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Doctor Who: Under the Lake (Review)

You’re going to go back in time? How can you do that?

Extremely well.

– Bennett and the Doctor lay down some ground rules

Part of the thrill of the ninth season is the ambition and experimentation involved.

As a rule, the Moffat era has tended towards compression, favouring individual episodes over epic two parters. While the final stories of Davies-era seasons tended to burst at the seams, with extended runtimes pushing stories beyond even the generous runtimes of two- (or even three-) part episodes, the Moffat era has favoured the standalone story. Moffat finalés are packed tight, with episodes like The Wedding of River Song and The Name of the Doctor feeling like they might come off the rails if they moved any faster.

An axe to grind...

An axe to grind…

Constructed an entire season of two-part episodes represents a very clear change in how Doctor Who is telling stories. The change in the type of story alters both the fundamental structure of the episodes and the underlying rhythm of the season. There is no precedent for this in the ten years since the show came back, which makes it all very exciting. The show has told multi-part stories before, but always as events rather than as default. It feels entirely appropriate that Under the Lake sets up quite a distinct and delineated two-part adventure.

Toby Whithouse is one of the most traditionalist writers working on Doctor Who, give or take Mark Gatiss. After all, it was Whithouse who was assigned to bring Sarah Jane into the present with School Reunion during the second season. With that in mind, it makes sense that Under the Lake and Before the Flood feel a little bit like an attempt to bring a very classic multi-part structure into the twenty-first century.

Siege the moment...

Siege the moment…

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