There are some formulas that, despite it’s fifty-something year reign, Doctor Who can’t seem to shake. The premise for “Under The Lake” is one that we’ve seen time and time again – The Doctor exploring the mystery of a derelict and isolated facility (see “The Impossible Planet” and “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”). Yet, despite its repetitive nature, “Under The Lake” proves to be one of the strongest episodes of the season thus far, opting to flesh out a rather simple storyline, as opposed to overcomplicating. Avert your eyes if you haven’t seen this yet!
I must admit, I had my expectations set pretty low after the abysmal episode last week. But after the opening sequence, I was hooked. Long story (well, 45 minutes) short, a crew on an underwater mining facility brings a mysterious craft onboard, and soon after, an actual proper ghost! Except this ghost is super adamant on killing everyone, so that’s a bit of a bummer. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) arrive on board, and upon realising that the ship is haunted with “proper ghost(s)”, The Doctor gets all excited, forgetting that the crew just had one of their mates killed.
What ensues next is probably one of my favourite 12/Clara moments, where Clara seems to be working on that personality defect of his, offering him appropriate-response cue cards, followed by his promise to help them with “the death of your friend/family member/pet.” If you keep a close eye out, one of the cards read: “It was my fault, I should have known you didn’t live in Aberdeen”, referencing the 1976 departure of Sarah Jane Smith.
For the next while, there’s a whole lot of running around corridors in an attempt to trap the ghosts and understand their motives. Quite frankly, there could have probably been a better way to answer this question – one that might not have been so misplaced. In this way, the episode seems to switch between ‘adventure mode’ and ‘psychological exploration’. Given that The Doctor is so ridiculously excited about the mentality of the ghosts – exclaiming that “It’s impossible. It’s evil. It’s astonishing. I want to kiss it to death” – perhaps the episode should have reorganised the twenty-odd minutes it spent having people run down corridors, and instead opt for a further understanding of the characters and how they interact with the ghosts.
This would be my only critique of the episode however, as it finished with a huge cliffhanger. As The Doctor realises that he needs to go back in time to understand the ghosts motives, we are simultaneously presented with an extremely eerie image from Clara’s perspective. The Doctor’s ghost.
This is the first time in a very long while that I’ve actually yelled at the screen upon seeing the ‘To Be Continued’ credits. I think that’s the best part about this episode – not knowing that it’s actually a two-parter. Fingers crossed writer Toby Whithouse has a distinct plan for the next episode – I would hate to see an episode with such potential be rushed. But having a look at the trailer for next week, I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed. Hell, I just got goosebumps all over my body. Until next week.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Doctor Who is available every Sunday on ABC iView coinciding with the UK premiere, with an extra screening at 7.40pm on ABC TV.