A Guest Blog by Hevy782
So despite a promising first episode I ended up being quite disappointed with the series nine premiere overall because of how The Witch’s Familiar failed to deliver. But now we’re back in the swing of things and Toby Whitehouse has now come along with his first two part story. I’ve enjoyed his previous efforts but am not sure how many of them I’d call classics. This episode however, well let’s just say that calling it a classic might be putting it mildly. Yes, I really enjoyed this episode. And if the next episode manages to keep this up then Under the Lake and Before the Flood will easily become my favourite Twelfth Doctor story (a spot currently held by Mummy on the Orient Express) but I won’t commit to that just yet as I have to see the second half. I probably mentioned before how difficult it is to review what is essentially half a story so please bear with me as I try my best to discuss Under the Lake. So let’s start off with the basic premise and that is that an underwater base is under attack by ghosts. Nothing confusing, just straight forward ghosts. We don’t have a full explanation as to what they are yet but I like that there are little hints here and there such as the fact that they can’t penetrate the Faraday cage (probably something to do with the fact that they are transmitters of some kind) and that they can only interact with objects that are metal. So the ghosts are great in this and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take the ghost idea when they introduce time travel into the story next week. Now then, as a base under siege story I was sort of reminded of The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit only underwater but thankfully the similarity doesn’t spread too far and this one does end up doing it’s own thing which is great. The sets are wonderful and I like the dirty look the corridors have to them but I don’t find them as claustrophobic as those in The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit which is a shame but I guess you can’t have everything.
Just as a side note, I would definitely recommend watching this at least twice as I picked up quite a bit more on a second viewing and also ended up enjoying it more. For example, I was able to work out that Lunn was spared by the ghost because hadn’t seen the symbols whereas before I hadn’t picked up on that and no doubt that plot threat will play into the next episode. I also found that it flowed much better than I originally thought but I’m not quite sure why that ended up being the case. But anyway, let’s now talk about the crew of the base, one of whom was of course deaf. When I first heard this I thought her inclusion would just be a gimmick and feared that it would slow the story down but actually she ended up being very well utilised in the story and both Cass and her interpreter, Lunn, were very likeable characters. I’d also imagine that Cass was very much an inspiration to the children watching who were deaf. So well done to Toby Whitehouse and actor Sophie Stone for that. But as great as Cass was I can’t help but love O’Donnell just that little but more. I did initially fear she was going to be a copy of Osgood when she had that fangirl moment towards the start but she actually ended up being very different thankfully and I look forward to seeing what they’ll do with her next week. Bennett on the other hand was a bit dull as a character but at least the have time to fix that. Moran and Pritchard were the red shirts here but it’s nice that Toby Whitehouse made them fairly rounded characters before they died.
Now we come to the Doctor and Clara who were both great in this episode. Admittedly Clara didn’t have too much to do but since many episodes in series eight were dominated by her I’m fine with the Doctor taking the lead again. Plus, now that they’re split up she’ll probably have more to do next episode. I think they’re scene together in the TARDIS was quite nice but the main stand out was the flashcards and it’s great that you can go back and read the other ones despite them being only a minor detail in the story itself. There’s even a Sarah Jane Smith reference in one of them. Unfortunately I’m going to have to stop being positive for a moment as I will now discuss the only real negative about this episode, the cliffhanger. In isolation, it’s not too bad but given that Moffat’s done the whole idea of the Doctor dying to death (we had it in the previous story for crying out loud) I just felt a bit fed up with it at this point. Also, I don’t feel it was shot very well. Having the Doctor’s ghost slowly advance towards the camera would’ve been far more effective in my opinion.
Overall, of course I loved this one and although I was negative about the cliffhanger I have faith that Toby Whitehouse will be able to change my mind about this next week. So there’s not much else to say beyond me giving this one a well deserved ten-out-of-ten. Now I only hope that Before the Flood can live up to this story and that Toby Whitehouse will provide a satisfying conclusion, and given how well thought through this one was I don’t see why next week should be any different. Anyway, those are just my opinions so be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.