Before The Flood begins with The Doctor talks about going back in time to meet Beethoven in a situation he refers to as “The Bootstrap Paradox”, going back to a time when no-one had ever heard of him. He would take all of his symphonies for the man to sign, yet the composer simply copies them all and gets them published, so who really was the composer? In the first time Capaldi’s Doctor has ever spoken to the viewers directly, “The Bootstrap Paradox” is also known as a causal loop.
This was yet another episode where a lot of words are spoken without an awful lot being said, and sometimes Doctor Who realliy does disappear up its own backside when it’s totally unnecessary.
The Doctor, Bennett and O’Donnell go back in time to 1980 with the latter reacting to the year whilst seeming to know an awful lot about the Doctor because she read up about him, saying that time was “pre-Harold Saxon, pre-Minister of War, pre-the moon exploding and a big bat flying out….”
The Doctor asks, curiously, “Minister of War? …Hang on, I’ll find out soon enough.”
She also thinks they’re in Russia, but the Doctor confirms it’s Scotland, but it’s decked out like they’re getting ready to engage in the Cold War, expect for the pilot’s hearse, the ‘spaceship’ that was seen at the start of Under The Lake. This meant we also saw the alive version of Paul Kaye‘s Prentis, who was a funeral director, but his link to Tivoli wasn’t a lot to shout about. The Doctor commented, “I’ve had dealings with your lot before”, with Prentis replying, “No, we do tend to antagonise” and that was about it, other than Bennett declaring him as “the first alien we meet and you’re an idiot”.
Back under the water, in 2119, the Doctor’s ghost was talking to Cass – or rather mouthing words, at which point The Doctor phoned Clara from the TARDIS, and once she told him they’ve seen his ghost, he bemoaned “I have to die”, adding “We all have to face death eventually. Either ours, or someone else’s” and how he can’t change the future as there are rules… even though he changes the future all the time!
The ghost then reeled off a number of names – everyone’s involved in this two-parter, including Clara’s, but then the Doctor’s ghost moved inside and let all the ghosts out of the Faraday cage. It was amusing then when the alive Doctor said whilst on the phone, “I need to talk to me now!”, and when the Doctor, Bennett and O’Donnell prepared to leave the TARDIS, O’Donnell was meant to stay inside to “mind the shop”, but she’s feisty, determined and refuses, stating “Have you ever met me(?)”, but beyond that was a load of confusing time-filling.
Bennett also accurately called The Doctor on his actions, stating, “You change history to save yourself, but not O’Donnell” She was killed by the creatore known as the Fisher King, but since The Doctor’s ghost knows who was going to die, why didn’t the alive Doctor tell them all in 2119?
Similalrly, Cass asked Clara, via Lunn: “Did travelling with the Doctor change you, making you want to put other’s lives at risk?” Clara replied: “He taught me to do what needs to be done.”
The more I think about the episode, the worse it’ll probably seem because after a lot more running about in corridors – in two time zones! – the only reason for the Doctor’s ghost was because he programmed it. It was just a hologram, like Clara’s – a mixture of artificial intelligence and some pre-recorded phrases, all projected from the sonic glasses… despite going THROUGH glass and being projected with quite some draw distance. It was similar to his Beethoven Paradox, which was quickly explained in a slew of sentences that would need more than one viewing to make sense of, but if you followed his Beethoven beef, then you get the gist of this.
(Hands up who thought he wasn’t really dead? Yes, ALL hands are up!)
By the end, all the ghosts were back in the Faraday cage, with the throwaway explanation that UNIT will eventually cut it away and get it thrown out into space where, with nothing better for them to do, the ghosts will simply fade away.
So the episode was okay, but the overcomplications of the paradoxes was rather tiring.
Next week: There’s Vikings; they’re the deadliest warrior of the galaxy, and there’s Maisie Williams!
Before The Flood is available on the BBC iPlayer until November 9th.
Doctor Who Series 9 Part 1 is available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD, and individual episodes can be bought in HD and SD here. And click on all the images in this review for the full-sized version.
Director: Daniel O’Hara
Producer: Derek Ritchie
Screenplay: Toby Whithouse
Music: Murray Gold
The Doctor: Peter Capaldi
Clara Oswald: Jenna Coleman
Moran: Colin McFarlane
O’Donnell: Morven Christie
Cass: Sophie Stone
Lunn: Zaqi Ismail
Bennett: Arsher Ali
Pritchard: Steven Robertson
Prentis: Paul Kaye
The Fisher King: Corey Taylor
The Fisher King: Peter Serafinowicz
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.