Doctor Who Review: ‘Before the Flood’

Following the disappointment that was the Rugby World Cup for English fans Doctor Who can return to its status as top dog of Saturday Night TV in the UK and the episode “Before the Flood” starts out in the most epic way possible – having The Doctor playing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on an electric guitar.

The previous episode “Under the Lake” ended on a huge cliffhanger with The Doctor seemingly dying in 1980 and his ghost appearing in 2119. Clara and two other members are trapped in the base and have to flee from ghosts wanting to kill them for their energy. In 1980 The Doctor and the other two members of the crew go back to the abandoned village before the flood, trying to figure out how to stop an alien threat and prevent their own deaths.
doctor who before the flood still
This episode has a ballsy introduction, having The Doctor speak directly to the camera, describing an event from his past and the concept of a Bootstrap Paradox (as The Doctor says ‘Google it!’). It is a daring opening, setting up the concept of the episode and giving Capaldi’s Doctor more personality and character traits. Capadi is coming more into his own in this version of The Doctor, being more distinctive then he was in the previous season. Capadi is now showing a greater mix of light-heartedness and while keeping his serious side. One of the best moments in the episode is when The Doctor sacrifices one of the people who travel back to 1980 with him and is chastised for valuing one life over another. It hits harder because it was the character who most idolized The Doctor and who was excited to be a part of one of his adventures. This Doctor shows a colder edge to his previous incarnation of the famous Gallifreyian.

“Under the Lake” was a simple base in peril storyline and effective at using its limited space. “Before the Flood” expands on the story, effectively blending the parallel timelines and how they collide together, being a brilliant piece of writing by Toby Whithouse – who brings it all together at the end. In 2119 Clara has to use to intelligence, ingenuity and experience to ensure her own survival and to help The Doctor as much possible – who is stuck in 1980. When The Doctor was unable to return to 2119 because he was stuck in his own timestream and this leads to a story reference to Back to the Future Part II, a movie whose future date, October 21, 2015, is fast approaching.
doctor who before the flood
The premise is The Doctor trying to prevent his own death, but long time viewers know that this was a fake out before the episode even started: there was no way the show would kill off The Doctor. There was obviously going to be some sort of twist and lowered any scene of tension that the episode would have had. We have been spoiled by shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead that is willing to kill of major characters at a moment’s notice.

“Before the Flood” also introduces the villain The Fisher King, the body that was being transported in the previous episode. He was voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, best known for his roles in Shaun of the Dead, Spy and voicing Darth Maul and had Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot, doing the monster’s roar: they were the best part of the monster. They ensured The Fisher King has a sinister presence, giving him a very menacing voice as he taunts The Doctor and the history of his race. Despite being a fairly generic monster-of-the-week, you would want more of Seranfinowicz’s voice. The design is more disappointing, looking like a very tall cross between the aliens in Independence Day and the Predators. The Fisher King could have been a great villain if he was developed more.

“Before the Flood” is a solid entry for Doctor Who and a slight improvement over “Under the Lake” because of its use of more ambitious writing. Season 9 is so far a massive improvement over the previous one and next up we have The Doctor teaming up with Ayra Stark.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.