TV Review // Doctor Who: Series 9, Episode 4: 'Before The Flood'

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Sophie Stone, Zaqi Ismail, Morven Christie, Asher Ali, Paul Kaye, Peter Serafinowicz

Written by:  Toby Whithouse

Directed by: Daniel O’Hara

The Story:  Following on from last week’s instant classic Under The Lake, the conclusion of Toby Whithouse’s two-parter sees The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) go back in time with O’Donnell (Morven Christie) and Bennett (Asher Ali) to try putting a stop to the evil Fisher King before his nasty ghosts cause the Earth to be over-run with alien menaces. Meanwhile Clara (Jenna Coleman) is left with Cass (Sophie Stone) and Lunn (Zaqi Ismail), desperately trying to keep safe from the ghosts while The Doctor’s future ghost floats terrifyingly outside.

Ok, so none of us really believed that The Doctor was dead at the end of Under The Lake, did we? But how do you explain the ghost Doctor? Well, The Doctor himself explained it all right at the start of Before The Flood. Oh, yes he did.

In a rare piece straight to camera, Before The Flood starts with The Doctor breaking the fourth wall to tell us to Google ‘bootstrap paradox’ and explaining how Beethoven was given sheet music of his own music by The Doctor. So who wrote Beethhoven’s music, then? It’s the kind of paradox we saw in Blink, where Sally Sparrow gives The Doctor’s words to him in the future. It’s a head scratcher, that’s for sure.

Back inside the story, and The Doctor travels to the abandoned Scottish village from Under The Lake before it was flooded. Here, Prentiss (a criminally under-used Paul Kaye), an undertaker from Tivoli (the most invaded planet in the Universe), has brought the body of the Fisher King, who has a rather nasty takeover plan for planet Earth.

The spooky theme from the last episode continues, with the Scottish village at the height of the Cold War in 1980 set to appear like the USSR, complete with unnerving dummies. O’Donnell and Bennett are wonderful temporary companions for The Doctor and O’Donnell’s squealy delight at being in the TARDIS proves to be devastating when she is killed off far too soon by the Fisher King, putting an end to any hopes of a new duo on board the TARDIS once Jenna Coleman departs for good. Damn. Like Bennett, we’re heartbroken by O’Donnell’s demise.

The Doctor and Bennett attempt an ill-advised trip back in time to stop her death and end up, like Marty McFly at the Twin Pines/Lone Pine parking lot in Back To The Future Part II, watching themselves first arrive in the village. But unlike BTTF, there’s no re-doing this timeline and even the TARDIS refuses to co-operate in The Doctor’s doomed plan.

Back in the future (sorry!) underwater base, Clara, Cass and Lunn try desperately to keep hold of Clara’s phone so that they can keep in touch with The Doctor. We have to say that the character of Cass is particularly impressive here; a deaf woman who’s not defined by her deafness, but by her intelligence and bravery. Plaudits to Toby Whithouse here for giving such a great character and to director Daniel O’Hara for showing brilliantly how Cass interacts with the world around her. The scene showing how she ‘hears’ the ghost of Moran dragging a killing axe is especially well done.

After a suitably creepy build-up, The Doctor’s final showdown with the Fisher King is, sadly, a bit of a letdown. The giant beastie is well-realised and impeccably voiced by Peter Serafinowicz (who provided the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), but his appearance is woefully short and his part in events already settled by the time The Doctor meets him. But this is one of few dud notes in Before The Flood and, as a whole, this two-parter remains very high quality.

Best line: The Doctor “I've met Beethoven. Nice chap. Very intense. Enjoyed an arm wrestle.”

Questions: Who is the Minister of War? Is this a thread to be picked up as the series progresses? “I expect I’ll find out soon enough” as The Doctor says.

Did you spot?: The Doctor’s amp is made by Magpie Electricals.

Music: As the pre-titles sequence ends with The Doctor rocking out Beethoven’s 5th on his electric guitar, we’re treated to a guitar-based opening credit sequence. Yay! (And it’s rumoured to be played by Peter Capaldi himself according to Radio Times.)  

More music (sort of): Peter Serafinowicz may have voiced the Fisher King’s spoken lines, but the monster’s roar was provided by Casey Taylor, singer of thrash metal band Slipknot (and huge Doctor Who fanboy)

(Review: Andrea Mcguire. Images © BBC)

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