Published on October 5th, 2015 | by Brad


Doctor Who – Under the Lake

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There’s been a very classic feel to the new series of Doctor Who so far. Having spent the last two weeks running around quarries away from Daleks, with occasional ventures into big white rooms, this week we’re on another old standby running around the corridors of an underwater base in Under the Lake. The setup is fairly straightforward – The Doctor and Clara arrive at said base to find the crew under attack from a mysterious, probably alien entity, and The Doctor has to figure out a way to stop them as they begin to pick off the crew. There are a few novel twists, though, which make it quite the chiller.

The episode opens a few days before The Doctor and Clara show up, as we see the crew of the base investigating a vessel of unknown origin they’ve found nearby. Some symbols written on the inside of the craft catch the eyes of all who look at them, and soon a spectral figure in a top hat with blacked out eyes appears. He fires up the ship’s engines, burning the captain to death. As the crew run to escape the fire suppression system, they are greeted by two spectral figures – the creature in the top hat and the captain, turned to their enemy in a moment.


How and why a friend can become an enemy seems to be a developing theme in these early episodes, after The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar explored The Doctor’s relationships with his two arch-nemeses and The Master putting Clara inside a Dalek. Could they be hinting that Clara’s time in the TARDIS will end very badly for all concerned? At one point in the episode The Doctor urges her to be careful not to become more like him. After series 8’s exploration of Clara’s doomed attempts to balance TARDIS life and real life, I think series 9 will see her dive headlong into the adventure, with the disastrous consequences we all expect to follow.

The ghosts in Under the Lake are properly chilling. Their eyes are blacked out, they look malevolent as all hell, and they’re saying something we can’t hear. Fortunately, on the team is Cass, played by deaf actress Sophie Stone. After a scheme bearing some resemblance to Pacman results in the ghosts being captured, she lip reads them to reveal their message. They’re coordinates, of a sort, pointing to something in the flooded village the base is built beside. They send in a remote-controlled submarine and bring in the suspended animation chamber in which the pilot of the vessel has been sleeping for the last couple of centuries. He/she/it has been using the symbols inside the ship to hijack those who read it and use their deaths to broadcast his/her/its coordinates. Naturally, The Doctor finds this utterly repulsive, and sets out to defeat him/her/it.


Under the Lake is a good, old-fashioned chiller of an episode, with plenty of moments to have the kids watching through their fingers from behind the sofa. The final shot going into the cliffhanger is the stuff of nightmares, though I personally found an earlier moment with a freshly made corpse floating past a window to be significantly more disturbing. Series 9 is off to a bit of a flyer thus far. Long may it continue!

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