DWO’s Spoiler-free preview of Episode 9.4: Before The Flood:
What a cliffhanger to leave us on! The Doctor trapped in the Dalek city with both his friends exterminated is one thing, but heading back in time and then appearing in the present as a ghost... That's something else.
'Before the Flood' acts as a nice counterpoint to last week's episode, wisely moving from the tight, claustrophobic confines of the underwater base and instead shifts part of the action to the village outside during the 1980s. There's something fun about watching all the pieces from last week's episode fall into place, and it's a tale perfectly suited to Doctor Who. There's moments reminiscent of 'Father's Day', or 'Harry Potter', as the Doctor and his makeshift TARDIS crew work to put everything in place and attempt to save the future.
Such a set-up also gives us the perfect example of how 'time can be rewritten', with events in the past directly taking an impact on the future, meaning that neither time zone is ever safe for long. Even in a lovely desolate location, you can still feel the creep of the oncoming threat - just as tense as last week in its own way.
As usual, you can take it as read that Peter Capaldi shines through this episode, especially in an opening scene reminiscent of last year's Listen, in which we're given a glimpse into the way the Doctor thinks, and an even clearer window into what it's like to be a companion aboard the TARDIS. It's perhaps the crowning glory of a brilliant script by Toby Whithouse, with every line of this scene in particular crafted to sound just right coming from Capaldi's mouth. It also gives the Twelfth Doctor the chance to do something that none of the previous incarnations have done... Here at Doctor Who Online, we're not ashamed to say that we've worn out our preview tape by watching these opening few minutes over and over.
The two-parter format which is prevalent this season really shows its strength across this story, with much more time given over to building the individual guest characters. Splitting them apart in this episode only serves to shine the spotlight on each character in turn. While those traveling alongside the Doctor are reduced to being stand in companions (though still given the chance to show their skills and offer their advice), it's really in pairing Sophie Stone's Cass and Zaqi Ismail's Lunn with Clara that we find the real meat. Watching Clara's transformation into someone who understands the way the Doctor operates and isn't afraid to do the same has been a key point since last series, and this episode really backs Clara to the wall. The Doctor sometimes has to be cruel to be kind, as it were, but the question remains; does Clara have what it takes to be the Doctor, once he's been turned into a murderous ghost?
Five things to look out for:
1) 'There's this man who has a time machine. Up and down history he goes, zip zip zip zip zip...'
2) Beethoven is a bit intense. And he loves an arm wrestle.
3) Who is the 'Minister of War'?
4) 'Here. Now. This is where your story ends.'
5) A new theme tune!
[Sources: DWO, Will Brooks]