Saturday, 10 October 2015

Doctor Who: Before the Flood

"My first proper alien, and he's an idiot!"

So perhaps this second episode doesn't quite maintain the superlative quality of its excellent predecessor. Ah well. No criticism implied, really: they don't, as a whole, for narrative reasons. Second parts are functional. Plot, plot, plot. There's less time for atmosphere, set pieces, witty lines, coolness. And this episode suffers from that, as second episodes always do. But it still rounds out a superb two parter. Well done, Toby Whithouse. This is by some distance the best Who you've ever done. It's also the one where you've played the most with structure and timey-wimeyness. These two facts are connected.

The pre-titles, in which the Doctor does a bit of violence to the fourth wall, is a nice example of the latter. There are slight grounds for criticism here, perhaps, in that the Bootstrap Paradox ("Google it") isn't much of a big deal to anyone who's sci-fi literate, and doesn't justify such a big build-up. Also, isn't it all a bit Back to the Future II? But we should remember that this is a popular BBC drama aimed at a general audience.

No; if we are to criticise, we should start by conceding the point that this is a superb forty-five minutes of television, but then ask ourselves at whom it is aimed. The plot is complex, and asks a lot of its audience. Is it, perhaps, too complex for kids? I note that it was broadcast at 8.25pm: scheduling like this is clearly not done with children's bedtimes in mind. I, for one, am loving this season, and loved the last. They are probably the best seasons, for me, since 2005. But should people like me really be the target audience.

Whatever. I've said these things before and the final ratings and AI figures have always proved me wrong. If it can ultimately be shown that this season's apparent drop in viewers reflects something more than changes in how television is watched these days then it'll be time to worry. And "worry" is relative. Doctor Who is and remains a BBC flagship. Don't worry about ratings. Perhaps you should worry about John Whittingdale, but that's for another day.

So, what else? It's a surprisingly small part for Paul Kaye, although amusing. I noticed Corey Taylor's roar, at last a little something for us metalhead fans. It looks like the guitar is here as a recurring prop, Peter Capaldi's version of Troughton's recorder. Oh, and McDonnell's mention of the "Minister of War" is clearly seeding something for later in the season.

Bottom line: another excellent episode. Doctor Who is still in the midst of its current golden age. And next week looks good. Is it me, though, but isn't there an awful lot of talk of certain death between the Doctor and Clara? We know Clara is leaving: is her death being foreshadowed?

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