Saturday, October 3, 2015

Doctor Who 9.03: "Under the Lake"

“Okay question one, what is a ghost? Question two, what do they want?”
- The Doctor

So this episode is the first we have post the two-parter premiere. It’s penned by Toby Whitehouse (so it should be good). We begin in the 22nd century at an underwater military base. There’s a team of scientists who are looking for oil who have found a ship. Unfortunately, things go awry pretty damn fast once they bring it on board their base. There are odd markings on the inside of the ship and the commanding officer, Moran, starts seeing a creepy dead guy in a suit. Somehow, there’s an explosion and Moran dies. The rest of the team, and their annoying benefactor, race to safety away from the fire but find Moran as a creepy eyeless ghost. Three days later, the Doctor and Clara show up. She wants a crazy adventure (lord can she just be gone yet?) and he’s concerned about the TARDIS. Old Sexy isn’t too happy about being there and he doesn’t know why.

The pair of them start to explore the base when they come into contact with the (now) two ghosts. At first the Doctor thinks they’re just curious about Clara and him but then things get all hatchet-y, murder-y and they make a run for it. The ghosts reappear near the spaceship that the Doctor is examining and ultimately chase our heroes to a Faraday cage where the rest of the crew is hiding out. We get a little run down of the history of the base and the operation from the annoying benefactor guy. I have to say I do like the new leader who is deaf. I’m always glad to see characters with disabilities (and actors as well) show up in positive ways. The crew thinks everything is safe for a bit when the computer announces it is day time. Since they can’t see the sun, there is artificial day and night. That’s a very important factor because the ghost-like things can’t come out during the day. At first, the Doctor dismisses the theory that they are ghosts but then seizes on it. There’s a sort of amusing moment where Clara makes him look at cards with pre-written speeches on them. You know for when he’s being an insensitive jerk.

The computer decides to go all crazy on them and turn it back into night (I’m guessing the sort-of ghosts are making it happen). It turns out the ship was supposed to be carrying a very non-violent type alien. And there is some equipment missing. The crew swears they didn’t touch anything before the haunting started. With the computer on the fritz, the TARDIS is still not happy. And the Doctor sort of gives Clara this awkward talking to about caring about her and having a duty and wanting her to get a hobby or a new boyfriend so she’ll stay out of trouble. See, they just never really clicked for me. She’s not having any of it and just wants to be out there in the middle of everything. I think she’s an adrenaline junkie.

I wasn’t all that broken up when the benefactor guy, having gone outside (the moron) gets drowned by the ghosts. Of course, that just means he’s a ghost now, too. Once the rest of the team realizes they’ve lost another member, they sort of go into crisis mode. Naturally, the Doctor comes up with a super convoluted plan to try and talk to the ghosts. It involves several crew members and Clara, running around to try and lead the ghosts to the Faraday cage where they don’t have any weapons or any systems to exploit or control. The plan mostly works. Well they get locked in the cage anyway. The Doctor goes inside the cage (which seems a tad risky) to try and figure out what the ghosts keep saying. Thanks to Cas (the deaf leader), we learn what they are saying and the Doctor in typical fashion figures it all out rather quickly. The rest of the team (and audience0 is left to catch up.

The words are a beacon sending coordinates out into space to lead to somewhere down under the water. It seems each time someone dies, the beacon gets stronger. Which is why they had tried to call a submarine down (the team was going to evacuate themselves before the sub was due to arrive but the Doctor put a stop to it). Awesome. The final piece of the puzzle is that there is a church buried below the water and thanks to a submarine probe, they find the stasis chamber for the pilot of the ship they brought onboard at the top of the episode. Just as the Doctor determines that the writing on the space ship wall is the beacon message that gets hardwired into people’s brains when they see it, the base starts to flood itself. When the ghosts messed with the night and day filter, it screwed up other systems so now the base is trying to keep the nuclear tech cool. It’s a rapid race to the TARDIS to escape and not surprisingly, Clara, Cas and her interpreter get stuck behind. The Doctor promises he’ll come back for them once he goes back in time to try and fix everything. Somehow I doubt that will go as planned. And in fact, the hours ends on another cliffhanger. Clara and her two companions see a ghostly figure approaching through the water. At first they think it is one of the three they’ve already seen. Nope, it’s the Doctor.

Overall, I thought the episode was just okay. I’ll be interested to see how the story resolves itself although I am a little annoyed it seems Moffat is trying to just string a bunch of two-part episodes together. Yes, back during the RTD era he could do a decent two-parter but this is way more than necessary. Plotlines spanning two or more episodes should be used sparingly and it seems like a case of weak writing and lazy storytelling. But I guess we’ll have to see. I really hope Moffat call pull something great by the end of this series. I’m starting to lose my patience with his convoluted storytelling and trying to out-clever himself. It’s getting a little old.

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