Now that the angsty and entertaining two-part season premiere is in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to see what the rest of this season of Doctor Who has in store for us. And straightaway here, we are greeted with… another two-part episode! For folks who grew up on the classic DW and its multi-part stories (like I did), this should feel like a welcome return to “tune in next time” storytelling. I doubt we’ll ever see these multi-part arcs go beyond two episodes, thanks to the general lack of attention span in our internet-addled world these days, but we’ll take what we can get!
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly other episodes/seasons of Doctor Who. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: We open to an underwater mining facility – a submerged town in a lake in Scotland – in the not-too-distant future of 2119. Why a lake, you might ask? Well, Disney has already locked up the rights to “Under the Sea,” so a different body of water it is. Plus, we don’t necessarily need any singing mermaids or Rastafarian crabs in this episode… but I digress. The crew has found a ship of unknown origin on the lakebed floor, and upon bringing it onto the base, they discover that it’s alien with some strange markings. The groups’ leader, Moran, is killed saving another member’s life… but soon comes back to the base as a way spectral form, with another “ghost” in tow with him.
Where there’s supernatural smoke, of course, a Time Lord fire is soon to follow; when a less-than-thrilled TARDIS plunks the Doctor and Clara down on the base, the duo is ready to investigate the other-worldly phenomenon. After a bit of back and forth with the crew (with the corporate shill that nobody liked anyways turning into a third ghost) and some classic Doctor deduction, it’s discovered that the ghosts are acting as a sort of tempero-spatial distress call – yes, that phrase was completely made up just now. Before a full “make things right” plan can be put in place, however, the station’s computer flips out and opens the outer doors in an attempt to cool the nuclear reactor stowed on board.
The Doctor and Clara are separated by flood doors, so the Doctor follows what he believes is his only recourse: he heads back in time with the TARDIS to when the strange spaceship first landed, to try and solve the problem at its chronological source. Clara, left in the “present,” has full confidence in the Doctor’s abilities – until she sees him appear outside the base as a spectral form…
>>> It feels like we are really getting to dive deep into the idiosyncrasies of Twelve so far this season. The general curmudgeon-ness of his early post-regeneration days (something I actually sort of enjoyed, to be honest) has given way to a particularly quirky, crazy-uncle type of vibe. Clara seems to be riding the wave pretty well, even working hard to help the Doctor in his interactions with “lesser species.” It’s absolutely worth going back on your DVR and pausing to read the different “emotional cue cards” that Clara and the Doctor worked up – there are some doozies in there!
>>> Interesting that the first ghost, the alien “mole man,” is actually a member of a species we’ve encountered before – the Tivolians, as first seen during the Eleventh Doctor’s run. The Tivolians, you might remember, are a “society of cowards,” so it will be interesting to see if this plays into the Doctor’s interactions with Prentis (unnamed in this episode but credited as such for next week’s installment) the Tivolian in the “past.”
>>> Speaking of next week’s episode and the casting for it: the Internet Movie Database lists a character called “The Fisher King” for both this week’s and next week’s episode. While I’m not exactly sure who this character is or how he comes into play, it’s interesting to note that Part 2 has three different actors credited for the role, with a few names that genre fans might recognize: Neil Fingleton, aka “Mag the Mighty,” the massive giant warrior from the big “Northerners at the Wall” battle sequence onGame of Thrones; Peter Serafinowicz (as the voice of The Fisher King), aka Denarian Saal of the Nova Corps from Guardians of the Galaxy and Pete in Shaun of the Dead, among several other supporting roles; and Corey Taylor, a video game writer that has worked on iterations of the Guitar Hero, Final Fight, and Madden NFL series. Could “The Fisher King” be this unwieldy fellow shown below, that we’ve been getting glimpses of throughout the “This Season on Doctor Who” teasers?
>>> Love the featuring of Cass as a deaf character – but why did she want so badly to keep Lunn out of the ship? Side Fact: the actress who plays Cass, Sophie Stone, is deaf in real life.
>>> Listen – much like Missy and Clara getting “vaporized” by the Daleks in the season opener, no one really thinks that the Doctor coming back as a “ghost” at the end of this episode means that he’s died, yeah? One of the great side-effects of a multi-part episode is that it’s up to us intrepid viewers to try and figure out how to “connect the dots” and then see how right or wrong we were next week. So here’s my theory, for what it’s worth: remember how the Doctor couldn’t figure out who was inside the alien stasis chamber, but that it was definitely “something strange?” Well, let’s put two and two together: the Doctor’s a ghost, but we know he’s not dead-dead… so I’m putting my money on the Doctor himself being inside the stasis chamber. Perhaps he stashed the TARDIS somewhere in the town in the past, so that it could be retrieved in 2119 when he “wakes up.” It’s a very Back to the Future III type scenario, so my brain might be wandering that way naturally, since this month is celebrating “Back to the Future Day” (October 21, 2015)… it may not be the right answer, but this is the horse I’m betting on!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: A solid entry into the return of regular multi-part story arcs, this episode should please most fans of the series by being right in line with the style of story that’s come many times before. Next week’s conclusion, “Before the Flood,” should answer all our questions!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald