Doctor Who: Under the Lake review

Review

Under the Lake

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The Doctor: So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.

Doctor Who Season: S35 (Ep3).
Story Number: 255a.

Base under lake…

You could say that this season of Doctor Who has a lot for people that have seen Doctor Who before.

So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore” – that line emphasises with a wink how the Base Under Siege template for Doctor Who is supposed to function.

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There will be an abrasive character whose assertively-expressed thoughts on what the people of the base should be doing are at odds with what the Doctor is saying. Long before the end of this episode though “Company Man” Pritchard (the character that fulfils this role) has become a “ghost”, and the purely military hierarchy asserts itself again. (It’s not exactly clear to what extent this base is controlled by the mining company and how exactly military personnel are involved with the day-to-day business of it all. It perhaps makes most sense to think that base is halfway between being handed over from military to mining.)

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The “ghosts”: they’re realised fantastically effectively onscreen and in addition to being properly visually spooky, the mystery of what they are and what they’re silently mouthing is an unnerving SF idea once the Doctor has deduced it all by the episode’s end – with the help of the lip-reading Cass & Lunn that signs for her.

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Cass is, thanks to the military hierarchy and others now being ghosts, the one that’s in charge now. In a subversion of the traditional Base Under Siege template there isn’t much friction between the Doctor and her – the actual struggle for who should be in the “top role”, leading the way into the adventure, it’s between the Doctor & Clara: as the Doctor says “there’s only room for one me”.

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Cass trying to minimise any danger for Lunn, excercising her “duty of care” is an interesting parallel for the Doctor-Clara relationship.

Rating 5/5

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(Under the Lake on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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