Under The Lake was set in such an environment due to the fact that it wasn’t always underwater. The base is a flooded military town. Quite why such a place wouldn’t suddenly be abandoned, I don’t know, since it wouldn’t be built to withstand the pressures of all that water, but hey, I’m trying to apply logic to Doctor Who!
The crew of this base, led by Moran (Colin McFarlane), bring a mysterious craft on board, which some of them keep calling a spaceship, despite it not having flown thrown space. Still, no time to argue as before long, a ghost appears called Prentis (Paul Kaye), not that he’s ever referred to be name, he causes a fire, Moran is killed and soon manifests as a ghost. What makes these ghosts particularly weird is that while they speak, they speak silently.
Three days later, the Doctor and Clara arrive. The former senses that the TARDIS isn’t happy, while Clara eagerly wants monsters and “things blowing up”. As they tentatively step about the now-seemingly abandoned base, the Doctor deduces that “Whatever happened, happened recently…”, then puts his finger in a cup of tea and continues, “7 or 8 hours ago”.
But what to make of the unexplained craft? There are words inside it, in an alien language which even the TARDIS hasn’t translated.
When they’re soon approached by the dead twosome, the Doctor doesn’t think the ghosts are going to hurt them, “they’re just curious”, and once they’ve had a sniff of our heroes, they turn round and walk off. These ‘creatures’ rise out of floors and walk through walls, but can’t get through a particular door, causing all the crew to be marooned in one room because it’s a Faraday cage. Why is it stopping the ghosts coming in, exactly? They didn’t know, but at least something saved them.
As the Doctor summarises – the ghosts are an unknown homicidal force, they’re under water, and in a nuclear reactor! And despite denying the ghost theory at first, he eventually declares: “They walk through walls, they only come out at night, and they’re see-through. They’re ghosts!”
The base has day and night modes. The latter saves power for the base, whilst during the day the base’s systems will check through all of its security and whatnot. So, during day mode, why haven’t they escaped? Because bean counter Pritchard (Steven Robertson) is obsessed that there’s £1 trillion worth of equipment and he’ll lose his bonus if they just abandon ship. The day mode is of most use to the crew when they’re up and about but, since the ghosts can only come out at night, then it’s them who are often activating the night mode.
A short while later and when Bean Counter is on his own, he can see the ghosts and is attracted towards them, wanting to know what they’re saying. Next thing wey know, he’s dead and *his* ghost is coming towards the crew, brandishing a chair (ooh! look at that plastic!), whilst literally having nothing in his head – as you can see right into the inside, showing it to be as brainless as my ex-girlfriend; and this lasts until O’Donnell manually reactivates the base’s day mode.
Suddenly, they get contact from a crew from above the water, all set to come down and help them, but the Doctor turns them away. Why? Because only the ghosts could’ve called them.
In order to attempt to learn more about the ghosts, night mode is reactivated and… they learn nothing about them, since it just cues up lots of running in corridors. Well, the good guys run while the ghosts can only walk. Clara and Lunn play hide and seek from the ghosts in separate airlocks, with the thought that Lunn is about to be dead, but he’s left alive. Why? We weren’t informed.
Cue a bit more running around and the three ghosts are trapped in the Faraday cage by the inexplicable use of a hologram inside the cage. The Doctor walked in with them, squaring up to Moran, showing no fear. Cass deduced they weree saying over and over: “The dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple”, but what does that mean? Ol’ Doc works out they’re talking about co-ordinates to a planet. Kill more people and they boost the signal, the more they are in number. He also suggested that someone was deliberately getting people killed to help the ghosts, but that didn’t really lead anywhere.
With the ghosts trapped, they could all run off, but to help further the story, the Doctor wants them to look for the church amongst the flooded town. Leaving would make sense, and that’s what Bennett wants to do, while the rest decide to stay… so he has no choice but to also stay. “At least if I die, you know I’ll come back and haunt you all”. This is ridiculous! In reality, everyone would vamoose as quickly as they could and the ghosts could do one!
The Doctor doesn’t have a radio because it puts an earworm in his head that he can’t get rid of (“two weeks of Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl”), and that’s what the words from the ghosts are because it’s stuck in their head from the moment they die. So are they really *good* ghosts, and just slightly misunderstood? There’s no answers for that as of yet.
As the episode neared its end, all plans so far go out the window (or port-hole) because thanks to the ghosts tampering with everything, they’ve triggered the emergency system which causes the base to look out solely for the reactor, thus opening the floodgates and letting in water. The whole team is split into two separate airlocks, with the Doctor heading off with Lunn and O’Donnell to go back in time to attempt to resolve it – since he’s separated from Clara and the rest, leaving them having to wait for him to return. But then, what’s that coming towards them through the water? …a new ghost. And it’s The Doctor!
Well, you could see that coming a mile off, but it was quite enjoyable hokum and as the first in a new two-parter, it was a damn sight better than the series openers, and also the first time since I can remember, the continuity announcers of Ericsson TV Media (formerly Red Bee Media) didn’t waffle over the end credits!
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the episode.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.