Doctor Who: Before the Flood Review (Spoiler Free)

The follow-up to "Under the Lake" may not quite match its predecessor, but taken as a whole, the two-part story is a strong one...

Just like the headline says, this Doctor Who review contains no spoilers whatsoever. We promise.

Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 4

It’d be fair to say that “Before the Flood” doesn’t quite open in the manner you expect.

Having set up a terrific cliffhanger at the end of last week’s “Under the Lake,” writer Toby Whithouse promptly pulls the rug and takes a left turn, with the Doctor talking to a camera, and specifically telling us to Google a given term. It might just be worth doing that, too. For a minute, I thought I’d tuned into the wrong episode, but eventually, it does all make sense.

Credit, then, for a refreshing gamble. “Under the Lake” was very much classic Doctor Who in feel, and here, a few chances are taken to knock away the warm feeling of familiarity. It’s a gamble that does come with consequences: there’s certainly a lot less need for cushions to hide behind this week and a rush of explanation towards the end that might just leave a few heads in need of a scratch.

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Yet whilst “Before the Flood” doesn’t quite match its predecessor, it’s hard to quarrel with the strength of the two-part story. The range and eyebrows of Peter Capaldi never fail to impress, too.

Once we’re past that unusual opening, “Before the Flood” does set about answering the many questions posed by last week’s opener. To some degree, the questions prove more interesting than one or two of the answers, but then, to be fair, there were some very good questions. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but note the influences of one or two different movies to last week too, but if I mention them here, it might just edge a little spoiler-y.

The episode splits this time, following Clara on the base, and then we also get to explore just what happened, as the title suggests, before the flood that engulfed the small military village by the time we found it in last week’s episode. It’s simple, effective use of time travel for the most part. The device is used to split the two main characters up, and again, the detective story underpinning things is a big part of the fun.

There appears to be some longer-term threads being dropped in this time too, courtesy of a couple of remarks that I couldn’t help think will have further ramifications down the line. One of them comes very early in the episode. But a third of the way through the series, and there are already some notable clues as to which way Doctor Who season 9 is heading.

It’s a good episode, “Before the Flood,” albeit one that falls short of the installment that set it up. The adventure as a whole, though, has featured some really terrific moments, and both Whithouse and director Daniel O’Hara should certainly be due a return call for future Doctor Who duties.

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