Well, the disappointment I felt with last week’s episode has been slightly allayed. “Under the Lake” is a much quieter episode than either “The Magician’s Apprentice” or “The Witch’s Familiar” and frankly, much better for it. It doesn’t do the grandstanding of the previous episodes and doesn’t promise too much to be able to deliver on.
It wasn’t tricksy and clever clever.
I find that oddly reassuring.
But wow! Count the number of references! Under the Lake was far, far from an original work. It had very identifiable elements from so many things, including itself.
I mean off the top of my head:
- Quatermass and the Pit – mysterious symbols, buried space-ship, electromagnetic ghosts, faraday cage,
- The Returned – ghosts rather than zombies appearing in a village submerged by building/breaching a dam.
- The Impossible Planet – unintelligible writing, dead person floating past window, unnamed beast in a box
- Every Troughton “Base Under Siege” episode
There were more. There was also a nice nod to the much missed Sarah Jane.
But was it any good?
Well, surprisingly, yes. All of these elements come together very nicely and while not the most original of set -ups, it does it with style and verve and an excellent supporting cast.
The Ghosts were very well realised and a little unsettling in that you could see through the eyes to the back of the head.
It was one of those rare episodes where a slow build up didn’t felt like it was filling up running time; and one of those even rarer episodes when running up and down corridors actually had a point.
And Clara ‘going native’? The Doctors concerns about her blase attitude probably gives clues to Clara’s eventual departure. I don’t think it’s going to end well.
I can’t help but feel that the deaf character is there for something other than merely PC box ticking. Something is niggling about that. . .
But it’s quite refreshing that this episode is all about the storytelling, not the bells and whistles. After last week’s symphony of style over substance, the downbeat nature of Under the Lake, even with it’s festival of influences, was deeply pleasing.
The cliffhanger was entirely expected, though. But strangely, even that didn’t detract.
A good solid episode that isn’t making unattainable promises.