Doctor Who – “Under the Lake”: A bit murdery

  • Writing
  • Use of Clara
  • Monsters


Season 9, Episode 3

Aired: Oct. 3, 2015

Director: Daniel O’Hara

Writer: Toby Whithouse

After the spectacle of the two-part season premiere, it felt comforting to settle in to a classic Doctor Who set up this week.

“Under the Lake” had all of the trappings of a standard “Monster of the Week” Doctor Who episode. We got a team of explorers in a remote location fighting a supernatural foe. Some of them were clearly expendable, including the incredibly greedy business man who was too focused on profit to see the bigger picture. We got lots of running down corridors and the Doctor saying snarky things.

It did feel a bit formulaic, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a proven formula. Plus, I spent most of last year still not entirely feeling like Peter Capaldi had really settled into his role as the Doctor, so episodes like this really help to solidify his place on the show. Seeing the Doctor be clever and take over a room in crisis situations is why I tune in week after week.


Plus, the “ghosts” were a really cool visual effect. It’s easy to forget that, particularly in England, Doctor Who is a kid’s show (or, at the very least, an all-ages show). If I was a kid watching this week’s episode, I think I definitely would have had nightmares about the eyeless floating specters haunting the crew. They were truly creepy.

Also, while the episode was very formulaic, I still enjoyed a lot of the little details. The Doctor having notecards to help him with missed social cues, in particular, really cracked me up. And I thought it was a cool detail that the commanding officer was deaf and able to read the lips of the ghosts when they were trapped in the Faraday cage.

I was a bit surprised that this story was also a two-parter. I didn’t think it had legs to sustain a second episode, though I’m curious to see what they do with part two. I’m guessing the fact that the Faraday cage blocks radio signals will somehow be integral to explaining what the ghosts really are (a radio signal of some kind). And, I would bet money that Clara and Co. end up opening up the suspended animation chamber only to discover that the Doctor is safely inside with an outlandish explanation as to how he lived and why he appeared as a ghost.

Still, overall, I thought this was a really fun return to form. This season already feels a lot more on track and confident than last season did. I’m really hopeful for things from here on out.

And another thing …

  • So far I’m a bit underwhelmed with the Sonic Sunglasses. Using them as a camera isn’t really that earth shattering. I’m still hoping for more.
  • I’m curious if the Doctor’s warning to Clara was foreshadowing. He seemed concerned that she was becoming too much like him. The conversation felt a bit out of the blue, but I’m wondering if this is the beginning of the end for Clara.
  • It is curious that the Doctor appeared as a ghost, but not the two crew members who traveled back in time with him. I wonder what happened to them.
  • It happened so fast that I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like crew member O’Donnell recognized the Doctor’s name and was familiar with him.
  • Describing things as going “pear-shaped” is so wonderfully British.


Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at

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