Doctor Who Season 9.04 – Before the Flood Review

Before the floodYes, yes…. spoiler alert….

*

*

Okay.

Yeah.

I’ll go with that.

That was fun.

A very different tone and not without it’s problems, but actually very good.

Is that as much as I’m going to write? “Actually very good?”

Of course not, I’ve got far too big a gob to leave it there!

Toby Whithouse has written some strange episodes; A Town Called Mercy? The God Complex? Vampires in Venice? He’s also written a stone cold classic which, of course, is “School Reunion”. This episode has all the strangeness of the former three and the comfort and cosiness of the latter.

There is a lot of wibbly wobbliness and a meditation on the bootstrap paradox.   Actually, the entire episode is a meditation on the bootstrap paradox. That’s pretty much spelled out for us in the pre-credits sequence in which the Doctor tells us a story about Beethoven not existing before launching in Beethoven’s 5th and augmenting the theme tune with some chunky guitars.

So far so intriguing, even though the fourth wall breaking leaves me as cold as it did when Tom Baker did it.

So the crux here is that the Doctor is a ghost in the present meaning he died in the past. But he’s talking to Clara from the past at a point before he dies. So he has to stop his death, meaning that he doesn’t get the information from the ghost about how to stop his death in order to be able to do it.

Got that?

We’ve been here before, of course. Sort of.  Before the Flood is – again – an amalgam of very familiar elements; a lot of them from The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang. There are even nods to Father’s Day, but thankfully, The Reapers didn’t turn up.The Doctor’s motivations are questioned and he pretty much admits that he lets someone die to prove a point. He’s still a prickly, selfish dick. But you have to like that in a hero.

The bad guy alien goes by the name of “The Fisher King” and the story is a very, very loose retelling of the Arthurian Legend. It’s not the first time Arthurian Legend has been plundered and probably won’t be the last, but it was especially nice that there were no Olde Englishe folk charging around speaking with thees, thous and whences. I’m eternally grateful for that! Sadly, the Fisher King himself, isn’t that well realised. It’s a bloke in an oversized suit with platform heels and a poorly jointed mouth. He goes STOMP STOMP STOMP, speaks with the voice of Peter Serafinowicz doing a very passable Gabriel Woolf (why not just get Gabriel Woolf) and screams with the voice of  Corey Taylor from Slipknot. I’m not sure anyone saw that coming . . .

It’s a shame as the Fisher King had a pretty intimidating silhouette and would have been more convincing if he’d stayed in the shadows; the final shot of him would then have been much more effective. Actually, I think almost all the budget went on the dam scenes, they were pretty impressive.

So while the Doctor and his two – soon to be one – partners chase aliens, time travel and get things moving, back on the base, I’m afraid it’s just running up and down corridors…

Well . . . sort of. There’s a beautiful scene that changes the nature of running up and down corridors, but it leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable. The use of a deaf character is to be applauded, but if this scene was the reason for that character (I maintain that anyone can lip read) it strikes me as a bit patronising.

Thing is, as with last week, there is little original in this two parter. The influences are manifest and screaming, the list from last week increases and once again, there are many hidden little nods; The Doctors guitar amp coming from Magpie Electronics being my favourite. But does that actually matter?

I’d say not.

What we have on screen is a solid and serviceable story with a roundly competent cast, enough thrills to make it work, enough barking ideas to be exciting and a resolution that asks questions as to where this season is going. It also hints, as have all four episodes so far, that Clara is heading for a fall. There has been a lot of emphasis on loops, erasing mistakes, repetition and taking it all for granted. I wonder if <mad and pointless speculation alert> this means that the “Impossible Girl” is going to be erased and that weird , shattered timeline is going to collapse.

I dunno.

But if this story, light and cozy as it was, tells me anything, it’s that I’m really looking forward to finding out… After a couple of seasons of hanging on out of habit, this is a pleasing step forward.   10 year old me is cheering 🙂

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