Just in case you thought that series 9 would be the year of Clara (Jenna Coleman) being Rory'd every other week until her sadly inevitable departure from the show, episode three of "Doctor Who," "Under the Lake," proved that Steven Moffat is more than willing to kill the Doctor himself (Peter Capaldi) when the situation calls for it. And while we're pretty sure that Clara and her stranded Scottish cohorts will find a way to turn this around in the second half of this two-parter, "Before the Flood," we're still thrilled that the image of the spooky, eye-less Ghost Doctor was so effective.
... But first, here's how it all went down.
First, the TARDIS brought our heroes to an underwater mining facility.BBC America
Ah, the ol' classic "Doctor Who" spooky episode set-up. The TARDIS interrupted a string of (unseen) Doctor and Clara adventures, dragging them to an abandoned location (an underwater mining facility in Scotland, 2119) where a potentially alien entity was killing a crew of scientists and military personnel (and one corporate oil shill, but we were OK with letting him die) one by one. Only this time, the alien entity looked a heck of a lot like GHOSTS.
The facility's crew had been investigating a foreign and abandoned spacecraft that appeared on their base when one of their own, Moran, was burned by a mysterious fire. He'd seen a spectral, eye-less bearded fellow in the seconds before he passed, and as soon as the life drained from his eyes, he joined the spooky fellow's ranks and began silently tormenting his confused and mourning co-workers... and eventually the Doctor and Clara, who both seemed pretty enthused at the prospect of facing a brand new enemy.
Next, the "ghosts" became stronger and stronger.BBC
The Doctor and Clara joined the crew, who spent their base's artificially created "evening" hours hiding in the only room the two creatures couldn't enter, after the ghosts came after them somehow holding some fancy weaponry. The Doctor did his best to figure out A, how Moran and the other ghost (who the Doctor identified as a cowardly alien species) could exist, and B, what they kept creepily mouthing in unison.
(ASIDE: It's also worth mentioning that Clara making a set of cards for the Doctor to read when he was put in uncomfortable social situations -- this time around, he had to apologize to the crew for the loss of their "friend slash family member slash pet" -- was pretty fantastic. Also, the show acknowledged Clara's TARDIS-junkie arc from the end of series eight, when the Doctor made a half-hearted attempt to dissuade her from enthusiastically diving head-first into another dangerous situation. Which was nice, I guess, but isn't a "laugh in the face of danger" attitude kind of par for the course with long-term companions at this point? Whatever, I guess the overall point is that the Doctor is trying to care about Clara.)
The ghosts -- who were clearly intelligent, as they figured out how to switch the base's settings from day mode to evening mode, so that they could kill the crew with ease -- soon managed to trap the sniveling oil shill, Pritchard, in a tank and drown him. This meant three ghosts were now wandering around killing and mouthing things, and when the crew was told by home base that were sending a rescue squad in answer to their distress call -- a call they'd never made -- they realized that these creatures were even more dangerous than they'd initially thought. They were clearly capable of hatching devious murder-plots and following through, which is just not what you want from a trio of ghosts.
Then, a trap was made.BBC America
One the Doctor told the bewildered crew that he'd sent the rescue squad back home -- clearly, the ghosts had invited them there in order to gain more bodies to kill -- he revealed his next plan, which was to use Clara and some red shirts as ghost-bait in an elaborate trap. The ghosts managed to capture one of the red shirts, Lunn, but they very suspiciously chose to walk away and spare his life. Surely, we'll be finding out why that happened next week.
Once they managed to trap all three ghosts in the safe room, however, the question of why Lunn survived was dwarfed by an even bigger question: what on earth did "The dark. The sword. The forsaken. The temple" mean, and why did the three ghosts keep on saying it?
The Doctor quickly figured out that it was coordinates -- extremely vague coordinates that I'd never personally be able to figure out, but I'm not a space alien, so whatever -- and that the coordinates led to a temple in a flooded mining town nearby. DUN DUN DUN.
And finally, a new Ghost Doctor was born.BBC America
The Doctor and the squad quickly found the suspended animation chamber from the abandoned spaceship at the beginning of the episode in the Temple, and he realized that the alien writing in the ship -- writing that the TARDIS couldn't translate -- served as "earworm"-style magnets for the coordinates, as everyone who saw them memorized them and had them in their heads instantly, or something. "Even after you die." Basically, this meant that the pilot in the suspended animation chamber could count on whoever found his (or her!) ship reading them and repeating, and the more ghosts he (or she!) had in his roster, the better.
But before the squad could do anything about this mess, the ghosts flooded the base. The Doctor and two red shirts went back in time to right before the alien ship landed, while Clara and the others stayed back and awaited the Doctor's rescue...
... A rescue that wouldn't come, because mere moments later, Clara saw a ghost-ified version of the Doctor floating around the base.
TO BE CONTINUED.