Under the Lake Review
It’s tempting to call it ruthlessly traditional Doctor Who. I don’t think it is, mind you, but it’s certainly tempting to call it that. What it definitely is, however, is oddly procedural Doctor Who. There’s very little time spent on theme-building; even the big Doctor/Clara scene that the episode contrives to have them nip back to the TARDIS for is more just a character piece than something that feels like a heavily built thematic piece. And there’s not a heck of a lot of time spent building characters – the base crew are pretty underdeveloped compared to, say, Last Christmas, The Rebel Flesh, or The Impossible Planet, to the point where the Doctor rallying them to stay and explore the church feels slightly unearned as a scene. There’s not even a ton of plot. I mean, lots of things happen, but it’s no The Magician’s Apprentice or Dark Water, nor even The Rebel Flesh. Actually, one really has to rack one’s brain to think of the last time a whole episode was used to set up a premise this straightforward. The Sontaran Stratagem?
No, even that has more moving parts than this, an episode that is more interested in lengthy scenes in which characters watch grainy green-tinged footage on a computer monitor or an extended corridor relay race than in what we normally describe as “doing anything” in television. I don’t think I’ve ever wondered so much what the Tumblr gifset crowd is going to make of an episode.
The real answer to the question, then, is probably… ooh, Curse of Fenric 1? (Survival has a pretty complex premise.) Or hell, the last actual proper base under siege, Warriors of the Deep 1? Certainly you have to look to the classic series to find anything as willing to spend quite this long on people fiddling with machines on a BBC soundstage. It’s just not something Doctor Who does much, as television. For the most part this has generally struck me as a good thing, although there’s certainly a brand of traditionalism that would say otherwise.
And yet there’s no obvious reference point for this in the classic series. It doesn’t feel like a McCoy story or a Davison story. It’s tempting to call anything that’s a base under siege a Troughton story, but no, this isn’t how one of those works or feels either. Indeed, its basic formula is unmistakably a new series standard – the action-heavy setup to a premise-changing cliffhanger.
The result makes a credible claim to being Whithouse’s best work in years, and I think actually shows a really interesting perspective on the series. Recall that Whithouse, when he debuted on the series nearly a decade ago, noted that he’d not been a classic series fan. Indeed, and this is a fact that I don’t think has been remarked upon much, he was the first new series writer for whom their episode was the first Doctor Who they’d ever done; the literal first of the new school. And so this feels, rather fascinatingly, like a classic series homage written by someone for whom the classic series is a slightly alien thing; like Doctor Who being written as a second language. Certainly it’s unlike anything Whithouse has done before, wholly lacking in the post-Moorean white male heroes angstily being confronted by the fact that the villains are their mirror images that are his usual default mode. It’s tempting to say “hey, it’s the writer of No Angels again,” although I don’t think it’s passed the Bechdel test yet, and also this isn’t a sex comedy. (I suspect one of these things will change next week.)
Whithouse’s alien perspective on the classic series is balanced interestingly by Capaldi, who seems to genuinely enjoy these long stretches of standard issue material to enliven. I suggested this was a very procedural episode, and it’s tempting to compare it to those American shows that take a medium-name film actor and put them through twenty-two formulaic baddie-of-the-week stories; The Blacklist for instance. Like Spader in that, Capaldi is taking obvious pleasure in finding new ways to do straightforward things. What struck me in particular, watching him is that, very much unlike Smith and Tennant, he doesn’t have a default timing and rhythm for his exposition sequences, which is what’s usually the thing that most makes an actor feel like they’re on autopilot. And a lot of credit for that goes to Coleman, who’s underserved for the second episode running here, but whose depth of understanding with Capaldi is such that everything feels tremendously confident.
A whole lot is going to depend on the second episode, at least in terms of how this story evaluates. But as an hour of television, this is my favorite of the season so far. It felt much longer than it was, but not in a way that ever felt boring; it was just that none of the plot beats felt like we were getting closer to the cliffhanger right up until the cliffhanger suddenly started to intrude when the base flooded. Notably, after two deaths to get things started the cast proves remarkably resilient, and so there’s not the growing body count to provide any sort of internal clock for the episode; an unusual feature for a base under siege. The decision to keep the tone on “mystery to solve” instead of “growing crisis” is a novel one.
All in all, then, for a story that at its outset proclaims its intention to be standard-issue Doctor Who it finds a surprisingly large number of new ways to do things. It remains the case that the seven episodes most likely to end up at the top of my season ranking are still ahead, but I found myself delighted at the wealth of little surprises here.
- Speaking of new ways to do things, all of the applause for the decision to include a disabled character, doubly so for making her the base commander for most of the episode. And played by, looking at it, a deaf actress, so triply awesome.
- Less awesome: killing the black guy first. Come on, guys. A commitment to diversity means not just putting effort into casting, but keeping an active eye out for unfortunate tropes.
- The Doctor’s claim that nobody was surprised to hear what the ghosts were saying is strangely undermined by the fact that the Doctor is visibly surprised to hear what the ghosts are saying. Also puzzling – why nobody just set the base into day mode permanently. And, in a somewhat more macro view, why ghosts are particularly surprising after the Nethersphere, doubly so because the Nethersphere gets namechecked. Meanwhile, in the “not puzzling but awkward” department, the hologram technology should probably have had some sort of appearance prior to its usage to resolve the chase scene.
- Mind you, I was delighted to see the old school completely senseless use of constellations for interstellar navigation. Beaming directions into space based on Orion’s Sword, an arrangement of three stars that is linear only from Earth’s perspective is and which therefore cannot possibly also be an arrow pointing at Earth is, of course, scientifically absurd in ways that the moon being an egg can only dream of. Double points for getting the fact that one of the stars is a nebula right despite this.
- But all of this gets to a curious point about this episode, which is that for all its procedural elements it doesn’t actually cohere as the investigation of a mystery. I’m not of the school of thought that calls this a problem, although my usual go-to explanation for why a thing that defies conventional logic this much works, “the plot beats are all in the right places,” doesn’t really apply to something this shapeless. Instead the defense is something along the lines of “this isn’t a story about a science fiction mystery, it’s a story about watching Peter Capaldi investigate a thing in a very stripped down structure and setting.”
- Which means that we do have to give some real credit to Daniel O’Hara, whose direction is studiously unflashy in a way that suits this story. There’s no visual trickery or ostentatious editing – just a clear and straightforward showcase for the actors, which is exactly what this episode needs.
- The cards were a bit of a damp squib of a joke. I’ve already seen some decent readings of them on Tumblr in terms of Clara’s character and what it means that she’s so half-assing it, and that’s a very sly redemptive reading, but it really feels more like the writers are half-assing it there.
- So the Doctor’s in the capsule in suspended animation, which is sufficient to “power” the ghost, right?
- Also, fun fact, with this episode the Moffat era draws level with the Davies era in episode count; Before the Flood will be the sixty-first episode of the Moffat era, and the point where there’s more of it than the Davies era. Still a good few years before he passes Nathan-Turner, although he’ll pass Letts (counting a twenty-five minute episode as a half episode in new series terms) later this season to pull into second place in the all-time rankings.
Funny Quote From Someone Posting in the #moffat hate Tag on Tumblr
“42 done wrong”
- Under the Lake
- The Magician’s Apprentice
- The Witch’s Familiar
October 3, 2015 @ 8:41 pm
I found that line from the trailer “It’s impossible, I hate it. It’s evil, it’s astonishing. I want to kiss it to death.” I felt like there needed to be something bigger or more surprising going on, so that when he said that line, I just had a feeling of “oh, that’s it?” Bit underwhelming.
The episode felt long but not boring, and I’m definitely intrigued to see where this goes next week.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:21 pm
Mm I thought the whole angle of “The Doctor is fascinated and intrigued by these IMPOSSIBLE creatures that not even the TARDIS will go near!” didn’t quite land. Well, more to the point, it was blatant bullshitting for time (and seemed to betray a slight lack of confidence in the premise). Not that we don’t need a sense of wonder in the show, but you expect me to believe Doctor Who’s never encountered something as straightforward as ghostly people before? Come on!
October 3, 2015 @ 9:24 pm
I’m mainly pleased about seeing this episode continue this series’ evident commitment to passing the Scottish Bechdel Test, in which two named Scottish characters have a conversation about something other than the English.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:16 am
McBechdel Test, please.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:28 pm
Not sure what you were watching, but it wasn’t this episode. Slow burners burn slowly to increase tension. This isn’t some formulaic tosh like CSI, or move from one action sequence to the next like Librarians.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:39 pm
But tension doesn’t build. The situation doesn’t actually worsen for most of the episode, then gets suddenly and jarringly worse when the base floods. The two main plot beats are the annoying guy dying and the monsters getting captured. That’s not a slow burn, that’s a meander through a situation with gradually lessening danger.
October 4, 2015 @ 12:57 am
For me, the tension was in the continual peeling back of the mystery only to become more obscure and mysterious. Each time they open the Mystery Box, there’s another Mystery Box inside. And so the mysteries only continue to… progress, like fractals of Orion’s Sword, or perhaps as a Vector.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:42 pm
Full marks for them casting a deaf actress to play a deaf character, but the staging in a number of those scenes was irritating, as was the Doctor spontaneously forgetting ASL when he travels in a magical phone box that never fails to translate a language unless it’s super plot-relevant.
Speaking of the untranslatable, a fair China Mieville vibe with the infectious language on the ship. He did a story like that, years ago, whose name I can’t recall.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:47 pm
“Buscard’s Murrain,” appearing in ‘The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases”
October 3, 2015 @ 10:12 pm
Also Grant Morrison has a love of words that are sentient and get into your brain, diseases of language, etc…
October 4, 2015 @ 12:59 am
Upon the word “earworm” I immediately thought of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:38 am
Thanks a bunch for setting off that train of thought. Now I’ve got the Jurassic Park theme.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:50 pm
October 5, 2015 @ 4:43 am
An elevated starting-point does not ensure an elevated destination.
October 4, 2015 @ 6:18 am
BSL, man – British Sign Language.
Tch, colonials. 😉
October 4, 2015 @ 11:01 am
Interesting. Is there much of a difference, do you know? I must confess to a whole raft of ignorance on the subject. I figured anyone speaking sign language in English would be speaking ASL as I was under the impression it was developed here first.
Watching the episode with my wife, the problem he had was that Twelve never faced Cass when he was talking, sometimes even phrasing his dialogue at her translator, which is incredibly rude and–particularly based on how this plot hinged–short-sighted.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:52 pm
According to Wikipedia, BSL first began to be codified in the eighteenth century based on roots going back to around 1570. It seems that the American minister who researched deaf teaching in Europe in 1815 was rejected by the British schools, resulting in ASL having a 60% similarity to modern French Sign Language but for the most part being entirely distinct from BSL.
October 4, 2015 @ 6:47 pm
I’m not familiar enough with ASL to know many differences, beyond the alphabet being one-handed in ASL. I imagine there is some crossover though, what with so many signs being based on ‘common sense’ interpretations of how words could be conveyed via hand movements.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:47 pm
According to the above link, ASL has 31% signs identical, or 44% cognate with BSL.
October 5, 2015 @ 5:32 am
My last flatmate was a BSL translator and he said he could only understand a few signs in ASL.
October 6, 2015 @ 11:20 am
It’s also worth bearing in mind that being a translator is a skill in and of itself. I have a Deaf sister and we communicate just fine, but since I don’t really have much interaction with other Deaf people my signing can be quite sloppy, and there’s simply no way I could perform on the level of say, the woman who functioned as my sister’s signer at University. She was shit hot at her job and knocked my signing into a cocked hat.
There’s also the fact that, since we’e grown up together, in a way our sign language is very personal; we often have shortcuts for various objects or subjects that we’ve effectively invented ourselves – something I have to bear in mind on the occasions I do meet other Deaf people (for instance through work).
October 8, 2015 @ 9:05 pm
My brother in law is a Sign Interpreter, here in Australia. When he lived and worked in London for a few years he had to learn BSL (having learned Auslan here, obviously).
Funny thing was, when he was working, all the BSL natives informed him that he had an “Australian accent” when signing BSL.
I didn’t know a thing about sign before getting to know him, but it’s stories like that which spin my head and make be delighted with how little I know about the world.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:49 am
Pure pedantry, but I’m pretty sure Cass speaks BSL not ASL.
The idea the TARDIS can’t do guesture languages makes sense to me; we already know it doesn’t translate Delphonian eyebrow-waggling or Terseron wind-breaking.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:50 am
Oops, sorry, I somehow didn’t notice Alex had already pointed that out.
October 4, 2015 @ 1:30 pm
Pedantry is fine, after all it’s how Moffat keeps winning BAFTAs.
October 8, 2015 @ 8:09 am
The Tenth Doctor was able to speak “Judoon” when he visited “The Shadow Proclamation” in “The Stolen Earth”. It was never explained why the TARDIS didn’t translate.
October 4, 2015 @ 1:59 pm
What’s weirder still is that the “it’s super-important this isn’t translated” trope does show up in this episode and yet the Doctor never thinks to ask why, exactly, BSL isn’t translated.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:58 pm
Expanding on Daibhid C’s point, I find it difficult to imagine what the translation of a non-spoken/written language would sound or look like to someone who only understood spoken and written languages.
October 4, 2015 @ 6:52 pm
For what it’s worth, in my webcomic I feature a Deaf character (played -it’s a photo-comic – by my actually-Deaf sister) and have her words translated in the same old way that foreign languages are usually translated in comics (
) – with some assumed translation going on when she speaks to other characters. Though the fact that she isn’t actually speaking out loud is the basis of a joke at one point.
*Translated from BSL
October 6, 2015 @ 1:54 am
Matt L.: “… the Doctor spontaneously forgetting ASL …”.
Having just read comments on ‘The Lodger’ about the Eleventh Doctor seeming to suddenly forget many aspects of contemporary British society, I’m struck by the Doctor’s explanation here when he realises he can’t speak sign after all: “It’s been deleted. For semaphore.”
Perhaps he deliberately deletes knowledge to make room for new stuff or perhaps this is something that occurs during regeneration. Either could explain his widely fluctuating abilities and cognisance over the years.
October 3, 2015 @ 9:43 pm
Speaking of new things, did I hear Murray Gold going into somewhat new territory for Doctor Who during those action sequences?
October 8, 2015 @ 1:40 pm
The music was really good in this – a bit of Peter Howell synth, a bit of John Carpenter throb. I liked it!
October 3, 2015 @ 9:57 pm
Totally agreed that this is Whithouse’s best script so far. Maybe the Moff has retooled it, though I doubt it, given his practice of sharing credit after a radical revision. He does seem to have dropped his usual focus on male anti-hero angst to explore some of the better story ideas in The God Complex, like generating suspense from the dynamic of being hunted.
I think that’s what keeps the story exciting, even though there’s actually very little plot in this episode. It keeps you in suspense through every sequence. A big help of the director, of course, but you still need a script that’s trying to do this before you can succeed.
And I loved the comedy touches with the odd little branding efforts of the oil company, like officially sponsoring the emergency flood sequence.
Anyway, piggybacking on your reviews again, Phil. My weird philosophical explorations of this week’s Doctor Who. I’m mostly talking about the nature of memory as a process in this story, and how this week’s monster makes it so horrifying.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:02 pm
“He does seem to have dropped his usual focus on male anti-hero angst to explore some of the better story ideas in The God Complex, like generating suspense from the dynamic of being hunted.” There’s still that bit at the end with the minotaur being all like “you and I are alike because this is a Whithouse script”, though. It just takes a backseat for a large chunk of the story.
October 3, 2015 @ 11:31 pm
There’s, umm… a lot of mirroring in this episode.
October 3, 2015 @ 11:33 pm
The phrase “mirror shades” has never been quite so pregnant with meaning.
October 3, 2015 @ 11:47 pm
I’m sure I was far from the only person who thought several times throughout, “Jane’s going to have a field day with this one!”
October 4, 2015 @ 12:04 am
The angsty white male hero (the Doctor) has a mirror in Clara. Which isn’t anything new, actually, not with Clara and not even with Companions in general: Amy was certainly the Doctor’s mirror in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
October 4, 2015 @ 12:31 am
The Ghosts won’t kill Lunn, because he hasn’t read the inscription inside the spaceship.
Lunn has a mirror role, repeating everything Cass says, and everything said for Cass. Translating audio into image. Kind of like the Sonic Sunglasses.
Lunn is a topographic name, a variation of Lund, which means “someone who lives by a Grove.” So he’s associated with Trees. Hmmm.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:23 am
Unless this was brought up in the episode, great catch. Wonder if there’s anything more to the base commander intentionally keeping Lunn out of there.
October 4, 2015 @ 4:16 pm
There are clues in the performances. The actual answer is stated quite plainly on the BBC Website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/5C5M2fmt6YChDt5qHfp1r8X/cass.
Something else I learned from a video on the site is that Zaqi Ismail, playing Lunn, has a deaf sister, and that they created new signs for terms which do not exist in BSL.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:28 am
A definite classic series gag: the base-under-siege is, as the first thing we see on the screen tells us, a mining operation. Even though it’s oil exploration, which nobody actually refers to as mining.
Actually, it occurs to me just now that if you take the standard classic-Who setting and shoot it in the standard classic-Who location, you get a mine in a quarry.
October 4, 2015 @ 2:34 am
For a character with so little to do, the camera didn’t half spend a lot of time staring at Clara. Which would be a signal for hefty Clara stuff next week, even if the cliffhanger didn’t point that way anyway, with the Doctor’s ostensible death leaving her to take over the Docotoring a la Flatline (and as pointed to by the episode’s explicit reference to her Doctorishness), take stock of her life now he’s apparently gone etc.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:19 am
Less awesome: killing the black guy first.
My jaw hit the floor. In the first scene? How did no one notice that? I mean, Darwin in X-Men: First Class made me check my watch to see which century we were in, but even there he at least made it half-way or so.
Also puzzling – why nobody just set the base into day mode permanently.
Presumably because interfering with the day/night cycle causes the base to think about it for quite a while and then AUTOMATICALLY FLOOD ITSELF. Which neatly and convincingly clears that one up, I’d say.
The Doctor’s claim that nobody was surprised to hear what the ghosts were saying is strangely undermined by the fact that the Doctor is visibly surprised to hear what the ghosts are saying.
Also by the way Cass stumbled through interpreting the words, when they ought to have slotted intuitively into place.
Orion’s Sword, an arrangement of three stars that is linear only from Earth’s perspective is and which therefore cannot possibly also be an arrow pointing at Earth
Also, even from Earth’s perspective the “line” doesn’t point at us – if it did, we wouldn’t see as a line at all, just a single star. Also, why say “the sword” when it’s actually the belt you’re talking about? Also, the nebula isn’t one of the three stars of the belt, it’s the fuzzy bit underneath, which is the actual sword. Also, how does “the forsaken” specifically signify “flooded village in Caithness”? Also…oh, I give up. Wrongness on an appropriately astronomical scale.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:35 am
Black actor has really intimidating face, he’s better off as a ghost.
And really, I’m pretty sure England has larger number Middle-Eastern minority, yet they almost never appear. It was nice of them to have Interpretor guy stick around.
October 4, 2015 @ 11:38 am
It’s not so much about the minority status as the horror story stereotype status. It’s an old joke (at least in North American culture) that you never want to be the black guy in a horror movie because the black guy always dies first. Even before the people who have sex in a slasher movie. The black dude doesn’t even survive long enough to have sex.
So goes the bleak humour of discussing race in horror film contexts. But it added up to what I found interesting about the episode. It begins in such a stereotypical way that it lowered my expectations even further than they already were, given that Toby Whithouse was writing a base under siege. Then the nature of the monsters and the mystery they were unravelling drew me into the story, precisely because my expectations were so low.
October 4, 2015 @ 12:52 pm
I get the joke, though I don’t remember this actually being any kind of pattern. Not since I was born anyway.
October 4, 2015 @ 7:49 pm
at least in North American culture
I’d suggest that this is quite an important qualifier.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:57 am
“Also, even from Earth’s perspective the “line” doesn’t point at us – if it did, we wouldn’t see as a line at all, just a single star. Also”
That’s the really weird bit; the Doctor goes to great lengths to indicate that the sword pointing to Earth only works from an outside perspective, and indeed that you can use parallax to work out where the sword would look like that and therefore where the aliens are from.
Which all makes perfect sense on a purely logical level, only to become nonsense on stilts if you actually compare it to Orion.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:48 am
Given that the reference to Orion is not actually based on anything remotely resembling science, may I suggest that it instead serves several other functions?
First, it’s an homage to Robots of Death, where the Doctor explains dimensional transcendentalism to Leela.
Second, it’s a reference to the mythological Orion, a hunter borne of Poseidon who could walk on water, and who was temporarily blinded — like, presumably, the Doctor, and/or whatever alien is actually behind all this.
Third, the scene used a Vector Petroleum chip to represent Earth, with a Flame logo, possibly foreshadowing a fiery threat to the planet. Or maybe a cute reference to global warming?
October 4, 2015 @ 11:23 am
Vector = magnitude + direction. Vectors point at things, and indicate direction of travel.
A vector can also stand for the way in which a contagion is transmitted eg mosquitos are a malaria vector.
October 6, 2015 @ 2:46 am
“Less awesome: killing the black guy first.”
Tricky one. Nothing in the dialogue, or presumably the script directions, refers to Moran specifically as black. On the other hand, the script is quite specific that he dies first. So in order to avoid what appears like racism, you would theoretically have had to exclude non-white actors for consideration for the part. Which looks a lot like racism…
October 6, 2015 @ 11:15 am
I don’t get what’s hard about this.
Cast literally anyone else in the “dies first” role. Cast a black actor or two in one of the other roles. Hell, let him be the annoying nervous sciencey dude and play against stereotype.
Here’s some further reading for anyone who’s puzzled by the US reaction to this sort of thing:
October 6, 2015 @ 12:34 pm
Oh, I get it, I do. But as I say, the only way to avoid that is to restrict the casting to white (and presumably male) actors only). And that’s opening up a whole other can of racism.
It is interesting for me, as a British liberal, to see how much more sensitive American liberals are to the perception of racism. I heard the same thing (on this blog, I think) about the Doctor repeatedly calling Danny Pink “PE”, as though he wasn’t capable of teaching anything more demanding. The first thing I thought of was the British stereotype about ex-soldiers in education; the first thing many of my American friends thought of was a racially-based insult. Britain certainly isn’t free of racism, but it doesn’t see it everywhere (mostly).
And the trouble is, in order to avoid the “troubling visual”, as I think Mr Sandifer put it, you either erase a running gag that importantly plays into the theme of the Doctor’s antipathy towards soldiers, or you make sure the actor you cast as Danny is white. And I don’t see how that’s any better than the show’s current ‘colour blind’ approach to casting. Yes, some non-white people will die. It’s Doctor Who, lots of people die. Would you rather we kept a strict ethnic ratio, and limited the casting of certain characters to certain ethnicities? Because I don’t see how that’s any better, to be honest.
October 6, 2015 @ 4:38 pm
“… the first thing many of my American friends thought of was a racially-based insult. Britain certainly isn’t free of racism, but it doesn’t see it everywhere (mostly).”
As I wrote below, I think this might in part be due to racial politics seeming far more heated in the US than in Britain. Some of this might be because far fewer British people are descended from slaves or slave owners and thus we never experienced the kind of Civil Rights movement seen in the U.S. Another aspect might be that we’ve been accustomed to being multiracial for so many centuries along with intermixing with other European and Nordic people since before the Romans arrived, Indeed, most racism I notice in Britain seems to be rooted in an historically absurd xenophobia about cultural contamination rather than any notion of racial purity or genetic superiority (which I sense is more common across the Atlantic).
October 7, 2015 @ 1:37 am
the only way to avoid that is to restrict the casting to white (and presumably male) actors only
I disagree — I think this trope is something that disproportionately affects black actors. But even so, I don’t think it really qualifies as “racism” to cast a white male in this particular role, or even another actor of color in a cast that is otherwise this diverse.
Would you rather we kept a strict ethnic ratio, and limited the casting of certain characters to certain ethnicities?
No, dude, like I say, all you have to do to appease us “sensitive American liberals” — or at least me — is don’t cast a black dude as the guy who has like three lines and is killed off in the pre-credits sequence. That’s literally all you have to do to avoid this particular problematic trope.
The Doctor’s antipathy toward soldiers was, I thought, problematic for an entirely different reason, i.e. it was a ham-fisted idea shoved gracelessly into a lot of episodes which were not improved by it, and disappointingly paid off at the end of the line. But that’s me again, of course, not everyone else; I don’t think the objections I didn’t raise to the treatment of Danny (a pretty terrific character from start to finish) are relevant to my remarks about how to fix this very specific and yes, probably very American problem that is nevertheless still part of how we perceive the show and not irrelevant just because diversity is hard.
October 7, 2015 @ 1:51 am
All that said: again, speaking just for me, I’m not calling for anyone’s head on a platter over it. It didn’t ruin this episode for me any more than it did in “The Magician’s Apprentice.” But I did in both cases experience a subjective reaction of “oh cool, I’m looking forward to spending some time with this character” — I liked both of them, as well as being glad to see diversity in casting — and was immediately disappointed when they were killed off. And sure, seeing an appealing character played by a charismatic actor killed off is more affecting than seeing a boring one killed off, though I think seeing them not killed off is affecting in a different way.
I guess in a way I’m less bothered by the fact that both of these first halves killed off the black men first than I am by how full this comments section suddenly is of people defending that choice. I don’t think it deserves passionate defense any more than it deserves unyielding condemnation.
October 7, 2015 @ 2:11 am
It might be that you’re referring to two unrelated matters above but your comments lead me to wonder whether you would prefer the first victim to be an appealing white character or a boring black one.
Few if any of the comments here repudiating the significance of a racist reading have struck me as being particularly passionate.
October 7, 2015 @ 11:56 pm
Perhaps not passionate so much as surplus to requirements.
To answer your question: I’d ideally have liked a boring white male character to be the first victim. Apart from the “he was our friend” moment, very little hinges on the new ghost actually being someone we liked (the Carter Burke analog proving the point) and it would actually have been slightly more interesting for the crew to feel somewhat guilty that they’re not sadder about his death. And it’s much worse to be haunted by someone you didn’t particularly like than to be haunted by someone you did, if you must be haunted at all.
Or failing that, the scaredy sciency dude. It would have been far more interesting to swap the two actors in those roles anyway, changing nothing else.
October 8, 2015 @ 2:46 am
Pah! You’ve evaded the dilemma 🙂
The crew is also being haunted by someone (I think) they didn’t like: Pritchard. I suppose they could have been killed in opposite order but then we would not have seen why he was unlikeable.
I think the sciency dude might have a scene this weekend that plays on or against the impression of his being the scaredy one much more than would have been effective if he was Moran instead.
And… Ha! The captcha machine must be watching the same story. It has just given me ‘LUNN’ (correcting my earlier misspelling of the character’s name).
October 8, 2015 @ 7:45 pm
I misspelled his name too in my review. I knew I was wrong somehow, but didn’t bother to look it up. I don’t get subtitles now that I’m watching the show on BBC America, but I do get the WORST commercials.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:36 am
Big painting of a serpent attacking vikings will become important, if not episode then later in the season. In fact… that’s a lot of vikings, isn’t it? Are we doing something Series 1-esque where every episode is basically built around the same collection of landmarks? Hmmmmm…
The ghosts are great. The bit about them only touching metal lands home for the viewer in the same way it does the doctor (“I didn’t notice that I noticed that”), they’re constantly shot in a creepy way (oh no, someone’s facing away from the camera and not responding to other characters trying to get their attention~!), and the eye effect is actually the second time we’ve seen that. The first time was also the result of a crashed spaceship messing with biology, though it was easy to miss: the titular Empty Child was actually hollow once you got a good look in the lenses.
So, next episode is set in a Scottish military base covered in Lenin posters? The future is weird.
Clara’s seen Aliens enough time to know she can’t trust the company man. She eyeballs him when he leaves, and clearly suspects he’s got something to do with things getting worse at the base, though of course he ends up killed second. Strangely, given how much the episode leans on the audience making the same connection, he’s not killed in a way that particularly condemns his actions, he’s killed for doing the same thing the rest of the characters do at the end of the episode. Fitting an episode taking place underwater has such a plump and delicious red herring.
Funny enough, I came and got on the computer and the first thing on my shuffle was The Poet and the Muse by the Old Gods of Asgard, which is all about spooky things lurking at the bottom of a lake.
October 4, 2015 @ 3:55 am
The company man (Pritchard, was he?) died because he went out on his own to look for valuable stuff. In a sense, he did brought it on himself.
October 4, 2015 @ 11:56 am
I think Pritchard found the missing Power Tube, which was left behind in the airlock.
October 4, 2015 @ 12:07 pm
I didn’t notice if he brought anything back or not. This didn’t really seem important anyway.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:18 am
Were they vikings? I saw a redshirt, a gold shirt and a blue shirted person and immediately thought I was looking at some Star Trek crew!
October 4, 2015 @ 4:26 am
I can handwave the dodgy astronomy but why would aliens call it ‘Orion’s Sword’ in the first place? Unless we’re suggesting that Greco/Roman mythology is universal. Which would be a whole lot more interesting than what we’ve got in this episode.
Unless the hologram technology is going to return to play a part in the denouement, that scene with the hologram-Clara really came out of nowhere. I mean, in a way, I like the fact that, possibly, Whithouse decided it would be boring to adhere to Checkov’s gun but if we’re already using a half corporeal see through ghost effect for the monsters, introducing a half corporeal see through ghost effect to fool them is a bit shonky. Although it does make one wonder how these ‘ghosts’ actually see anything. What with having no eyes n’all.
I think I might be enjoying this series’ recurring theme of eyes mirrored by the eyeless. (The handmines, Davros’s peek a boo eye sockets, the sonic shades, the black eye sockets of the ghosts, many circular portholes, screens etc) if I didn’t suspect our own jane has more to say about it than the writers would if questioned.
Not my favourite episode of the season. It seemed like an episode of Doctor Who written by someone who’d never seen Doctor Who but had only had it described to them. Which, in a way, given the themes of language and translation in the narrative is oddly apt. I can only hope that’s deliberate and the second part will bring redemption. There’s a really good Doctor Who two parter to be written where the second part has the Doctor travel back in time to affect the events of the first. I fear that this won’t be it.
October 4, 2015 @ 4:39 am
Also I may be wrong but I doubt if Whithouse’s script specifies the ethnicity of the characters so ‘killing the black guy first’ is a fault of the casting director not the writer. I suspect the actor was cast for his imposing physique more than his skin colour but that suggests its own awkward questions doesn’t it? In Who, the ‘big strong black man monstered’ trope harks right back to Tomb of the Cybermen and we should be over it by now.
October 4, 2015 @ 5:00 am
There is also the possibility that he isn’t really dead. Putting aside timeywimey shenanigans, we can presume the Doctor won’t spend the rest of the series as incorporeal nocturnal zombie but will return to life. That does open up a possibility of a return for the others. But yeah, black guy dies first.
October 4, 2015 @ 4:41 am
You heard it here, folks. Phil predicts the second part will be a sex comedy.
October 4, 2015 @ 5:02 am
It’d certainly be an improvement.
October 4, 2015 @ 6:23 am
So, Clara was strung up by Missy last week, and we had “Don’t leave me hanging” this week…
October 4, 2015 @ 6:33 am
Surely 42 itself is 42 done wrong?
October 4, 2015 @ 7:44 am
Really enjoyed it, oddly – normally base-under-sieges tend to lose my interest at one point or another, but this kept me intrigued throughout.
I do think Whithouse missed a trick though: the “dark, sword, forsaken, temple” could have been better foreshadowed by just slipping the terms into the dialogue. Not obnoxiously so, but enough to on thinking back actually sell the idea that they really had been planted subconsciously into everyone who had seen the runes. Otherwise it’s very much ass-pull-y that they’d all apparently not been surprised by it.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:33 am
I’m not sure I get the criticism of them apparently “killing the black guy first”. I guess they could have killed Arsher Ali or Zaqi Ismail first – but no, that’d be killing “the black guy” first too. Or were those actors not black enough for you all? Or did they cast too many black guys? The mind boggles.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:44 am
Those men aren’t black, they’re from the middle east. There’s an entirely different racial context with them than there is with a black man.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:03 am
Personally I’m a fan of any decision that lets Colin McFarlane be a bad guy, he needs to be in more stuff. He’s one of those actors that always makes a big impression on me when he appears but he doesn’t seem to have been in that much.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:10 am
Possibly Colin McFarlane – who IMHO is a pretty big deal for Doctor Who – agreed to do the show only if he got to be one if the monsters. I can’t imagine anyone having the balls to say “no, because you are black” to him.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:05 am
“Middle East” is a vaguely-defined region, “black” is a colour, Arsher Ali was born in Nottingham UK.
If someone would like to explain how a London-born actor of colour is more of a “black man” than a Nottingham-born actor of colour without being racist, I’d like to hear it.
October 4, 2015 @ 1:57 pm
I mean, because “Black” is usually a term we use for people of sub-Saharan African descent, and not for people of South Asian descent? Or maybe that’s an American thing?
October 4, 2015 @ 10:09 pm
I think it must be.
But in that case, why would you not just call them “African” then?
October 5, 2015 @ 12:12 am
Because “African” is generally used to mean people or things directly from Africa. It includes both northern and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Black” is used to indicate people both immediately and indirectly from sub-Saharan, but not North, Africa, including the African diaspora.
The origins of the words aren’t really the point, as language is dynamic, and words can take on different and nuanced meanings over time.
October 5, 2015 @ 10:41 am
I’m not concerned with the origins of the word either, I’m concerned that a group of people can say “Black is sub-Saharan, but not North, Africa” when it’s hardly obscure to point out that “Black” is a colour first and foremost, and perhaps you’re failing to take into account that different countries and cultures – including the one that originates the TV show under discussion – define “black people” differently to the USA.
To me “black people” refers to the colour of their skin. They could be Pakistani’s, they could be Jamaican, they could have no idea where their ancestry is from. There are plenty of english people who would be hugely offended if you told them they couldn’t call themselves “black” just because their ancestry doesn’t fit the American view of the word.
October 5, 2015 @ 4:01 pm
‘Black’, as applied to humans, seems to be what I call a Four Letter Word, rather like ‘love’, ‘drug’ or ‘intelligence’: a term that means very different things to different people. As someone of sub-Saharan African descent (although, ultimately, who isn’t?), I describe myself as ‘black’ in some situations but feel disinclined to do so in others. I similarly described myself as ‘gay’ in some (mostly political) circumstances despite feeling very little kinship to ‘gay culture’ and my attractions not even being exclusively homosexual.
I think I understand ‘gay’ in a broad political sense; ‘black’ somewhat less. This might in part be due to racial politics seeming far more heated in the US than in Britain, possibly because of the history of slavery.
I’m reminded of Lenny Henry’s experience in Hollywood when he was filming ‘True Identity’. He was apparently bemused by people calling him ‘African-American’ despite his quite obviously being neither.
October 8, 2015 @ 1:55 pm
I remember an art history teacher I had once, discussing the Manet painting “Olympia,” talking about her having an African-American maid. Despite being from France. I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly came out of my skull (more eye imagery, Jane!).
October 5, 2015 @ 5:42 pm
That may be how you use the language, but it’s not how most British people do. I don’t think you’d find many (South) Asian people in the UK today who would identify as “black”, especially ones who aren’t over 40 and a bit old-fashioned, and as for other ethnic groups without sub-Saharan ancestry, I’d be a bit surprised to find anyone. There was once a trend for using “black” to mean “non-white”, expressing a kind of pan-minority solidarity, but that was pretty much a 70s/80s thing. (One of its few conspicuous relics is the now rather incongruous-sounding Asian women’s group Southall Black Sisters.)
These days, I’d say the only significant transatlantic difference in what the term is generally taken to mean is the greater American tendency to apply it to people who in Britain might identify as mixed-race (or dual-heritage or whatever).
This discussion is starting to sound a bit like the one we had about The Caretaker, and as on that occasion, I think the “you Americans just don’t understand how it works here” argument is rather overblown.
October 5, 2015 @ 6:14 pm
Should probably just make clear that my “you” was addressed to ferret.
October 6, 2015 @ 7:24 am
Well I guess you’re right and I’m a wrong over-40 not-black-in-your-book British born person then. Obviously I am “overblowing” my point of view simply because it does not concur with yours. All hail our under-40 American cultural overlords.
October 6, 2015 @ 7:28 am
Oh additionally, you might like to visit Australia some time and go on a speaking tour to educate all the Aboriginals to stop calling themselves “Black” as they’re too far south of sub-Saharan Africa. See how far you get.
October 6, 2015 @ 4:48 pm
I think Aylwin was referring specifically to British and USAmerican usages, although I suspect the reality is more complex than Aylwin suggests. And, of course, within each country different people use the word in different ways, as might different political affiliations and other social groups.
I like John’s comment below about the word.
October 6, 2015 @ 5:00 pm
I was not contesting your personal terminological preferences, nor expounding any of my own. I was contesting your claim that yours represent a current British cultural consensus which renders British and American categories and concepts mutually inapplicable.
October 12, 2015 @ 3:18 am
I agree totally Aylwin, that the “you Americans don’t understand” thing is totally overblown and that there is plenty of racism in Britain and where I live in Scotland. And I previously said some things in The Caretaker thread that played into this negative argument which I certainly regret now.
October 5, 2015 @ 6:32 pm
Black is a color which is not the skin color of any human beings, so I don’t see how that has anything to do with it. “Black” as a racial category is socially constructed, whether it refers to South Asians or not. In North America, it certainly does not refer to South Asians. And certainly the “Black guy dies first” trope is something that developed in American films, and which refers specifically to African-Americans.
I’ll note that I’m much less certain that this is particularly a horror movie trope – I’d always understood “Black guy dies first” to be more of an action movie thing.
October 6, 2015 @ 9:13 am
Do you seriously not see what the colour “black” has to do with “Black” as an identifier for people with dark-hued skin? Why do you suppose the term is used at all then, over some other apparantly random unrelated word such as Plaid or Sprocket?
Or is pedantry perhaps a useful ice-breaker in discussions of race?
October 6, 2015 @ 5:02 pm
In most uses applied to skin colour (as opposed to ‘race’ and humans in general) the word probably means “dark”. Just how dark one has to be to be considered ‘black’ probably differs greatly between individuals and societies. I suffered racial abuse in my first schools because I had much darker skin than my peers (along with mild negroid facial features). My skin has lightened greatly as I’ve aged and I’m now more of a ruddy pinkish sort of hue almost indistinguishable from a pure Celt. Was I ‘black’ in my youth? Am I ‘white’ now? If I changed, when did the change occur? Does having a mother who identified as black and who had a Belizean (Spanish/Mayan/West African) father make me more ‘black’ than if I did not?
(And the words, “Awkwardly realizing how white we all are,” hang over the page as I write this).
October 6, 2015 @ 5:05 pm
(Oops! ‘West African’ there should have been ‘West Indian’).
October 6, 2015 @ 8:26 pm
This is the nub of the issue for me, I don’t believe there is or should be a line drawn where we say someone can or cannot identify as “black”: not the colour of the skin nor their known genetic heritage. Hell, in Australia you can have entirely european genes but still legally identify as Aboriginal (who self-identify as “black”) so long as one of the tribes leaders will vouch that you have grown up in their culture.
But to say “Black is a color which is not the skin color of any human beings, so I don’t see how that has anything to do with it” seems like aloof wilful ignorance designed to annoy those who would use the term to self-identify.
We know exactly where the term came from and why it is still used by people of varying skin colours and backgrounds, and to offhandedly deny that is has any relevance to anything at all is to disempower people who identify as black.
October 7, 2015 @ 2:20 am
I thought John was giving a reasonable response to your, ‘To me “black people” refers to the colour of their skin.’ As a political term of self-identity I agree that the word can have great value, although what it actually means varies between different cultures and political groups.
October 5, 2015 @ 5:56 pm
Actually they’re probably of South Asian descent, from the Indian subcontinent (Indian or Pakistani), not from the Middle East.
I’m American, but I’ve seen in UK context, “black” including South Asians and Middle Easterners as well sometimes, as in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn including talking about South Asians in “black history month,” although other times “black” alone does not include South Asians, as in the term BAME – Black and Minority Ethnics. So I can see where the confusion arises
October 5, 2015 @ 5:58 pm
Sorry, I was typing too fast. I mean to put that BAME stands for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnics.
October 4, 2015 @ 8:43 am
I think this is one of the dangers of close reading without taking the work as a whole: due to the diversity of the cast involved, of course someone will be the first killed. If it was the deaf woman killed would we get a ‘Moffat thinks disabled are victims’, or if it was one of the others killed would we get ‘ugh more nationality X used as fodder’ or the woman killed being ‘wow Moffat sure fridged that girl quick!!’.
So yeah, the black guy dies first. But it’s an ethnically diverse cast, and criticising that is missing the wood for the trees. Unless you think the casting director should have deliberately excluded any actors from the part based on their skin colour, which, no.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:24 am
October 4, 2015 @ 1:40 pm
Really, one has to wonder if the episode really qualifies for the “Black man dies first” qliché, considering that said black man frequently is present in the rest of the episode.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:20 am
For me, the deaf base commander is the most potentially interesting character, plot-wise. A language the Doctor can’t understand, a message transmitted via silent speech (understood by lip-reading), an explicit reference to the message as an “ear worm”, the idea of translation being implicit in the character’s conception. I don’t know what it means exactly, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the next episode’s solution is heavily reliant on the base commander (she’s made into a ghost and starts transmitting in BSL which interferes with the original message?)
Of course it might have just been a thematic decision, and regardless it works very well; both her and her interpreter were the characters with the most personality for me.
October 4, 2015 @ 9:37 am
The point of this episode seems, to me, to be not the building of tension from the danger from ghosts, but the continued exploration of the Doctoring of Clara, and how this is affecting the Doctor/Clara relationship. Building to the point where the Doctor is not merely an absent but advising presence, as in Flatline, but rather actually made the monster, and leaving Clara to the Doctor role of trying to save everyone in the next episode.
I also think there is something to be said for looking at Dark Water/Death in Heaven/The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar as a four-episode story about the Doctor/Missy relationship. I’ve done a few smaller posts on various threads at Gallifrey Base that touch on that, but I may write something longer. If so, it will wind up in one of Jane’s Mirror Threads at GB.
October 4, 2015 @ 4:41 pm
It might be Clara who is destined to become the monster. Although I might be influenced by the Hanged Man symbolism in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and Missy’s general plan to to force the friend-within-enemy-within-friend message on the Doctor.
If the Doctor rejects Clara mirroring himself, could she end up mirroring Missy instead?
October 4, 2015 @ 6:28 pm
Clara may well wind up the monster, in the long term.
But in the short term, I think it’s explicit that this episode had Clara turning into the Doctor, and the Doctor turning into a monster.
The Doctor warned Clara not to “go native” as the TARDIS only had room for one of him. And by the end of the episode, he was a monster, leaving that space for one open for Clara to become the Doctor.
October 4, 2015 @ 12:26 pm
17 minutes in.
Why does every Doctor line make me think he’s still writing for David Tennant?
October 6, 2015 @ 8:27 am
I thought exactly the same. The 2 or 3 year outdated pop culture references for instance just didn’t fit with Peter Capaldi at all. It was a functional episode, and build up the tension effectively etc. but I just don’t think Whithouse can write the Doctor. He always gets him slightly off.
October 4, 2015 @ 1:53 pm
“Less awesome: killing the black guy first. Come on, guys. A commitment to diversity means not just putting effort into casting, but keeping an active eye out for unfortunate tropes.”
And that’s, what, the second story running now, after the black Kaled at the beginning of “The Magician’s Apprentice”?
October 4, 2015 @ 9:54 pm
Extra-textually, it was interesting to me that Whithouse spent a good chunk of the script in a nod to, of all things, the third Alien movie. That’s not exactly the go-to reference for base-under-siege plots the way Aliens is, and as an occasional apologist for that movie, faults and all, it was nice to see.
October 5, 2015 @ 11:27 pm
Setting aside the Christmas episode, which was a dream sequence where death was ambiguous, it is three stories in a row.
Because Danny Pink was the first person killed in Dark Water/Death in Heaven, then there was the Black soldier in the Hand Mine field, and then there was this story.
October 6, 2015 @ 11:19 am
That’s quite a good call on Alien3. I watched it again last night and all the references fell into place.
October 5, 2015 @ 5:31 am
“But as an hour of television, … It felt much longer than it was”
Very fitting, it was 45 minutes.
October 5, 2015 @ 12:54 pm
About the cards for the Doctor – it’s a very teacherly thing for Clara to do. Having note cards to study from, referring her pupil to his study notes rather than just telling him what to do.
Clara is certainly continuing on her path to become more Doctor-like. But she still remains the teacher we saw from the beginning, when Modern Clara was advising Artie on what books to read and supervising Angie’s homework.
And we haven’t had a companion who was defined by her career in this way before. The closest is Rory as a nurse, but that was more about him occasionally having medical skills when needed.
October 5, 2015 @ 3:33 pm
Great episode! Cass and Lunn’s unspoken feelings, as well as Lunn’s super-sexy innocent vibe, the ghost trapping sequence including Lunn’s near-death, were the highlights of this episode for me. I would disagree that the characters are less developed than in The Almost People/The Rebel Flesh. They’re just developed more subtly, through how they interact with each other, verbally or through sign as well as through conveyed emotion, what they communicate, when they choose to make their opinions heard and when not to. As an example, Bennett briefly talking to Clara about UNIT is far more realistic character development than Jennifer’s breakdown to Rory.
October 5, 2015 @ 4:04 pm
I agree with you about the character development.
I also agree with you about Lund 🙂
October 6, 2015 @ 11:20 am
Thirded. Lunn’s adorable.
October 8, 2015 @ 2:07 pm
Fourthed. Lunn (Zaqi Ismail) is really handsome in an every so slightly dorky way. I noticed him right away in the trailers (the shot from this episode where he’s just been spared being pummeled by a wrench).
October 5, 2015 @ 8:05 pm
I have to say I don’t mind “killing the black guy first” quite so much in an episode where the black guy then goes on to have an important role throughout proceedings. Okay, a semi-important role. But playing a terrifying monster is at least as important in Doctor Who as being Dispensable Crew Member 4, surely?
October 5, 2015 @ 9:10 pm
I was avoiding spoilers like the plague for the past three weeks — I was accidentally delayed in watching episode 1, and then had to wait another week due to not having recorded the first showing of episode 2 (new DVR) until it was too late — so I had no idea the entire site had moved shop.
You’ve redecorated. I don’t like it. 😛
More practically, the blinding white hurts my eyes — I’d love to be able to customize the display, if there’s an option for that — but, what is worst of all, the blog Archive is no longer as common sense as the Blogspot one was. Instead of just clicking on the month and having a tidy list of posts drop down in the page I am currently on, I instead click on the month, wind up on an entirely new page, and have to deal with full-size portions of posts over several pages that will take me too long to hunt for the one I want.
If there’s ANY way to install some sort of archive function that mimics the Blogspot drop-down list, please do so. And if there’s any way to get rid of the hideous blinding white — I now realize the paisleys were MUCH preferable — for the love of sonic sunglasses, please do so.
I really can’t be the only one to have these problems. (Oh, and I do agree with your episode rankings, Phil. “Under the Lake”, so far, has held together FAR better than Moffat’s two-part opener has — so much so that, as it carries over the Doctor and Clara’s thematic arcs from “Last Christmas” so well, I rather wish it had been the series opener, instead.)
October 6, 2015 @ 12:47 am
This might seem a little cheeky as I never posted comments on the previous site (Hello, BTW) but I share Matthew’s irritation with the archive access.
Also, while I understand that it would probably take far too much time and effort to fix, the threading has been lost on older comment threads. Being a rather slow Web reader, I have been working through the Eruditorum this year from the beginning and have finally reached the Eleventh Doctor. I’m buying the books as well but I like to follow the comments, and since the site change I’ve been reading via archive.org just so I can read them properly.
Bah! People keep changing things! Like when they switched Hartnell for that scruffy little bloke!
October 6, 2015 @ 4:24 am
Sorry but I do find the archive structure difficult too, and any chance of having the option to follow threads here (I know I have posted about his elsewhere, so I won’t bang on about it again!)
I like the site and the white background though. Looks tidy and clean.
October 6, 2015 @ 11:05 pm
EVERY bloody site on the Internet is white. Can we not have something be OTHER than white? With lovely borders and typography and such? Difference can be lovely, you know.
October 6, 2015 @ 6:53 am
I was actually thinking the opposite – that it might be nice to have a way to turn off threading. Because if you read, and then refresh to look for more comments, you have to skim through all the comments to try to figure out what is new.
Although I’ve never seen a perfect solution for the threading issue. If comments are threaded, it’s a fight to dig up new comments. If comments aren’t threaded, it relies on everyone doing the work of properly quoting so that conversations can be followed. (Numbered comments helps, so you can cite a number)
I also second the comments about the Captcha being odd. I don’t think I’ve managed to post a single comment without having to redo the captcha at least three times since the new season began.
October 6, 2015 @ 5:13 pm
Good point about searching for new comments. I read the archived version of the old site because the comments were written with threading in mind. I don’t know whether only having one reply column to each comment made live reading easier on that site. I do like the idea of numbered comments with no threads.
I find I can usually solve the captchas on the second try (the first seems to time out while writing) unless they contain things like Os, Qs, Is and Js.
October 6, 2015 @ 11:07 pm
Hello, there! Glad you decided to join the comments, Harlequin. 🙂
October 7, 2015 @ 2:23 am
Thank you very much for the welcome, Matthew. I didn’t realise I’d be tempted to comment so much in my first week 🙂
October 6, 2015 @ 4:29 am
Really intrigued by this episode more than any other feeling. The slower storytelling pace has drawn me in more and I am genuinely interested in what happens next week, more than “oh how do they get out of that?” sort of feeling.
Liking this series so far.
** Having to re-post comments multiple times due to overly officious sentry CAPTCHA robots.
October 6, 2015 @ 4:33 am
I’d like to see an episode featuring a disabled person where their disibility has no bearing on the plot. The moment I saw Cass I was thinking there’d be some need for lip-reading before the end of the episode. 3 points for making her the base commander and it never being an issue, but take 2 back for the lip reading nonsense.
October 6, 2015 @ 8:55 am
Having pretty much agreed with all your rankings and reviews throughout series 8, I can see we’re going to diverge pretty sharply here! I thought Under the Lake was fine. Functional and effective but largely no better or worse than what I expected it to be. The title made it pretty obvious that we’d be going back in time for part 2, which could potentially give us an interesting structure (it’s rather like the investigation through history in Hide, except really, really spread out like everything else in this episode). The cliff hanger was pretty good, although one of those where the pleasure comes from seeing your guess play out in a satisfying way rather than because it’s particularly shocking.
So, part 2 may well help raise this episode in my estimations but it would have to be pretty spectacular to bring it up to the same level as the first two. The Magician’s Apprentice had its issues as an individual episode but it works wonderfully as a whole alongside part 2, and having seen The Witch’s Familiar a couple of times now I still think it’s sublime.
But if Under the Lake is as bad as this series gets (which is definitely plausible, judging from the writers and premises we’ve got coming up) then this will be a very good series indeed.
October 6, 2015 @ 11:27 am
This is the third week running where we’ve been in agreement about almost every major point of each episode. I’m beginning to think someone’s replaced one of our brains. 🙂
I was going to say “except for the ranking,” but actually after watching this again I enjoyed it a lot more. That’s gone for all three episodes so far — they’ve all improved on a rewatch, which is a bit unusual for me. I don’t think I could rank this higher than any episode featuring Missy, but I can see where you’re coming from.