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Doctor Who Season 9, Episode 3 Review : 'Under The Lake'

The crew of an underwater mining base are under siege from ghostly figures after recovering an alien spacecraft.
The Doctor and Clara arrive to help but are separated. After the Doctor takes the TARDIS back in time to effect a rescue, Clara spots a new ghost floating outside the window: the Doctor himself. Is the Time Lord doomed?
Old school scares
If the opening two-parter was a nod to old Davros/Dalek stories gone by, then Under the Lake sets its stall out to provide old school scares in the form of a base-under-siege adventure.
The writer/director team of Toby Whithouse and Daniel O’Hara, past collaborators on Whithouse’s series Being Human, work well together to produce a taut, claustrophobic atmosphere which ramps up the tension beautifully. The physical sets add to that, as does the CGI used to realise the ghosts.
From the pre-credits demise of Captain Moran to the underwater isolation of the crew and the ghostly nature of their pursuers (including a heavily disguised Paul Kaye as the Tivolian undertaker Prentis), there’s a chilling sense of impending doom throughout that is well conveyed by the episode’s cast.
There are some proper scares too – none more terrifying than the notion of the Doctor being stuck with Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl as an earworm. In particular, the traditional chase sequence involving Clara, Bennett and Lunn being pursued up and down endless corridors to lure the ghosts into the Faraday cage is deftly handled with some genuine heart-in-mouth moments as Lunn, curiously, escapes being killed.
The mystery addict and the thrill-seeker


Doctor Who, series 9, under the lake
(Picture: BBC)
The Doctor’s glee at not being all-knowing (‘I haven’t a clue. Isn’t that exciting?’) also adds to both the sense of adventure and the tension. As much as his desire to help others, it’s his love of the unknown that draws him in here and drives him to put himself at mortal risk to get to the bottom of the mystery.This is in stark contrast to Clara’s desperation for new adventures to fill the Danny-shaped void in her life. Complacent bordering on reckless, there are distinct echoes of the hubris of a pre-Doomsday Rose in the Doctor’s companion. And we all know what happened next.
The ultimate cliffhanger?
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The humour and whimsy isn’t as in-your-face as in the previous story, but the idea of the Doctor having cue cards to help him manage situations where his lack of sensitivity land him in trouble raised a chuckle, as did the thought of him dismantling a radio to build a clockwork squirrel.
All that, though, is a prelude to set us up for the gut-punch of the ghostly Doctor. Arguably the most effective cliffhanger of any new-Who two-parter, we’re left wondering both what could have gone wrong in the past to turn the Doctor in to a ghost and how he can circumvent the rules of Time to avoid his fate.
Under the Lake is a strong episode that feels like a throwback to classic Who stories of the past. In terms of look and feel it could easily pass for an adventure from, say, the Patrick Troughton era.
It’s a great set-up which leaves us with a number of unresolved mysteries. What has happened to the Doctor? Why did Lunn survive? Who is in the suspended animation chamber? And how did the lake come to exist in the first place? Let’s hope part two can deliver on a promising opening.


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