Sunday, 11 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who 9.4: Before The Flood

Rita Repulsa will be along after this and he'll have to fight
him with a MegaZord.
The Doctor is not going to die. Let us all accept this, consign it into the ledger of time, and move on with our lives. And, most importantly, stop writing stories in which the tension of the story derives from the idea that the show's main protagonist is going to die for good in the fourth episode of a twelve episode series. There was a lot to love in this week's outing, but after the tight tension of last week's Base-Under-Siege, this more traditionally Moffatish episode lost a lot of what made last week fun. After last week's pleasant surprise, I was so disappointed in the show's return this style - especially as being the second half of a two-parter sullied the first half by association.
     The Doctor and two of the members of the Base travel back in time to 1980s Scotland, the titular Lake of the previous episode being held back by a dam. The town is abandoned and covered in Soviet Propaganda - apparently the town was a training ground for Western operatives. They find the Spaceship, and the Tivolian undertaker who has brought it here, while in the future Clara notes that The Doctor's "ghost" is simply speaking the names of each member of the group in the order in which they are going to die. The occupant of the spaceship soon turns out to be a huge Power-Rangers-esque villain known as The Fisher King, a former occupier of Tivoli who wishes to use the "ghosts" to call an invasion fleet to anihilate Earth, for whatever reason. The Doctor, having until this point being adamant that the existence of his ghost means he must die here, decides to fuck that and blows up the damn, killing the Fisher King. He makes his way back to the future and saves the day. Oh, and lots of the crew declare their love for each other, or something.
     Last season the show liked to mess around with its opening credits. This is nothing new, and it was common in the Classic Series to have the title card of the story be thematically matched to its contents. This week was... not at all like that, in fact. We began the episode with a long sequence in which The Doctor, directly addressing the camera, explained a Bootstrap Paradox to us, which was later then namechecked at the episode's conclusion as an explanation (or rather an analysis) of the episode's events. He then proceeded to play the Doctor Who theme on an electric guitar, which formed the episode's titles. There didn't seem to be any reason thematically for this to be here - it was almost as if the producers heard Capaldi playing electric guitar at some point over the Summer and just decided to throw it into a bunch of episodes. The breaking of the fourth wall took me out of the excitement I had for the episode, and broke the cardinal rule of visual media - show, don't tell.
There has been more or less no signs that these two had anything
other than a professional relationship, and yet they're bunged
together at the end in a way which feels like they'd only just read
that part of the script.
     The explanation of the mythology behind the events of last week felt quite underwhelming. The Fisher King was kept in the shadows quite a lot, and I think the shadows was where he should have stayed - there have been some naff monsters on Moffat Who, and this was another of them. The anticlimax the Fisher King provided acted as a metaphor for this two-parter as a whole - tense and brilliant in its first appearance, and less than impressive once it actually reveals itself. The wishy-washy time travel element of the plot didn't add anything to the story, and the somehow rushed conclusion at the end threw together the mixed evils of "it wasn't me who died it was a robot/tessalecta/hologram" and "let's pair people together despite no romantic chemistry."
      Last week, I was singing Whithouse's praises as the last of the Doctor Who "old guard" who wasn't writing crap. I don't know how much influence Moffat had on this week's episode, but it seemed such a departure from last week that I felt a little disappointed. I'm still enjoying Doctor Who at this point, and I'm very glad that's still the case, but the show's creative engine is spluttering at the moment. The oil needs changing, the engine needs a refit. The relationship between The Doctor and Clara doesn't feel naturalistic because it's essentially been tacked-on to the end of last season's arc, too many plots this season have revolved around "ooh ah they gonna die", and each episode keeps making these disparate, "subtle" hints forward to the end of the season. Things were so close to being great, but yet again the arrow just missed the mark.


NEXT WEEK: Arya Stark helps The Doctor fight Vikings in the past. Apparently.

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