Chris Jordan is keeping up with series nine of The Doctor.
|"That's an extremely long recipe|
for some pot brownies!"
Being Human creator Toby Whithouse (who previously wrote some excellent Doctor Who episodes like School Reunion and The God Complex) has crafted an excellent story here, which had me hooked immediately with its unique genre blend. It’s a hybrid of one of my favorite horror sub-genres, the haunted house tale, and one of my favorite sci-fi sub-genres, the underwater base story (The Abyss, Michael Crichton’s novel Sphere). Taking a ghost story more typically suited to an old Victorian mansion and dropping it into a futuristic environment is always a lot of fun, but Whithouse doesn’t just play with cool genre possibilities; he crafts an honestly smart and compelling story. He keeps the action restrained and focuses on the cerebral, and keeps tightening the suspense with a sure-footed slow-burn menace.
This isn’t the sort of story where The Doctor merely runs around and says clever things; it’s all about investigating the whys and hows of the strange situation, with the precision of a detective digging into a foggy mystery. For those familiar with classic Doctor Who it evokes a bit of a Philip Hynchcliffe/Robert Holmes 4th Doctor-era feel; and for those unfamiliar, that’s an atmospheric hybrid of modern sci-fi with gothic horror and Sherlock Holmesian enigmas. Of course, the budget and visual strength of the new series gives it an edge over that era, with some genuinely ghostly villains and an underwater location that looks both magnificent and claustrophobia-inducing.
|"Are you Destro?"|
While the series premiere hooked us in with familiar Dalek-inhabited territory, Under the Lake sees series 9 break away from the safety of the show’s mythos and give us a story that is as new as it is really good. This should announce very firmly to anyone who had doubts that series 9 is getting off to a brilliant start. It is easily among Capaldi’s best, and is a clear reminder that Doctor Who is one of TV’s best genre shows.
- Christopher S. Jordan
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