Doctor Who, Season 9, Episode 3 (Under The Lake)/ Episode 4 (Before the Flood).
Time travel is complicated, and it’s the job of the Doctor Who writers to remind us that. Knowing your own future is dangerous (as seen in The Angels Take Manhattan) and trying to prevent an event in a timeline is even worse (as seen in Father’s Day); but there are loop-holes.
Despite the apparent threat and danger, Clara seems very willing to dive straight into the adventure. If we were to contrast Clara in Season 8 to Clara in Season 9, we’d see a completely different character. Last season, Clara had a moral dilemma and criticised the Doctor for risking everyone’s lives just to please himself. Yet as Clara continues to adopt similarities with the Doctor, she adopts the characteristics which she had previously despised.
It’s important to note the transgression of the Doctor and Clara. “Don’t go native” warns the Doctor as he claims he felt like he had to say something before Clara eagerly rushed off to the action. Again, in Season 8 the Doctor behaved completely different as he’d drag everyone to danger without warning.
His suggestion to Clara is to have another relationship. This smirky remark is quite a significant one, as it brings to question: why has Clara suddenly changed her moral perspective? The answer is simple; she’s trying to run away from a domestic lifestyle which she would’ve shared with Danny Pink. With all the many criticisms of Steven Moffat’s run in Doctor Who aside, it must be applauded how he’s managed to create a much deeper psychological portrayal of characters since he’s been in control.
Script-writer Toby Whitehouse brilliantly merges suspense, humour, character exploration and series recalls in this two-parter. Mentions of “Autons” or the return of a Tivolian are thrown around in both episodes, and it reminds the audience of the deep history within the series. Whitehouse also manages to utilise the two-part format of Season 9 to his advantage, as Under The Lake builds up the plot’s mythos and Before The Flood goes into a chaotic time-travelling romp.
What actually manages to make these two episodes memorable? It isn’t ploying with the concept of ghosts (again), it isn’t the frightful Fisher King (he was unfortunately underused), but it was actually the characters. Not only does the Doctor and Clara stand out in this one, but so do the side characters.
The last time I felt emotionally connected to characters introduced for a singular episode was perhaps on The Water of Mars. Since then other characters are often shoe-horned into the scenarios so that the writers have someone to kill off or so that the whole storyline isn’t just the Doctor and his companion. Even though the characters in episode 3 & 4 are used for the same reason, characters such as O’Donnel definitely had the potentiality to be a future companion.
So the reviews for episode 3 and 4 are merged together, as reviewing these episodes singularly would be quite unfair. Before The Flood was definitely the stronger half, yet the direct-to-camera monologue of the Doctor discussing Beethoven seemed very awkward. Cutting out the awkward opening and ending, Before The Flood tells a very exciting story of the consequences of preventing the future; however had Under The Lake not existed, the whole storyline would’ve been too rushed.