Sunday, 4 October 2015

Under The Lake - A Review

Didn't get to see this episode until late last night, and decided to give it a second viewing this evening before giving my opinion. It certainly benefited from the second watching, as you can relax and enjoy the way the plot unfolds without having to strain for potential clues. Roughly 30 of the 45 minutes were the Doctor trying to work out just what the ghosts were about.
Some may view this as a bit of an anti-climax after the epic Davros / Dalek / Missy opener, but it is the variety of moods and styles which help make Doctor Who so unique as a drama series.

One big criticism to get out of the way first. Did you see any great big ugly alien creature in this episode? Or in the "Next Time" teaser? Of course not. They went out of their way not to show it - but said big ugly alien was in the trailers, and photographed prominently in the DWM preview piece.
I would rather have been presented with it out of the blue in next week's episode. A wholly unnecessary spoiler, which the director clearly didn't want.
This episode had enough going on with the creepy ghosts. It was a brave move to have Colin McFarlane deaded before the opening credits, with Steven Robertson following him so early on - plus having Paul Kaye barely recognisable as the Tivolian spectre. Presumably the latter will have a more prominent part to play in the second half. Will the fact he is a Tivolian have any relevance at all, or is Toby Whithouse simply revisiting a race he created for his last story.
Moffat has said that this series will have a slightly retro feel, and here we find ourselves in the old base-under-siege scenario. The format's golden era was in the Troughton years, but we have seen a few stories since 2005 that have also embraced it - most notably the equally watery Waters of Mars, and The Impossible Planet two-parter.

Ghosts have featured rarely in the show over the last 51 years. The explanation for these ones was quite convoluted - whilst still leaving a whole load of unanswered questions. Why dead people to broadcast the Dark, Sword, Forsaken, Temple message and not living beings? Is there any significance to the fact that the ghosts are eyeless and have hollow heads? Why kill only people who had read the message, and not Lunn who hasn't read it but has been told it?
Talking of Lunn, just why was Cass so insistent he didn't enter the ship? Is there more to this, or is it just a plot device to provide the Doctor with a clue. I suppose it does mean we have one character who is immune to the ghosts' threat.
Very convenient that Lunn has managed to get separated with Cass.
Special mention about the casting of deaf actor Sophie Stone. There may not be many profoundly deaf actors in the UK, but nice to see one portraying a deaf character, instead of employing a hearing actor to play deaf.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. I liked the fact that the TARDIS had turned up somewhere unplanned for a change, and the Doctor and Clara had to work out what was going on from the start, along with the rest of us.
A word about Clara. Last season she was obviously becoming addicted to TARDIS traveling. Now she is becoming positively reckless about it. This will not end in smiles.
A minor gripe regarding those prompt cards. This gag would have worked in the earlier episodes of Series 8, but the 12th Doctor has moved on since then. Has Whithouse not watched the show since Deep Breath? At least there was a fan-pleasing card, referring to him having dumped Sarah Jane Smith in Aberdeen instead of South Croydon.
Am glad they very quickly explained that this was a flooded valley, as I was going to open this review with a demand to know why it wasn't called "Under The Loch" - being set in Caithness, Scotland as it is. I had a whole "English Agenda" piece all set to go, which I will now have to keep for when they replace Capaldi with an English actor...
Talking of Caithness, did you glimpse that the base in next week's episode has distinctly Russian trappings? What's that about?
Presumably the big ugly alien is in the sealed box. Or might it actually contain the Doctor?
The cliffhanger was brilliant. Just how will the Doctor get out of being well and truly deaded? And why is his ghost only turning up now, when he "died" a long time ago?
Roll on next Saturday for all the answers.

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