Doctor Who 9.03: Under the Lake

Dara and I watched the latest Doctor Who last night, and were pleased that it was a decent, solid story. The Doctor’s ongoing probationary status continues!

Was a bit surprised that we got a two-parter this early in the season–so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, be aware that yes, it’s a two-parter with a cliffhanger at the end.

Spoilers in the Faraday cage behind the fold!

Okay, so what we have here is your basic “base under siege” story, which Doctor Who generally does pretty well in my experience. This time was no exception, and this time we had the added benefit of a nice layer of creepiness on top. Right out of the gate, the eyeless ghosts in the story hit that same shivery note of “EEP” that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” did–in no small part because the first ghost we see is clad in Victorian-like garb, so I kept thinking of the Gentlemen from “Hush”.

I liked the diversity of the characters we get here. Two POCs and a deaf character, and I liked that the deaf crewmember (Cass) takes over after the commander dies, and that her subordinate (Lunn) needs to translate her sign language for the others. It was done very adroitly and efficiently, exactly as it should be in that kind of scenario.

Props as well for some of Twelve’s rougher edges finally getting smoothed off. I loved the bit where Clara pulls him aside with the reminder cards. That right there works far, far better than what we got last season, i.e., “She’s my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.” What we got here instead was a Doctor who still obviously cares, as he should because he’s the goddamn Doctor, but has his Companion on hand to clue him in when he’s failing to remember proper social cues for dealing with humans. And it was kind of adorable.

Also had to grin that the Doctor was recognized as being from UNIT when he and Clara arrived at the base–thank you, psychic paper! And that one of the crew, the other woman, O’Donnell, actually recognizes the name of the Doctor and reveals herself to be a bit of a fangirl. Which, given that this is 2119 and not TOO far into the future, makes sense. We’re dealing with near-enough future that UNIT can still be a known entity maybe, and that the Doctor can be a recognized-enough name in UK-based society.

My one “wut?” thing about this episode though is that so far this season certainly seems to have a habit of treating the concept of the Doctor dying oddly. We got it in the premiere, with the Doctor seemingly being convinced that he’s going to die, and now we have it again with the cliffhanger–and the arrival of an apparent Doctor ghost. Which makes no damn sense. Because, again, he’s gotten a whole pile of regenerations, and while I can see him being antsy about anything killing him off any time soon, it ain’t like he’s not going to come back. He’s a couple thousand years old at this point. He KNOWS how regeneration works. Hell, Clara knows how regeneration works, for that matter.

And even aside from that, it ain’t like we aren’t FULLY AWARE that they aren’t going to kill the Doctor off, regardless. So there’s not much suspense here for the audience. We are instead put into a position where we need to figure out “okay, so clearly the Doctor isn’t dead, so what’s going on here instead?”

I’m a little disinclined to buy that none of the ghosts are actually dead–we did after all see the body of Pritchard on camera. But it would be interesting to see whether we find out the bodies are actually in some kind of suspended animation? Maybe Pritchard and Moran’s bodies have been snatched? Maybe the bodies are needed to fuel the ghosts?

All in all… didn’t completely blow me away, but I enjoyed watching it, and I’ll be interested to see how part two plays out!

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