Sunday, 11 October 2015

Review: Doctor Who - Before The Flood

'Under The Lake' dived straight into the adventure but did the momentum continue when we went back to 'Before The Flood'...?

'Doctor, such an honour. I've always been a huge admirer. This is really a delight. Finally! Someone worth talking to.'

When Doctor Who largely ditched two-parters for Series 7 and 8, some fans complained that several stories were crying out for another 45 minutes to be explored more fully. However, it also works the other way around too and two-parters - which have now returned with a vengeange for Series 9 - have the tough job of sustaining the story for twice the normal length. As such, 'Before The Flood' isn't as strong a second part as certain other episodes. 

While there is a well-handled dual narrative which allows for breathing room for the two groups of characters, this one largely lacked the cohesiveness of last week. And perhaps I've just seen too much Doctor Who ('sacrilege!' says my brain as I type this. 'Go and watch 'The Uneathly Child' three times for your sins.') but some of the twists and revelations seemed a little bit too telegraphed or obvious to be surprising. However, my main reservation is with the mistreatment of the monster. The Fisher King was a real beaut, looking like a cross between a Sycorax and a Vervoid, and had a great booming and articulate voice, courtesy of someone I've wanted to be in Doctor Who for ages, talented comedian and voice actor (he's Darth Maul as well, Star Wars fans) Peter Serafinowicz. Sadly, though, he is very underused.

That is not to say that there is nothing to enjoy. The stand-out scene of the episode for me was Cass versus the ghost with the axe. A truly tense sequence - a proper 'for God's sakes, look behind you!' moment - director Daniel O'Hara also utilised a brilliant visual representation of what it was like for Cass. This episode also gave Clara her meatiest role so far this series, building on the hints of last week's reveal that she is using the Doctor to run away from her grief - as well as extenuating the ongoing theme of Clara's increasing Doctorishness. There were also a couple of things that we are given to chew on - could the off-hand reference to 'The Minister of War' be of relevance somewhere soon down the line?

But let's talk about the elephant in the room - yes, the Doctor really was talking to us! Though there have been cheeky flirtations with the fourth wall in the past (last year's 'Listen' did something similar) this episode's opening buldozed through it. Myself, it was an enjoyable, avante-garde intro though the brevity of its wrap-up in the closing moments make it feel a little needless. I did love the rocktastic theme tune though. 

Overall, while there was much to enjoy here, 'Before The Flood' lacked a lot of the atmosphere that made 'Under The Lake' successful. For me, it wasn't a particularly strong example for the new two-parter format as I have a suspicion you could have cut these two episodes to just one without losing a great deal. Still, there is still much to recommend the show's continual playing with the format - it seems the sonic shades are here to stay! - so this episode looks likely to be the minor lull before the flood of terrific stories this series.

Water a way to die! The Fisher King hits the waves in 'Before The Flood'

Next week: The Doctor has to train up a Viking village to face the alien Mire. Luckily he might have some help... 'The Girl Who Died' - Saturday 17th, 8.20pm, BBC One.

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