Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...
We open up on an underwater base identified as The Drum in the year 2119. The base is on the lake bed floor of an area that was completely flooded after a dam bursts many years ago. The crew in the base have discovered what looks like a spaceship buried in the lake bed. The ship comes complete with a ghost who kills the commander of the crew and oh look, now he's a ghost too!
Three days later, the Doctor and Clara pop on board although the TARDIS is not happy about it. The Doctor will later inform us that the TARDIS doesn't like ghosts. But first the Doctor and Clara encounter the two ghosts who don't try to kill them. The Doctor and Clara then find the spaceship and take a look inside. Oh, now the ghosts want to kill them! Well, that's a fine how do you do. The Doctor and Clara engage in standard Doctor Who Adventure Protocol: they run.
They're rescued by the surviving members of the crew who are hiding out in a shielded section of the base that ghosts can't get into. Also, ghosts only come out at night. (Yes, it's an underwater base, how can there be day and night? Well, it's a thing that happens. It's explained. We move on.) Oh, and the ghosts can move through walls but can pick up metal objects.
By the way, did I mention this underwater base has a nuclear reactor?
The Doctor puts his mind to work to figure out what they are while some handy dandy note cards help the Doctor remember people skills.
By the way the crew includes a really obnoxious jerk from a petroleum company who keeps trying to mark any territory (including the spaceship) in the name of Vector Petroleum. If you expect such a character will survive to the end just to annoy us, no, he gets killed off and turned into a ghost fairly early on. So thank you, Toby Whithouse for giving the viewers what they wanted from this character. Still, this gives us a third ghost to try and kill our cast. Lovely!
The Doctor hatches a plan which involves the crew along with Clara (who is way too in to this running around getting into danger business) leading the ghosts on a merry chase where they (the ghosts) wind up trapped in the shielded section the crew had used before. The Doctor works out more about what they're dealing with but that leads to even more questions. Based on a clue from the ghosts, the underwater crew send out a sub to find and retrieve something that should've been on the spaceship, a suspended animation chamber for its pilot. Well, we think the pilot's in there. The chamber remains closed thanks to a
Uh oh! Computer malfunction, apparently due to all the messing around with the programmed day and night cycles. The Drum begins to flood. While seeking to escape to the TARDIS, Clara and two crew members get separated in an unflooded section from the Doctor and two other crew members. The Doctor realizes the only way to get to the bottom of this mystery is to go back in time to before this whole area was flooded and get the answers he needs to solve this mystery. Stuck on their side of the flooded base, Clara assures her crew mate companions that the Doctor will come through. However at that moment, through a portal, she sees a ghost.
The ghost of the Doctor.
And we're clear.
We have a very taunt thriller from writer Toby Whithouse that has a strong classic series vibe: the Doctor and companion just randomly pop up where trouble just happens to be brewing with a group of people (isolated, natch!) who are in danger from a strange entity of unknown origin.
But while the story may have been old-school, modern Doctor Who can do some great work with special effects, even on the notoriously stingy BBC budget. The ghosts are nightmares come to life. I expect some younger kids may be spending the night in mommy and daddy's bed.
The idea of doing more stories as two parters allows for more character development of people who are only here for this story. Building a rapport with people who are at the mercy of a malevolent force is important for us to care about them and we see that here. (Although we do see the "black guy dies first" trope employed here which can be problematic.)
Cass, the new commander in the wake of the death of the old one is a deaf-mute who is accompanied by a translator who is not quite as brave as the women he speaks for. It's an interesting dynamic and one that is important to the plot since the ghosts are speaking and no one can hear them. Fortunately, Cass can read lips and has the time to do so when the Doctor's plan successfully captures the three ghosts.
The Doctor's psychic paper identifies himself to the crew as...the Doctor, a member of UNIT.One person on the crew is a big fan!
Clara is really anxious to be jumping into new adventures with the Doctor. The Doctor expresses some concern over this but Clara tells the Doctor she's fine. So why don't I believe her? Meanwhile, the Doctor seems almost giddy at the prospect of a new mystery to solve.
The Doctor has a new tool to help him with his social skills, a set of note cards with certain supportive and sympathetic expressions written on them to be used as needed. The cards might be more effective if the Doctor didn't read them verbatim. “I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”
There are a lot of interlocking pieces that explain how the ghosts do and do not work and what they are up to. We're still in the dark about the ghosts by the time we get to the "to be continue" but I hope Toby plays fair in Part 2 with the clues left along the way in Part 1.
A strong effort from Toby Whithouse whose previous work I've enjoyed on Doctor Who ("School Reunion", "Vampires of Venice", "The God Complex", "A Town Called Mercy"). Can't wait to see what happens next.
But wait I will have to do. I'll be back here on the blog next week with a few words about the next new Doctor Who.
For other stuff not relating to Doctor Who (mostly), I'll have a new post on the blog tomorrow.
Until then, be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You