DWO’s Spoiler-free preview of Episode 9.3: Under The Lake:
Having kicked off Series Nine with two weeks of Dalek action, gorging us with Daleks from all eras, Davros, Missy, UNIT, Skaro, and everything else, you might wonder just how the series plans to ramp it up from there. The usual format is to start small and then build week-on-week until you're given a feast of those proportions in the series finale, enough to keep you happy during the long break between seasons. When you start the year on such a high, it's tricky to top it.
Cleverly, the team haven't tried to top all of that with this week's episode. It sees the return of that Doctor Who staple, the 'Base Under Siege', presents us with a claustrophobic setting and a finite cast, and let's us take a moment to breathe.
That's probably the best way to describe Under The Lake - after two packed weeks, with more and more elements being presented to us with every twist and turn, this story allows us to catch our breath for a moment, and really get our teeth into a proper mystery. The Doctor and Clara have arrived at an underwater base in Caithness, Scotland, 2119, where the research crew have discovered an in identified craft on the lakebed. The remote location feels all the more isolated when the crew start being picked off one by one, and return from the dead to take out their former colleagues.
In the past, Doctor Who has always taken a fairly firm line when it comes to supernatural elements such as ghosts; there's always a scientific explanation behind these things. It's rather brilliant, then, to see the Doctor so thrilled by the prospect that he might have been wrong all along, and that death really is just the start of a new adventure. Once again, Peter Capaldi simply shines in the lead role. His incarnation of the Time Lord has struck the perfect balance this year, between a man who can be jolly and frivolous, and yet being totally oblivious to the people around him, and their feelings. Jenna Coleman's Clara is, therefore, totally perfect for him - their relationship really is best summed up by paraphrasing last year's Into the Dalek; she cares so he doesn't have to. Watching them bounce off each other here is a real joy, especially when they're allowed to share some quiet moments alone, and in years to come I think they're going to be looked on as a real golden pairing, in the same way as Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, or Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are now - a Doctor and Companion totally made for each other.
It's not just our regulars who shine in this episode, though. The small crew of the base all have their own distinct personalities and characteristics. Writer Toby Whithouse has clearly spent time thinking each character through, and ensuring that they're always true to form, so that even those who perhaps don't make it out of this episode feel fleshed-out. Perhaps the best example comes in the form of the base's deaf surrogate leader Cass (Sophie Stone) and her sign language interpreter Lunn (Zaqi Ismail). Though Lunn spends much of his time translating for us (and the Doctor - he doesn't do sign language in this incarnation, but he can do semaphore, if you've some flags to hand), he still has his own distinct personality which shines through.
A strong start to our second two-parter of the year, and with enough intriguing mysteries left to keep you glued next week...
Five things to look out for:
1) 'Keep calm, Doctor. You were like this when you met Shirley Bassey...'
2) Spaceship, or prototype weapon?'
3) The return of a Matt Smith-era alien.
4) 'It was my fault. I should have known you didn't live in Aberdeen'
5) 'Was it something she said? She does that. She once had an argument with Gandhi.'
[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]