In this arc of season 9 of Doctor Who (“Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood), the Doctor and Clara find themselves in an underwater base built amid a flooded town. Oh, and the base happens to be inhabited by ghosts who are doing more than just haunting the base’s occupants. It’s up to the duo to solve the mystery of the ghosts and try to stop them.
Toby Whithouse usually writes one or two episodes of Doctor Who per season. His episodes (which include “School Reunion,” “Vampires of Venice,” and “A Town Called Mercy”) always tend to be fun and interesting. I suppose you can count me as a bit biased since he also ran the BBC version Being Human. While this episode isn’t my favorite penned by Whithouse, it definitely lives up to the title of fun and interesting.
The idea of exploring ghosts was not as trite as one might think. Season 7 also had a ghost episode (written by the ever wonderful Neil Cross) but dealt with the more mysterious and unseen ghost. These ghosts were very much visible and creepy. Just look at the eyes. Do you see any? That’s because there aren’t any!
Also, this particular episode of Doctor Who did something rare for the series, they crossed timelines within the episode. In other words, the Doctor actually went back in time and saw his past, a past we had already seen in the episode. It was very much Back to the Future Part II-esque and was a lot of fun to see him bumbling around like Marty and Doc Brown.
Lastly, the second episode dealt with a paradox that is quite common in time travel, who came up with the idea first? The Doctor opens up “Before the Flood” with a hypothetical story of a time traveler who goes to the past to meet Beethoven. However, Beethoven doesn’t exist. Fortunately, the time traveler brought along copies of all of Beethoven’s works and transcribed them down, thus making himself Beethoven. So the question remains, who truly wrote Beethoven’s works? It was a mysterious opening that immediately followed with the Doctor taking his now trademark electric guitar and riffing along to the theme song.
I didn’t care for most of the minor characters like I did for the Doctor and Clara. That’s probably why the deaths had no meaning for me. They were just killing off the least important/least likable characters. If death is just going to be meaningless, then there is no point in having it be apart of the story. And on that note, there is no point in trying to convince us that you are going to kill off the Doctor or Clara. We know they have already filmed the entire season and that it’s highly unlikely either one will be killed off this early in the season.
This was not a bad arc of Doctor Who but it was also not a strong arc like the previous Dalek story. The story itself became much more interesting in the second episode when we are given a glimpse into the town before it met its watery grave, not to mention the discussion of time travel paradoxes. However, something was lacking here. And it probably had something to do with the fact that I was not invested enough in the minor characters to actually care what happened to them.