'Under the Lake" is basically 'Alien" under the water. This adventure, which aired on October 3, is also the first of yet another two-part adventure for Peter Cataldi in his second season as the Doctor.
The setting is in the near fututure aboard a nuclear-powered underwater laboratory located in a lake that was once a Scottish village until a dam burst. The crew, who are seeking oil, discover a vehicle of undetermined origin and are attacked by what appears to be the ghost a nineteenth-century gentleman.
The ghost starts to pick off the crew, who appear to come back as ghosts. The ghosts, who have gaping holes full of shadow where their eyes should be, are menacing and effective.
The Doctor and Clara stumble on the scene and attempt to make sense of the situation. It gradually emerges that a set of runes in the craft are actually magnetic and hold answers to the problem.
Things take a nasty turn when the facilty is flooded, the survivors are separated and the Doctor has come back as a ghost after apparently being killed.
Peter Cataldi is well-cast as the Doctor but seems to be trying too hard to capture the essence of Matt Smith and other actors recent to to the role. The writers need to let him relax and be his own Doctor.
An intruiging aspect to the episode is that the Doctor knows he is putting people at risk to help him solve the problems posed here, but is nonetheless compelled to do it. But the idea is explored in too glib of a fashion to hold any real dramatic weight.
The claustrophobic setting and the grunginess of the supporting chracters recall the Alien films. There is even a greed-head named Pritchard who seems patterned after Ricard Burke from 'Aliens.'
The occasional snarkiness of the writing compromised the potential for horror and there were the usual concessions to political correctness, but this episode showed some promise. I am looking forward to the second part.