Monday, October 5, 2015

Doctor Who: That's One Big Lake We're Under

You guys are killing me with these cliffhangers

I'm torn on the subject of Toby Whithouse. I'm really never sure if I'm going to enjoy his episodes or not. School Reunion was all terribly cheesy, but it did give us Sarah Jane and K9 and Mickey's realization that he was the tin dog and Giles acting very menacing. Vampires of Venice was fairly dull, but it did give us Amy's scarf and leggings. The God Complex was delightfully weird but terribly unfocused, leaving too many questions unanswered. A Town Called Mercy was pushing the boundaries of cheese, but lots of fun, and Farscape fans got to see Chrichton again.

Oh, and he wrote an episode of Torchwood. One of the better ones, but that's not saying much.

Under The Lake is very old school. Very, very old school. This episode very well could have been a Troughton-era, base-under-siege episode if you'd just stripped away the budget and used an old black and white camera. And like the last few weeks (and pretty much the entire year), it's a two-part story, but while the last two-parter had a weak and unfocused part one, the pacing in this part one is absolutely breakneck. And running. Lots and lots of running. There are so many people running from one place to another that it had me wondering where Clara buys her boots.
But the Sonic Sunglasses still just make me sigh and feel old.
The concept of Chekhov's Gun returns here as well, with the markings on the inside of the alien shuttle being burned into the minds of everyone except Lunn, the sign language translator. I'm fairly certain that this, and Cass's insistence Lunn not look inside the shuttle, are going to pay off next week -- moreso than how it's already paid off with the ghost's reluctance to kill him. And I'm expecting an explanation for how Cass knew not to let him go in the shuttle that doesn't involve her getting splashed with radioactive chemicals and developing superpowers.

This may be my favourite guest cast, as well, with Colin McFarlane playing the recently deceased base commander (he's been in an episode of almost all of my favourite British shows), Future Sheldon Cooper in the form of a greedy corporate rep, and actual deaf actress, Sophie Stone, playing Cass. I especially adore O'Donnel, the resident Doctor fangirl, introduced in a scene where the psychic paper actually tells the truth for once identifying the Doctor as being from UNIT.

My personal favourite scene has to be the Doctor's excitement over ghosts. Previously, ghosts have been a number of different things: gaseous alien beings; stranded, out-of-phase time travelers; Cybermen crossing over from other dimensions; or alien demigods. Granted, there's still a scientific explanation here (focused electromagnetic fields being used to broadcast a distress signal), but this is the closest to a proper ghost we've seen in the new series, and his excitement over actual, proper ghosts put a smile on my face, followed up quickly by Clara's empathy flashcards. Including the “It was my fault, I should have known you didn't live in Aberdeen.” Poor Sarah Jane...

It's the little things that make this relationship work.
While I still enjoy Clara and Jenna Coleman, I can tell her time (as has been rumoured) is drawing to an end, as she was bordering on insufferable smugness in this episode. Not quite Series 2 Rose Tyler, but close. Granted, it's a different Doctor, companion, and creative team, but the last time we had a crossover companion was Rose Tyler, and she spent an entire year being insufferably smug before her gobby face got chucked into another dimension. Don't get me wrong -- I still fell to pieces watching that epilogue -- but I was glad to see the back of her by that point. 

I didn't think they'd top the visual of The Doctor with a Dalek firearm threatening to exterminate young Davros, but the slow zoom on undersea ghost Doctor with Clara's shoulders nearly caving in on themselves just about did it. Here's fingers crossed that Part 2 can keep up the pace of Part 1, giving us an even better two-part story than The Magician's Apprentice/ The Witch's Familiar did.

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