Second Opinion – Season 9, Episode 03 “Under the Lake”


Jerry: So episode 3 is “Under the Lake.” Got to be honest here, this whole week, I hear the episode name, but start humming the song “Under the Boardwalk” in my head. I think that might make for a much more interesting show.

Brent: Or it could be the crab from The Little Mermaid singing “Under the Sea” the whole time.

J: That’s another way to go with that. OK, back to the show. So we’ve seen this kind of episode before on Doctor Who where you have the Doctor, the Companion, and a bunch of people in a locked room with some kind of mysterious threat. The one that comes to mind is the “Silence in the Library” episode (Season 4, Episode 8)…

B: Hey! Who turned out the lights!

J: …so this isn’t a truly new approach for the story.

B: It is a trope that has been used many times in Doctor Who. They’ve nicknamed it “the base under siege” story. Trapped in some peculiar location with peculiar people with a peculiar menace. I have to admit it’s probably one of my least favorite types of Doctor Who story. Given the fact that they are doing two-part episodes right now, I have a little sense of dread for next week’s wrap-up. Maybe they will flip it on it’s ear and make it a little more unique.

J: We saw with the tease for next week that it looked like the Doctor had been touched by a ghost in an inappropriate place, because he was had that pale, unhealthy white skin issue going on.

B: He could use a good skin cream right about now.


J: So with this episode, they are in a submerged headquarters at the bottom of a lake. You have a group of researchers there for scientific purposes, with noble hearts and the best of intentions, and you also have the corporate spokesperson, an overseer trying to make sure that everything is on budget to maximize profits and ensure his bonus. Good to know corporate greed is still a thing in the future. It’s hard to come up with something to say about this episode that makes it unique compared to all the other ones.

B: Yes, that is a very fair assessment. This one did have the same kind of feel to it like the other base-under–siege episodes. I felt like there were some really neat character moments, though. I particularly liked the moment where the Doctor had an epiphany about the ghosts and he’s pontificating about how cool the discovery of real “ghosts” is, and then he realizes that he’s talking to people who just lost the person that became a ghost. So he has to consult his little cards in his pocket that allow him to interact with humans on their level. I thought that was really brilliant, made me laugh very hard.  One his cards read, “It was my fault, I should have known you didn’t live in Aberdeen”, which is a reference to the Tom Baker Fourth Doctor story, The Hand Of Fear (1976), which ended with him getting a message from the Time-Lords to return to Gallifrey.  He decided to take his longtime companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) home before going to Gallifrey. She lived in South Croydon. When she next met up with the Doctor in his Tenth incarnation in School Reunion (2006), we discover that he had accidentally dropped her off at Aberdeen.

Doctors Card WCPE

J: The cards did make me smile and chuckle. It reminded me of the scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Steve Rogers is taking notes of things he needs to see and do. And I’m sure this will generate a whole slew of memes with different messages that the Doctor leaves for himself in his pocket.

B: I’m sure they’ve already begun. If not, I should jump right on top of that.

J: If only we knew of someone who was doing that every week…

B: So after our conversation last week about episode 2, when we mentioned the trailer for this week’s episode, you brought up “Hey! Who turned out the lights?” That actually planted a seed in my head thinking that maybe we could get to the big reveal in this episode, and we find out that it was the same shadow creatures from the “Library” episode, the Vashta Nerada, who were very popular but have never made a return appearance. So I kept expecting someone to say “Who turned out the lights?” by the end of the episode. So much so, that I was actually a little disappointed when it didn’t happen that way.

Changing points here… I thought that it was really neat that they cast a deaf actress playing a leading character who is deaf and uses sign language. I thought that was a great inclusive nod. Doctor Who is traditionally good about making those of us who are outside the norm feel like they have a community, that they are accepted and that everybody’s beautiful. I think this is another step in that direction. She would be a great role model in the future for any deaf Doctor Who fans.

J: Yes, they have done a really good job. From what I have picked up on over the years, the show has been very representative of all genders, all races, and all situations. We’ve seen characters with handicaps; we’ve seen characters in interracial relationships and same-sex relationships. They haven’t been afraid to use any particular person for a given role.

B: I think part of that responsibility that they feel is when you look at the series as a whole; you have this alien from another planet – which, by the way, is the very definition of an alien. Traveling through time, traveling through space, you’ve seen the moment the universe was created to the moment the universe died. When you are looking at such a big picture in such a wide scale, I think it would cheapen the majesty if they weren’t saying that basically everybody on our planet is exactly the same, regardless of what’s happening to them or what their handicap is or what their life choices are. I’ve always said that it will take a non-Earthly threat to make everyone on Earth realize that we’re all one, we’re all unified.  I love that Doctor Who treats it as: Everybody’s the same, and now here’s your monster for the week.


J: I know it’s wrong to laugh at this, but I think it’s very real. When the Doctor tried to step in and say “I can do this, I can communicate with her” and then realized, “Oh yeah, I don’t know sign language, I can’t communicate with her.” I think that’s very accurate; that it happens to people in real life. I live in a community with a large deaf population. You think that you can try to communicate with very crude or simple hand gestures. But there is a very complex structure involved with sign language.

B: You think you have the ability to, in a situation like that, at least be able to communicate on a basic level, even if you don’t know sign language. It’s happened to me when working in retail, and you have a deaf customer that you’re trying to help. It is the most awkward thing in the world for both of you. You struggle to get the idea across without being able to have the tools to speak to them the proper way.  In this episode, as the Doctor is realizing he lost his knowledge of sign language in his last regeneration while attempting to communicate with a deaf woman, he says to her verbally, “Go ahead” while signing “You are beautiful”.

So as a whole, as the non-fan in this conversation, did this episode intrigue you? Did you get bored? Did you find yourself reading comic books while you were watching it?

J: I was intrigued because I like the concept of the locked room. But for me at least, each time you do that type of story, it should amp up the experience from the prior times. I don’t know that this one improved on the process, compared to the other times that it’s been done. Maybe the second part will redeem everything. We will find out later tonight and see what happens. You’re using two episodes to work one story. But you need to put enough In the first half of the story to make sure that viewers come back for the second half.

B: I agree. In the classic Doctor Who series, you would get a story that could very easily be four-, six-, eight-, or 12-episodes long. You’re investing a lot into that story for that many weeks. They were able to expertly build a sense of dread alone in the first episode. The Doctor and Companion arrive, there are strange things going on, they begin to investigate; constantly ramping up the dread despite the fact that nothing actually happens in the episode. However, you’re primed and ready for the next episode. I felt like they really could have used that in this episode, because I really felt no dread about the ghosts. I felt no disbelief; there just wasn’t a high enough level of dread and horror to keep me as entertained as I normally am with Doctor Who.

J: From what I recall from the “Library” episode, they had something worked out which kept them from doing this, but what’s to keep the Doctor from just loading everyone into the TARDIS and taking off?

B: That has been solved by a clever little lines of dialogue placed here and there which basically say that once the TARDIS has landed in a temporal event, it can’t cheat its way out of it. You have to ride that particular adventure out; either solve it or leave it. You can’t go back on your own timeline and change something. Unless it’s DESPERATELY needed for a clever plot twist, and then they do! It’s one of one of those frequently broken “unbreakable” rules.

J: Fair enough. Let’s go ahead a wrap this up. We’ve got episode 4, “Before the Flood”, coming up next. That seems to imply that maybe a hatch is going to be left open and then the whole place is going to go to the fishes, so to speak.

B: I do like the idea of telling part of a story, and then going back and telling the first half of it, which is a device they do very cleverly on Doctor Who. I’m really counting on next week to redeem the whole situation.

J: One closing question before we go. Does the Doctor need oxygen to breathe?

B: He does not have to have oxygen. He has something called a respiratory bypass system, which allows him to shut down his lung functions and slip into a coma to survive. He’s done this multiple times. It’s like one of those tricks that Batman learned when he went to study with the League of Assassins as a young man.

ThatTimeOnDrWho 94

J: I was just wondering if the place does flood, and we saw his ghost body in the water, couldn’t he just go for a swim in the lake and survive for some period of time.

B: It is very likely that that could be the resolution.

J: OK, if someone wanted to find more of the aforementioned Doctor Who memes, they could go to… 

B: That Time on Doctor Who. Your one-stop-shop for your weekly Doctor Who fix! We apply the MST3K riffing-model to Doctor Who, one frame at a time.  The first sample (#94 shown here) is free. After that, they’re all still free. Hey, wait a second, I may be using the wrong business model here… 

J: All right. Come back next week for our Second Opinion on episode 4, “Before the Flood”.

#ThatTimeOnDrWho is created mostly weekly by Brent Kincade for Word of the Nerd Online!

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  1. I’ve Got Issues – But Who’s Your Chef? | WORST. COMIC. PODCAST. EVER!

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