For the second story in a row, Doctor Who is a two-part episode. As much as I like the vintage style of a multi-part Doctor Who story, after the Dalek two-parter and this ghost story, I’m not sure that they’ve quite figured out the pacing yet.
This week, the very spooky ambiance of the underwater base has been replaced with the sunlight of an English amry training ground designed like a Soviet village during the Cold War. That location serves no other purpose than explaining why it was deserted. It works but it’s also a little disappointing that we didn’t see it used more effectively. For example, what would have happened if a training group showed up and were gunned down by the Fisher King?
The crux of Before The Flood was explained in the opening of the episode. The Doctor broke the fourth wall to explain the Bootstrap Paradox to us. It’s a Steven Moffat favourite that he usually explains as wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. The paradox basically says that a future event causes a past event that causes the future event. Remember Blink? The Doctor was on the DVD Sally watched that saved her but she created the notes at that point that The Doctor used in the past to answer the questions that saved her.
In this instance, The Doctor didn’t actually die. Shocking, I know. Thanks to the Bootstrap Paradox, The Doctor was able to save himself by creating the circumstances that kept him alive. The paradox comes from the fact that The Doctor creates his holo-ghost before he knew that he did which caused him to do that in the past which caused him to think he was dead which starts the whole loop over again.
I know that I complained about deus ex machina in the last story because of how conveniently everything worked out for The Doctor. In this instance, they got around the convenience of the solution by creating the Bootstrap Paradox loop. It fit within the context of the show and established science fiction and time travel tropes.
The villain of the week was the Fisher King who appears to be a very new alien and very cool creation out of the BBC creature shop. I love that they put a very tall man in a very creepy outfit and gave him a very creepy voice. It’s not very subtle but what’s subtle about a man who is planning to call an armada to conquer the Earth and drain it of natural resources?
The problem with the Fisher King was that there wasn’t much to him. He looked and sounded scary but we never saw him do anything of note. Sure, he had a conversation where he threatened and belittled The Doctor but that was it. We couldn’t have seen him tear O’Donnell limb from limb or something like that to make him seem threatening beyond being tall and ugly? The Fisher King seems like wasted potential.
Overall, it feels like this season of Doctor Who is like the previous season of Haven. I don’t mind the two-part format as much here because the stories come together fairly well and there are more great moments here than on Haven.
The problem with the last two two-parters is that the episodes feel a little padded out. It’s not too bad. With Haven, I said they were taking about 60 minutes of material and stretching it to 82. Here, it’s closer to 75 or 80 minutes stretched to 90. There’s room to trim the episodes down but they have to fill a timeslot. It’s all turning out well but there is room for improvement.
Other random points of note:
- I loved the little tie-in of the guitar over the Doctor Who theme. The Radio Times says that it’s actually Peter Capaldi playing the guitar in the opening credits. I did mention he used to be in a band.
- Seriously, would anybody mind if they used this new rock theme as the intro for the rest of the season?
- What is with the Hollywood cliché of tell them you’re in love with them and they’ll shove their tongue down your throat? I mean, I love love but you tell anyone that you love them out of the blue and that’s the least likely reaction.
Next week, Arya Stark puts her swordsmanship to good use as a member of a viking village that is trying to save the earth from a medieval form of the Sontarans. Okay, they’re probably just regular Sontarans in old school armor. Anyway, it’s more Doctor Who meets Game of Thrones in The Girl Who Died.