonic screwdriver and in are the sonic sunglasses....well, that may need to be corrected at some point (remember, I didn't say it was all roses). And it seems, back is the caring and protective, heroic, scientific, curious and intelligent Doctor that I grew up loving. I keep wanting to tune in next week, and that's the best thing about this season.
• A suspenseful story that was well laid out, leading us where it wanted, and keeping us hooked all the way. It didn’t need to smash us over the head with how it was doing it, it just did it.
• Pretty intense “monsters”, especially because we don’t know what they are, who they are, or what they want.
• This season really does seem to be all about relationships. The Doctor mentioned them in the TARDIS scene with Clara, and we got a further insight into their relationship, and I must say it far, far better than the junk we were given between them last year.
• I guess I’ll get my wish and enjoy a small taste of how O’Donnell would fare as a companion next week as she travels back with the Doctor to Before the Flood.
• No snakes.
• We have to wait a week to see what happens! Two-parters could be the suspenseful death of me.
• Practical use of the “sonic sunglasses”, which probably means they’re sticking around for a while. Of course we’ve yet to see him open a door with them…or run down a dark hallway wearing them…