During the course of troubleshooting our equipment, he set every receiver in my house to the History Channel. That’s how I caught the tail end of an American Pickers episode and learned of the Forevertron.
It was a steampunk fan’s dream – on steroids. The Forevertron is 50 feet tall, 120 feet wide. And weighs 600,000 pounds. It was created by lifetime scrap metal collector and artist, Tom “Dr. Evermor” Every.
Sure. That’s what they want you to think.
More likely, the real explanation for its presence is something more like this …
The Wanderlust came down hard — not as hard as it might have, considering that it was a starhopper.
A big boat like that has no business chugging through a planetary atmosphere at 5,000 feet, but the captain was looking for signs of intelligent life on, of all places, Earth.
When the Firefly Drive, never intended to be used for anything but parking, suddenly quit under the strain of that gravitational proximity, the ship had nowhere to go but down.
The pilot was good. He headed for a dense pine forest and brought the ship’s nose up as much as he could. Slicing through nearly a mile of standing timber brought the ship to a gradual, smoking halt, turning what would have been complete destruction into mere cataclysmic damage. The trees slowed the ship, but they took their toll.
The Wanderlust had found its final resting place, a scenic Earth locale known as North Freedom, Wisconsin. Fortunately, the hopper had been cloaked when it came down. The incident was neither seen nor apparently heard, raising the question: If an interstellar spacecraft crashes in the woods when no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Nobody came to investigate.
The crew took stock. Miraculously, none had perished in the crash. The front third of the Wanderlust had been turned into scrap metal. Navigation, life support and communications were gone. The first two no longer mattered; the third did. The aliens had no ride home and no means of calling for one.
On the plus side, the planetary atmosphere that had flooded the ship when its nose was destroyed was breathable, and it looked as though the local flora could provide edible grains for the distinctly birdlike aliens when homegrown supplies were depleted.
Much of the ship’s equipment remained functional. The transporter showed promising signs of life, but its range was limited to the typical distance from orbit to planetary surface.
The crewmembers knew the drill. They got to work.
Yes, the Wanderlust would fly no more, but the crew could re-purpose its surviving equipment for alternative transportation. What they couldn’t salvage, they could find in stealthy visits to Terran landfill sites.
Within a surprisingly short time, they had constructed a device that, with a little help from lightning, took them to their nearest outpost. The device remained behind, mysterious, and nameless, until Dr. Evermor claimed it as his own.
Meanwhile, back in reality (or as close as I get) …
Holy Sith! The Forevertron incorporates such exotic components as a pair of Thomas Edison dynamos, a giant telescope, and the Apollo 11 space capsule decontamination chamber.
Dr. Evermor’s Sculpture Park is only a little more than 100 miles west of me? A must-go day trip went on my calendar. Even Mary, my decidedly anti-science fiction wife, agreed to join me, once she had seen a few Forevertron photos.
Matthew, my 8-year-old grandson, who thinks a trip to the supermarket is a never-ending journey, was the toughest sell. He spotted what he thought were a TARDIS and a Dalek in the photos, so he was in.
Two weeks later, under cloudy skies and a promise of sun to the west, we sallied forth. We wandered about the countryside near our goal for a bit — but we finally found the park, not visible from the highway, hiding behind a surplus store and what appeared to be a junk yard.
We were not disappointed.
Well, Matthew was a little bummed when we couldn’t find a Dalek, and the TARDIS he had seen in the photos turned out to be an old English phone booth — no phone but still bearing instructions for dialing numbers in Ireland.
When I saw the entire prison castle comfortably sitting inside the Doctor’s Confession Dial, as “Heaven Sent” concluded last week, I dismissed it as part of his delusional state of mind.
Talk about being bigger on the inside! Or did the Time Lord teleportation device turn him into a teeny, tiny micro-Doctor?
It all really happened. The Doctor did spend 4.5 billion years taking “the long way ’round” to the outer edge of space, time and Gallifrey. But were those real years, or itty-bitty micro-years?
No matter. What a gala homecoming it is for the Doctor in the season finale, “Hell Bent,” presented Dec. 5
The Doctor returns to his ancestral home, a barn that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other traditional farm buildings. His people silently gather to gawk at him eating soup. The hero of the Time War has returned. Everything he does is gawkable.
With all the trash talk about the Doctor always running away, it seemed more like Gallifrey should be running from him. In the dial, he had confessed to being scared, but he was not scared for himself. He was scared about what he might do to Gallifrey. He is as angry as a Time Lord who has just spent billions of years beating his fists on a harder-than-diamond wall can be.
High Council efforts to rein the War Doctor in are almost comical. He goes unblinkingly nose-to-nose with a heavily armed Gallifreyan Sky Tank. He scrapes a line in the sand with the heel of a shoe and walks away. When an exasperated Time Lord High Council President Rassilon finally comes to take him out, he has a one-line greeting.
“Get off my planet.”
And Rassilon the Redeemer, Rassilon the Resurrected, Rassilon the Not Timothy Dalton, does. Well, after his firing squad mutinies, and he is surrounded by a squadron of Sky Tanks summoned by the Doctor, he does.
The Time Lords are still keen to find out what the Doctor knows about the fabled and dreaded Hybrid, which was their purpose for putting him in the Confession Dial Fun House. At the end of “Heaven Sent,” the Doctor had laid claim to the name himself.
Rassilon and the rest of the High Council did not buy that statement. Maybe what the Doctor really meant was why worry about The Hybrid when he was already on his way to personally deliver a thorough ass-kicking experience?
The Doctor fails to deliver on that threat. His real purpose is embarking on a desperate, reckless attempt to resurrect Clara. The Time Lord bag of tricks includes an Extraction Chamber, a device capable of pulling someone out of the space-time continuum at the precise moment of death. Clara has information about the Hybrid, he tells the council, so they arrange an extraction.
Presto! Clara steps through a door from her death scene into the chamber, dazed and confused.
Without a pulse, Clara is still not quite alive. She is talking, walking much more skillfully and looking much better than any other reanimated corpse I’ve seen on the weekend television screen.
The Gallifreyan general who has been aiding the Doctor in his quest for Clara makes the mistake of getting in the Doctor’s way, insisting that Clara be told of her status and fate. In a totally out-of-character move, the Doctor grabs a gun.
Wildly waving the weapon, he orders everyone to not to move.
“On pain of death, no one take a selfie,” he commands.
When the general refuses to allow them to leave, the Doctor blasts the poor guy. The general was only trying to do the right thing.
What? Who is this Doctor? As an anti-gun guy for what, 4,500,002,000 years, now, thanks to his stay in the Confession Dial, he is rather nonchalant about the deed. The general was on only his tenth regeneration, so he wasn’t going to stay dead.
“We’re on Gallifrey. ‘Death’ is Time Lord for ‘man flu,’ ” he tells a shocked and appalled Clara.
The shooting is a measure of how passionate the Doctor is about regaining his companion. He is breaking all the rules, including his own. He is ready and willing to fracture time itself to accomplish his objective.
Following the tradition established by the first Doctor, the12th Doctor steals a TARDIS. He and Clara make their escape. The sense of deja vu is intensified by the TARDIS interior decor, which matches that of the TARDIS stolen by the first Doctor.
When it comes to TARDIS color schemes, white on white is apparently the Ferrari red of the Time Lords. It does make one wonder. Have the Doctors spent a lot of their weekends customizing the original TARDIS?
The Doctor and Clara sort things out. She’s more than a little miffed that he dedicated 4.5 billion years to bringing her back. He’s concentrating on getting her a new pulse. Their discussion is interrupted by four knocks — the tell-tale, Time Lord, double heartbeat pattern — on the TARDIS door. That’s never a good thing.
The Doctor, ever the protective father figure and mindful of his “duty to care,” is the one to investigate. Outside, as he already knows, is Ashildr/Me, the eternal persona non grata Stark from Hell, waiting to chat.
They are still on Gallifrey, in the dark and dank cloister subterranean level which serves as housing for “Sliders” and the central location for the deceased Time Lord Matrix. The Universal End of Everything is only five minutes away.
Items of discussion include the real identity of The Hybrid. It’s not Me, as she’s less than half Mire and mostly Human. It’s not me, the Doctor claims, although he has a suspicious look on his face when he makes the denial and asks if it really matters. It’s not Team Doctor and Clara, which would be really stretching the definition of a single hybrid creature. Will the real Hybrid please stand up?
They also talk about the Doctor’s plans to take Clara in a safe place on Earth and to wipe her mind of all Doctor-related memories because they could use them to find her. Huh? I don’t know who “they” are, (the Time Lords?) or why they would want to find her.
Unknown to the Doctor and Me, Clara has been eavesdropping on their conversation through the TARDIS. She is not cool with the memory wipe plans.
“These have been the best years of my life, and they are mine,” she says. “Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past. I am entitled to that.”
They compromise. Both will put a finger on the neural block memory zapper at the same time. Only one will walk away with memories intact. They do, and the Doctor begins to black out; but not before tearful good-byes and final words of wisdom for Clara.
“Never eat pears,” he advises. “They’re too squishy, and they always make your chin wet. That one’s quite important. Write it down.”
The Doctor hits the floor. His eyelids flutter, and his eyes close. Is he unconscious, or has he died?
He’s alive, we quickly learn. He awakens lying in the desert, attended by a guy Clara has posted to aid his recovery.
At this point, I need to apologetically backtrack.
In the opening scene of the episode, the Doctor is piloting a pickup down a Nevada highway and comes to a diner just west of nowhere. He walks in, wearing his sonic shades and carrying his guitar, the very personification of the 1950s icons adorning the diner walls. Inside is a lone waitress, who, much not to my surprise, is Clara. The entire narrative of his return to Gallifrey are flashbacks, as he tells his story to Clara, a story about going back to his hometown, “Space Glasgow,” and the gang who wanted to kill him.
“You’ve been traveling,” Clara says, shortly after he appears.
“Yeah,” the Doctor replies, “from time to time.”
Like everyone else who watched the show (and isn’t lying), I believed, throughout the episode, that Clara was the one who had her memory wiped. I was flabbergasted to learn the Doctor had no idea that he was talking to Clara. I thought that the Doctor was just trying to determine if the memory wipe had been successful.
Very nicely done, Steven Moffat.
While the Doctor’s back is turned, and he is strumming the “Clara Theme” on his guitar, Clara slips though the diner back door and into the stolen TARDIS control room to join Me. The diner dissolves around the Doctor as the TARDIS dematerializes, leaving him alone the desert, but also leaving him with his missing TARDIS.
The memorial to Clara painted on the TARDIS exterior includes her likeness, the likeness of the waitress in the diner, the Impossible Girl. Inside, on a chalk board, are the words “Run, you clever boy, and be a doctor.”
This was an exponentially more satisfying way to say farewell to a dear companion than her quick death on Trap Street in “Face the Raven.” I got a little misty-eyed whenever the “Clara” theme was played.
All of that, and the Doctor gets a totally cool new sonic screwdriver. I want one.
Oh, I forgot to mention … aboard the vintage TARDIS, Me and Clara discuss plans. Time is not healing — what with Clara missing from her “fixed point in the Universe” moment of death and all. She is still without a heartbeat and knows she must go back to Gallifrey to be reinserted into her time stream.
Clara notes that they have some “wiggle room.” They opt to take the “long way around” to her destiny.
That would be another story. Not part of this one.
What do Peter Capaldi, Bill Murray and Tom Cruise have in common? They have all have all played characters trapped in an endless loop requiring that they get things right before they can continue.
For Murray, it was Groundhog Day; for Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow. For Capaldi, it was “Heaven Sent,” the captivating Doctor Who episode presented Nov 28.
As the two films, a puzzle must be solved before the Doctor is freed from the repeating sequence of events. Unlike the films, this puzzle has been created within the grief-stricken Doctor’s own mind.
I’m not certain whether the trap has been projected into his mind by his captors, or he has constructed the trap himself. Maybe a little of both.
The story continues from the end point of the previous week’s episode, “Face the Raven,” in which Clara, the Doctor’s companion is killed. In the final scene of that episode, the Doctor has a teleportation device attached to his wrist at the hands of Me/Ashildr, who is apparently acting in a bounty hunter capacity for unknown masters.
The Doctor rematerializes in a teleportation chamber in mysterious, rotating, medieval-looking castle equipped with anachronistic video monitors on the walls. He hasn’t clue as to whether he’s in a trap, prison or torture chamber. As it turns out, all three possibilities are somewhat correct.
The Doctor is initially very combative. Despite Clara’s dying request that he not journey to the dark side, he’s on a mission to avenge her death. He demands that his captors show themselves.
“I just watched my best friend die in agony,” he declares “My day can’t get any worse. Let’s see what we can do about yours!”
The monitors soon reveal to the Doctor that he is not alone in the castle. His anger turns to fear when he sees that he is being relentless stalked by a hulking, veiled death figure accompanied by large squadron of flies (who are not listed in the end credits for their pivotal supporting roles in this episode). To be touched by the figure brings death.
I had to watch this one more than once to gain what I think is an understanding of the story being told. Clues that the Doctor was actually in a “mind trap” begin early. The death figure is drawn from from his most horrific childhood memory. The Doctor is able to “talk” a door into unlocking itself. Where were his sonic sunglasses? No answer there. Later, he dons them.
In the midst of all the action, including a plunge to his death into the waters surrounding the castle, the Doctor is able to retreat to his mental “storeroom,” the TARDIS. There, he finds Clara, with her back to him in all but one scene, coaching him on his next moves by writing on a chalkboard. Even in the Hereafter, she’s still a teacher.
The Doctor notices that each of the rooms he visits resets itself to its original state when he is not present. This proves to be the key to deciphering the trap.
Telescoping the narrative, the Doctor runs through 4 billion (give or take a few dozen) years, of repeating sequences in which he burns his dying body to re-energize the teleporter and reinitialize the cycle. The cycle ends when the death figure reaches him and grasps his head.
At the start of each cycle, he returns to a barricade blocking the exit from the castle. The wall is tantalizingly labeled “HOME” upon his first encounter.
He interprets the lettering as meaning that the TARDIS is on the other side of the barricade and reduces his hands to bloody pulp by painfully beating his fists on the wall. In each cycle, he does minimal damage. His sonic sunglass analysis reveals the barricade to be a 20-feet thick of slab Azbantium — 400 times harder than diamond. Ouch!
Watching the Doctor crawl and stagger back to the teleportation chamber, leaving a trail of blood, was difficult to watch. He knows that he has plenty of time to get to the top of the castle because Time Lords take a very long time to die.
“It’s why we like to die among our own kind,” he quips. “They know not to bury us early.”
Despite the dark tone of the episode, the Doctor manages to get off a few other humorous comments.
“I can’t wait to hear what I say. I’m nothing without an audience,” he says early in the episode, with a sly glance at the camera.
“Working hypothesis,” he reasons aloud. “I’m in a fully automated haunted house, a mechanical maze.”
“It’s a killer puzzle box designed to scare me to death, and I’m trapped inside it. It must be Christmas,” he adds with a chuckle and a grin.
“Or maybe I’m in Hell. That’s OK. I’m not scared of Hell. It’s just heaven for bad people,” he observes in another flash of humor.
Death symbols run rampant throughout the episode. Along with the ominous death figure, we have a lilies, a fresh grave, a peeling painting of Clara, and skulls, skulls, skulls. Skulls are found in the teleportation room and piled high on the floor of the sea surrounding the castle; and they all belong to the Doctor.
Then, there’s Room 12. Does that mean that the Doctor’s number is up?
I sincerely hope that Peter Capadi’s time as the Doctor is not coming to an end, as he has really risen to the role this series. The Doctor is clearly is having an extremely difficult time coming to grips with Clara’s death, so maybe that’s what the symbolism is all about.
“It’s funny. The day you lose someone isn’t the worst,” says. “At least you’ve got something to do. It’s all the days they stay dead.”
Calculating how many times the Doctor went through the cycle is beyond my ken. I guesstimate that he completed a cycle every 90 minutes for 2 billion years. You do the math.
The Doctor finally breaks through the barrier and discovers that “HOME” is not the TARDIS. It’s his home planet, Gallifrey. His fellow Time Lords are his tormentors.
A small boy appears to be his only welcoming committee. He sends the lad back to the city with a message.
“Tell them I came the long way around,” he instructs the boy. “The Hybrid destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins is me.”
So, the prophesy was wrong. The Hybrid (I capitalize it because it is not “a” hybrid, but “the” Hybrid) is not half Time Lord and half Dalek.
My bet is that the Doctor’s mystery half is Human. I’ll guess we’ll find out when “Hell Bent” is presented this Saturday, Dec. 5.
Known only as “The Doctor” for 50 years, the Doctor revealed Basil to be his first name Nov. 7 in “The Zygon Inversion.” Seriously?
The Doctor has seemed to be having a bit of an identity crisis of late. In the first half of this two-parter, “The Zygon Invasion,” he called himself Doctor Disco and Doctor Funkenstein. In this episode, along with Basil, he called himself Doctor John Disco and Doctor Puntastic.
Still, I’m assuming that his parents were well-traveled Time Lords with a sense of humor. Perhaps they had spent time on Earth and become extremely fond John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty character. They might have saddled their son with such a name.
Very well, then. Until told otherwise, Basil it is.
Anyway, this conclusion of the Zygon episodes had a lot to offer. Not the least was Basil’s anti-war message. Although he didn’t really cover any new ground, Peter Capaldi’s impassioned peace argument as two characters stood with fingers poised over destructive choice buttons was emotionally stirring and noteworthy.
“Why does peacekeeping always involve killing?” he asks Kate Lethbridge-Stewart after she shoots two Zygon guards.
Basil’s monologue was a brilliant way of getting Zygon Commander Zygella/Bonnie/Evil Clara and Kate to look beyond the present to both the “truth” and “consequences” of their decisions. He adds humor to the situation by occasionally jumping into game show host mode.
He points out that wars usually conclude with both sides meeting. Had they done that in the first place, the war could have been avoided.
“Break the cycle.” he urges. “Sit down and talk.”
“I just want you to think,” he adds. “Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.”
During most of the episode, Clara, the original human version, is trapped inside a Zygon stasis pod while Bonnie impersonates her and takes care of business. Clara’s viewpoint from inside the pod is creatively done.
She appears to be in a small apartment, but the Zygons are unable to produce fine details of her illusional environment. The digits on her alarm clock are reversed. The printing on a newspaper is mostly gibberish.
Clara and Bonnie are linked to the point of having synchronized heartbeats. This proves to be the ultimate lie detector, but it gives Clara a measure of control over her evil doppelganger.
Bonnie is unaware that Clara has been able to influence her actions, such as throwing her aim off as she shoots down the jet carrying the President of the World. She is also able to make Bonnie call Basil on her cell phone, sending the text message “I’m awake.” More importantly, the message also let Basil know that she is still alive.
When Basil calls Clara on her cell phone, he comes face-to-face with Bonnie, but Clara is winking at him through her link with the Commander. Clara is also able to turn the mind link back on Bonnie, briefly forcing her back into Zygon form. All very clever stuff going well beyond the standard Pod People transformation story.
Stepping into the limelight in this episode as the Person Fans Would Most Like To See As A New Companion is Petronella Osgood. She was introduced in “The Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary episode. Duplicated by a Zygon, she and her “sister” had become indistinguishable from each other to the point of refusing to say which was which. One was killed by Missy in a later episode, but the surviving Osgood is still not saying whether she was originally Human or Zygon. To her, they are the same.
Osgood provides some of the most memorable moments in the episode. As she and Doctor (not yet Basil) are walking away from the site of their parachute escape from the plane shot down by Bonnie, we get:
“Any questions?” the Doctor asks.
“Why do you have a Union Jack parachute?”
“Yes. We’re in Britain.”
Osgood’s glasses are broken in the landing, so the Doctor lends her his sonic sunglasses.
“Sonic specs?” she inquires.
“Isn’t that a bit pointless, like a visual hearing aid?”
“What’s wrong with pointless? I once invented an invisible watch. Spot the design flaw. Don’t look at my browser history.”
“Yeah, I said don’t.”
The most endearing conversation she has with the Doctor most qualifies her as a future companion.
“The first thing I’d do if I was to invade the earth would be to kill you,” Osgood tells the Doctor.
“I wouldn’t even let you get talking, like you always do. Bullet between the eyes, first thing.”
“Again, thank you.”
“Twelve times, if necessary.”
“Ah, yes, why limit yourself? You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
“I’m a big fan.”
It’s in a later exchange with Osgood that the Doctor drops the Basil bomb.
“What’s your name?” he asks Osgood.
“No, no, no. Your first name.”
“What’s your first name?”
“Let’s just, uh, stick with what we had.”
Anyway, conflict resolved and selected minds wiped for the 16th time, the episode takes us back to the TARDIS, which Basil says stands for “Totally and Radically Driving in Space.” Basil, recognizing Osgood as a worthy companion, invites her to come along. Osgood, ever the dutiful public servant, declines, noting that she continues to have Earth to defend.
She surprises Basil when she is joined by another duplicate Osgood. Having given up her plans to wage war, Bonnie has opted to step into the “vacancy.”
Osgood and Oswald exchange quips.
“You take care of him, Osgood says. “Don’t let him die or anything.”
“What if he’s really annoying?” Clara asks.
The final scene brings back the reminder that this series will be the last for Clara Oswald as she and Doctor Basil prepare to depart in the TARDIS.
“So, you must have thought I was dead for a while,” Clara says.
Fans were treated to a taste of classic Doctor Who in “The Zygon Invasion” Oct. 31.
The episode mixed flashbacks of three previous Doctors, a worldwide alien threat, UNIT and even a Lethbridge-Stewart into the plot. If they had thrown in a few Daleks, Cybermen and a guest appearance by K-9, they would have had a nice reunion going.
Taken in that light, the episode was entertaining if somewhat pedestrian. The idea of distributing millions of shape-shifting Zygon duplicates among the Earth’s human population seemed a bit far-fetched, although I am now regarding my neighbors with greater suspicion. If I see any blackened, smoking and sparking piles excelsior near my home, I’m going to dial 9-1-1.
Although the episode was a little less humorous than its current series predecessors, it was not without its chuckle-worthy moments.
The Doctor identified himself early as “Doctor Disco” and later as “Doctor Funkenstein.” At last, a name for the Doctor, but which is it?
I laughed at an exchange between the Doctor and Osgood. The Doctor had commented on question marks Osgood had added to her collar in tribute to her hero.
“You used to wear question marks,” Osgood says.
“Oh, I know, yes, I did,” the Doctor replies.
“They were nice. Why don’t you wear them anymore?”
“Oh, I do. I’ve got question mark underpants.”
“Makes one wonder what the question is.”
When the Doctor, arrives at the UNIT drone command center via the special jet airliner placed at his disposal as world commander-in-chief, he makes a grand entrance.
“At ease! I’m the President of the World,” he announces. “I’m here to rescue people and generally establish happiness all over the place.”
While interrogating a captured Zygon, the Doctor makes it clear that one nation is off-limits in the master Zygon conquest plan.
“Well, you can’t have the United Kingdom,” he tells him. “There’s already people living there. They’ll think you’re going to pinch their benefits.”
The rebellious faction of the Zygons have adopted the motto:” Truth or Consequences.” After Clara makes the dubious connection to a New Mexico town by the same name, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is dispatched to investigate. Upon her arrival, she finds that the community has not embraced the influx of British in the form of Zygon duplicates. In fact. all of the human residents have been destroyed, and Kate may suffer the same fate.
The recurring hybrid theme appears again in this episode with Osgood, who has permanently become half-Zygon, half-human. The theme had surfaced in “The Witch’s Familiar” when Davros referenced a prophesy of a Time Lord-Dalek hybrid. It reappeared in “The Girl Who Died,” when Ashildr is resurrected with alien technology and becomes a human-Mire hybrid.
If “Under the Lake” or “Before the Flood” contained specific hybrid references, I missed them. I suppose the “ghosts” could be considered human-Arcateenian hybrids, just to keep the string going.
The multiple references have led to speculation as to who will be the real hybrid when the season completes its run. I think the smart money is on Clara.
Looks like we’ve got another human-Zygon hybrid in Clara’s evil twin, Bonnie. Somehow, I don’t think Bonnie will survive the second half of this episode pair.
This episode review is brought to you by Vector Petroleum “Fueling our Futures”
“Same old, same old. Just the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS!”
Not quite, Doctor.
The Doctor and Clara are, indeed, heading for trouble in the TARDIS. It was anything but “same old, same old” when “Under the Lake,” the third offering of the new season, aired Oct. 4.
Doctor Who seems have achieved personality equilibrium. Fans, rejoice!
Writer Toby Whithouse gave Peter Capaldi’s Doctor the biggest share of the personality pie, this time around. Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald got a smaller portion. A small slice was even awarded to the TARDIS, whose sentience had not manifested itself of late.
The available screen time and lines were in much greater abundance this episode, with the absence of the masterful Missy. The Time Lady formerly known as the Master is presumably still vacationing with her Dalek friends at that top vacation destination, Skaro. Could she possibly be working with Davros to create the foretold hybrid? Hmm. That would be a very clever idea.
All right. Back to “Under the Lake.”
The TARDIS delivers the Doctor and Clara to an oil company base sitting on the bottom of an artificial lake on top of a flooded village in the year 2119. The Doctor doesn’t know why they have been brought to this site. He does know that the TARDIS has taken them to the base against its better judgment. Clara, with her hair casually tied back and looking very girlishly companionlike, is challenging the Doctor to find something exciting for them to do.
“I want another adventure, Clara tells him. “Come on. You feel the same. You’re itching to save a planet. I know it.”
The look that passes across the Doctor’s face indicates that she is right. It doesn’t take too long before they discover the adventure has already begun.
Things have not been going well for the base and its crew. They’ve just brought a mysterious alien spaceship discovered on the lake bottom aboard the base. The base commander has just been barbecued by one of the ship’s engines. The ship seems to have come with a ghost dressed as an undertaker, complete with a black suit and mourning-veiled top hat. The crew calls the ghostly figure “Mole Guy.”
The Doctor identifies Mole Guy as an alien from Tivoli, That doesn’t explain the death of the commander, he adds, because the species is non-violent cowardly by nature.
“They wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose,” the Doctor elaborates. “More likely to give the goose their car keys and bank details.”
Immediately after his death, the base commander reappears as the Mole Guy’s new ghostly partner. The crew has taken refuge in the Faraday Cage, a lead-lined compartment designed a shelter from a possible radiation leak. The room seems to have the only walls through which the ghosts cannot pass.
“So, we are fighting an unknown homicidal force that has taken the form of your former commanding officer and a cowardly alien, underwater, in a nuclear reactor,” the Doctor summarizes. “Anything else I should know? Somebody have a peanut allergy or something”?
Clara nervously giggles and gives the crew an apologetic look, as if to say “Hey, I’m only the companion. I have no control over this guy.”
Apparently, allergies will not be added to the base problems. The pair of ghosts have begun turning the ship’s systems against the survivors. Soon, another crewman is “ghosted.”
The key to solving the mystery is a series of alien symbols etched on one of the alien ship’s bulkheads. The symbols appear to embed themselves in the human brain when read. They’re translated by the hearing-impaired, lip-reading acting base commander into four cryptic phrases being silently and continuously mouthed by all three ghosts.
Once he has been told who’s in charge so he knows “who to ignore,” the Doctor declares he can bypass the interpreter and “speak” directly with the deaf officer. He quickly discovers that his command of sign language has been deleted and replaced with semaphore.
“Someone get me a selection of flags,” he demands.
The Doctor initially denies that the apparitions are ghosts. After he deductively comes that conclusion on his own, he announces “they’re ghosts,” as if he is the first to make that discovery. Clara points out that he had declared that ghosts do not exist.
“Yes, well-well-well, uh, there was no such thing as socks or smartphones and badgers, until they suddenly were,” the Doctor counters.
The Doctor becomes quite excited upon contemplating the possibilities of questioning real ghosts.
“Calm, Doctor, calm,” tells himself. “You were like this when you met Shirley Bassey.”
The Doctor eventually deciphers the alien symbols, then takes a professorial stance and runs the crewmen through the process. In true classroom lecture fashion, he wants his “students” to do some of the reasoning.
“Surely just being around me makes you clever by osmosis,” he says, after giving them opportunity to come up with the answer to the last phrase.
The Doctor’s apparent lack of sensitivity to the death of the base commander leads to a feature I don’t recall ever seeing — “the cards.” It seems as if the Doctor, for at least several generations, has been writing cue cards to guide him through situations he could expect to re-encounter. Clara suggests that he use them and selects the one that seems most appropriate.
She makes a good choice, but the Doctor needs to polish his delivery style a bit. He reads the card verbatim.
“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend/family member/pet.”
Waiting in the wings for a matching situation is The Swiss Army Knife of cards: “No-one is going to be eaten/vapourised/exterminated/upgraded/possessed/mortally wounded/turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”
Also on tap, the slightly less multi-purpose: “It was my fault. I should have known you didn’t live in Aberdeen.”
The show may have inadvertently given away its writing secret. Take a pack of cards, shuffle and voila! A new episode is born.
Again, going back to the plot, the crew discovers that a rescue sub has been ordered by the ghosts, a request sent in Morse Code (nothing suspicious about that). A crew member asks why the ghosts would do that.
“I don’t know,” the Doctor responds, “but I’m pretty certain that it’s not so they can all form a boy band.”
Along with the Doctor’s and Clara’s personality adjustments, it was great to see the TARDIS again play a role beyond time and relative dimension in space transportation. Still uneasy about its location, the TARDIS sounds the cloister bell alarm.
The Doctor is forced to apply the “handbrake” to keep their skittish ride from leaving on its own. The TARDIS also refuses to go near the ghosts, an issue that plays a part in cliffhanger ending.
Other high points of “Under the Lake” include the Doctor initiating an awkward conversation with Clara about their roles and taking risks, suggesting that she might do better to find another relationship. (Oh, God; no! Not another Danny Pink!). He notes that humans are “bananas about relationships. You’re always writing songs about them, or going to war or getting tattooed.”
We also get the answer to the question: Why did the Doctor turn the TARDIS radio into a clockwork squirrel?
Answer: “Whatever song I heard, first thing in the morning, I was stuck. Two weeks of Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre. I was begging for the brush of death’s merciful hand.”
As the episode drew to its exciting finish, the Doctor was about to employ a bit of time travel trickery to resolve what looks like certain death for Clara and the base crew.
“You’re gonna go back in time?” a crew member asks. “How do you do that?”
“Extremely well,” the Doctor responds.
The rescue plan leads to Clara’s best line of the episode.
“Guys, look, this is how we roll. He’s gonna go away, come back; and we’ll have to listen to how he did it.”