Doctor Who – Under The Lake

So I went into last week’s Doctor Who episode with only the minimal of spoilers: thanks to SEEING THE EPISODE TITLES, I guessed it was a two-parter as the names seemed connected. And while one might argue that episode titles are not *technically* spoilers, when the second episode suggests a course of action faciliated by time travel that’s relevant to the first episode, well, yes. Conclusion? At least it was Something of the Daleks and the first cliffhanger was a bloody Dalek turning up.


  • Scotland! Call me biased, and I am, but setting a story in SCOTLAND is a very good sign almost always. Fact. This is in the very super north, btw, where it is cold, and werewolves and yetis live. Also fact.
  • The first time I did think this was Annoying Manufactured Tension and the ‘mysterious craft’ was the TARDIS. Oh, me of little faith.
  • Oh, this is a nice episode. I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from the trailers but there is such confidence and style in these first few minutes…they know, don’t they? They know this is really good.
  • Despite the setting, most of the cast is NOT SCOTTISH. I shall try not to hold that against it.
  • I do quite love that there is not any weirdness about being in Scotland a la bloody Tooth and Claw. And MUCH AS I LOVE ZYGONS, there are one or two tiny little stereotypes in that that may possibly be a smidgen offensive to the odd Scot. (The Highlanders, obv, is perfect, even though historically oh dear.) It is but A PLACE. Like ANY OTHER PLACE. (Oh god, how much I hated that – land anywhere in England and do you get the Doctor and companion doing accents for lols? Nooooooo.)
  • Lovely scares. Really lovely. Like at that level where I am chilled but not freaking the fuck out. (I love horror, but it’s very difficult finding stuff that hits the sweet spot between ‘meh’ and ‘omgwtfTURNONALLTHELIGHTS’.)
  • A Deaf person! I don’t think anyone in Who on the telly has been Deaf before, have they? And, oh, this is very good. She’s de facto leader too, and a proper good one, with the actual leadership skills, and authority, and intelligence, and that angry confrontation with the Doctor is an awesome scene.
  • I love their outfits So nice and practical and looking worn and proper lived it. And look at the light levels on this set. Now look at the light levels in Warriors of the Deep. Now this one. Now Warriors. Spot anything?
  • The one called Pritchard is clearly Burke out o Aliens. Also, keep expecting him to say “if it’s alien, it’s ours.”
  • This is how telly should be…if I was being *v* nitpicky, I would say, one of the male characters should have been a woman BUT that’s pretty harsh. What we have here is an awesome team that’s diverse in a variety of ways, and telly would be much better if it all reached this standard.
  • And also this standard of writing. I got a bit giddy as it became clear this was tots Base-Under-Siege, a staple Doctor Who genre, particularly of the Troughton era, and one that I love v v much. This wandering around, finding clues, working out what happened bit? LOVE IT.
  • She poked him on the face and he smiled and it was GREAT. I enjoyed the complexity of what we got last season, but I love how the relatonship has fallen into something much more comfortable, and yet so Clara and Twleve.
  • Yes. Pictures of giant monsters attacking ships *should* decorate your undersea base. The interior decorator of this place is my kind of person.
  • YES DOCTOR. Judge Clara for the attempted high-five. And I am assuming also for that overconfidence, omg, Clara WATCH MORE TELLY.
  • “Creepy flooded village outside” is when I guessed what would happen in the next episode (and if I guessed it, I assume MILLIONS of others did to; I am not great at the plot twists) which would have been such a cool moment if I hadn’t know it was coming. And thus I feel totally vindicated at my trying not to find out the episode titles stance.
  • Who’s directing this? It’s bloody good, ain’t it? The Doctor’s “look” and then that tiny *pause* as the camera waits a beat to show us what he’s found.
  • Sometimes this bit of the story works best if we have no idea what’s going on and are finding out with the Doctor and team; sometimes us knowing and watching them stumble into danger ramps up the tension. I think it is the latter here.
  • Even if they were still doing regular New Who proper size action figures, I would not be having these ghost ones anywhere except in a box, in a cupboard, possibly locked.
  • “Define sure.” Heh.
  • “I haven’t a clue, isn’t that exciting?” What, the Doctor doesn’t know what’s going on and this is quite exciting telly? Really? Perhaps you would care to mention that again, script? Because if there’s one thing I love it’s being told somethig that’s bleeding obvious.
  • I would like Peter Capaldi to walk up more stairs. Look at his arms as he wanders up into the alien ship! He!
  • Ah, the little moments, just nudging the tension up are smashing: the TARDIS being upset, the untranslated writing.
  • “She once had an argument with Ghandi.” Well, he was a raging misogynist, so y’know, I can imagine Clara would have some stuff to say about that.
  • OOh, hand through the wall, hand through the wall! Meep!
  • Bloody love the music too. Change from – and here I get to reveal my truly appalling grasp of any sort of musical terminology type stuff – long, metallicy, whines of mystery to a low drum beat of mild peril.
  • Clara grabs the Doctor’s arm and says, “run!” I like it when it’s the companion’s turn.
  • “And* they’re running down a corridor! Acutally I have stuff to say about the corridor running in this ep, but I shall save it for when it appears onscreen.
  • They’re alive, hurrah!
  • “You’re from UNIT!” Ah, I eyeroll about the psychic paper even though I totally get why it’s there and how useful it is when you’ve only got forty-something minutes and you don’t want to waste any time convincing the locals of your good intentions, but here, because it pretend to be a UNIT ID, I’m quite happy. Because the Doctor *is* a member of UNIT and he’s even carried a UNIT ID before. (Battlefield! <—-massively underrated.)
  • Oh, O’Donnell, and I was so prepared to love you just cause you were Scottish. I really hate the Doctor!fawning. Especially by UNIT members. Get a grip, people! I do like that the Doctor is seriously unimpressed at the fawning, and that it stops almost completely after this brief moment. And although we don’t see it, her glance to the side seems to suggest Cass said “cut it out, ffs.”
  • Science!! One thing that makes me sad about the New Series, and later classic, tbf: it’s that we don’t get the Doctor explicitly identifying as a scientist, and that attempts at getting some science in there are often glossed over with some “wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey” not even trying explanation. A Faraday cage ain’t much, but it’s something!
  • “The oil.” Ha! Nice reaction from Capaldi. (The Doctor has a bit of a go at the Brig in Terror of the Zygons re oil too.)
  • And the music again, as day-mod happens! Lovely! (Actually, it reminds me a bit of the Manaan theme in Knights of the Old Republic.)
  • Damn, I bet Capaldi loved this one. It really feels like a classic, properly updated for modern telly.
  • Ha! Pritchard’s reaction to the Doctor saying “what happened to the stuff you’ve removed” is brilliant! Looking around at the others in eye-twitching suspicion, indeed.
  • Oh, don’t go “wow” Doctor. That and “this is amazing” – MEH. Look, I’m already excited and interested I don’t need the Doctor to be OTT impressed and telling me how amazing the writer’s ideas are.
  • I do like the cards though (Aberdeen! Sarah Jane!), and the base team’s reaction.
  • “You come back! A bit murdery, sure, but even so.” Ha!
  • Eee! And then it’s night-mode again and the corridor with the lights going off one-by-one, omg, I think that was when I grabbed a cushion and noticed how far towards the telly I was leaning cause it was PRETTY EXCITING, and A LITTLE BIT SCARY, and took a moment to appreciate how much I was enjoying it.
  • CLOISTER BELL! Might have actual back of the neck shivers. That’s not my fault, blame Logopolis.
  • I love the scene in the TARDIS, I do. The writing’s great, the performances make me yay, and I think it’s great characterisation and showing us where the Doctor and Clara’s relationship is. But it does feel a bit weird…like it’s night-mode, the killer ghosts are back, and you’re both hanging out in the TARDIS for a few crucial minutes that could get someone killed so you can have a Proper Conversation. Really?
  • Ah, Pritchard, we barely knew ye, but we knew you were a tosser.
  • “Not much of a fighter, more of a bleeder.” Bless!
  • “Pritchard, you moron.” She so wanted to say “Pritchard, you prick”, am I right?
  • OOh, lingering look at Pritchard’s corpse while his ghost’s in the room – that’s super creepy.
  • I did lol that the TERRIBLE DANGER they were in was a ghost whacking someone with a plastic chair.
  • “Wait, wait.” I LOVE THIS SCENE. I love that Cass’s immediate response is the most sensible, obvious option – get off the base – and I love her anger, and I love the Doctor has no retort to her decision, and I love that the plan’s scuppered in such a neat, spooky way.
  • And the team working the sutff out! Ah! Just, the fact that the whole team is working together to figure out what to do, and no-one has drawn the idiot card or caught the idiot ball. These are all smart, professional people under pressure, and they’re acting like it. *LOVE*
  • “O’Donnell, excellent work returing the base to day-mode….now put it back into night-mode.” They probably weren’t thinking of the smashing radios in Fenric, BUT I WAS. I imagine there comes a point in watching Who where you think every line is a ref to something else.
  • “I won’t run, not anymore.” OH DOCTOR.
  • Okay, this whole night-mode sequence, with the team and the cameras and SO MUCH RUNNING, as they do ghost-investigating? SO MUCH LOVE. I love how tense and exciting it is, when what’s happening is just lots of different people running down corridors, and that the fear and tension is maintained while Our Team are acting rather than, as is more common, reacting to the threatening circumstances.
  • “They’ve separated.” How marvellous that such a little thing made such a difference to the tension levels. Brilliant!
  • “It saw me.” That’s what you get for not backing up against the wall *until* the door starts to close, mister.
  • Cass’s expression when Lunn is in danger. MY HEART.
  • Hurrah! Cleverness to catch the ghosts!
  • Oh, the sunglasses are back. OH GOOD.
  • I was soooo flaily at this point on first watch, when the Doctor’s looking through the glass so Cass can lipread – what are the ghost saying, omg??
  • “The dark, the sword, the forksaken, the temple.” Suitably cryptic, yay, but less yay at the Doctor “working out” that these were co-ordinates. I was having Adam West Batman flashbacks at this, ah, brilliant piece of ‘deduction’.
  • “Hijacking their souls.” Literally, or a figure of speech? I do love that despite the atheist views of two of its showrunners, New Who sticks pretty firmly to agnosticism.
  • Silly as the co-ordinates thing is, I do like how it’s another puzzle solved that points you towards another puzzle and eventually you will reach an answer…it’s like point n click adventure games, except less frustratig cause someone else is doing all the work.
  • “None of you have chosen anonymous, or selfish lives.” I thought this was really beautiful: the Doctor tempting each of the base team, but not towards sin, towards knowledge and adventure and being braver than they thought they could be. Yes, there’s danger, and, yes; they may die, because life offers terrors to equal its wonders, disappointments to equal its triumphs, and if you don’t risk the one, you can never reach for the other. Which is what a lot of Doctor Who’s about really.
  • Do like Cass is the smartest person in the room when the Doctor’s out – and not just because I get a kind of actionhero!LizShaw vibe from her.
  • Of course the base is flooding. You can’t set a story in an underwater base and not have at least part of the base flood: law of telly.
  • Omg, the Doctor and Clara looking at each other through the portholes! THEIR FACES. The Doctor’s hand; Clara’s nod! *LOVE*
  • Ahh! I’d guessed we were going back in time, and we’d get the two time zones interacting (another idea Doctor Who’s tried a few times, to varying degrees, with varying success: The Ark, Day of the Daleks, Mawdryn Undead) so we see the effects of the past on the future, but I didn’t guess we’d get a Doctor ghost! Obv he’s not dead, but what has happened? How will our heroes get out of this one? We find out tonight! Exciting!
  • All in all another ridiculously good episode. (When was the last real dud? Capaldi hasn’t had a proper crap episode yet, I think) I give it nine underwater bases out of ten.

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Under The Lake

  1. I love reading your analysis. I thought there was a slight nod to “Local Hero” with the setting and the oil and the underwatery stuff. I agree about the Clara\Doctor TARDIS “intermission”. I loved the dialog, but it seemed weird that they left everyone to go back there and have a chat, then ran right back. BUT I loved the way Peter delivered the “duty of care” line along with the rest of the scene. So if I had to suspend my initial “why are they here ?” thought, I guess I can live with it.

  2. ” land anywhere in England and do you get the Doctor and companion doing accents for lols?”

    *ahem* The Crimson Horror, anyone?

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