Sunday, October 11, 2015

Doctor Who Is NEW!: Before the Flood

Hello again! Sunday is the day after Saturday and it's also the day after ALL NEW Doctor Who. So I like to take this space and time to prattle on a bit about the latest adventure of the Doctor and Clara.

This week was Part 2 of the story began last week with Under the Lake, written by Toby Whithouse. The Doctor and Clara arrive in the future on an underwater base at the bottom of a lake. Here a community once existed before it was lost in a flood many years before. The crew of the base have unearthed what appears to be a space ship and worse, it guardian ghost of homicidal tendencies. When the ghosts kills someone, that person becomes a ghost as well and joins in on all the murdering. 

The Doctor and Clara get separated as the Doctor goes back in time to before the flood (hey, that's the title of today's episode) to find out what the heck is going on. 

The journey to the past has apparently not gone well because back in the future, Clara sees the Doctor return. 

As a ghost.

Uh oh. 

So how do things wrap up with this latest episode? We'll find out after the spoiler caution. 

Water you going to do now? I suggest you start reading...

In 5...





Before the Flood  
by Toby Whithouse 

The episode opens with the Doctor in the TARDIS talking to, well, apparently, us, the viewers. He tells the tale of a time traveller who went back in time to meet Beethoven, the great composer. Except Beethoven isn't a great composer. So the time traveller gives his copies of Beethoven's sheet music to Beethoven to sign and get published. Now Beethoven is a great composer. 

Question: Who wrote Beethoven's 5th symphony? 

What the what? Is the Doctor really talking to us? What about the underwater ghosts? 

Then to go even more meta on us, the Doctor picks up his guitar, revs up a few chords of Beethoven's 5th and then...

Plays along with the Doctor Who theme song over the opening credits. 

OK. That's weird. 

So it's 1980 and the Doctor appears in the flooded town before the flood (you know, like in the title). The town is an abandoned military town that was used for training exercises. With the Doctor are two members of the base crew, O'Donnell (Doctor fan girl who name checks Rose, Martha and Amy) and Bennett who does not deal too well with time travel. There they find the space ship which happens to be a space hearse. We meet Prentiss, the Tivolian who will become the first ghost we met last week. He has brought Tivolian's latest conqueror, The Fisher King, to be buried on Earth. 

To bad the Fisher King apparently isn't completely dead. 

But the Tivolian swiftly is rendered living impaired. And subsequently one of the Doctor's two companions as well. Guess which one. Go on, guess. 

Yes, you guessed correctly. 

Of course, if you are guessing, then you haven't seen the episode yet which means you should stop reading and go watch the episode right now. Come back when you're done. We'll wait.  

Sorry about that, folks. We'll resume this blog post momentarily.

<Insert Muzak version of Doctor Who theme>

OK, guessing person's back now. See, I told you, huh? We'll talk more about that later. 

Meanwhile....BACK TO THE FUTURE! 

In 2119, Clara and the other members of the base crew, Cass the hearing impaired commander and Lunn, her interpreter. And they're all a bit shook up by the appearance of the Doctor's ghost. While dealing with this, Clara gets a call from the Doctor. (Man, that is one awesome cell phone plan: calls through time!) Clara has the unfortunate task of informing the Doctor his ghost is outside. But unlike the other ghosts, this one has a different message: the Doctor's ghost is saying all the names of the crew as well as Clara and Prentiss. Back in 1980, Bennett works out what the Doctor has already figured out: the ghost Doctor is giving the names of those involved in the order in which they die. And after the most recent one to die, the next name on this list? Clara Oswald

Yes, I did in fact see that coming, thank you.  

So the Doctor's really ticked off now because it's one thing to know he's going to die and end up a ghost but that's not going to happen to Clara, oh no, not happening. So the Doctor confronts the Fisher King and tells him his plan is already done for. Those words etched in the space ship that programs the coordinates into the ghosts? Gone! So the Fisher King goes back to space ship to check. 

The coordinates are still on the wall. What is missing is the power cell, you know, the one that was missing from last episode. It seems the Doctor has used it to blow up the dam which sends a bunch of water roaring down on the town and on the Fisher King. 

The Fisher King is sleeping with the fishes. Get it?

Sigh. Fine, moving on. 

But wait! The suspended animation chamber the base crew retrieved from the town ruins last episode? Well, it starts beeping and flashing and when it opens...

Go on, guess. 

Yes, you guessed right. 

So things wind up in the TARDIS as Clara compliments the Doctor's clever plan. Except the Doctor asks, who came up with the plan? The Doctor in 1980 only knew what to do because Clara in 2119 relayed the message from the Doctor ghost (er, not a ghost, hologram). So where the plan actually start? In other words....

Who wrote Beethoven's 5th symphony? 

Whoa. Mind blown. Need new mind.  

Writer Toby Whithouse ventures into Steven Moffat's timey wimey territory by setting up a mystery where the past is clearly indicating the events of the future except its not quite what we think. There are things that might look like cheats but they are seeded in advance. For example, the Doctor's ghost was not a ghost but a hologram? How convenient. Yeah except a hologram of Clara was used in the previous episode so it was established this could be done.  

And the pieces of the central paradox were effectively put into place. Whithouse's work on this story is among his best on Doctor Who.  

Some points to ponder: 

The value of a two part episode in the service of character development is definitely clear in this story. We're happy that Cass and Lunn have finally admitted they love each other. We feel sadness for Bennett's loss. We're also sad for having lost O'Donnell. 

OK, bit of a rant here. Last week, some reviewer/recappers called out the use of the "Black Guy Dies First" trope. This week we saw what appears to be a trope unique to Doctor Who: "I've Always Wanted To Meet The Doctor, Whoops! Now I'm Dead".  O'Donnell was a fan of the Doctor, she knew his history well enough to name check previous companions. She was professional but also giddy in being able to meet and travel with the Doctor. 

And this is a thing: 
Osgood in Death in Heaven
Lorna in A Good Man Goes to War
Almost everybody in Love and Monsters 

In a way, Donna's ultimate fate in Journey's End is the culmination of her seeking out the Doctor in Partners In Crime, reflecting this trope. 

All people who sought out the Doctor, ultimately reaching tragic ends. (Unless we find out different about Osgood later this season.)  

Anyway, it's very disheartening, Doctor Who people, to see people who represent us on screen...meeting untimely ends. Are we so cruel to you on the internet, this is how you take your revenge? 

We're back to a theme we visited last year, the Doctor's influence on Clara. Clara sends Lunn out to retrieve her phone that has been taken by a ghost; with its sweet time travel data and calling plan, it's Clara only link to the Doctor in the past. Clara has rightfully deduced that Lunn is immune to the ghosts' lethal nature because he never saw the writing on the wall. (Ooh! I just got that! That's clever!) Still, it is a very Doctor-like cold blooded decision and Cass isn't happy about this plan. Still, Lunn goes off the recovery mission because, like others before, he does what the Doctor Clara says.  After awhile, Cass feels compelled to go after Lunn over the Doctor's Clara's objections. So the Doctor Clara gives in as he she usually does and joins Cass. Later, Cass wanders off and the Doctor Clara is miffed that once again, someone has wondered off. 

Speaking of Cass, actress Sophie Stone who is deaf in real life, is wonderful as Cass. Without words, a lot has to be communicated through facial expressions and physicality. As Clara noted after Cass expressed how she felt about Clara's decision to send Lunn on a mission, "I don't need an interpreter for that."  Sophie Stone knocks the role of Cass out of the park. 

There is a line that I'm sure gave every Whovian watching a bit of a pause. Clara, admonishing the Doctor not to give in and die, says, (I'm paraphrasing here), "You can die on whoever comes after me but you're not going to die on me!" Knowing what we know that Jenna Coleman has left Doctor Who, this seems to be a bit of foreshadowing. Indeed, we've had two stories back to back where Clara's death (or potential death) has been a key motivating factor for the Doctor. Each time, death has been averted. But will luck or time run out? There is a certain fear that Clara is heading for a not quite happy fate. 

Next week: Vikings. Cyborg Vikings! And Maisie Williams too! I'll be back here in this space next Sunday with a look back at next Saturday's new episode of Doctor Who

Another post coming up tomorrow. In the meantime, be good to one another.

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