From the previews alone I was excited for this week’s episode and I was not disappointed in the slightest. A nice return to the standard, creepy, classic Doctor Who adventure, Under the Lake was written and executed very well. It didn’t try to copy old themes too terribly, it wasn’t a don’t blink or don’t think or don’t breathe type of script. It was unique in it’s own way but still keeping true to the nature of Doctor Who.
Full disclosure: I’m not a horror aficionado. In fact I spend the least amount of my time with that genre in general be it books, movies, TV shows, whatever. However, despite my weak appetite for scary things, the beardy top hat guy was a little creepy at first. Not terrifying or lock your doors even though you’re in your car in the middle of a park surrounded by not-ghost people at high noon. But creepy. The special effects were neat and decently done, but the rest of the people that turned into ghosts kind of went a little cheesy instead of scary. Maybe it’s because even though the ghosts can walk through walls and magically pick up weapons when they feel like it, they can’t move faster than a brisk walk and are inferior in basically every other way to the living people. You’d think generally speaking, something that is “unnatural”, as the Doctor puts it, would be a little more OP.
We have, of course, another two parter, which is nice that the story can be told at a reasonable pace with some depth and a little more involvement of the secondary characters. Even though having to wait an entire week for a resolution is agonizing, if the season opener was any indication, the upcoming conclusion will be worth the wait.
To the good stuff. The crew of The Drum is rather interesting. Cass is not the first deaf person the Doctor has ever encountered, but she is the first to actually interact and converse with him. That dynamic is interesting as she’s obviously got a lot of suspicions as to what the ghost is, thoughts on the ship, and definitely had the symbols pinned as dangerous before the good Doctor got around to figuring that part out (though the intentional camera shots on everyone’s eyeballs with the symbols illuminated kind of gave us a hint, too bad they can’t see what we see). Cass protects Lunn from looking at the symbols, which presumably save him from the wrath of his former crewmate Pritchard’s ghost. O’Donnell is rather comical with her infatuation of the Doctor while also managing to be super useful at opening and closing doors. Bennett, the scientist of the group is a little disappointing in that he had to be convinced to do SCIENCE! by the Doctor, and stay to figure out what the heck was going on with the ghosts, but I guess not every man of science has a backbone of steel and two hearts.
Twelve continues to rock out the sunglasses, to the chagrin of some of you. Moffat has basically come out to say: “Sometimes you have to be heretical” in a video extra for the BBC – which makes me believe they’re here to stay for a while. The cue cards though, that slayed me. Hilarious, albeit a bit ridiculous. I think the lack of reaction from the crew was mildly disappointing but it was a good comical play amidst a fairly serious script. Twelve’s sudden attack of emotion about Clara’s well being was a bit out of character, especially considering he’s frequently referred to her as his “carer.” The Doctor suddenly caring about her emotional and mental well-being was just odd. Is this character development or are we being tricked?! Trust no one. Especially Doctor Who writers.
Did anyone happen to notice the color of Clara’s shirt? Totally Star Trek ensign yellow. Two other Star Trek hat tips appeared throughout the show with the USS Enterprises serial number (minus the NCC part): 1701B listed on one of the bay doors Clara runs through. A further, perhaps even a stretch of the imagination shows the mural behind the Doctor of a giant sea monster with three figures in remarkably similar outfits to the standard Star Fleet officer red, gold, and blue outfits.
Regardless, as the Doctor mentioned, every new piece of information only brought on more questions. Most importantly, what the heck happened to the Doctor? That’s definitely a new twist on things, although *spoilers, sweetie* the show has the rest of the season to go, it’s highly unlikely it will go on without the Doctor. So what trickery do they have up their sleeves for getting him out of this one alive? Why are all of the ghosts’ eyes darkened out? Perhaps because the message was being transmitted with their silent chant instead of stored in their brain/eyeballs? How can Clara be of any use without a TARDIS or a sonic device, or really anything useful against ghosts while underwater and almost completely helpless? What’s up with the repeating coordinates part from the cursed symbols? How long until Clara’s ultimate demise?! And the biggest question, when is Missy going to come back? I miss her already.
The show was a great follow-up to a really impressive opening. The Easter eggs as well as the other nods to the Doctor’s past (the hand brake Eleven always left on, one of the cue cards saying “It was my fault, I should have known you didn’t live in Aberdeen,” which takes us back to when the Tenth Doctor met Sarah Jane Smith in “School Reunion”) were very clever and expertly sprinkled throughout the episode. More excitement it yet to come as we figure out what’s the what in the coming “Before the Flood.”
And in case you forgot, here’s the earworm that Twelve referenced so you can let it plague you for weeks. Or until you find another earworm.