Doctor Who “Before the Flood” Review (Season 9 Episode 4)

Doctor Who "Before The Flood" Season 9 Episode 4 (2)

I’m not going to spend this review complaining about what this episode of Doctor Who wasn’t, but it’s worth mentioning that “Before the Flood” really seemed like it was playing on some of the bigger mysteries of the Twelfth Doctor this week. What we got instead was a solid, entertaining conclusion to this latest two-parter, one that elevated an otherwise standard first part.

From the opening monologue about the bootstrap paradox, it was clear this episode would be a more twisty-turny affair than last week, a fact that quickly became apparent as the Doctor was faced with a time loop, his own ghost, and the very real threat of losing Clara. It made for a quick-paced hour of television that provided the Doctor more chances to face his own mortality and the unknown. We also got further shades of the negative light this Doctor is often seen in, with Bennett blaming the Doctor’s curiosity for O’Donnell’s death.

So, as a continued exploration of the Doctor’s mental state, this two-parter did great work, pushing our hero to new creative and paradoxical lengths in order to bring Clara and himself safely out the other side. It also gave us a creepy villain in the form of the Fisher King, whose rather shoddy costuming was made up for by a strong vocal performance from Peter Serafinowicz. It wasn’t the greatest two-parter the show has ever produced, but it ended up a stronger adventure than part one implied.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if this story could’ve been used to probe a little deeper into the show’s mythology, with the mystery of the week seeming to hint at the larger question behind the Twelfth Doctor, one that’s been there since he first regenerated. This episode dealt directly with the idea of fixed points in time, unchangeable points in history that are beyond even the Doctor’s power to fix.

It’s nothing new for the show, but there were hints of “The Fires of Pompeii” at paly here, the episode now famous for featuring Peter Capaldi before he was the Doctor. That was also an episode about the Doctor being unable to change events, but he found a way around it. I don’t know, it was a vague connection at best, sure, but the premiere of the Twelfth Doctor, as well as production notes from showrunner Steven Moffatt, have suggested that there’s a reason the Doctor shares his face with others he has encountered before, and it seemed like this episode would possibly address that.

Instead, we got a solid, fun adventure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, so far, it seems like this season will be more about simple, one-off stories than some larger plot, and that may actually be a welcome change of pace. Time will tell.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!