“Go, and a part of you will always wonder: “What would have happened if I’d stayed?””
If this year’s series is asking the question “what is Doctor Who?” then the conclusion it comes to this week is “a show with scary monsters and lots of military types running around finding out stuff”.
That is, basically, all.
This isn’t a criticism; actually, for the second week running, I wholeheartedly enjoyed something Stephen Moffat has written. (I must be coming down with something.) Under the Lake is, self-consciously, a proper piece of old-school Who: some mysterious eyeless impossible ghosty things haunt a military facility under, well, a lake. There is mild peril (who hasn’t had the nightmare where they drown in falling water?). There is leaping-around-with-hand-waving. There are clever-stupid plans. The Doctor, Clara and even this week’s redshirts can hardly contain their glee: “I want another adventure! Come on, you feel the same!” says Clara, and I don’t think she’s just talking to the Doctor, either. Which is to say, the show knows how bored we all are with Emotions, and has decided to jettison them for the time being.
So when the Doctor says to the crew of the military facility something along the lines of “It might be scary, but if you leave you’ll always wonder what might have happened,” he’s surely talking to us, too (this is, of course, a two-parter episode). His comment also handily implies that Doctor Who is and has ever been a show about Finding Things Out; it’s a show where we watch the scary Daleks and the scary ghosties because beyond the fear and the stupid cliffhanger –
– might be something wonderful.
(And it can’t, surely, have been just me who thought Capaldi was channelling several of the ghosts of Doctors past during this episode? I spotted two at least.)
(Also, I love that the leader of the base was a deaf lady, though the point is slightly spoiled by the fact that her translator is a man, and also frequently forgot to sign in the background. Still, tentative Feminism Kudos to Moffat.)