In “Under the Lake”, it is 2119 and a crew finds an abandoned ship. After bringing it to their underwater base they begin to examine the vessel when a member of their crew is accidentally killed as a fire breaks out. That’s just the beginning however, as the crewmember, Moran, comes back as a ghost to haunt the crew and tries to kill them. When the Doctor and Clara arrive at the underwater mining base they find it abandoned, that is until they run into Moran and another “ghost”. They narrowly escape the ghosts who are able to carry metal and end up in a Faraday cage with the rest of the crew. They find out that the ghosts cannot enter the cage and also disappear when the base switches to “day mode”. After the ghost succeed in killing another victim the Doctor decides to catch them in the cage and figure out what they want. After figuring out the ghosts are repeating coordinates the Doctor leaves Clara to go back into time to when the ship originally crashes. The episode ends as Clara sees a ghost of the Doctor through a window.
I’m already liking this season so much more than the last. In season 8, I felt like two of the first three episodes were just okay. This season, it feels like three out of three are great. “Under The Lake” felt much more like a classic Doctor Who episode, one where the Doctor and his companion (in this instance Clara) land somewhere and immediately discover that there is a crisis. After such an intense and stake-heavy 2-part premiere, with Missy and Davros no less, it was nice to fall back on something familiar. There’s an ensemble cast, one that is struggling to both evade and understand the monster coming for them. There are plenty of episodes like this, for example “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” “42,” and my personal favorite “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.” It felt really familiar to have the Doctor and Clara land on an underwater base haunted by murderous ghosts. This episode also introduced another interesting theme, where Clara seems to be becoming much more like the Doctor than even the Doctor is comfortable with. She begs him to go on an adventure much like the ones they are already on and she’s extremely excited to discover that there’s something wrong happening on the base. Luckily, she hasn’t abandoned her “carer” status, having hilariously written out cue cards for the Doctor to use when responding to something tragic that has happened. I’m really enjoying this season so far, though I’m not very happy about the sonic sunglasses, which were a cute gimmick in the last episode but now I feel need to go away.
As we started watching this episode, I must admit to being very uneasy. When I’m nervous I tend to keep myself busy with other things so I don’t have to concentrate too much on whatever is making me nervous. During Doctor Who it’s usually Twitter or a mobile game. I was doing that pretty quickly after the opening scene revealed the ghosts. However, after a few more scenes, I turned to Bayana and said that this felt more like the Doctor Who episodes of old and that started to set me at ease a bit more. I think they have found a good balance for The Doctor: he’s cheeky, condescending and not the best with social queues, which Clara has helped to mitigate by writing him cards to help connect with humans. I loved the addition of a differently abled person without much attention to her disability as well as placing her in a position of authority. It was a small element of the show but it helped balance the classic feel of the episode while also planting it firmly in the present. The conflict between the Doctor and Clara I feel will be very interesting as it plays out through the series. The Doctor warns Clara that she isn’t him and maybe it’s time for a new relationship. It’s true that Clara is eager to face down danger and while she is very brave and clever it’s also true that she isn’t the Doctor. This is only the first part of a two-part story so I will remain skeptical but I will say that I hope not every story this season has multiparts. I find something very lovable about stories that are wrapped up in one episode and I look forward to those plots in the future.