Review: Doctor Who: Series 9 Episode 4: Before the Flood (spoiler-free)

Who 9.4The Doctor travels back in time – but is his fate preordained?

Don’t worry when you start watching the episode – someone at the BBC hasn’t pressed the wrong button. It really does begin with the Doctor in the TARDIS apparently addressing the audience. It’s a scene that will no doubt infuriate a lot of the more po-faced members of fandom: the ones who forget the number of times that Tom Baker – on whom Capaldi seems to be modelling himself increasingly – seemed to do much the same, albeit without one of the key props! From then on, though, it’s full speed ahead with the second part of Toby Whithouse’s tale of time and ghosts, as for the second time in a month the series shows that it can produce two-parters with a strong conclusion. I’d advise watching last week’s episode again carefully: Whithouse plays fair and it’s easy to miss some key points.

There’s plenty of wit and humour in what is at times quite a dark episode (the Doctor’s travelling companions’ varying reactions to time travel, for instance), and enough mentions of a certain physical activity that you too may start to wonder if it’s going to be series 9’s central theme. There are also some quite scary moments, with good use of sound and visuals – not just by the episode’s central villain – and a good score from Murray Gold (and, rather more to the point, a very good use of silence!).

The strong guest cast continue to work well, and there are more than a few occasions when you wonder if open auditions for Jenna Coleman’s replacement are going on on-screen. As with Flatline last year, Coleman and Capaldi prove once again that they don’t need to be in the studio at the same time for the strength of the relationship between companion and Time Lord to be clear.

Verdict: A laugh aloud opening sets the scene for a clever exploration of an aspect of time travel. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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