Doctor Who recap: Under the Lake | EW.com

TV Recaps | Doctor Who

'Under the Lake'

Death is in the cards.

(BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED)

Doctor Who

Season 9, Ep. 3 | Aired Oct 03

The Doctor does not believe in ghosts. He’s never met a bump in the night that isn’t secretly a time traveler trapped in a pocket dimension; he’s never conducted a séance that couldn’t be explained away by something like the Gelth. There’s a tangible answer to everything, even if it’s alien. Ghosts don’t fit that pattern. They defy death, and not like the Doctor does it. They don’t carry on living against the odds — they die, and it doesn’t stop them. If death isn’t the end, then why does the Doctor fight so hard against it, and what does it mean that so many people have died on his behalf? What does it mean if Clara becomes one of those people?

After whatever sent her back to Coal Hill School while the Doctor traveled on his own, Clara’s rediscovered her “shut up and give me some planets” mode this week. She wants adventure as the Doctor defines it: perilous and somehow always at least a little bit alien — and a little bit deadly. Even the TARDIS doesn’t want them to land in The Drum, an underwater mining facility built over a flooded military town in 22nd-century Scotland. Three days ago, the crew spotted a “craft of unknown origin” on the lake floor and brought it on board, only to be met by a figure in Dickensian mutton chops. The apparition caused the craft’s engines to fire, incinerating the crew’s captain, John Moran — who, moments later, returned as a ghost himself.

The ghosts have been trying to kill the crew every night since. They do the same to the Doctor and Clara, but only after our heroes have seen the inside of the spaceship, which is marked by symbols that even the TARDIS can’t translate. To survive, the Doctor, Clara, and the crew lock themselves in The Drum’s Faraday Cage, which was built as a shelter in the event of a radiation leak. That’s right: This ghost story is set in a nuclear reactor.

And even the Doctor has to admit that it is a ghost story. Shadowy figures take the form of the dead, walk through walls, and only come out at night (or at least, they only come out when the facility goes into night mode). What else could they be? Logically, this discovery should send him into existential despair, but in true Doctor form, he’s just too excited. The universe is changing again. Isn’t everyone as curious as he is?

But asking questions — and, more specifically, seeking answers — comes at a cost, and it’s one, that, at first, the crew would rather not pay. Second-in-command Cass, who’s taken charge since Moran’s death, has one priority: She wants to keep her people safe. It’s already too late for Pritchard, the profit-obsessed Vector Petroleum representative who ventured off base to look for the spaceship’s missing (and valuable) power cell. He paid for his greed with his life when the ghosts switched the facility back into night mode and flooded his airlock chamber. For once in the history of this show, the jerk didn’t survive.

But it’s not too late for everyone else — Cass, the no-nonsense, intelligent leader; Lunn, her sign language translator; Bennett, the scientist; and O’Donnell, the Doctor’s superfan. “I can’t force you to leave,” signs Cass, “so you can stay and do the whole Cabin in the Woods thing and get killed or drowned if you want, but my first priority is to protect my crew.” Cass should be followed by a standing ovation at all times. She has O’Donnell contact ground control for evacuation, only to be told that rescue subs are already on their way. The ghosts used Morse code to call for more people, presumably to kill them, too.

The Doctor cancels the evacuation request and works out a plan. Clara, Lunn, and Bennett act as bait to guide the ghosts into the Faraday Cage, trading off like they’re running a team relay through the halls of The Drum. They hit a snag when the ghosts split up: Moran and Mutton Chops (or, as Cass calls him, the Mole) follow Clara while Pritchard’s ghost tracks Lunn, nearly killing him. But since Cass won’t let him into the spaceship, Lunn’s never seen the symbols on the wall, so Pritchard leaves him unharmed and rejoins the other ghosts just in time for Bennett — and a hologram of Clara, looking fabulous — to lure them all into the Cage.

NEXT: Not Penny’s boat

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