Monday, October 12, 2015

Doctor Who, Season Nine, Episode Four: Before the Flood

In the Tardis, the Doctor tells a story about a man who has a time machine and a passion for the works of Beethoven.  One day, the man thinks to himself, what is the point of having a time machine if you don't get to meet your heroes.  The man travels to 18th century Europe, but cannot find Beethoven anywhere. Not even Beethoven's family has heard of him.  The Doctor breaks the 4th wall and says, "this didn't happen btw."  Holding a statue of Beethoven now, the Doctor says google the bootstrap paradox.  It seems that the man brought all of Beethoven's sheet music to be signed and being enterprising, Ludwig copied all of the concertos and symphonies and git them published which means history continues without a ruffled feather. The Doctor asks who really composed Beethoven's fifth, picking up his guitar and playing the opening notes. Yes, they are really pushing the Doctor as a musician and taking advantage of Capaldi's ability to play the guitar.

Lunn, O'Donnell and The Doctor have landed in the past.  The Doctor, notes that O'Donnell knows a lot about him and she explains that she used to be military intelligence.  The Doctor informs her that they are in 1980. O'Donnell fakes having something in her boot and then excitedly jumps up and down because the Tardis is bigger on the inside.  When O'Donnell and Lunn catch up with the Doctor, The Doctor explains that they are in Scotland at the height of the cold war.   It seems that at this location, the military was training for attacking the Soviets.

The Doctor, Lunn, and O'Donnell enter the ship and the Doctor realises that the ship is actually a hearse. O'Donnell notices that there are no markings on the wall.  The undertaker, who is from the most invaded planet in the universe (Tivoli) appears. The funeral director explains that the chamber contains the body of the Fisher King, who along with his armies enslaved Tivoli for "ten glorious years".  Lunn is not at all pleased that his first alien is an "idiot".  I suppose that Lunn doesn't realise that the Doctor isn't human. The funeral director is there to bury the Fisher King on a barren planet (read: earth) and he suggests that the Doctor can enslave and oppress him.  Clearly disgusted, the Doctor simply asks about the technology which causes the soul to be wrenched out of the body.  The funeral director responds that he doesn't have any such technology and if it exists, it must belong to the Fisher King's people. The Doctor says that it's time to return to the Tardis because he needs to talk to Clara.

A nervous Clara waits and Bennett says that Clara must be used to dealing with people who are scared and asks what she would say to them.  Clara responds that she would tell the scared person that the Doctor is going to save them.  Cass gets their attention.  It seems that while Bennett and Clara were talking, Cass was reading the ghost Doctor's lips.  The ghost Doctor is listing the names of all of the crew repeatedly. The phone rings and it's the Doctor calling from the past.  The Doctor tells them that the spaceship is a hearse and asks Clara what's wrong when he realises that she sounds upset.  Clara informs The Doctor that another ghost has appeared and it's him.  The Doctor is momentarily silent, realising that the appearance of his ghost means that he has died.  The Doctor tells Clara that this isn't a potential future and that it's already happened.  When The Doctor says that he has to die, Clara suggests that The Doctor can change things.  The Doctor however does not want to cause carnage in the universe by changing time.  Clara starts to scream that the Doctor can die with whoever comes after her but not with her.  The Doctor asks to speak to Clara alone and then tells her that they all have to face death at some point, either their own, or someone else's.  Clara responds that she is not ready yet and the Doctor says that he cannot change what has already happened. Clara argues that the Doctor owes her now and that he's given her someone else to be.  Clara tells the Doctor that she doesn't care about the rules or his survivor's guilt and that if he loves her in any way, he will come back.  The Doctor pauses and says that he cannot save Moran or Pritchard but will do what he can, even though the future has already happened.

The undertaker goes back to the ship to find that the Fisher King's body is missing.  When the undertaker  looks up, he sees the words written on the walls.  We hear a heavy stomping sound, and shadow overtakes the undertaker.

Clara asks about his ghost version looking for clues and Clara says that the Doctor's coat is torn on the right shoulder and is saying a list of everyone's names.  The ghost Doctor suddenly enters the ship but simply continues to say the names for a moment.  The ghost Doctor moves to the computer and opens the Faraday Cage where the other ghosts were locked up.  The Doctor asks to speak to the ghost version of himself.  The Doctor asks himself why he is here and the Ghost Doctor says, "the chamber will open tonight" The living Doctor orders Clara to go to the Faraday Cage, put the phone outside and watch it through the porthole.  The Doctor tells Clara to only answer the phone if it's safe but warns that she cannot let the phone out of her sight because he needs to know everything his ghost does. The Doctor then promises Clara that he will come back for her.

The Doctor prepares to leave the Tardis and tries to tell O'Donnell to stay behind in case Clara calls. O'Donnell clearly believes that she is being excluded because of her gender and makes it clear that she is coming with them.  They return to the ship to find the undertaker dead and the writing on the wall.  The Doctor says that the Fisher King must have done the markings himself and that the future is still coming.  When the Fisher King roars, the Doctor yells that they need to return to the Tardis. They all start running and are forced to split up when the Fisher King blocks them off.  O'Donnell hides on her own and Lunn hides with the Doctor. Unfortunately for O'Donnell, she is found and attacked by the Fisher King.  When Lunnfinds O'Donnell, she says that she had to come to keep an eye on him.  O'Donnell then dies in Lunn's arms as the Doctor watches.  Lunn asks who is next on the list because the list the ghost Doctor is repeating, is clearly a list of the order of which they are going to die.  Lunn accuses the Doctor of knowing all along because he tried to get O'Donnell to stay on the Tardis.  The Doctor claims that because Clara didn't see O'Donnell's ghost in the future, he thought that O'Donnell still had a chance.  Lunn is not impressed, noting that the Doctor didn't try very hard to stop her and that it was almost like he wanted to test his theory.  Lunn asks who is next and when the Doctor responds, "Clara", Lunn says that the Doctor will change history and actually do something because now it's getting closer to him. The Doctor makes it clear that it's not about saving himself because he is a dead man walking. The Doctor admits that he is changing history to save Clara and Lunn walks away.

In the Faraday Cage, Clara is forced to back away from the door when a ghost O'Donnell appears. O'Donnell sees the cell phone, picks it up and walks away.

Back on the Tardis, The Doctor explains that he is going back to save Clara and that there isn't anyone here who is going to stop him.  When the Doctor and Lunn leave the Tardis, the first thing the Doctor sees is another Tardis, causing him to realise that he has gone back in his own time stream because the Tardis won't let him leave.  The Doctor tells Lunn that they have to stay out of sight until time catches up.  Lunn notices that the funeral director is still alive and heads in his direction, only to be told that the funeral director cannot be saved.  The Doctor says that they don't have the right to tell the funeral director that he is about to die.  Lunn and The Doctor crouch down and watch as their former selves interact with the funeral director. When Lunn sees O'Donnell, he tries to stand up but is pulled down by the Doctor.

In the Faraday Cage, Clara realises that Bennett was the only one who was surprised by the message when Cass finally told them what it was and this is because Bennett never entered the ship.  Bennett is surprised that Clara was able to deduce that and adds that Cass wouldn't let him on the ship because she thought it was too dangerous.  Clara suggests that Bennett can get the phone back. When Bennett signs what Clara said, Cass is not impressed.  Clara argues that they need to be able to contact the Doctor and that Bennett is the only one who can do this.  Cass asks Bennett to ask Clara, if travelling with the Doctor changed her, or if she was always happy to put people's lives at risk.  Clara responds that the Doctor taught her to do what has to be done.

In the past, the Doctor notices that he ripped his jacket in his struggle with Lunn.  The Doctor says that he is running out of time and has no choice but to face the Fisher King in order to save Clara. The Doctor then orders Lunn back to the Tardis.

On board ship, Bennett leaves the Faraday Cage and Clara promises Cass that Bennett will be fine. Cass storms off, giving Clara what looks to be the finger.

The Doctor enters the church where the Fisher King is hiding.  The Doctor approaches the stasis chamber slowly and tells the Fisher King that he has seen ghosts wrenched from the dead repeating the same message over and over. The Fisher King responds that his ghosts will make enough ghosts to bring an armada and wake him from his sleep.

Bennett moves cautiously through the halls and stops when the ghosts approach him.  The ghosts encircle him briefly before losing interest and walking away.

The Doctor asks the Fisher King what will happen when his people arrive and the Fisher King responds that they will drain the oceans and put the humans in chains.  The Doctor points out that earth is protected by him but the Fisher King is not impressed because he believes the Doctor to be a single man lost in time.

Bennett enters the lounge area and grabs the phone, only to have the door close behind him.

The Fisher King is adamant that his people will come and that the Doctor will do nothing to stop it. The Fisher King knows who he is dealing with because he calls the Doctor Time Lord.

Cass has had enough of waiting and tries to leave, so Clara tries to stop her.  When Cass will not be dissuaded, they agree to go and stick together.

The Fisher King confronts the Doctor and accuses him of being a slave to time - willing to die rather than change a word of the future.

Clara and Cass have lost sight of each other.  Cass moves cautiously through the halls, completely unaware that a ghost is stalking her, dragging an axe.

The Fisher King tells the Doctor that he will make a strong beacon. The Doctor says that the Fisher King that he has a lot in common with the Tivolians because of their shared desire to survive. Either group will do anything to keep on living. The Doctor tells the Fisher King that even a ghastly future is better than no future at all and that the Fisher King violated something more important than time by bending the rules of life and death.  The Doctor informs the Fisher King that this is where his story ends.

Cass continues to be stalked by ghost Moran.  An uneasy Cass bends down and touches the floor and in the process feels the vibrations of Moran's movements.  Moran swings his axe and Cass just manages to duck. Cass takes off running and runs into Clara.

The Fisher King believes that there's nothing the Doctor can do and so the Doctor informs him that he has gotten rid of the message, which means that the future he saw will never have happened.  The Doctor tells the Fisher King that no one will die and no one will save him.  The Fisher King tosses the Doctor aside.

The women run into the same room as Bennett, who tells them that the ghosts led him here and that it's a trap. Clara announces that they have to head back to the Faraday Cage now and the threesome take off running.

The Fisher King heads outside to check on the ship and notices that the markings are still there.  One of the propulsion devices is missing.  Just as the Fisher King realises that the Doctor lied, the missing device explodes and the damn begins to crumble.  On the Tardis, a holographic Doctor appears and informs Lunn that emergency protocol has been activated. The Tardis starts up.

Clara, Cass and Bennet race away from the ghosts but cannot make it to the Faraday Cage. The Stasis chamber begins to activate.

In the past, the water from the damn rushes forward and overwhelms the Fisher King.  Now we know why in the future, the entire area is covered in water.

In the future, the Doctor pops out of the stasis chamber instructing Clara not to kiss him because he has morning breathe. The Doctor instructs the group to follow him. The Doctor rushes to the computer and plays the call of the Fisher King.  The ghosts head to the Faraday Cage and the Doctor locks the door.  The Doctor explains that his ghost was actually a hologram, apparently created by the sonic sunglasses.  The Doctor then uses his glasses to erase the memory of the writing from Cass but warns that she could have lost some other memories as well.

Bennett is looking at the cage and the Doctor explains that Unit will take the cage away. Bennett asks what he does now and Clara says that he has to keep going because there is a whole world out there and a galaxy and a life.  Lunn asks Bennet to tell Cass that he is in love with her and that he wishes someone else had given him that advice.  Lunn signs this out for Cass and she responds by grabbing Lunn and kissing him.

Back on the Tardis, The Doctor explains to Clara that Unit will drag the chamber into space where the ghosts will dissipate.  Clara points out that the Doctor changed the future.  The Doctor however says that the messages his ghost gave where for him and that  hearing that Clara would be next is what spurred him. The message that the chamber will open was a message to tell himself to get inside the stasis chamber. The Doctor says he programmed the ghost to say that because that is what his ghost said.  The doctor explains that he was reverse engineering the narrative and asks when he first had those idea.  This stumps Clara and then Doctor asks who composed Beethoven's fifth.

I am officially bored.  I actually fell asleep watching this episode the first time I tried to watch it. Yeah, I was tired but this is the first time Doctor Who couldn't hold my interest.  Here's the problem, it all felt like been there done that.  Nothing really happened. I didn't feel the tension and I didn't feel the danger.  Part of this is because putting the Doctor in jeopardy is ridiculous.  If there is one character on television who cannot die, it's the Doctor.  The only mystery is how the Doctor is going to get out of his latest problem.  Now, if Clara had been in serious jeopardy that might be interesting because we all know the actress is going to leave the show before the end of the season but we don't know how.  I might have bought more into Clara actually being in a life threatening situation.

Another problem for me is I don't like when the whole thing is turned into a gimmick. Yeah, I know I have complained about the sonic glasses before but I am going to keep complaining about it.  There's also the Doctor channeling his previous incarnation a bit this episode. Those frantic movements he made when he finally figured out how to deal with the Fisher King were pure Matt Smith.  Now, I don't hate the 11th Doctor but I also don't want to repeat him.  It feels very much like the writers have no idea who this 12th Doctor is and are just throwing things against a wall to see what will stick. I'm not even convinced that they have a plan anymore.  I know that it's only the fourth episode but something just doesn't feel right to me.

As for the episode itself, while I enjoyed the Doctor breaking the fourth wall (after all, who doesn't want to have a conversation with the Doctor?) the whole thing felt so very contrived.  Is the chicken or egg thing the best that they could come with it?  I wonder if they strained themselves trying to appear clever? It all felt so incredibly trite.

I am really glad that Cass survived. Unfortunately, I doubt that we will ever see her character again.  I will however say that it was nice to see a positive representation of disability.