Doctor Who 9×4 Review: Before the Flood
The “trapped on a space ship” arcs tend to feel like filler for me. There seems to be one every season and while it was interesting the first few times, it feels like a throwaway plot meant to fill in gaps in their episode schedules. This one is hard for me to be so judgmental about because I rather like the macabre twist. Starting the episode off with a rock cover of the opening also put me in high spirits right off the bat. The side characters are also quite enjoyable, from Cass bringing some amazingly well written representation to O’Donnell’s relatable fangirl glee about being able to go on adventures with the Doctor. So yes, I am rather bothered by the throw away “trapped on a space ship” arc, but this had some good pieces worth noting.
First, before I even talk about the episode I’ve got to ask – what’s with the fury over the Sonic Sunglasses? I’m usually pretty cynical of this show, but I thought they were pretty awesome. Then I log online and I see everyone angry at the loss of the sonic screwdriver and I’m so confused. I have a sonic screwdriver remote control and a sonic app. There’s nothing to prevent the sonic from coming back. But right now we have sonic sunglasses and that’s okay. I don’t see this as a permanent loss. I feel weird being on the positive side of the fandom for once. I’m usually the first to scream at the show when things change in a way I don’t like. But man, I dig those sunglasses. Sorry.
But anyway, on with the episode itself…
I think the most impressive thing about this arc is how well constructed the side characters are. They don’t feel like cliche archetypes. Cass’s deafness isn’t just a gimmick. She uses her talents for lip reading to her advantage, but her character isn’t just there to be ‘the deaf character.’ She is a very three dimensional character. Likewise, I was surprised at how much I cared about O’Donnell after just a short amount of time. I hated losing her so quickly and feeling like side characters are just disposable red shirts to throw away to raise the stakes. But her death felt very real to me, maybe because her fangirl characteristics made her relatable. It was definitely a red shirt-esque style death, but it had some heart behind it as well.
One thing about the ongoing plot that I’m a bit shaky on is the ‘love’ between Clara and the Doctor. Clara outright tells the Doctor that if he ‘loves’ her he’ll do what she says. When the Doctor and companion exchange so frequently, it’s hard to realistically create a strong bond between characters. The show manages to do it pretty well, but any romantic intentions between Doctor and companion has had things come in the way to prevent it from going in that direction. Donna and the Doctor were more of a comedic duo. The Doctor was still hung up on Rose when Martha was around. Amy was married to Rory and, well, hilariously the Doctor’s mother-in-law and I’m really not over that plot twist. But it seems like ‘love’ is the direction they’ve taken the Doctor and Clara.
As a disclaimer, I’m not a hardcore Rose/Doctor shipper who is bitter that she’s no longer in the picture. I do support those who are coming at it from that angle, though. I’m a bitter shipper of other things so I respect your righteous fury. Nor do I think that there’s only one kind of ‘love.’ Maybe it’s not romantic. Maybe it’s a friendship love. But as soon as that word gets uttered I get nervous about the writer’s intentions. I guess the Doctor deserves happiness so I shouldn’t be so weary of this potential plot element, but I can’t help myself.
So overall? Not a bad arc. Not the most amazing episodes by far, but enjoyable and interesting. But really, next week we get Maisie Williams? Are you kidding me? I’m incredibly excited to see her talents put to use on a different show. I love Game of Thrones passionately, but I’ve never seen her act outside of Arya so I’m looking forward to a different side of her.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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