After the two-part premiere, the show goes back to its usual monster of the week formula. And nothing says “monster of the week” episode like a group of human scientists who have a problem that the Doctor needs to solve.
I’m going to be honest here. Looking around for other people’s reactions of this episode I was quite surprised that there we so many positive reviews when I was half bored, half confused for the most part of the episode. To me, there were only two moments that caught my attention: the chasing in the tunnels and the ending. Before you throw rocks at me, let me elaborate.
First of all, like I said in the introduction, these sort of situations in which the Doctor has to work with a group of scientists with teamwork issues is something that we have seen countless times. Yes, it works, but at this point it has become repetitive. And yes Doctor, we know that you’re the smartest being in the room at all times.
One of the main reasons why I was slightly disappointed with this episode (last week’s promo got me super hyped) was the fact that I didn’t find the ghosts that scary. Ghosts are, after all, such an over-exploited resource in horror fiction. I would rather have creepier, more original creatures like The Silence or the Vashta Nerada and yes, I know you can’t really create creatures like that for every episode). The fact that the ghosts didn’t really hurt them didn’t help either. I mean, one of them looked like it was going to slowly attack them with a chair. Seriously? Lastly, the Doctor confirms that they’re not a natural phenomenon (still no supernatural creatures in Doctor Who). The only thing that gave me the creeps was the fact that the TARDIS wanted to get away. That’s when you know something is wrong.
Let’s focus on Doctor and Clara, who are finally on the same page. I missed this old Clara, the one who is so proactive, excited and adventure thirsty. We also got to see a bit of the old Doctor (“I have not a clue. Isn’t that exciting?”). He still needs empathy cards to deal with social situations, though, but who doesn’t love an awkward Doctor? At the end of the episode, the Doctor does leave Clara behind but there was not a single doubt in Clara’s mind that he would be back for them. That is, until she saw his ghost in the water. And THAT’s the only ghost that truly scared me.
I did find ‘Under the Lake’ slightly inconsistent, adding too many slow-paced conversations when they could have exploited the ghost chasing/flooding tunnels scenes a bit more to create more tension. The Doctor’s death is something that we have been teased with many times in the past years. So much that it’s almost lost its effect. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see the resolution next week. Besides, there’s still that confession dial and we all know how Moffat operates.