The conclusion to last week’s gripping Doctor Who episode, “Before the Flood” takes the Doctor back in time to save Clara and maybe even save some of the crew they encountered as well. There were some really strong and powerful points in this episode, but unfortunately there were also quite a few weak points that kept this episode from really being as much of a breakout as it could have been.
We open with the Doctor addressing the audience, breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience about the ultimate conundrum of time travel – the “bootstrap paradox.” The origin of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, the paradox is a brain teaser on who actually wrote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. If the Doctor went back in time to meet Beethoven and discovered that Beethoven hadn’t wrote any symphonies yet which forced the Doctor to transcribe all of his copies of Beethoven’s symphonies and gave them to Beethoven to “compose,” who actually wrote the symphony? While very neat to get into the paradox and have an episode about it, the fact that this was a second part to an overall story made it feel very disjointed from the first episode and the flow of the story suffered for it. The introduction almost felt like it was backtracking the first part a bit, similar to when writers cop out and make an entire series of events a dream sequence. Perhaps if it had been at the beginning of last week’s episode it would have been better, but then it might have given things away. Either way, it was a good concept just had poor execution.
Before we move on to the rest of the story, Peter Capaldi actually did play the guitar through the opening credits. If I could have one wish for Twelve’s tenure, it would be that they keep the electric guitar theme and replace the screechy horns with a guitar lead. Please, please, please Lord Moffat, hear my cries!
Moving right along, Clara gets some character development in that she’s got a pretty severe case of reckless abandon since she has nothing to live for now that Danny Pink is gone. Except of course the Doctor, to whom she lays the super guilt trip on when she says that he’ll come back to her if he loves her at all. That pulled at my heartstrings, I can only imagine what the Doctor felt like. Clara’s coping method is poor at best and might be a little foreshadowing of what will be her ultimate demise. It will also probably make that point in the series especially heart wrenching. It will be interesting to see how Twelve deals with such loss.
The Fisher King looked totally wicked. A phenomenal costume and great acting gave him a palpably looming presence. The actor that donned the suit was Neil Fingleton, who stands at a mere 7 feet and 7 inches tall, not including the suit. Two voice actors helped create his vocal presence – Peter Serafinowicz for the speaking vocals and Corey Taylor, yes that Corey Taylor from the band Slipknot, gave the Fisher King his scream. Unfortunately all that work and effort went into a character that had a few minute bad-guy monologue before being washed away into oblivion and never seen again. Even though his legacy of homing beacon ghosts is why we’re here in the first place, I feel like that monster was definitely under-used.
And then we have the seemingly endless love stories. O’Donnell and Bennett, Cass and Lunn, IS EVERYONE SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER?! Maybe it would have been less obnoxious if Bennett had more personality before the love of his life died. Or maybe if O’Donnell hadn’t stood with her back to the door as soon as she thought the crazy bad guy that was supposed to kill her had walked away, only to be fooled in that classic terrible horror flick fashion. Or perhaps if Cass and Lunn didn’t come off so much like a mother-son relationship to me, the story wouldn’t have been as frustrating in the whole-crew-pairing-off department. Though it makes for a good giggle when you think about Pritchard and Moran.
Despite all these weak spots, the Doctor was back in classic Doctor fashion. Not quite an “everybody lives” day, but close. And the head canon’s introduced with the Doctor probably writing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony gives the audience a lot of exciting content to mull over on what else the Doctor has influenced throughout his travels. Let’s not forget that the 10th Doctor revealed that Beethoven taught him how to play the organ in “The Lazarus Experiment.” The rabbit hole always goes deeper!
Another thing to remember – O’Donnell spewed off a bunch of names of the Doctor’s companions, the Master as Harold Saxon, and then the Minister of War, of which we have not been introduced to yet. The Doctor questions her momentarily but then stops her from revealing any further details, since he will probably find out sooner or later. It’s good to see the breadcrumbs of future stories, much like River Song’s role throughout the Doctor’s timeline. As much as every episode (or two-part episodes) is on its own, having the Doctor run into his own spoilers gives us exciting pieces of story to look forward to. It’s not all character and story arcs going forward but instead sprinkled all over the place because we’re not traveling in time in one direction. It definitely keeps things interesting.
Twelve is definitely starting to show a little bit of spunk with his meddling of time. Despite the persistent insistence that history cannot be changed and time has fixed points, Twelve still has a bit of that rebellious nature in him which is good to see. However the recurring question of when the Doctor will die, for real, remains unknown and is likely going to be utilized by the writers against us for quite some time. We do know that he’ll probably last the rest of the season, but who knows where things will go after that. Only time will tell!
Despite having a mixed episode, it looks like we’re in for a treat with next week’s episode having the Doctor and Clara meet Arya Stark. Maybe the Doctor can go back and save her father! Sean Bean we’re here to save you! Hello Game of Thrones/Doctor Who crossover. I’m already throwing my money at the screen. But no, it’s actually Maisie Williams crashing the Whoverse with a bunch of Vikings. The episode is titled “The Girl Who Died” but we won’t find out if it’s referencing Maisie Williams’ character, Clara, or someone else entirely until Saturday!
How did you feel about the conclusion to the Fisher King’s story? Are you ready for the end of the Sonic Shades and the return of the Sonic Screwdriver? Tell us in the comments!Source: BBC One