“Under the Lake” is a story with a lot of potential that really depends on how well the second part of the story can pull off the first half. It is a story with “Doctor Who” tropes but still manages to have some pretty interesting minor characters and gives us a fascinating mystery that I am looking forward to being answered in the next episode.
The story was directed by Daniel O’Hara and written by Toby Whithouse.
The episode begins with the TARDIS transporting the Doctor to an underwater base and reacting with fear as something isn’t right on the base. We soon learn that the thing is ghosts which reject the concept of Time as they exist when death is what keeps time flowing and is an essential part of existence. From here the Doctor, Clara and the crew must catch one of the ghosts and find out why they are trying to kill them and what their purpose is.
The Pros: The Tone – The tone has an era of danger and darkness that keeps the episode going, and the final scene completes this payoff as we see the Doctor having been turned into one of the ghosts.
The Mystery – The mystery is fascinating as we are left wondering why there is a ship with no pilot, how the crew are coming back as ghosts and where the ship was originally going, which we soon learn was coordinates to a Temple. This leads the Doctor to go back in time with a few members of the crew while Clara is with the others in the present. The ghosts are attempting to bring more to boost the signal too as each dead person boosts the coordinates.
The Ghost – The Mole Man in Victorian garb creates a very threatening image and him being the jump scare works well given how much the one we met before was a total coward (they were last in “The God Complex.” So it being one of the villains is a nice change of pace.
Cass and Crew – Cass takes over and is their deaf leader and her and the crew have a great relationship where they look out for one another. She chooses to stay when she realizes that they need to find out what’s going on so one else goes through what they did. Her crew is great too as they are all young and are new to it all.
Clara – Clara is reckless in this and it is pretty wonderful as we see her fully embrace the discovering mentality. She is very much like the Doctor and it is a nice contrast to the crew as she like the Doctor is the outsider and notices for the first time. She also has a mystery to solve as in the present the Doctor is a ghost after he goes back in time.
The Doctor – The Doctor is fully driven to solve everything and we see an element of recklessness too as he eggs on the crew to stay feeding their responsibility, all because he wants to solve the mystery. It is this driven factor that shows his selfishness even as he protects them and uses them. This episode really illustrates his detachment and willingness to go to any ends to discover something new.
The Cons: The Corrupt Businessman – Name isn’t important, wanted oil at the bottom of the ocean. Probably dug up the Temple in the coordinates is a selfish git who ends up dead. He is a weak “Doctor Who” trope that has yet to be pulled off in an interesting ways. We want characters not caricatures.
This was a good episode but not great as the ensemble cast made it feel unfocused at times and the corrupt businessman was a major detriment to the story. The story is very much unfinished too so it can’t get a higher score as the mystery is unsolved and we get a cliffhanger at the end with the Doctor going back in time and being in the present as a ghost. It could be a great two-parter though depending on how the next part plays out.
Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.