Hello! It’s time for another Doctor Who series nine review – this one is for last week’s episode, “Under The Lake”! Long story short: I loved episode three, and so did my co-reviewer. I’m impressed with the consistently high-quality episodes so far!
P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s ninth series here.
Mawa Mahima is a 17-year-old book blogger and crazed student. She has way too much to study and watching Doctor Who has become one of her sole comforts in her new school-filled schedule. Fun fact: She only watches the show with all the lights off and the door closed. She’s pretty sure she couldn’t sleep the night they aired the episode with the Daleks levitating over stairs! (She thought she was safe from them!) She blogs at All Things Wordy.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Engie: While I loved seeing Missy, Davros, et cetera – established characters, basically – it was nice to move on and meet someone new! I really enjoyed this group of scientists, and OMG THEY’RE GETTING KILLED OFF ONE BY ONE. That’s such an old trope, not just on Doctor Who but in stories in general, but I love it.
Mawa: Slowly killing off groups of scientists seems like the right way to start a Doctor Who episode – there’s so many episodes that start exactly like that! (And I always end up loving them!)
Engie: I know, right? I’ve seen reviews comparing this episode to soooo many others, including:
- “The Waters of Mars”
- “The Impossible Planet”
- “The Hungry Earth”
- “The Rebel Flesh”
- “Silence in the Library”
- “The God Complex”
Engie: I mean, it would probably be easier to say which episodes are NOT like this one. But I do love the creepy episodes… there’s usually at least one really good one per series. I’m always like “THIS IS JUST A SHOW, ENGIE” and then I still freak out and worry that a monster might eat me.
Mawa: I agree – it’s even worse when you’re in a dark room and that itchy feeling on your shoulder could be those ghosts reaching for you. Yikes.
Engie: Doctor Who is IMMENSELY fond of the “there is a completely scientific explanation for the existence of [insert terrifying phenomenon here] – it only looks like something humans would call ‘supernatural'” trope. AND I LOVE THAT. Out of all the story ideas they repeat over and over, this one’s probably my favorite.
Mawa: Yes, yes, yes! Including scientific explanations behind these supernatural phenomenons makes the science geek in me so proud. For example with this episode they had a Faraday cage and talked about electromagnetics and I was like YES. GHOSTS AND MAGNETISM. GET IN.
Engie: YESSS. I do enjoy the more fantastical episodes, but I love it when the Doctor is like “OK I’M GONNA DO SCIENCE” and shows us the cold hard facts.
Mawa: I was just sighing in contentment. I mean using science to explain bizarre happenings is what I’m all about. Science, in essence, is about the delight one experiences when they find something they can’t explain.
Engie: A few days ago I was talking about this episode with another friend, and they mentioned how much they loved the scene where the Doctor says, essentially, that none of the scientists HAVE to stay. He says they can totally go home, if they want, and let him solve the mystery – but he also points out that they did dedicate their lives to science, and if they don’t stay they’ll always wonder what would’ve happened. They’ll always be curious. So they do stay. My friend loved that scene, and once they pointed it out so did I.
Mawa: Yes, I so agree with everything said! Like, do you be brave or cowardly… but it’s not even about that. It’s about the pursuit of knowledge and, you know, curiosity and it just makes the whole episode more realistic, more human.
Engie: I do wish they hadn’t killed off the black guy first, BUT. But! Not everyone was white! It’s so weird to read/watch a story where absolutely everyone is white because it’s just like…. this is not even remotely close to reality?
Engie: When I wrote my intro post for this series of reviews, I mentioned that one of the things I’d like to talk about in these reviews is diversity – I’d like to analyze the diversity in series nine! I included “disabilities” on my list of diverse characters to maybe talk about (if they even showed up), but I didn’t think there would actually be any! So I was very happy to see Cass, who is deaf!
Mawa: Yes, when I realised she was deaf I was like THIS IS WHAT ENGIE WAS TALKING ABOUT!
Engie: It’s funny… I was watching with a friend, who is actually taking a course in American Sign Language here at college and she was like “UGH I KNOW SHE’S SIGNING BUT I DON’T KNOW THE SIGNS SHE’S USING THIS IS SO WEIRD” because ASL and BSL are so different.
Engie: AND AND AND CASS WAS READING THE GHOSTS’ LIPS. I LOVED THAT. I love how no one else thought to do that, or even had the ability, and then they were like, “Ohhhh, good, she’s got it under control.”
Mawa: Ha ha, yes I’m glad they clocked on too.
Engie: I loved her interpreter too. They were so adorable together.
Mawa: I SHIP THEM.
Mawa: But it feels like they have a deeper-than-romance relationship. I couldn’t help thinking: Who would you trust enough to translate the whole world to you? And trust them enough to have them give your words a voice? It was so harrowing.
Engie: I loved the Doctor’s prompt cards! The same friend I mentioned above sent me soooo many excited messages after the episode about how they felt their autistic!Doctor headcanon was confirmed, and I just… I mean, the writers haven’t said anything official about it yet, but I think it’s really important when we read or watch stories and find someone we can relate to and we’re like “HEY THEY DO THINGS LIKE I DO” and basically I’m just glad it made my friend happy.
Mawa: Yes, I always knew Twelve, especially, was autistic, it’s one of the best defining characteristics of his personality in my opinion!
Engie: Also, I’m just really amused by the mental image of Twelve and Clara making those cards, like I feel she would be very intently writing things on index cards while he’s flitting around the TARDIS disassembling things and rebuilding them into other things, and seemingly not paying attention until every so often when he’s like, “…is that really a thing I should stop saying? I was just trying to prepare them for their imminent extermination.”
Mawa: I want to talk about what happened to the Doctor dying – I thought he only had a day to live, and that’s why he got the confession dial ready?
Engie: Oooooh. I didn’t even think of that, but that would make sense. I mean, otherwise then what was even the point of the confession dial in the series opener?
Mawa: This episode wasn’t written by Steven Moffat – rather, it’s by Toby Whithouse. Whithouse has written Doctor Who episodes before. For example, “School Reunion” – in which Rose and Sarah Jane become friends and we get to see K9!
Engie: OH MY GOD I COULDN’T REMEMBER ALL THE EPISODES HE’S WRITTEN BUT LIKE. He wrote “The God Complex”! No wonder I kept seeing similarities!
Mawa: I really like Whithouse’s episodes, and I can see the difference between him and Moffat. Can’t really put a finger on it, though, except perhaps that “Under the Lake” was less serious and more goofy. The Doctor seemed more astonished by the ghosts than anything, and the one-liners were indeed quite funny.
Engie: I think sometimes the show tries too hard to make everything SUPER FREAKING DRAMATIC, and… like, everything is bigger and better than before, and it just doesn’t always work because after a while it gets really hard to keep one-upping yourself. And… I mean, this episode certainly had its dramatic moments, but I didn’t get the sense that it was trying to outdo every episode that came before it. It was a fairly low-key, fun episode.
Mawa: Clara and the Doctor are an adorable team, like when Clara was all up for heading off into the adventure and the Doctor was like “no, there can’t be two of me, go get a new relationship” and then he backtracked and started blabbering about getting a new relationship (because finally he realised, without those darn cards, that this was a no-no) and Clara had to shut him up with “I’m fine”. IT WAS SO CUTE.
Engie: And when he’s like “Can I stop saying that? Should I stop saying that? I just felt I had to.” Oh my god.
Engie: This is not serious… or even related to character development or anything, really, but OMG CLARA WAS SO CUTE IN THIS EPISODE. Her dress was adorable. Her outfits are always on point, and honesly they’re one of my favorite parts of the show? Like if I get bored or the plot isn’t making any sense, I’m always like “just fangirl about Clara’s clothes, Engie, and daydream about owning those cute dresses.”
Mawa: That girl’s style is always on point. HER NOSE THOUGH. Her nose is something everyone should aspire to have, it’s beautiful.
Engie: HAHAHA YOU SAID THAT IN YOUR LAST REVIEW. OMG.
Engie: It is very cute, though. And so are her eyebrows. And so is her face in general. GAH I HAVE SUCH A CRUSH. I’m actually going to be a bit sad when Jenna Coleman leaves the show, because… like, I’m glad she’s moving on to bigger and better roles? But she has a cute face and also the wardrobe department does a good job.
Engie: What did you think of the episode overall?
Mawa: I thought it was a funny episode full of science geekery and a wonderful third episode into the series!
Engie: Same! I’m really impressed with series nine so far, and… well, who knows? Maybe I’ll love this story even more when part two comes out this weekend? Like I said above, I don’t mind low-key episodes. I just want something fun… with a plot free of holes! That’s really all I’m looking for. “Under the Lake” wasn’t my FAVORITEST episode or something, but it was fun. And that’s what counts. We seem to get either really amazing or really awful episodes, and I’d rather have a bunch that are just plain GOOD. If the writers can achieve that balance and avoid the extremes, I’ll be happy. I mean, that means fewer amazing episodes, buuuut it also means fewer sucky episodes.
Engie: Thank you for reviewing with me!
Mawa: Ha ha, thanks for having me. It’s real fun nerding out like this every once in a while – oh, who am I kidding? I do it all the time.
What is YOUR opinion on “Under the Lake”? I’d love to know!