Skip to main content

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "Before the Flood"

Where the Doctor meets the Fisher King! No not the Robin Williams movie.
Well that was a little better. Nice that while this year’s first two-parter had a slightly lesser second episode, the second two-parter had a slightly better second episode. “Before the Flood” still had some significant problems, the script being at times too incoherent for its own good and there being a lack of any real stakes, but I was entertained watching it, which is more than I can say for the last episode.
The Doctor and Clara are separated with the survivors from the last episode. The Doctor has taken O’Donnell and Bennett back to before the flood (I get it!) to 1980 in the middle of the Soviet Union (though somewhere that’s pretty abandoned). They meet Prentis the Tivolian doomed to become a Victorian ghost, who as it happens is an undertaker for a great warrior called the Fisher King one of his species’ most recent conquerors (there are some good jokes at the expense of how frequently his home plant is conquered). But the Fisher King awakens and the Doctor in the knowledge that his ghost has appeared in the future decides to confront him. Meanwhile in that future, Clara and her troupe try and stay alive and get answers while she has to keep morale up and justify her and the Doctor’s actions.
The episode had some good stuff going for it right from the opening where the Doctor explains the Bootstrap paradox using the analogy of going back in time and replacing Beethoven. It’s always fascinating to have the Doctor explain paradoxes and ideas especially when they’re as interesting as the Bootstrap paradox, and Capaldi makes it really fun. It’s not the opening you’d expect and to be honest connects very little to the rest of the episode until the final minutes. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the closing bit between the Doctor and Clara and the minor example of such an enigma we see in the episode were only added as a minor connection to that opening. But we also got to see the Doctor on guitar again! It’s cheap and kinda dumb like the sonic glasses but Capaldi makes it feel awesome.
The Doctor being locked in his own time-stream was interesting too as there’s always something cool in seeing events we’ve already seen from another point of view. And both the Doctor and Clara have their morality and conscience questioned, which as usual brings up some valid points. When one character dies the other confronts the Doctor about saving his own skin but not caring about others, and while the Doctor dispels this, he does kind of brutally admit that he wants to save Clara. Clara’s less able to answer these accusations levied primarily by the deaf miner (how convenient the deaf person and the one guy who knows sign language are together by the way?) which doesn’t help the fact our companion hasn’t really contributed to anything this series. At the end she does give some condoling words to one of the guys but it doesn’t feel genuine. We also get the return of the ‘Doctor is going to die’ idea which doesn’t really work, especially at this stage in the series, so it fails to offer real stakes. But the actors deal with it as best they can and the episode does succeed in getting you curious as to how the Doctor’s going to get around his presumably foretold conclusion, even though in the end it’s underwhelming. The Doctor faces this imminence with a subtle dread which is one of the things I like about him. He brings a weight to it that the script can’t, and that’s pretty impressive. Also his finding out about the ghost version of himself showing up in the future does lead to a great line to Clara (“Why am I not trying to kill you?” Yeah, why…?).
                The Fisher King is an intimidating antagonist, clearly modelled (maybe a little too closely) after the Predator (Am I the only one curious about him returning in a standoff episode with the Alien-monster from “Last Christmas”). It’s Peter Serafinowicz’s voice that adds to the effect though making the dialogue sound strong. And his back and forth with Peter Capaldi is just exciting. Also exciting, setting the episode in Russia during the last years of the Cold War. Less exciting, they didn’t take advantage of it. I really felt the episode could have just been set in any time period and any location, which shouldn’t be the case for Doctor Who. Aside from a couple Stalin and Lenin posters in the background, the time and place was barely recognizable.
                In the end “Before the Flood” gave a better conclusion than “Under the Lake” set up but I still think this was a mostly wasted two-parter. As separate episodes they could have worked better, but just wound up being fairly generic and unimpressive albeit with some good acting and ideas in spite of an unclear script and uninteresting guest characters (oh yeah that sudden romance at the end was really necessary!). But with these two episodes behind I’m still intrigued. At one point there’s a reference to a “Minister of War” sometime between the 1980s and the twenty-second century which the Doctor questions before dismissing as something he’ll eventually find out about; clearly a teaser for something to come this series (seeing as it was mentioned alongside Harold Saxon I wonder if there’s a connection to Missy and her plan at the end of “The Witch’s Familiar”). And next week we get Vikings and Maisie Williams! Nothing not to like there…I hope!

Popular posts from this blog

Mary Tyler Moore's Best Moments

A couple days ago, we lost the icon Mary Tyler Moore. On the Mount Rushmore of groundbreaking comediennes, Moore has an undeniable place (with Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Cloris Leachman). She was often the best part of the Dick Van Dyke Show, making for half of one of the greatest TV couples. Through her own series, she was a key part of one of the most important and timeless shows of all time. Her kindness, perseverance, and good humour made her a role model for all, but especially women and girls whose greater representation in media she pioneered. She was such an endearingly sweet woman, a champion of diabetes research and a great philanthropist. When watching either of her classic shows, she always felt like a good friend. And now the world has lost that friend.
          In honour of her passing, I want to highlight just some of my favourite Mary Tyler Moore moments both as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, that attest to what a great comedic and inspirational talen…

Disney Sundays: Moana (2016)

When I heard that the next Disney movie, Moana was going to be based around Hawaii, I was tempted to say, “haven’t we been here before?’ It doesn’t feel like too long ago that we had Lilo & Stitch. I was more curious though when I heard it would revolve around Hawaiian mythological figures like Maui and fantastical monsters. But then I remembered Ron Clements and John Musker were the directors behind Hercules and I worried. However I needn’t have, as Moana is easily the pair’s best film since Aladdin.
          A teenage girl called Moana, resident of a small isolated tribe on one of the Polynesian islands, is chosen by the ocean to be an emissary to the banished demigod Maui and convince him to return the Heart of the Sea (a small pounamu stone) to Te Fiti -the goddess he stole it from who’s cursed their world with famine as retribution.
          Though this is a standard and fittingly mythic hero's journey, the story is nonetheless an exciting one to follow due in…

Overlooked Specials 12th Day of Christmas

12th Day of Christmas:
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol This Christmas Day how about we dispense with the feels in favour of a mean but comedically genius one-off of Britain’s best series. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Blackadder, the series about a witty schemer reincarnated through various periods in British history, this special should still make you laugh. An inversion of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Blackadder played of course to perfection by Rowan Atkinson is the kindest man in England which everyone uses to take advantage of him. But an encounter with a Spirit of Christmas causes him to change his ways. Most of the Blackadder cast: Atkinson, Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Miranda Richardson appear here and are excellent, as are guests Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane in a role I’m sure inspired J.K. Rowling to request him for Hagrid. And the writing from Richard Curtis and Ben Elton is as sharp as ever. It’s relentlessly enjoyable, funny…