Sunday 11 October 2015

Doctor Who - Before The Flood

Flood Sacrifice

Doctor Who - Before The Flood
UK Airdate: 10th October 2015

Warning: Spoilers on this one.

Okay, so this second part to the Doctor Who story started last week (and reviewed here) is perhaps a bit weaker than the initial set up called for because, well, it does seem to telegraph itself quite a bit... almost deliberately so in the opening, pre-credits sequence. That being sad, although it really does feel like The Doctor and his companions for this story are just picking up the threads and solving things in an exercise on how to burn through all the problems and put things right in the allocated time they’ve got, the performances are all pretty strong and the dialogue of the characters is, once again, perfectly done.

The pre-credits sequence where The Doctor is addressing the audience directly, although we might actually be witnessing this from a ‘Claras-eye view’, so to speak, pretty much sets up in the minds of the audience a fairly standard temporal paradox which is actually very common to a lot of time travel stories... be they Doctor Who or something more ‘Hollywood’ such as the ridiculously error ridden Back To The Future Part 2... which suffers from a similar writer's malaise in the logic of its own structure. This basically seems put in here with the assumption that the audience for the show are somehow lacking in either the desire or common sense intelligence to think about certain aspects of the story later and think around the parameters of this kind of paradoxical conundrum in the first place. Frankly, and as entertaining as this opening was, I really don’t like being talked down to in this manner and I felt the explanation, which The Doctor demonstrates by use of the deliberate creation of Beethoven based on the works of his which can’t have existed without Beethoven being there in the first place, was more than a little condescending in the attitude that we probably don’t spend any time thinking of these things once the show is over, let alone pondering this kind of stuff often enough as kids growing up.

So yeah, since we’re on limited time and you know the opening isn’t going to be something which couldn’t be cut, one wonders if the BBC are maybe dumbing things down a bit because they have no confidence in their script to make you think a little, just by the events portrayed once the story has played out. Which is a shame because it’s really not a bad script and it’s still a little better than the majority of the episodes over the last few years in that it’s a solid, reliable story with some nice character moments.

Unfortunately, as I intimated before, that story was pretty much finished last week and this really is just picking up the pieces in terms of the catching up of events and letting the kinds of sequences you are expecting to happen play out so the story can resolve itself. And, of course, the fact that with last weeks episode all hanging on the mystery of “who’s in the box?”... well I was hoping the writer would surprise me this week but, no, they might as well have just hung out a sign on the side of the box last week saying “The Doctor’s in here... so don’t even worry about it”. Now, to be fair, the writing in the second part pretty much shied away from re-emphasising the mystery of the box for the majority of the episode but... yeah, that’s only because they presumably wanted to have their big “The Doctor pops out of the box” moment as some kind of surprise to somebody... some strange and perhaps mythical audience for the current show which doesn’t actually exist in real life to be genuinely astonished by these things. All in all though... okay, yeah, it’s not good enough. This episode is kind of plummeting in my respect for it as I’m writing about it, to be honest.

So let’s get back to some of the good stuff...

Well, the BBC people have said that this season is going to be darker and... yeah, it is. The death of innocent people, casualties of war caught in the crossfire, has never been a thing the programme has swerved away from in the entire history of its show but there's usually some acclimatising to do, especially in the current incarnation of the series, where the deaths are mourned or given a sense of purpose. This series isn’t doing that and... that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Also, the look of it seems a lot darker too. Physically I mean. There’s a certain kind of dread gloom in most of the sets and locations used here and it’s very much the kind of grim setting a horror movie might make use of. So it feels good for the show to be playing with the possibilities that it’s not forgotten how to be a horror story. Not that this episode is particularly scary but at least it feels a bit grim. So that’s kind of nice.

Unfortunately, in the effort to scare you, it also did fall into the cliché trap at one point and, again, it’s something you can see telegraphed from the week before. Now I'm all for having a deaf character who signs and can read lips in Doctor Who. Especially since she was useful as an element to push the plot along rather than just be a token kind of role in the previous episode. However, last week I kept thinking to myself that... yeah... we’re going to have a scene where that character is put in harms way and they will try and ring the suspense out of a scenario where her life is under threat exactly because she can’t hear what’s going on. But, before that, they’ve got to set up a situation where her constant companion, her translator, isn’t there to help her. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they do in this next episode and it seems almost embarrassing but... I can understand why the temptation would be there to do that in this, so I really can’t stand in judgement of it too much.

And whichever way you look at it... they are pulling all this off with a certain amount of style and good taste. It’s beautifully shot and nicely cut together with the added bonus of Murray Gold’s fantastic scoring... including an almost heroic action version of the current Doctor’s 'a good man' sub-theme and a beautifully developed, almost hidden reworking of Clara’s theme at one point where Jenna Coleman’s character has a nice scene.  All in all it’s my least favourite of the season so far but... that’s still head and shoulders above a lot of the post-Tennant episodes of the series so I’m happy with the direction this season is heading in (possibly straight to a character called the Minister Of War in the last two episodes, if my guess is correct) and I am just hoping this good spell on the show continues for a bit. Now all they have to do to keep me really happy is lose those damn shades and bring the sonic screwdriver back. That really needs to happen soon.

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