Doctor Who 9.04: Before the Flood

My absence over the last few days has been largely due to a combination of tiredness and family visiting, one of which may possibly be adding to the other. Erf. My mum has been here since June and goes home next month, which is very manageable for both of us, but my dad has been here for nearly two weeks and that throws everything into chaos. I’ve been dedicating my limited free time to putting words on projects, rather than blogging or consuming stories, which felt a wee bit more important with various deadlines creeping up on me.

Deadlines are horrible, but I am completely unable to miss so work to them I am.

Dad is the man who made me a Doctor Who fan, though, so we have found time to watch it and I have thoughts.

Spoilers follow the cut.

Squee!

Okay, now that the obligatory squee-ness is out of my system, I’ll try to be a bit more thoughtful. This wasn’t a perfect episode, but it was very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it while I was watching.

The fact that I’m still debating whether I loved it or just watched it may help to explain why it’s taken me so long to write this. There was a lot of stuff that I did love, but the small bits that I’m still not sure about are making it hard for me to decide how I feel about the episode as a whole.

Things I genuinely, no debate, loved:

  • Cass. No tragic background to her deafness, just a woman being awesome. The only relevance her deafness had was in using her lip-reading for plot reasons: everything else she did was because she’s terrific. And she didn’t tragically die, either.
  • The Fisher King. He looked amazing.
  • The Doctor’s fourth-wall-breaking monologue at the beginning. It was delightful in every way possible, made me think, and who doesn’t love some Capaldi on the axe again?
  • And speaking of the axe, Capaldi’s version of the theme tune has to appear on iTunes soon, right? Because I loved that. Alternatively, can that be the theme tune for the rest of the season?
  • That monologue reminded me a lot of Missy’s story at the beginning of The Witch’s Familiar, which I also loved. Is this going to be the way the second part of all the stories opens this year?
  • Clara stepping up to be the Doctor again. It keeps happening and I love it, but sometimes I worry that they’re building to something that might break my heart.
  • O’Donnell’s delightful squee over the TARDIS. Best fangirling moment I’ve seen.
  • More time-travel shenanigans, with the Doctor locked into his own timestream and the TARDIS being stubborn about enforcing that. It made sense of why they didn’t go straight back to the base when they realised what was happening.
  • I totally get why the Tivolians have been invaded and oppressed so many times. Wow, they’re deeply irritating. They appear to have annoyed people into invading them, possibly in an effort to get them to shut the hell up and stop being so weird. Quite fantastic characterisation, there.
  • A hint of the future arc – who is the Minister of War? I love when this stuff starts to appear.

So, that’s lots of good stuff. Tons of it. Mostly good stuff here, and the good stuff was very, very good.

But…

The stuff I’m still conflicted over:

  • The plot conclusion. It got a little confused there, right? It felt great when I watched it, but then it took a while to get straight in my head. I genuinely loved the use of the bootstrap paradox, which the Doctor had helpfully explained at the start of the episode, but I’m still conflicted over whether it really holds together.
  • Lunn and Cass’s declaration of love, after Bennett’s sadness that he never told O’Donnell how he felt about her. It felt more than a little bit contrived, and I’m still not entirely sure that I buy it. I loved that the deaf woman got a romance, excellent work by the writer, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and I’d need to rewatch both episodes to check whether I just missed all the hints or if it did come completely out of the blue.

See? The good outweighs the conflicted, but those two elements that I’m not entirely happy about are fairly important ones. And I still don’t know for sure whether that makes this an episode that I loved, or found problematic, because it’s both.

So, did anyone else have these problems?

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