Under the Lake: The Good, The Bad and The Nerdy
Gustaff Behr goes through the highs, the lows and everything else from the 3rd episode.
This week sees the Doctor and Clara under water and encountering ghosts. Admit it: Ghost fish would’ve been cool too. It also happens to be the first episode of the second two-parter of Series 9. Let’s look at what elements floated and which sunk.
“Calm, Doctor, calm – you were like this when you met Shirley Bassey”
Oh look! Etiquette cards! Underwater base! Ghosts! This week felt like a very ‘normal’ Doctor Who week. The episode felt like it was ticking all the classic Doctor Who check boxes for what makes an episode great. Now there are different kinds of great in this author’s opinion. There is the ‘awesome no matter how times I watch it’ great. There is also the ‘becomes less fantastic the more I watch it’ great, ‘episode is only ever awesome the first time round’ great and finally there’s the ‘I watch this all day and I won’t lose or gain additional enjoyment’ great. While the last one may sound like the worst, I actually enjoy episodes where my enjoyment (or resentment) stays at a constant level and Under The Lake felt like one of those episodes. In fact, I feel that the norm for Doctor Who is producing episodes which feature a constant level of enjoyment (or resentment) even on repeated viewings. It was nice to have an episode like that this week.
I must applaud Doctor Who’s use of a deaf character and not falling into ‘they have a disability, now they’re useless’ trap that a lot of television falls into. It’s annoying and completely disrespectful when that happens. With a deaf character, the norm is usually to kill them off in a manner where they need to be able to hear the danger, but can’t. I really hope Before the Flood doesn’t fall into this trap. I do enjoy Cass’ character and the purpose she served to the plot.
The Doctor was especially funny this week. It’s welcoming to see his dark humour shine. Being daft and funny is Eleven’s thing, but being rude and funny sits so well with Twelve.
“I’m sorry. Why’s this man still talking to me?”
Have you ever walked to a store and someone stopped you to hand you a flyer for a new restaurant? You accept and you continue onwards and there’s another guy with another flyer for the same restaurant and no matter how many times you tell them you already have a flyer, they insist on handing you another one. You get inside the store and on your way back to the car afterwards someone shoves ANOTHER flyer for the restaurant in your face. That is what “reckless” Clara felt like this week.
It was in your face with all the tact and subtle of a volcanic eruption. Or better yet: As subtle as a YouTube comment board. They should just put a “kick me” sign on Clara’s back the whole series and replace “kick me” with “I’m reckless this season” just in case viewers forget. While I love the idea, the execution felt like being hit in the face with a brick (repeatedly). This is admittedly the ONLY thing I found off about this week’s episode.
“Surely being around me makes you clever by osmosis”
Both inside Doctor Who and out, most of the references were fairly easy to spot plus there weren’t a lot of them to begin with. Most of the Dalek, Cybermen and Sarah Jane Smith references appeared on the etiquette cards. We had another song reference in Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl and even a direct Cabin in the Woods shout out. There were others, but again, they were pretty easy to spot.
What may have gone unnoticed by you is the fact that Under The Lake shares a lot of similarities with the Doctor Who adventure game Shadows of the Vashta Nerada in that it has the Doctor arriving in an underwater base and meeting a group of people who are combating an enemy that reanimate the dead.
Also interesting to know, Cass is the first deaf character to be played by a deaf actress in the history of Doctor Who. Seems odd considering how long the show’s been going on for.
These last two were pointed out to me by a Trekkie fan: 1) the mural containing the ship under attack is crewed by three figures dressed in distinctive gold, blue and red uniforms:
2) The numbers on one of the bay doors that close behind Clara is “1701”B. All we’re missing is the ‘NCC’ and we’d have the serial number for the USS Enterprise:
Are we in for clear skies this weekend, or rough waters?