03rd Oct2015

‘Doctor Who: 9×03 – Under the Lake’ Review

by Paul Metcalf


I’m not sure what it is about Doctor Who, but it can have weeks were everything just fits, but then go on to an episode where something just doesn’t click. Under the Lake does a lot right, but also gets the most important thing wrong for me, and that is the dynamic between The Doctor and Clara.

When The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) arrive on an underwater base, they are soon face to face with what appear to be ghost. Escaping from them they find the remains of the bases crew, and an alien ship they’ve pulled off the sea bed. Just who are the ghosts and what is their connection to the ship?

My problems with this episode start straight away, and that is the way Clara is so carefree and adventurous, wanting to “save planets” and “fight aliens”, even when they discover the ghosts, there is no sense of peril. The best companions for the Doctor were adventurous and brave but they also had some level of being sensible and understood the power of fear. Clara is not a stupid character, so why remove any common sense from her? It bugs me because it creates a simplicity around the two characters that the show does not need. Danger is meant to be feel real, so why make the characters simply not feel it?

Getting past that (major) issue, when we look at Under the Lake itself, it feels like a classic Doctor Who story. The Doctor and Clara get trapped on a base and a creature is hunting them down. They discover what is going on and come up with a way to escape. Toby Whithouse of Being Human fame writes this well and comes up with a good sci-fi horror adventure. Even to the point of managing to get past the simplification of Clara at the beginning of the tale.

Another issue I have with Under the Lake is that it is a two parter, when it feels it doesn’t need to be. This feeling may change next week as we get to know more of the story. The fact is though this week’s episode is fairly padded to get us to whatever is coming in the next chapter of the tale. Maybe there is enough story next week to show that it wouldn’t have fit in the restrictions of the time the show has, but I’m not looking forward to next week as much as I was this week. Which is a shame.

After The Magician’s Apprentice and Witch’s Familiar I had high hopes for this season of Doctor Who, and it is a shame that Under the Lake is a bit of a disappointment after last week. For me it may have been the over adventurous nature of the start, and the lack of any real peril felt through the episode. While I liked the story and hoped for better, this episode felt flat though still holds promise for the conclusion to the story next week..

Now I’m looking for next week to give me some more confidence in Doctor Who. Oh and the Sonic Glasses? They were a funny joke last week, and they need to be left back there. Bring back the screwdriver and let’s get back to being Doctor Who? Please? …No? …well ok.

**** 4/5

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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