This review contains spoilers.
YES. YES. This episode did not let down the serial and I’m so thankful. The opening scene was fantastic, and can we please have the electric guitar theme mix for the rest of Capaldi’s run? I’ve never been a fan of his theme and this version just craps all over it. The Doctor’s speech on the bootstrap paradox (also called a causal loop) was a great way to frame the episode, helping guide the audience’s eye as the Doctor’s plan unfolds.
One of the really enjoyable things about Before the Flood is the way the Doctor and Clara are made to account for their actions. It’s not uncommon for the Doctor and his companion to put other lives at risk in order to save each other. But during Clara’s reign as companion, it seems to be happening more and more without a second thought to those around them.
Maybe it’s because Clara refuses to watch the Doctor die so soon after Danny. I mean, I assume it’s ‘so soon’ because we haven’t really been told how much time has passed since Danny’s death. As Clara says, ‘You’ve made yourself essential to me; you’ve given me something else to be. And you can’t do that and then die. It’s not fair.’ That line reeks of using the Doctor and time travel for her own personal gain and development. Whether it’s tied to Danny’s death or it’s simply Clara’s time travel addiction rearing its head, she’s not letting the Doctor go.
Or maybe it’s a bit of romance sneaking in. I’ve seen the speculations about a romance between Clara and Twelve online but never really bought into it before; Twelve’s relationship with Clara (popularly termed ‘Whouffaldi’) has always been a more grandfatherly one in my eyes. But this season, and Clara’s line ‘If you love me in any way, you’ll come back’ seems to be leaning more towards a romantic interest. It’s not unlike Moffat to bait his fans with a romance that he doesn’t intend to explore, but there does seem to be more allusion to it in recent episodes.
Bennett truly hit the nail on the head: despite his suspicions, the Doctor only half-heartedly attempted to dissuade O’Donnell from accompanying them. Her resulting death was a heinous way for the Doctor to test his theory. I wish that, somehow, O’Donnell had been saved. She was a great character and, while the Cass and Lunn kiss was cute, I hate that O’Donnell’s death became the springboard for a ‘tell a girl you love her before it’s too late’ motif. Plus, what is with killing off fans of the Doctor? Let’s stop that. I’m going to be annoyed about her death for a while, especially since the writing and Morven Christie’s acting made her so instantly likeable.
I’m still amazed at the strength of each supporting character. With the exception of Bennett, who possibly had the least time to develop, they were all incredible and I grew remarkably attached to them over the course of these two episodes. I’d like to see them again in the future, especially Cass and Lunn since O’Donnell is unfairly out of the question. The scene between Moran’s ghost and Cass was brilliantly executed, and I’m glad that being deaf didn’t make her the easiest character to kill off (which was one of my initial fears).
Overall, this episode is a strong one. It’s not quite as spooky as Under the Lake, but it doesn’t feel like a complete departure from the first half of the serial. Character interactions and motivations remained consistent and believable, and the bootstrap paradox framed everything well. Under the Lake and Before the Flood are probably my favourite Twelve episodes so far, and I’m excited to see what Maisie Williams brings to the show next week.