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31 Days of Horror 2015: Doctor Who S09 E03: Under the Lake

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With the Davros diversion behind him, and Missy/The Master off cavorting with the Supreme Dalek back in time, we are somewhat back to status quo with “Doctor Who.” That is if we ignore the news of an upcoming new spin-off called “Class” about the kids at the Coal Hill School, we can go back to running around time and space with The Doctor and Clara. Meet me after the time and space jump when Biff Bam Pop’s 31 Days of Horror crosses over with “Doctor Who” and our heroes face ghosts “Under the Lake.”

Class

The new spin-off series is called “Class” and should appear on television sets worldwide in 2016. It will be set at the Coal Hill School in contemporary London. This locale will be familiar to “Doctor Who” fans both, forgive the pun, old school and new school. Coal Hill School is where the teachers Barbara and Ian taught, as well as where The First Doctor’s granddaughter Susan attended classes, and it’s also where Clara Oswald teaches currently, as first seen in the Fiftieth Anniversary Special.

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This new series, much like “The Sarah Jane Advntures,” will be geared toward a younger audience, just as the spin-off “Torchwood” was aimed at more mature viewers. As Jenna Coleman is leaving “Who” this season, she will probably not be involved in the project. Perhaps some of the more precocious students that we’ve seen in the last season or so could be candidates for players, but it would really rock to maybe have Ian or Barbara come back for a spin or two, don’t you think?

The Drum

In this first of a two-part story by Toby Whithouse (who also wrote a handful of other “Who” episodes including “The Vampires of Venice“), we open on an underwater base, which the caption names “The Drum Underwater Mining Facility” in 22th century Scotland. How many other hardcore fans held their breath for a second or two at the drum reference, thinking immediately of The Master? Yeah, I did too. Either way, the crew there at The Drum have discovered a black spaceship, and brought it on board.

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The crew have opened it, and are examining the small ship, while something has gotten out and is stalking them, possibly killing them one by one, and turning them into ghosts. Three days later, the TARDIS brings The Doctor and Clara to The Drum. It’s charming to see Pater Capaldi talking to the TARDIS in the same loving way Tom Baker used to. The impression goes from charming to amazing when I realize that that may be exactly what Capaldi is aiming for, and he’s pulling it off wonderfully. He’s Baker without the scarf and ‘fro.

Ghosts

When the alien and the first crew member to go begin stalking The Doctor and Clara with weapoms, they make a run for it and discover where the rest of the crew has been hiding. It’s your traditional “Who” space crew, although underwater this time, showing how much the folks over in the UK really miss stuff like “Blake’s 7.” One minor but refreshing difference this time is a crew member who is deaf and signing. As the one crew member ghost keeps moving his lips, I wonder at once at the connection. I loved how fannish some of the crew became when the psychic paper says The Doctor is The Doctor from UNIT. Interesting.

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The ghosts can’t get into the room where the crew has holed up, a room that blocks out radio waves. The Doctor immediately identifies the alien as being from Tivoli, the coward race who just surrender in order to survive, last and first seen in Whithouse’s Series Six episode “The God Complex,” in which the Matt Smith Doctor is trapped in a rather scary extra-dimensional hotel with Amy and Rory. Obviously, the alien is not behaving like its previous brothers who have met The Doctor.

Madman with a Box

Having finally slotted Capaldi in my mind as to what kind of Doctor he is playing, I suppose he has decided to throw a few monkey wrenches into that portrayal by spinning in the ‘madman with a box’ swagger that both Christopher Eccleston and Matt Smith used from time to time, that unexpected madness and alien-ness that has both endeared and alienated fans to the character. This is demonstrated by ‘the cards.’ Used by Clara as a guide on how to act human for The Doctor, it helps him be sympathetic. When done right, the alien Doctor works well, but sometimes, I really don’t care for it. Here, it makes me wonder if Missy wasn’t right about the pet idea she threw out in “The Magician’s Apprentice.”

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In the midst of explaining what ghosts might be, and apologizing for being insensitive, something bad happens – the TARDIS cloister bell goes off. This is never good. The first time I heard it was waaay back in “Castrovalva” when Tom Baker regenerated into Peter Davison and part of the TARDIS had to be jettisoned to survive. Not good. I’m really not sure what happens here. The Doctor and Clara enter the TARDIS and then leave – do they return at a different time maybe?

Day for Night

When the ghosts off another crew member, bringing their total to three, they also call for help, with many of us out here thinking of that moment in Return of the Living Dead where the zombies request via radio, “Send more paramedics.” If that’s what they want, The Doctor calls it off, and since the ghosts also want night mode on the station, he decides to give it to them. If they don’t know what the enemy wants, they’ll never know how to fight them. It’s a scary plan, and a risky one, but really, what else is The Doctor for?

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Through a fun game of cat and mouse, chills included, The Doctor and company finally trap the three ghosts in the radio wave-less chamber where they can’t harm anyone. I was right about the deaf factor, as the signing commander can read the ghost’s lips at this point. They are trying to tell us something. It’s a signal, a signal amplified by ghosts. The more ghosts, the more the signal is boosted. That’s why they wanted more paramedics, ahem, I mean, help.

Signs and Choices

Apparently this was well planned out by the pilot of the black ship, because, come on, we all knew the Tivolian definitely wasn’t the pilot, right? So this isn’t a distress call, it’s a signal for reinforcements, possibly an advance invasion fleet. The signs scratched into the inside of the ship are a psychic ‘earworm’ to ready everyone on the station to be components in the signal ‘device’ while the pilot sleeps. One assumes when the signal is strong enough the pilot will awaken.

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The ghosts begin to flood the station in order to add the rest of the crew to the signal, so it’s off to the TARDIS to escape, but closing security hatches separate our heroes. The Doctor promises to do what all of us fans always suggest he do in such situation – just go back in time before sh!t starts and fix it. When he agrees, I think we all know something will go wrong. And when the ghost of The Doctor approaches the station from the water outside… we know something has gone horribly, horribly wrong…

Next: The conclusion, Before the Flood!

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on October 3, 2015, in 31 Days Of Horror, Doctor Who, Glenn Walker, science fiction, television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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