Series Issues: Doctor Who 9×03 – Under the Lake

Spoilers will make their presence known. Actually, a lot of them. And some theorizing, of course.

Picture shows: Paul Kaye as Prentis, Colin McFarlane as Moran, Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara and Steven Robertson as Pritchard

(Source: BBC)

It’s time for some new characters for the latest Doctor Who 9×03: Under The Lake. Basically, we have this military mining facility called the Drum located under the waters of 22nd century Scotland where a town used to be before it was flooded. The team does remind me a little of the marines in Aliens, but to be fair there’s a lot more diversity. After the highest ranking officer, Moran, gets killed and turn into a ghost by what looks like to be a ghost from the Victorian age, the leadership falls to Cass. Cass is deaf so she only communicates via Lunn. We also have Pritchard, who’s the company man looking out for profit, O’Donnell, who actually knows who the Doctor is from UNIT as well as Bennett, another military scientist.

The team has discovered a presumably alien spacecraft. Unfortunately, after bringing it on board, they’re now on the run from ghosts. The Doctor shows up just in time to tell them there is no such thing as ghosts and later completely flip and be completely giddy about the fact that there could be. Fortunately, they have a Faraday’s cage which seems to be impenetrable to the apparitions. That’s a good thing as Pritchard gets killed. The ghosts are not able to touch them but they can sometimes interact with things. So far, they only seem able to interact with stuff you can hold, such as an axe or a harpoon, or press like the button to the exit hatch that sent Pritchard to his wet grave.

We already know a few things. The ghosts are not interested in the Doctor or Clara as they arrive. They do become terribly agitated after the Doctor and Clara read the markings inside the spacecraft. You will also be wise to remember that Cass would not let Lunn go inside the ship. She obviously knows something she’s not sharing. When the Doctor makes plans to trap the ghosts using the old bait n’switch technique, things don’t go completely as expected. Bennett starts the chase. Then they pass Clara and she calls them out to route them to her. Then they pass Lunn… and only Ghost Pritchard follows him. Ghost Victorian and Moran still chase Clara. Lunn has not read the markings on the ship. Pritchard seems to threaten him with a wrench but does not harm him. Did Pritchard tell Lunn something different from the other ghosts?

Eventually Ghost Pritchard rejoins his brethren as they are tricked by a holographic Clara into the Faraday’s cage. The ghostly trio are trapped. The Doctor finally gets to interrogate them. The fact that the ghosts can be tricked visually should also be noted. You can’t hear what they’re saying but Cass and Lunn can read lips. “The Dark, The Sword, The Forsaken, The Temple”. Space, the sword of Orion, whatever the Forsaken is, and the drowned town’s church. The Doctor makes the connection to the four symbols inside the spaceship and how they become an earworm that is repeated by the Ghosts, acting as transmitters for whatever this alien message is – an invitation or a warning.

Picture shows: Jenna Coleman as Clara and Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

(Source: BBC)

So take us to church. Well, we don’t. That would’ve really been terrifying but at this point for the sake of time, I guess, Bennett guides a drone into the church and brings back a coffin. Or, possibly, a suspended animation chamber. Can we assume the pilot is in there? Or something else? There’s no time because the Ghosts have managed to disrupt the reactor and the computer is automatically flooding the facility to cool it down (you know, it could just flood the reactor section… Ok, ok, sorry). The crew has to run to the only place where it’s safe. The TARDIS.

But of course they get separated. Cass, Lunn and Clara are left behind as the Doctor promises he will come back. He will travel back in time and find out what is in the church. As Clara looks out the window into the darkness, she sees the Doctor as a ghost. To be continued.

It is a decent episode. Nothing outlandish, pardon the pun, for this series. We’ve seen most concepts in one way or another. Still, let’s hold on and wait for the second part before we pass judgement.

Highs/Lows:

  • The Doctor has forgotten how to do sign language. That plainly sucks. He had the skill but it has been erased. I guess it’s for drama license reasons but I would’ve loved that he had kept that skill. Pretty sure one of his earlier incarnations had it.
  • The cards! Loved that Clara and the Doctor have been trying to work on his social skills. “I’m very sorry for your loss,” he non-subtly reads from one. “I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend / family member / pet.” Just to be clear, this is only endearing if you are a Time Lord.
  • Everyone has gotten right the fact that Cass prevented Lunn from reading the signs which is why Lunn is somewhat protected from the Ghosts. How did Cass know to protect him, though? Why did she protect only Lunn? Please don’t make this an “I had a bad feeling about this and I love you” thing.
  • If Lunn has now heard the “The Dark, The Sword, The Forsaken, The Temple” chant, does that mean he’s no longer immune to ghosts?
  • The idea of going to church under water, suits and darkness and vulnerability would’ve been really terrifying. However, we’re running out of time and everything we wanted is to bring in the tanning bed – I mean, the suspended animation chamber. So I see why we took the shortcut. That being said, could’ve been scarier right there. A little less running and back and forth and you could’ve made a potentially terrifying and actually underwater scene.
  • The alien craft is a white room. On the outside I do believe there’s something resembling a cockpit but nothing as such when inside. A bit lame for a spaceship… Sorry! Sorry! I know how snobbish that sounds. Not a huge thing, but still a pet peeve of mine regarding lazy depictions of alien culture/tech. Perhaps the whole point of the room being bare was to call attention to the markings and draw you inside the ship. Then that would mean the ship was always meant to be a trigger for the ghosts?
  • The shades/sunglasses have sparked a controversy. We’re going to be sonic-screwdriver-less for a while. Yeah, not as iconic and a bit juvenile. But I would look forward to a quest to obtain the components to build a new one. Potential storyline here!
  • The suspended animation chamber contains something or someone. So, if it’s not the pilot and it’s not a new character… could it be that the Doctor is in there?

That will do for now.

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