Doctor Who: ‘Under the Lake’ – Review

“Who wants to catch a ghost?”

AFTER THE LAKE (By Toby Whithouse)

© BBC

Series 9 rolls along with Under the Lake, part one of a two-part story, this time by Toby Whitehouse. He has written for the show before giving us stories like School Reunion, The God Complex and a few others but he is mostly known for the British and original version of Being Human. Under the Lake is his first story for the 12th Doctor and by the next time trailer it looked really good. I had high hopes for this story after watching the trailer as Doctor Who never really dealt with ghosts before, well, not in the traditional way.

First off Under the Lake is a base under-siege story and Doctor Who usually do these stories very well. Ever since the 10th Planet back in 1966 Doctor Who has had a tradition of giving us some really good base under-siege stories. So far Under the Lake falls into the really good category. Needless to say as a fan of these stories I really enjoyed Under the Lake.

I really enjoyed the episode as it brought the scares and had a horror feel to it. For a very long time I was hoping the new series would go back and try to capture the feel of a Philip Hinchcliffe era story. As a fan of that era of the show I was pleased to see there were some pretty good scary moments like the hand and arm coming through the wall between The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman). Plus the look of the ghosts looked pretty scary especially with the eye-socket blackened out. It just had that type of feel where you didn’t know if a ghost was going to appear out of nowhere. I really enjoyed that and I was pleased that they went with this type of story for part one. This story captures the feel of that era as we had ghosts and some pretty scary and dark moments and hopefully this will continue into Before the Flood.

For once The Doctor and Clara actually arrived together at the beginning of the story. Much too often in series 8 they wasted time going to pick up Clara at Coal Hill School or at her apartment before heading on the adventure. I wasn’t too keen on that, so I was happy to see that they came out of the TARDIS after an unaired adventure and started right into the action; it really works well as it did back in the classic series. Arrive, find trouble and spend the rest of the story coming up with a solution.

I’m really enjoying that series 9 will be mostly two-part stories. One of the best things about Doctor Who – mainly during the Classic Series years – was the cliffhanger. I always felt the cliffhanger made the show and Doctor Who has had some really good cliffhangers in its history and Under the Lake gave us another. How spooky was it to see The Doctor in the water outside of the base as one of those ghosts? That was pretty good and somewhat unexpected. When The Doctor went to the past to see what caused the ghosts, I did not really expect they would then cut to that. What a pretty good cliffhanger as it makes me want to see the next part more. That is the beauty of the cliffhanger as it gets you to speculate and talk about what could happen next. I’ve really missed having the cliffhanger every week and it is good to see it back for most of series 9.

Toby Whitehouse has penned a pretty good story so far. It had the feel of a story from the Classic Series. I liked the way Clara was used properly this time and she didn’t act way to smart like she did the opener of series 9. She felt more like a companion that seems to be addicted to the action and danger which is odd for the companion, and I’m sure this will be explained later on. I really liked that they used a deaf actor for the deaf character Cass (Sophie Stone). This was excellent and made it more believable. It is good to see TV shows using actors with disabilities instead of casting someone who doesn’t. Kudos to the Doctor Who production team on this.

Under the Lake was a really good opening episode for this two-part story and hopefully they keep the momentum going for the conclusion in Before the Flood. At least now we know what the episode titles mean.