Saturday, 3 October 2015

Doctor Who: Under the Lake

"Two weeks of "Mysterious Girl" by Peter Andre- I was begging for the brush of Death's merciful hand."

The obvious point to make about this two-parter, from what we've seen so far, is that it seems to be playing interesting structural games with the two parter format- the first episode is set in the later time period and the second in an earlier period, meaning that the first episode sets up a puzzle to be solved by the second. In other words, the two halves of the story are in different time zones: sort of The Ark in reverse.

The less obvious point, though, is how resolutely traditional this episode feels: a base under siege with all the narrative short cuts that implies and, brilliantly, the first time since the series came back in 2005 that we've had a proper, old-fashioned, first episode which has time to breathe, explore the environment the TARDIS lands in and set up the mystery. I suspect that this, as much as the structural playing, may have been the original aim of Toby Whithouse in writing this. This may be a deeply and exaggeratedly traditional episode of Who, but it also manages to lovingly deconstruct traditional Who in doing so. The Doctor can hardly help pointing out all the tropes of the base-under-siege story he finds himself in. I love this sort of metatextual fun.

Oh, and it's also the scariest episode in yonks.

Other positives: not only do we have a deaf character, whose first language is BSL, but she's in charge. The script is delightfully witty, and the chemistry between the Doctor and Clara is perfect; I love the bit with the cue cards! The ghosts look brilliant- oh, and one of them is a Tivoli, one of whom was played by David Walliams in The God Complex. And the cliffhanger is brilliant.

I'll refrain from praising this too highly until I've seen the second episode- this feels like half of a puzzle- but so far I'm very, very impressed.

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