According to Steven Moffat, Doctor Who: “Under the Lake” answers the question, “What if Doctor Who did ghosts?” The third episode of the new series is another double header, this time set in the underwater base of a mining corporation. Toby Whithouse, creator of hit shows like Being Human, has injected a great deal of innovative thinking into the franchise over the years, penning such intriguing episodes as “The God Complex,” “School reunion,” and “A Town Called Mercy.” Doctor Who: “Under the Lake” is no exception — both the cast and showrunner Moffat have waxed enthusiastic about the ideas behind the episode. You can watch what they have to say in this video here.
Now that the explosive debut of the new series has tied up the Davros story (most of it, anyway), initial reviews of Doctor Who: “Under the Lake” seem to suggest that series 9 is going to maintain the momentum generated by the last episode, “The Witch’s Familiar.” Metro, in its spoiler-free preview of Doctor Who: “Under the Lake,” calls it one of the “most chilling cliffhangers ever.”
The Doctor and Clara find themselves in “The Drum,” an underwater mining base that has just pulled a large black spaceship up to the surface. As is often the way with the best episodes of Doctor Who, “Under the Lake” sees The Doctor attempting to work out just exactly what it is they’re facing. A line from the trailer shows the moment of realization.
“They can walk through walls. They only come out at night. They’re sort of see-through. They’re ghosts!”
You can watch the trailer here.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, who is a bit like a grumpy, apparently senile version of Tom Baker’s much-loved, long-scarved lunatic, seems tailor made for this kind of story line. The atmosphere is claustrophobic; the ghosts are chilling and, incidentally, deadly; and The Doctor is busy trying to save the lives of a group of people who have (rightly) concluded that he’s insane.
Doctor Who: “Under the Lake,” like any good episode in the canon, is packed with references. Whithouse brings back the planet Tivoli through another denizen of the most defeated planet in the universe. Fans might remember this planet from “The God Complex,” where there is a member of a race whose solution to warfare is to surrender to any and everyone who shows up. There are also links to some of the ideas in “The Rebel Flesh,” a two-parter from back in the days of Amy Pond where a big corporation uses animate doppelgangers to work dangerous mines. Doctor Who: “Under the Lake” also references the last season’s finale and, unusually, takes a dig at a tune featuring in hit U.K. show Strictly Come Dancing. As well as this, a certain Welsh lady, a Dame of the British Empire, is set to return.
And then there are the more conceptual references. The closed room situation is a classic staple of Doctor Who. “Under the Lake” takes it even further and, as Den of Geek has pointed out, the episode calls to mind the classic dynamic of the Alien franchise with it’s big corporation blurring the lines between military and civil and conducting commercial operations in extreme environments. One thing most fans of the pre-reboot episodes of Doctor Who will remember is just how scary the show was. Be prepared to watch this episode from behind the couch. Reviewers are unanimous in saying that “Under the Lake” has significantly escalated the fright factor in a show that has been more and more concerned with reviving some of the best elements of the classic old series.
Doctor Who: “Under the Lake” will air on Saturday night.
[Images Courtesy BBC]