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Doctor Who: Before the Flood (Review)

“Prentis! He’s alive.”

“No, he’s just not dead yet.”

– Bennett and the Doctor understand how this whole base under siege thing works

There is an argument to be made that Before the Flood is just too damn clever for its own good.

Under the Lake was a very conventional and familiar “base under siege” story, the kind of tense confined thriller that Doctor Who did so well. However, Before the Flood does more than simply extend that premise by another forty-five minutes. Instead, it gets decidedly playful. This is a nice twist on the structure of the season, a season built around multiple interlocking two-part episodes. Taking advantage of the break between Under the Lake and Before the Flood, writer Toby Whithouse shifts the episode’s genre along with its setting.

A Fisher (King) in the face of reality itself...

A Fisher (King) in the face of reality itself…

The teaser sets the tone, with the Doctor addressing the audience directly. In fact, one suspects that google searches on the phrase “bootstrap paradox” jumped dramatically at around 8:27pm BST, 10th October 2015. Although the episode’s closing sequence suggests that the Doctor might plausibly be addressing Clara, the framing makes it quite clear that he is talking through the television to the viewers at home. As if to emphasise this little detail, the Doctor’s wailing electric guitar plays into the opening credits; in case the show needed to be more self-aware.

However, Before the Flood is never entirely sure how much of this self-awareness is genuine cleverness and just how much of it is necessary structuring.

Flood of ideas...

Flood of ideas…

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Doctor Who: Time Heist (Review)

Why? There’s no immediate threat?

Warning, intruder alert!

I should really stop saying things like that.

After the ambition of Listen, Time Heist feels like a return to the general narrative conservatism that marks the first half of the season. Introducing the Twelfth Doctor, the first six episodes of the season are all written by veteran writers. With the exception of Listen, they all play it relatively safe. Five episodes into the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure, the approach is starting to grate just a little bit. The training wheels are still on, but there is a sense that the show is itching to remove them.

Indeed, without the ambition that tempers the many flaws with In the Forest of the Night, Time Heist is probably the weakest episode of the season. However, there is something to be said about that; Time Heist may not be a particularly memorable piece of television, but that alone is enough to mark it as much stronger than misfires like Fear Her or Night Terrors or Evolution of the Daleks

or Curse of the Black Spot.

... and they lived happily ever after...

… and they lived happily ever after…

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