Doctor Who episode 833: Before the Flood (10/10/2015)
‘You can’t just go back and cut off tragedy at the root.’ This takes some leaves from the Moffat approach to two-parters, like a second half that introduces a new setting. But mostly, this is more of the same – running away from ambling monsters. It just so happens this time as well as ghosts there’s a man in a massive monster suit (with Darth Maul’s voice) with the same unfortunate gynaecological resemblance as a Vervoid.
The new setting is pretty good – a Russian town built in the Scottish highlands, like something out of an episode of The New Avengers. There’s no thematic link to the wider story I picked up – no Cold War parallels – it’s just quite cool. Similarly, all the up-front to-camera stuff about Beethoven is just a way to make another bootstrap paradox look clever rather than contrived, rather than a wider engagement with the concept. Whithouse has seen the mechanics that underpin Moffat’s best timey-wimey works and written something in that vein, but Moffat’s paradoxes tend to work on sleight of hand and the audience admiringly realising how the answer has been hidden in plain sight. This unfolds with mechanical diligence rather than any gotcha inspiration, even when two Doctors and Bennetts are wandering about the 1980s.
The end result works, but without much enthusiasm. There’s a good sequence of Cass being stalked by the noisy ghost of Moran, which reminded me of Mike Flanagan’s excellent 2016 horror film Hush. Sadly, it’s undermined when Cass implausibly attains Daredevil radar-sense. Jenna Coleman has been kept on for another year, but this is the fourth episode in a row where same-old Clara been little more than a damsel in distress, the reason why the Doctor decides to go out on a limb and confront the Fisher King, rather than having anything of her own to do. I guess this is all set-up for Hell Bent, but I think I’d rather have had Faye Marsay or Morven Christie as a new companion. The Minister of War was clearly setting up something.
Next Time: The Girl Who Died