‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ (TV)



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Ghosts In The Underwater Base with the Doctor and Clara


This is a two-part story by Toby Whithouse. I recall seeing the first episode after coming back from a train day trip to Aberdare with my parents. I also created my ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog just recently.

The story takes place in an underwater mining facility called the Drum and is set during the 22nd century in 2119. This is essentially a ghost story. And the Doctor claims that these ghosts are real ghosts.

The first episode begins with the Drum’s crew investigating a mysterious alien craft found in the ruins of a submerged town. They bring it into their base and it gets sour when crewmembers get killed off.

The first casualty is Colin McFarlane as Moran, the base’s captain. Colin McFarlane has also appeared in the ‘Torchwood’ story ‘Children of Earth’ and in ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ by Big Finish.

As well as Moran becoming a ghost with blackened eyes, there’s another creature with him. This happens to be Paul Kaye, unidentified at first but later revealed to be a Tivolian alien named Prentis.

Tivolians is the name given to the alien species, specifically one that featured in ‘The God Complex’ also by Toby Whithouse. That was Gibbis, played by David Walliams, in that ‘Doctor Who’ adventure.

The Tivolian featured in this, Prentis, happens to be dressed up in Victorian garb. This includes a Victorian hat. He, like Moran, also has blackened eyes as they both speak soundlessly via ghost form.

The ghosts of this particular story have the ability to pick up objects like chairs as they use them to attack their prey. This happens when the underwater base is in night mode and not in the day mode.

Three days later, after the facility becomes a wreck and seems empty following Moran’s ‘death’, the TARDIS materialises. The Doctor and Clara step out before starting to explore the underwater base.

The Doctor notices that the TARDIS is in a foul mood as if something’s upset her. I actually like the atmosphere of this TV story. It does feel creepy, especially in the earlier scenes with our two heroes.

Exploring the base, the Doctor and Clara come across the two ghosts Moran and Prentis. After trying to communicate with them, they soon get attacked by these ghosts as they run for their lives.

The Doctor and Clara eventually find the surviving crewmembers aboard the Drum and enter into a Faraday cage where they’re safe from the ghosts. The ghosts thankfully can’t enter the Faraday cage.

Our TARDIS duo meets the crew of the Drum mining base. There’s Sophie Stone as Cass with Zaqi Ismail as her translator Lunn. Yeah, one of the crewmembers aboard the Drum base is a deaf person.

From what I’ve read, Sophie Stone was the first deaf student to win a place at the drama school of RADA. In this story, she plays the base’s leader once Moran is out of the picture. Wow! Good for her!

The Doctor claims to understand sign language when Cass uses it. But when she speaks to him without Lunn translating for her, it then seems the Doctor can’t and has deleted it from his memory.

Um, no disrespect Doctor, but you’re too clever to not know sign language. Surely it would’ve been fantastic to see the Doctor using sign language. If he can do horse language, why not sign language?

And if that wasn’t enough, the Doctor has to use these cards called ‘Clara Cards’ given to him by Clara to read out the right proper emotional responses. This is especially in regard to Moran’s death.

You know something, Doctor Twelve? You were David Tennant once! You had compassion in your being and were able to say “Sorry” a lot. How come you seem to have lost that in your current form?

The rest of the crewmembers include Morven Christie as O’Donnell and Arsher Ali as Bennett. There’s also Steven Robertson as Pritchard, who’s a smug businessman. But he gets killed in the story.

Yeah, Pritchard adds on to the list of ghosts in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. Three ghosts including Moran; Prentis and Pritchard haunt our heroes in the base, as they manipulate the day-night modes.

The Doctor and the others soon try to find a way to trap the three ghosts into the Faraday cage in order to get more out of them on what’s going on. To be fair, those chase scenes were a thrill to see.

In fact, most of this two-part ghost story by Toby Whithouse works well on varying levels of creepy atmosphere. It especially works when our heroes are trying to avoid getting harmed by these ghosts.

There’s also a lot to take in, especially with quite a number of talking scenes between the Doctor, Clara and the surviving crewmembers. Sometimes they seem long-winded, but have to be essential.

The Doctor discovers what the three ghosts are saying to them through their soundless words. The three ghosts are repeating the same phrase which is ‘the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple’.

It seems to be coordinates. They lead to the flooded town outside the base where the alien craft was found. There’s a lot of exposition that follows before the base itself gets flooded by the three ghosts.

The Doctor and the others escape as they try to reach the TARDIS. But the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett get cut off from Clara, Cass and Lunn when the doors seal up for the other side of the base.

With no choice, the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett make for the TARDIS. Inside, the Doctor sets a course to take the TARDIS back in time where it all began in the town ‘before the flood’ in the 1980s.

Meanwhile with Clara, Cass and Lunn, they’re in the galley where they’re waiting for the Doctor to return. They then see a ghost outside. But it’s a new one. Clara sees it and it turns out to be…the Doctor…

The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Under the Lake’ trailer. There’s also a commentary with Sophie Stone, writer Toby Whithouse and producer Derek Ritchie.


I saw the second episode a week before I was about to go to the ‘Dimensions 2015’ convention in Newcastle, October 2015. I was alone in the house at that time and was feeling very excited about it.

The second episode begins on a peculiar note. The Doctor is in the TARDIS talking about Beethoven and the Bootstrap Paradox before he’s playing his electric guitar. Where are O’Donnell and Bennett?

This all leads into the theme music and the title sequence of the episode. Except this time, it’s a rock version of the theme music. Why didn’t they use this theme music in the rest of Peter Capaldi’s era?

The episode properly begins with the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett emerging from the TARDIS into the town before it was flooded in 1980. There they meet Paul Kaye’s Prentis the Tivolian undertaker.

This is Prentis before he got killed and became a ghost in the future. Prentis comes across as rather silly and idiotic when he meets the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett. He has come to bury somebody.

This happens to be the Fisher King who was inside the suspended animation chamber when the alien craft was found by the Drum in the 22nd century. Unfortunately, the Fisher King escapes captivity.

The Fisher King is a combination of three performances. There’s Neil Fingleton who performs the Fisher King, Peter Serafinowicz as the Fisher King’s voice and Corey Taylor as the Fisher King’s roars.

Incidentally, Peter Serafinowicz provided the voice of Darth Maul in ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’. Corey Taylor is primarily the lead singer of the heavy metal band called Slipknot.

The Fisher King…is fine, I guess. I mean it looks impressive in terms of visual design and it is intimidating when it towers over Peter Capaldi. But this…monster didn’t have a huge impact on me.

It does get tense when the monster kills off people one by one. This includes O’Donnell who gets killed by the Fisher King and is turned into a ghost for our other heroes in the Drum base to witness.

Speaking of which, in the Drum base, Clara, Cass and Lunn see the Doctor ghost appear to them. The Doctor ghost seems to be repeating something different to what the other ghosts have been saying.

The ghost is reciting the names of every crewmember aboard the Drum as well as the Doctor and Clara in who will be killed off in sequence during the adventure. It seems Clara is to be next for the list.

Now this is where I need to talk about Jenna Coleman’s character of Clara in this episode as well as the whole two-part story. Jenna, as ever, delivers a good performance as her character in the series.

However, this story is one of the finest examples of where Clara’s character is sidelined. From watching this, I did not feel she had anything standout to do apart from looking after Cass and Lunn.

When the Doctor phones Clara up on her mobile and she tells him she’s seen his ghost, there’s a certain moment where I felt unhappy. She forcefully encourages the Doctor to try to change events.

This is where the inconsistency of her character development comes in. Now I wouldn’t mind it if Clara encouraged the Doctor to change his future, but she does it in a way that sounds very selfish to me.

This doesn’t echo what Clara’s character was like back in Series 7 and 8, even though that was flawed. She always came across to me as caring, compassionate and kind. It’s totally opposite in this.

I suppose you could argue that she’s saying only these things to give the Doctor some hope and that she doesn’t mean what she says. But I’m not certain about that as it does not come across that way.

There’s a moment where O’Donnell’s ghost appears and takes Clara’s mobile away when the Doctor asked her to put it outside the Faraday cage. Clara needs to get her mobile back. There is a solution.

Apparently there’s this writing in the alien craft which are the co-ordinates given by the ghosts to the Doctor and the others. These words have infected most of our heroes for the ghosts to chase them.

Thankfully however it hasn’t infected Lunn since he was not allowed to see the words inside the alien craft by Cass. Clara chooses Lunn to get her mobile back for her, to which Cass protests against.

But eventually Lunn goes out to get Clara’s mobile back, whilst Clara and Cass are waiting in the Faraday cage. He survives as four ghosts including the Doctor surround him but he gets trapped in the canteen.

Clara and Cass soon go out to try and find Lunn. It was interesting to see how Clara and Cass interact with each other, especially since Clara can’t do sign language and yet she understands Cass on a certain level.

The two eventually meet up with Lunn before they run into the main hanger of the base where the alien craft is. Pretty soon, the suspended animation chamber opens and out of it comes…the Doctor.

Yeah, I was pretty relieved when it turned out the Doctor survived from being killed by the Fisher King. The Fisher King got swamped up by the water bursting out from the dam nearby as the Doctor tricked him.

It also turned out the Doctor’s ghost wasn’t a ghost at all. It was a hologram created by the real Doctor using his sonic sunglasses. Well, that was a cheat wasn’t it? The Doctor surely can’t die, can he? 😀

Fortunately everyone who’s still alive returns to the Drum base. Bennett is returned back to 2119 via the Doctor’s TARDIS. It seems that Bennett had romantic feelings for O’Donnell when she was alive.

Um, I didn’t notice this in the first episode. I mean, Bennett and O’Donnell clearly seem to be friendly towards each other, but I didn’t see the two of them hitting it off with each other much in the story.

Bennett then tells Lunn to tell Cass that he’s in love with her. It seems Lunn has always been in love with Cass, according to Bennett. Really? I didn’t notice this bit. Was he always in love with her?

I mean I’m sure they had a close connection with each other considering Lunn was Cass’ translator. But did this lead to a romance in any way in the two episodes? Well, Cass kisses him, so I suppose so.

The episode ends with Clara and the Doctor discussing some interesting questions in the air about this adventure they’ve had. And I wish I can tell you the answers to these questions after seeing this story.

I was pretty flummoxed about how the Doctor gained future knowledge of events when they hadn’t happened to him yet. I’m sure it’s pretty clever in relation to the Bootstrap Paradox, but it’s baffling.

I think this two-parter would require more than one re-watch to get an idea of what’s going on, but I don’t think the answer will come in an instant. This is almost similar to the ending for ‘The Mutant Phase’.

‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ is a pretty tense, atmospheric ghost story for the Doctor and Clara that’s been enjoyable to watch. Despite the baffling ending to the story, it had scary moments.

The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘Series 9 – Part 1’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette.

On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, the ‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette can also be found on there. There’s the ‘Before the Flood’ trailer and there’s also a commentary with Sophie Stone, writer Toby Whithouse and producer Derek Ritchie.

‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ rating – 8/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Under the Lake’/’Before the Flood’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Now you mention it it does have similarities to Murant Phase, never noticed before thanks Tim, once again my friend a spot on summary of this two parter, Moffat writing is uneven one minute tense & dramatic the next silly guitar playing drivel.

    Again that ruddy guitar makes a appearance irritating the flow of the story, Clara stuggles in this because as i mentioned the scripts were rewritten after Jenna decided to stay on.

    I liked the story cause i like my Doctor Who spooky but imagine what Robert Holmes or Malcolm Hulke would’ve done with this, it would’ve been far more gruesome & edgy.

    Sadly the confusing conclusion undoes the good work before it making this a decent two parter than a epic one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you like how I mentioned the ending of this story being similar to ‘The Mutant Phase’. It only just occurred to me as I re-watched the two episodes. No problem. Glad you like me mentioning the similarities to ‘The Mutant Phase’.

      I’m sure I was impressed by the cleverness of the story by the time it ended when I first watched it back in 2015. But now I come to re-watch it, I find the ending rather baffling. Despite the story being by Toby Whithouse, I’m sure Steven Moffat had his handiwork put into the story to make it more complex than necessary.

      I don’t mind the electric guitar so much, but it’s when he uses it that doesn’t enhance the story like it happened in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’. I don’t think there has been a story where the Doctor used his electrical guitar for a significant purpose in a story. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      Again, I really wish Clara was written properly in the series instead of being just slotted in. It surprises me considering that companions were well-treated during the RTD era compared to the Steven Moffat era. It’s style over substance in these ‘Doctor Who’ stories and thus the companions’ journeys don’t get a lot of attention.

      I’m sure Robert Holmes and Malcolm Hulke would’ve come up with a compelling story compared to how this turned out. I wouldn’t mind it if they did a scary ghost story provided they didn’t have too many elements to make it mind-boggling to watch and make the conclusion baffling.

      Agreed, the confusing ending didn’t make this story as epic as it could’ve been. Russell T. Davies would’ve handled this story far better compared to how Steven Moffat’s influence in this season is doing.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this story, Simon. Glad you enjoyed my review.

      Tim. 🙂



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