Before the Flood, the fourth episode of season 9 is the conclusion to the second two-parter of the season. The Doctor must go back to 1980, before the town was flooded, to figure out what happened and who the aliens were that came on the ship and why.
This episode starts out with the Doctor explaining the “Bootstrap Paradox,” in which a future event is caused by a past event which in turn is the cause of the future event. The question the Doctor poses, is what caused the event in the first place. His example uses Beethoven’s music, but in the episode, it revolves around his ghost. The ghost that appears to Clara, was that really his ghost the first time? I like this kind of paradox as long as I don’t have to think about it too much. It worked out fairly well in the story, with things shown in the future being explained in the past, such as the missing power cell and why the dam failed. The Doctor posits that he couldn’t have come up with everything with knowing the future, but everything he did is just what you would expect the Doctor to do. I don’t think it’s as paradoxical as the writers tried to make it out to be.
O’Donnell was really cute. Her reaction to the TARDIS just added to her geek cred. I can understand her reaction to not wanting to be left behind. Plus, he’s the Doctor, who wouldn’t want to see him in action, in the flesh. The Doctor could have explained. It shouldn’t have mattered since he was going to “change” history anyway, but it seems Moffat’s got it out for the geek girls. The scene at the end with Cass and Lunn was nice too. I didn’t like their expressions as Lunn translated and Cass got the message. At least someone got a happy ending. Cass continued to be the best character, especially when she argues with Clara about Lunn going outside the Faraday cage. She is spot on with her evaluation of Clara.
I didn’t find this episode as compelling as the first half. The pace changed too much from the horror-esque feel of being hunted with no way out of the first half. I loved the design of the Fisher King, but as a villain he didn’t do much except smack talk the Time Lords and hover menacingly over the Doctor. Yes, he does kill O’Donnell before we see him, so there is some sense of dread, but once the Doctor confronts him, it’s all lost, especially when he falls for the “I erased the words” bit to get him outside in time to see the dam break.
I’m really hating the whole “doing everything for Clara’s sake.” The Doctor has always done everything he could for his companions, but Twelve’s constant declarations of “changing time itself” for her it getting on my nerves. So is her manipulations of him by declaring “if you’ve ever loved me,” to spur him into action. It’s like the Tenth Doctor and Rose all over again, and I detested that relationship, and I’m detesting it here too.
I also don’t like Clara acting like the Doctor. I am watching a show called Doctor Who, not Doctor Whos. If there is going to be multiple Doctors, I want it to be previous incarnations, not a companion trying to copy him. Moffat has been setting this up for a while with Clara, and I’m sure it’s going to have something to do with Clara’s leaving and the whole “time lord hybrid” prophecy.
Overall, I don’t feel that this second part of the story lived up to the promise made in the first. The scenes with Cass, Lunn and Clara dealing with the ghosts still held the sense of dread from the first part, but everything with the Doctor in the past didn’t. It felt too slow. The prospect of the Doctor having to die was too unbelievable. The Fisher King was too ineffectual as a villain. I did like the use of the bootstrap paradox, but found it ultimately unnecessary. Still it was a good effort.