Second Opinion – Season 9, Episode 04 “Before the Flood”

secondopinion

Jerry: So, episode 4 is “Before the Flood.” As I understood it, most of this story takes place like 200-300 years before the events that we saw all in last week’s episode. The Doctor and two of the crew from the lab travel in the TARDIS back in time to visit the region before it was flooded to make the lake. While there, they meet the undertaker, who was the first ghost encountered in the episode last week. The story then bounces back and forth between the lab in the future, and this non-flooded town in the past.

Doctor-Who-Before-the-Flood-14At one point, the Doctor and Clara have a phone conversation going on hundreds of years apart. I’m assuming that’s one of the features on the new iPhone that was released the other week. It’s not a feature on my phone.

Brent: Well you get that feature, plus there is a free U2 album as well.

In the new version of Doctor Who, he’s had several instances where he and his companion get separated. So the Doctor will use the sonic screwdriver or do something jiggery-pokery-like to the phones so that they can receive phone calls on a multi-universal calling plan. I don’t think it’s offered by Sprint.

J: You better have a really good roaming plan for something like that.

maxresdefault (1)So, what else should we say about this episode?

B: Well I think we both left off, at the end of last week, kind of hoping that this second-part episode would help elevate what we saw in the first-part episode last week. Do you feel like that happened?

J: I’m not sure. To me, it felt like it totally took the story in a whole different direction. When you introduce the elements of time travael like this, you’re no longer in the locked room. Sending some of the characters out to go do their thing really felt like a cheat. We’ve started the game in the locked room situation, but now we don’t like the rules that we’re playing under. So let’s do a timeout and change the rules around so we can affect the outcome. Almost like Kirk changing the programming for the Kobayashi Maru test.

B: That’s actually a very accurate description of Doctor Who. They do that so often. They will find themselves trapped in a situation, and the only way out of it is an impossible scenario that you just have to put your faith in that it’s going to work. So yes, that was very accurate. You summed up 50 years of Doctor Who very nicely in one sentence.

J: That’s a little scary.

B: We found out in the in the pre-credit sequence, as the Doctor is speaking to Clara, but seems to be addressing the audience, breaking the fourth wall. Talking to us about the Bootstrap Paradox, and he advises us to Google it. He gave us the whole big story about a time traveler who goes back in history to meet Beethoven. When he gets there, he finds that there is no Beethoven. So the time traveler becomes Beethoven for the sake of history. But then how was the music ever composed, because it was a paradoxical feat of music. What is your feeling? I know that he looks right at the camera and said “This never happened, by the way”. But you kind of get the feeling that maybe it did happen in that universe, and the Doctor is actually Beethoven.

J: I hope not. You know, I enjoy when they interact with those moments of history. I don’t necessarily know that I like when they become those moments from history. I think that takes away some of the charm of it.

B: I like how it was set up. He specifically denies that the scenario ever happened but it does implant that germ of doubt in your mind if it really did happen.

I did think it was really cool that they found another way to work in the guitar. I don’t know if you noticed it in the end credits, but they tweaked the theme song since it went straight from the intro scene into the opening credits. So that’s Peter Capaldi mixed in, playing electric guitar along with the show’s theme music.

J: Changing direction here – I liked the interaction between Clara and Cass, the deaf lab commander. There are a few scenes where the two characters are isolated together. Clara is able to interact with her because she recognizes the facial emotions, having gone through many of those herself. I thought that was a neat way to bond two characters together like that.

B: Yes, especially since they were essentially locked together in a room. It would be the equivalent of two people who spoke two different languages being locked in the same room, where you just have to rely on the visual cues.

DoctorWho_BeforetheFlood_ClaraI think part of the reason I wasn’t as fond of the first part of the story was that I felt like there was not an appropriate sense of mounting dread. It seemed like they were trying to set that atmosphere but for me, it never really succeeded last week. But this week, with the scene where the ghost was dragging the axe behind him, making vibrations on the floor, and we as the audience could obviously hear him coming. But for Cass being in an enclosed area and not able to hear what was going on, I thought that was a really neat mechanism to amp up the dread level. I thought that really worked well. That’s one of the things that Doctor Who succeeds at usually more than it fails. Trying to set up that level of danger that’s enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, but not enough that it would really scar a child for a life. I think they usually do it pretty good, and I think they really succeeded in this episode especially.

So last week, you asked why they couldn’t all get into the TARDIS and leave a dangerous situation. So what was your thought about this week when that actually played out?

J: It was almost like I had seen the episode in advance, but quite honestly I hadn’t.

I liked the fact that he was being held there; that he just couldn’t leave and get away from it all. But there was one part of the stuff in the past I didn’t like. To me, I didn’t feel the dread there like I did for the lab in the future. Just seeing that creature towards the end. He was large and imposing, but I don’t think that I viewed him as a threat.

We see that the battery unit that the Doctor stole from the space ship was used to destroy the dam. What if we had seen that the dam cracking from the start of the episode? So there was the threat that it would break at any moment. So now you are racing against a clock, trying to resolve everything before that dam did break, rather than being the one that caused the dam to break.

B: I agree with you 100%! I think that would have added the extra element of danger to the scenes set in the past. That ticking clock, that race against time feeling. I think you’re perfectly right. I think that would’ve been a fantastic idea.

Let’s look at the Fisher King, the monster introduced in this show. What did you think of the design of the creature?

beforethefloodJ: He looked familiar. I haven’t quite pegged where I have seen that look or design before.

B: His facial features, although they weren’t exact, seemed to remind of the Predator.

J: Maybe that was what I was thinking he looked like.

B: But in an attempt to make him look so big, which I would assume that was probably an actor on stilts performing that, I feel like they could have probably made that creature more creepier or threatening by making him a more nimble, more agile. It looked like you could walk up to him and just push him over.

J: It looked like if you just walked fast enough, you could easily outdistance him at any point.

B: So I think there they did miss a couple of opportunities for increasing the danger level. But then we probably also have to look at the fact that it is a children’s show, and they probably have to pick and choose their battles as far as how much terror and drama they can have for kids.

J: You raise an interesting comment there. Do you or does the public really still consider this a kids show?

B: In terms of the United Kingdom, the answer is Yes. Doctor Who has a greater presence in the toy stores. I feel like it’s probably marketed equally to children and adults in the U.K.; however, in the United States, it seems to be marketed exclusively to adults. Realizing that, they are now showing David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor adventures on Disney XD. So it seems like they’re trying to go back and retroactively build a younger fan base. Because when you come into Doctor Who at any point, you still have 50 years that you can explore. Every year can be a new jumping on point for people. And every episode, even if it’s in the middle of the season, can always be some person’s first encounter with Doctor Who, and they can still usually get the gist of what’s going on.

I have just one last thing. I thought it was visually intriguing that they decided to have the town once be a staging ground for war games against the Russians in the Cold War. I thought that was an interesting flavor to have all the Russian propaganda and posters in the background. It felt a little different than other episodes that we’ve had that might have been a little similar in tone.

maxresdefaultJ: It would have been more interesting if we had seen some of that carryover into the future. We could have seen some of that propaganda floating in the water.

B: I really feel like that, in this particular instance, they wanted to deliver us a two-part episode, but they also wanted to deliver two separate stories, or two separate sides of the same story, rather than just a continuation from one to the next.

J: It is two different stories that they have managed to bridge together into one.

B: One last thing and then we’ll wrap up. Were you aware of the celebrity guest that was in this episode?

J: No I wasn’t. Who was in the show?

B: They recruited the lead singer of Slipknot, Corey Taylor, to come into the studio and use his heavy metal screaming ability to provide all of the horrible alien sounds for the Fisher King. Apparently Taylor has been a Doctor Who fan for quite a while.

J: So next week’s episode looks interesting, with a mix of Vikings using high-tech equipment. It seems like they took multiple abandoned storylines and said, ”Let’s make them all work in one story.”

B: Yes! They are bringing in Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. There’s been a lot of mystery online as far as who her character will be. Typically, any time a new character is introduced on Doctor Who, everyone is trying to link it to someone from a past episode, to build up the continuity. There’s enough mystery around her character, that she could very well be someone from the Doctor’s past. So I’m looking forward to seeing what that revelation will be.

J: Speaking of revelations, if someone wants to read some funny and smart Doctor Who memes, they could go to… 

B: That Time on Doctor Who. Your one-stop-shop for your weekly Doctor Who fix! We apply the MST3K riffing-model to Doctor Who, one frame at a time.  

J: All right. Come back next week for our Second Opinion on episode 5, “The Girl Who Died.”

#ThatTimeOnDrWho is created mostly weekly by Brent Kincade for Word of the Nerd Online!

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Here’s a “bonus track” at the end of the album…this week’s #ThatTimeOnDrWho installment that goes along with Before the Flood.  Enjoy!

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#ThatTimeOnDrWho is produced “mostly-weekly” by Brent Kincade for Word of the Nerd Online!



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