Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Doctor Who Review: Before the Flood

“Before the Flood” was a pleasure to watch and a solid follow-up to “Under the Lake.” There are a few problems, but from the first moments I felt like I could really relax and just be a Doctor Who fan, because this is good stuff.

I love the “Listen”-style monologue opening — I loved it in “Listen” and I still love it here — and the rocked-up intro was fun! The monologue sets the perfect stage for the episode’s theme, the Bootstrap Paradox. If you go back in time, discover Beethoven doesn’t exist, and publish all his music yourself to preserve the timeline… Where did the music come from? Beethoven didn’t write it, but neither did you. The paradox usage is great, allowing the “future” and the “past” to interact. Anything like that takes some suspension of disbelief, but if you’ve got a whole show about time travel I wanna see that stuff. It’s just a good usage of the show’s premise, and I’m a huge proponent of really delivering on its setting. That’s what makes a show (or book, movie, etc.) so truly itself, memorable and unique.

Doctor Who Before the Flood Beethoven

The characters are quite good. Clara’s statement, “You’ve given me something else to be,” it really works for her. I can see her as someone who didn’t know who she was and was trying to be who she was “supposed” to be, but couldn’t be. That’s why she was bizarrely fixated on her “normal” life and going home to it every night, despite seeming entirely unsatisfied by that life. The statement itself reminds me of the way Rose appreciated the Doctor, and that’s the part of her I always understood. I still can’t stand Clara — I’m not a Rose fan, come to that — but maybe I’ll just pretend from here on out that this is her for-realsies characterization (even though I fully expect it to change again).

Cass is still totally badass, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that she makes it to the end! There is a weird moment of “deafness as superpower” with the Daredevil-style sonar bit, and why couldn’t she have just GLANCED OVER HER SHOULDER instead of this protracted sequence, but she lives and she’s awesome and she’s not discounted as a love interest, so I’m calling it good.

But seriously though. You have this awesome character in Cass, but you LITERALLY kill the feisty fangirl LITERALLY FOR BEING SO FEISTY AND FANGIRLY. She’s punished for insisting on participating. This, after the previously-mentioned killing of two black characters in two episode openers IN A ROW. I don’t know if I should blame Moffat personally or not in this case, but whoever’s responsible for this shit, GET YOURSELF TOGETHER.

Doctor Who Before the Flood O'Donnell

Back on the positive side, I enjoyed this more subtle treatment of the Doctor’s responsibilities. For years, supporting characters have lambasted him for not saving people properly, for not “caring.” They treat him as if he’s “responsible” for the whole of time and space, but he’s not an official. He’s a private individual. If he does have responsibilities, they’re issued by the Time Lords, not the humans, and we can expect them to lie with the timestream. So, does responsibility issue from power, like Spiderman says? Or is what he does the equivalent of a gift to those he saves, not a right on their part to be saved? There’s a class dynamic here as well as an individual one. None of that is addressed in the episode, all we really get are a few downplayed accusations, but I prefer that to the one-sided whining we usually see. There’s nuance here in how and when the Doctor chooses to act.

“Before the Flood” didn’t have the same gripping quality of the first half or the horror-story timing, and the ending is confusingly rushed, but it’s a satisfying conclusion with strong script ideas and minimal distractions. I like these two-parters immensely, and I’m enjoying the trend of basing each around a philosophical question or paradox, an idea with a name. It might get old if they did that season after season, but after last year, we were desperately in need of cohesion and coherence. Clearly stating the theme may be a blunt way of providing that coherence, but it’s a welcome one.

And I still love the shades!

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9 thoughts on “Doctor Who Review: Before the Flood

  1. I also felt the the conclusion felt a bit rushed, but I loved the use of the bootstrap paradox. They’re really using the idea of time travel as plot a lot this year, which always makes me happy.

    I’m still conflicted about Cass and Lunn. On the one hand, yay the deaf woman gets a romance! On the other hand, it seemed contrived, particularly when there was another unrequited love couple on the base, too. I’m still trying to decide how I feel about that.

    If only the rocked up theme could stay for the rest of the year…

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  2. I really enjoyed this episode, often the 2nd episode of the two-parter can be a bit of a let down, not so with Before the Flood. A very exciting, spooky, and cleverly scripted story, some great scenes for the Doctor and Clara, a great monster, and a very impressive guest cast. This new season is shaping up nicely!

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  3. What bothered me most about their killing the fangirling character is the fact that this is the second time they’ve done that. Unless they’re going to make a new arc about people with (too much) knowledge of the Doctor being wiped out in one way or another, there’s really no excuse for that; it’s like they’re (unconsciously?) venting their anger that there’s a female fan base for the show. (If it *is* the beginning of an arc, I might be okay with that if it’s, say, the return of the Black Guardian or something.)

    After watching this episode, my brother and I were talking about it, and he suggested that after last season, they realized they really had to bring their “A game” this season.

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    1. Yes! It reminds me of how utterly shitty Supernatural scripts are to their fanbase, particularly their female fanbase. If it was part of an arc they could do a really, really interesting meta-story there, but I don’t believe Moffat’s got that in him. He doesn’t have the subtlety, much less the respect.

      Definitely agree they realized they had to get it together this season. Some of it’s almost amateurish or like an assignment, “you WILL base each episode around a theme and explicitly state that theme,” but if that’s what it takes then I’m all for it.

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