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Under The Lake

under lake

I’ve not exactly been on the Toby Whithouse hype-train. He seems to get a lot of support as a possible show runner out there, and whilst I know he can do great things (Being Human), his Who work has rarely fully grabbed me. He’s not written ‘bad’ episodes, but also, out of the four he penned prior to ‘Under The Lake’, only one, ‘God Complex’, got me all ‘ooh!’ with little reservation. I mean, OF COURSE I loved all the Sarah Jane stuff in ‘School Reunion’, but outside of that, the episode didn’t do a whole lot.

So how did I take to this, the fifth episode by Whithouse? I really rather enjoyed it. I don’t think it topples (so far) ‘God Complex’, but it certainly did more for me than his other stories. And who knows? This is only half a story, perhaps when I’ve seen it all it will clamber up to top spot…

Part one is basically a classic Who base-under-siege set-up, and was much sparser than the opening two episodes. To sell spooky, you need that atmosphere, those drawn out moments. You need to have the space to build atmosphere, and this episode pared things down to give that necessary atmosphere room to build.

At the moment, having only seen the thing once, I do feel a little outside of the party. I’ve read and listened to lots of raves for this episode, and although I enjoyed it, I felt this was a solid 7/10 sort of an episode. It wasn’t distinctive enough to really step up any further. I mean, after you watched the last couple of episodes, there were so many moments, scenes, lines and ideas that you could gabble about after; with this episode, there was much less.

Now again, the need to build that spooky atmosphere meant you couldn’t throw too much at us, but it does mean that what you do give us has to be distinctive and strong. A lot of this felt like a retread of the familiar. Done very, very well, mind you, but adding little new or surprising to the mix.

By the looks of things, part two may well take the story into that more distinctive area I think it needs to pull the story up a few notches.

My slight reservations about this episode aside, there’s no doubt season nine has gotten off to a great start, probably the most enjoyable opening trio of episodes to a Moffat season since 5. This was another very solid, enjoyable, if not quite top-tier episode. Let’s hope the finale of this story finishes hard and brings that extra, distinctive flavour to make this one something special. If nothing else, this episode made me super-intrigued to see where things go next.

YAY!

Clara’s cards teaching the Doc how to speak to normal people. FUNNY. And did you spot the poignant nod to a certain Sarah Jane Smith…?

A genuinely creepy feel at times. I do love a bit of creepy in Who.

Loved the big close-ups on eyes as the alien words were reflected across. Also, great idea that the only people the ghosts could kill were those that had looked upon the words.

The ghosts whispering words you couldn’t hear: really cool, creepy stuff.

The ‘ghosts’ looked awesome. And a great use of CGI. Not building creatures from scratch, but accentuating a real person. Ghost Doctor under the water was a particularly effective moment.

Capaldi is again just so natural in the role. No moment feels false or forced. His giddiness upon deciding the ghosts are, actually, ghosts is wonderful.

The Sonic Sunglasses are back! And useful.

Great to have a deaf character, and for her to be important and in charge. And also for the show not to make a big deal out of it.

Who is in the suspended animation pod? Must be the Doctor, right..? Schrödinger’s Doctor.

Nice to see the Doctor was back to being a little bit brusk with normal people once surrounded by them again. I had slightly worried that we’d lose too much of that spikey twelfth Doctor, good to see that spike and awkwardness is still present.

One fresh feeling element was the Doctor’s decision at the end to go back in time to see how this all started. And so we will get a part 2 set mostly before part 1. That’s a really interesting and new feeling way to approach a two parter and I’m all for it.

Not Penny’s boat.

Pritchard’s death was very effective. Trapped in the airlock, water rushing in, and then we cut to a different room and he slowly turns around, a ghost. Brrr…!

Hmm…

Some of the wider casts performances were a little… sub par..? Several lines just not sold at all. Dropped from mouths to flap around listlessly on the ground like dying fish.

Another Doctor fangirl? Really? Don’t we already have Osgood? (Who, in fact, returns in a few episodes!) This felt a little much. How much better, in the context of a spooky story, if her knowledge of who he is doesn’t lead to big grins and fanish bleatings, and instead to yet a further realisation of how much trouble they’re in? If you know of the Doctor, then you know he helps, and is brilliant, but you also know that lots of death is a-coming.

When you have this ace plan and the ghosts are chasing your crew, maybe pay attention and close those doors a little bit quicker? A little hustle, people! In fact this whole trap should’ve been much more frantic and scary than it was. Instead, it was rather laboured and flat.

‘I want to kiss it to death..!’ Brilliant line in the trailer, kinda stood out as a bit weird and ‘huh?’ in the actual episode.

The answer to what they were whispering seemed a bit of a …. stretch?

****

So that’s a quarter of season nine whizzed by, then. I know! And it’s been a strong opening, for sure. Can the rest of the season carry on this run of form?

@doctorwhothing

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