Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S09E04 – Before the Flood

In the fourth episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor must toy with time in order to save Clara. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who. 

AHHHHH THIS IS SO COOL. Much like “Under the Lake,” this episode treads in familiar waters. (Heh heh.) It’s full of tropes I’ve seen quite often in the genre and in this show specifically, and yet, the bulk of this still felt exciting and thrilling. LET’S TALK.

The Bootstrap Paradox

Otherwise known as a causality loop! We’ve seen them before on Doctor Who, and it’s probably the only thing here that wasn’t terribly exciting to me. The other details of the story were, but there’s such a huge deal made out of this paradox as if Doctor Who had never used it before. At the same time, the opening fourth-wall-breaking monologue is SO PERFECT, as is the chance to watch Twelve play the electric guitar again. And there’s a new theme!!! So, who cares about my opinions, ELECTRIC GUITAR TWELVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

Before the Flood

Seriously, bless the location scout who found that base to film all the scenes that took place in 1980. What a wonderfully creepy location, first of all, and the perfect place to represent the army base that later would become the final resting ground of the Fisher King. WHICH HURTS MY BRAIN A LITTLE BIT, but that’s why causality loops are so frustrating. Amidst the ruins of an abandoned base, O’Donnell, Bennett, and the Doctor attempt to discover why this alien ship landed in the first place and why the weird subconscious message was burned into their minds. Thus, we’re introduced to Prentis before they die, and then THE FISHER KING.

Do we even know what species the Fisher King is? NO. Do we know their motivations beyond sending a signal to his people so they can take over the Earth? NO. Do I care? NOOOOOOO. BECAUSE HOLY SHIT, THE FISHER KING IS SO TERRIFYING AND COOL AND I LOVE HIS REVEAL AND I LOVE THAT HE’S JUST AN UNREPENTANT VILLAIN HERE. I definitely love it when the characters are complex and layered, but you know what’s also great? An antagonist  who doesn’t give a shit about anyone and is there to create dramatic tension for other people. YES. YES.


There’s a thread of a story in “Before the Flood” that is eventually discarded by the end of the episode, and it’s the major flaw I see in the second half of this two-parter. Once Clara and the Doctor communicate with each other (OVER HUNDREDS OF YEARS, HOW COOL), they’re able to compare facts from both periods of time, which helps them to determine what’s going on. This is important because this episode features a moment where Clara and the Doctor feel very similar to one another. The Doctor even calls it out to Clara’s face, stating that there’s room for only one Doctor in the TARDIS.

I see that now as foreshadowing for what Clara and the Doctor choose to do in this episode. Both characters compel others to do things for their own benefit. The Doctor tests his theory about the list of names that Clara gives him by letting O’Donnell die, even though he could have rewritten time. Clara, on the other hand, asks Lunn to go retrieve her iPhone, since he’s immune to the ghosts. Both Bennett and Cass call out the Doctor and Clara, respectively, but I feel like Whithouse’s script never follows up on this. Especially in the Doctor’s case, that’s a fair thing to be angry about! Yet the story is dropped. Is Clara becoming more like the Doctor, and is that a bad thing? If the cost of them doing good is human life, is it even worth it? I suppose I wouldn’t even have noticed this if the Doctor hadn’t chided the Fisher King for using people for his own ends; isn’t that exactly what he did, too?

Beethoven’s Fifth

In the end, the Doctor was in the stasis chamber the whole time, which makes me wonder: DID HE SERIOUSLY STAY INSIDE THAT THING FOR 150 YEARS? Actually, wouldn’t the Doctor have appeared in the present time immediately after the dam broke? I’m not sure how time travel works in this specific context, but the Doctor was in that chamber, and it sat there for 150 years, so WHAT. WHAT.

The video for “Before the Flood” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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