Ok, let’s be honest here. We all expected the adrenaline and speed from the first two episodes to stop, right? We knew it was coming, the question was, “would it be able to do a slower show and still keep our attention?” Well, “Under The Lake” did try and shake things up with a slower and more horror oriented story, and it did get good at times…but I felt the crash was too big to rebound from.
Now to be fair, “Under the Lake” was NOT a bad episode. But after the brilliant two part opener, it just felt like a sudden stop with some curious moments and retreads of the past.
After a gripping first scene, the Doctor and Clara arrive on an underway army/science base and find there are… wait for it… ghosts! Or… ghost like things. Things escalate quickly when these ghosts go from peaceful to homicidal after the Doctor goes onto a mysterious alien ship. Then, he and Clara meet the crew and the mystery of “what the heck is going on?” begins.
I mentioned that this was kind of like a horror story earlier, and I meant it. Mainly because outside of the standard “ghost” elements, we had a crew that was trying to survive, and one idiot who you knew was going to die because he cared about money more than the lives of others. In the words of the Doctor, “Why is this man still talking to me?” Yeah.
I’ll give credit where it’s due, for a standard ghost affair, there were some interesting Doctor Who elements to this. Like how the ghosts could actually pick up objects and interact with things. And how the ghosts were apparently transmitters to send a signal somewhere. It’s good stuff. Also, the plan to catch them so they could “get them to talk” was both fun and tense.
Another thing, seeing the Doctor very excited about the idea that ghosts actually exist was very fun to watch. He was like a child wondering about a present under the bed… much to the chagrin of the crew who thought he was a madman, “who cares if you die? You’ll come back!” Capaldi was in great form all episode, and he was once again the highlight of the episode.
A close second moment was him and Clara with “the cards”; classic, and yet another indication of how different the Doctors are when they regenerate. Weirdly though, Clara seemed to go through her own regeneration between where we start the season and now. She went from very complacent where she was to “I need an adventure!” It was a 180 in many ways, and I didn’t completely buy why Capaldi (who all last season wanted to take her on more and more adventures) was suddenly very nervous about her new appreciation for adventures.
My biggest complaint was that while the mystery was certainly compelling (why ghosts? What were they doing? why now? etc.), it seemed like it was taking FOREVER to get to that point. You blink (ha, ha, ha) and suddenly we’re at a commercial again. Also, the “twist” at the end might have been nice…if we didn’t have a similar thing happen in the premiere. We KNOW he’s not going to die literally, so obviously this is another “you didn’t see exactly what you thought” scenario. Which is fine…but we JUST had this with Missy and Clara! So now it’s the Doctor’s turn?…one episode later?
Nagging points aside, “Under The Lake” was a good episode, it just… well… drowned itself in some of the mysteries it was trying to give to fans. Hopefully the conclusion next week will give more tempo and decisiveness.