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Before the Flood was the fourth episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. The episode saw the Doctor become part of a paradox in order to defeat the Fisher King, after the TARDIS refuses to return to the Drum back in the future. In a different view, when the Doctor initially arrived on The Drum, the Fisher King was already dead; thus all the events that occurred until the Ghosts were trapped were part of predestined set of events.

Unique to this episode, as well as the BBC Wales Doctor Who series since it first aired in 2005, the entire first scene of Before the Flood extensively broke the fourth wall by cutting over to the Doctor on board the TARDIS explaining the mechanics of a bootstrap paradox, a point integral to the story. This wouldn't be the last time the Doctor would break the Fourth Wall; in Heaven Sent, he looks at the camera and says that "I'm nothing without an audience." Although, it is possible that the Doctor wasn't actually breaking the fourth wall and was instead talking to a confused Clara.

It also featured the Doctor personally play the theme for Doctor Who for the first time on-screen, using an electric guitar (which actor Peter Capaldi himself knew how to play and had personally selected from a guitar shop previously for a scene in The Magician's Apprentice). His musical pitches blended with that of the normal theme tune arrangement used in the title sequence.

A notable aspect of the production was that part of the audio used to create the Fisher King's guttural roar and the voice of the Twelfth Doctor's hologram ghost were supplied by Corey Taylor, the lead singer of heavy metal band Slipknot.

Synopsis Edit

A twisted survival plan is pieced together by an alien warlord called the Fisher King. The universe will feel the consequence. Can these events be stopped? Can the Doctor ensure the future's coming and do the impossible?

Plot Edit

The TARDIS flies through space. The Doctor addresses the audience directly, telling a story about a time traveller who has many misadventures through his travels. At one point, he decided what was the point of time travel unless you get to meet your heroes. And so, the time traveller decides to meet his favourite musician, Ludwig van Beethoven. However, once he arrives in 18th century Germany, there is no sign of the composer whatsoever; not even the Beethoven family has any idea who Ludwig is. Beethoven literally does not exist.

The Doctor stops his story briefly, grabbing a bust of Beethoven and explains that this never really happened; he's met Beethoven, who was very intense and loved arm-wrestling. He is just using the composer as an example of the Bootstrap Paradox, telling the audience to "Google it" if they want to know the specifics.

Resuming his story, the Doctor explains the time traveller panics at the idea of a world without Beethoven's music. The traveller remembers he brought sheet music for Beethoven to autograph. As a result, he copies out all the music and gets them published, effectively "becoming" Beethoven. And history continues on with barely a feather ruffled.

Grabbing his electric guitar, the Doctor turns on the amp attached to it. Tuning it, the Doctor asks, how did the music first originate? "Who really composed Beethoven's Fifth?" and plays the opening bars on his electric guitar.

In 1980, the TARDIS materialises. The Doctor and O'Donnell exit the TARDIS, noting that Bennett is still throwing up. When the Doctor notes that it usually happens, O'Donnell points out it's unlikely his companions ever did that on their first trips. He notes that she knows a lot about him; O'Donnell explains that she used to be in army intelligence until she hung a coworker out a window for angering her.

Bennett joins them, thinking his lunch made him ill. The Doctor explains that they've arrived at the same location, only before the flood, on the day that the spaceship landed. They find the spaceship near by, with a body bag in it; the strange writing is also not present. They are soon greeted by a very much alive Albar Prentis. The Doctor notes that he meet a Tivolian before, and is not a fan of the species. Prentis laughs, noting that his species have a tendency to annoy.

They ask about the body in the ship, to which Prentis explains is the body of the Fisher King, who ruled Tivoli for a decade before the Arcateenians liberated them. However, the upset Tivolians ended up annoying them so much, that the benevolent species ended up enslaving them next. Bennett flatly states "My first alien, and he's an idiot"; he thinks Tivolians are morons for favouring enslavement. Prentis continues his explanation; in accordance to Arcateenian law, the body of the Fisher King is to be buried at a "savage, barren outpost." The Doctor explains that it's the Earth, not the site that is considered such.

Back in the future at the underwater base, Clara, Cass and Lunn see the Doctor's ghost is not hostile, just standing in place and muttering. Cass sees that the Doctor is utter something different from the other Ghosts; "Moran, Prichard, Prentis, O'Donnell,, Clara, Bennett, Doctor, Cass." It's a list of who dies in the order in which they are killed.

When the Doctor contacts Clara and is informed about his ghost, he is badly shaken by this certain knowledge of his future. Clara forcefully encourages him to try to change events, but the Doctor argues that he cannot and ultimately accepts the eventuality that he must die to keep events in motion. He tries to get information from his ghost, but instead it unlocks the Faraday cage, releasing the other ghosts. The Doctor instructs them to go into the cage for their own protection, but to leave the phone outside so he can contact them in case the situation with the Ghosts changes. They comply, managing to evade the Ghosts.

In the meantime, Prentis returns to his ship to find the Fisher King missing and the strange symbols have appeard. At that moment, he surprised by the Fisher King, very much alive and having faked his death. He shoots Prentis dead. The Doctor, O'Donnell and Bennett rush back the hearse to stop the chain of events, but find they have been too slow to figure out the Fisher King's plans. Hearing a roar from the mighty monarch, the trio run into the buildings, hoping to avoid becoming Ghosts.
O'Donnell hiding

O'Donnell hiding from the Fisher King.

Hearing the stomping, mechanical footsteps of the Fisher King pass by, O'Donnell breathes a sigh of relief. However, she is soon surprised to find out that the Fisher King tricked her; she screams in horror as the monster shoots her. The Doctor and Bennett rush to find O'Donnell dying, and the Fisher King nowhere to be seen. As O'Donnell dies, Bennett realises the meaning of the list

Since Clara will be next, the Doctor tells Bennett that he is attempting to save Clara, not himself. He tries to return to the future to achieve this, but the TARDIS won't let him leave - the Doctor is locked in his timestream - and instead goes half an hour back in time. They find Prentis alive, and the Doctor stops Bennett from trying to prevent his and O'Donnell's deaths; "If you save them, then somebody that was supposed to be dead is alive. Then you really ARE seeing ghosts." It's obvious as Bennett looks at O'Donnell that he loved her, leaving him saddened.

Back in the future, O'Donnell's ghost appears in the future and steals Clara's phone, her only means of contacting the Doctor; she had the knowledge of this before dying, therefore allowing her an advantage that the other Ghosts did not. Clara realises that, as Cass refused to allow Lunn into the ship, he never saw the writing on the wall. Therefore, the message is not encoded in his brain, and the ghosts won't attack him. As soon as Lunn leaves, Cass signs something offensive to Clara to voice her anger.

Meanwhile, Lunn finds the phone inside the canteen; however, this was a trap by the Ghosts to use him as bait to lure in the last two potential victims. When Lunn fails to return, Clara agrees to accompany Cass to search for him. However, they get separated; Clara wastes a few moments calling for Cass before remembering that Cass is deaf and cannot hear her.

Leaving Bennett in the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to go confront the vile Fisher King about the abominations he's created and the deaths he's violated. Finding the stasis chamber, the Doctor explains the future that the Fisher King engineered. He then comes face-to-face with the monstrous King, who knows that the Doctor is a Time Lord; he knows that the Time Lords battled so greatly, that the entire universe felt the effects. Hearing to coordinates tick away in the Doctor's head, the Fisher King sees that he can make a strong transmitter out of the Doctor; once enough Ghosts are created, the signal will reach the Fisher King's people, who will bring an armada to conquer Earth.
Fisher King flood

The Fisher King watches the flood envelop Краснодар before his death.

The Doctor notes that could work, if only he hadn't erased the words on the ship. The Fisher King thinks he's bluffing; however, the Doctor points out that any change to the future by preventing the Fisher King from conquer the Earth is better. The Fisher King races back to the ship only to discover the writing still there. He realises the Doctor tricked him and has used one of the power cells (shown as missing in the earlier episode) to destroy the dam wall, flooding the town and killing the Fisher King.

TARDIS Security Protocol 712 activates with Bennett still inside, but the Doctor's whereabouts remain unknown as the town floods.

After narrowly avoiding being killed by Moran's ghost, Clara and Cass regroup with Lunn in the hangar. The Ghosts converge in the room, but suddenly the chamber opes and the Doctor springs out. "Don't kiss me; morning breath." The Doctor turns on his sonic sunglasses, causing the Fisher King's roar to come over the speakers. Clara asks what's happening, to which the Doctor explains it's the call of the Ghosts master, which is calling them to the source. It turns out to be coming from the Doctor's ghost, which vanishes once the Ghosts are all lured into the Faraday Cage.

Later, the Doctor has put the sonic sunglasses on Clara to erase the coordinates from her memory. He then does the same for Cass. The Doctor then mentions that the erase might have affected some of her other memories; he then wonders where Bennett got to as he needs a memory wipe as well.

It turns out Bennett is staring at O'Donnell's ghost in the Faraday cage; he wonders what will happen to them. The Doctor informs Bennett that UNIT will cut the cage out and toss into space, where the lack of a magnetic field will cause the ghosts to die. Bennett asks Lunn to translate that both Cass and Lunn should admit their love to each other. Lunn complies, surprising Cass, who kisses him full on the lips with passion.

The Doctor and Clara leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Clara that the order the people would die in was entirely fictional, but he placed Clara's name second to motivate himself to action. Clara asks the Doctor how he knew what to make his ghost's hologram say. He informs her that he only knew what he had to do because he found out through future knowledge of what had been done. He begins to explain to her the idea of the bootstrap paradox...

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

  • According to the Doctor, Beethoven was a "nice chap, very intense, who loved an arm wrestle".
  • Upon learning that they had time travelled back to 1980, O'Donnell notes that they were in a period before Harold Saxon and the Moon exploding, both of which the Doctor is aware. She also mentioned the Minister of War. The Doctor, however, does not understand this reference and tells her not to elaborate, as to avoid the spoiler.
  • The name of the building where the TARDIS arrives is Краснодар, which is Russian. The entire town, before the flood, had a Russian theme due to being at the height of the Cold War.
    • The Doctor said that the military were being trained for offensives on Soviet soil.
  • O'Donnell states that she used to work for the Military Intelligence.
  • The Doctor mentions the Bootstrap paradox.
  • The Doctor mentions Google.
  • Albar Prentis' card says "may the remorse be with you", a play on a famous line in Star Wars; "May the Force be with you".
  • The Doctor and Clara are FaceTiming each other between time zones via her iPhone and his TARDIS screen.
  • Prentis is writing down notes in a Celestial Almanac.

Individuals Edit

  • The Doctor has a statue of Beethoven's head in his TARDIS.
  • Posters of Russian leaders Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin are seen.
  • The life of a person who is deaf is explored, in which Cass walks down the base hallway unable to hear the Moran ghost dragging an axe along the floor, and further when Cass stops to touch the ground, feeling the vibrations in the floor from the axe Moran is dragging.
  • When Bennett throws up outside the TARDIS due to being sick during time travel, O'Donnell said "One small step for man, one giant... Bleaurgh.", a reference to Neil Armstrong's famous line upon landing on the Moon: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Food and beverages Edit

  • Bennett said he had eaten a prawn sandwich.

Music Edit

  • The Doctor had a collection of vinyl records in his featuring the works of a number of great composers: one from Franz Liszt, Heather Harper singing Richard Strauss's "Four Last Songs" and "Songs With Orchestra", two Haydn records (one is "Haydn symphonies"), and Beethoven's 5th.

Organisations Edit

  • The Doctor says that the Faraday cage will be extracted and taken by UNIT into space, where the ghosts will eventually disappear without the electromagnetic field of the Earth to sustain them.

Story notes Edit

  • This episode adds an electric guitar counter-melody to the title theme, played by Capaldi himself, tying off of the Doctor playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on his electric guitar at the end of the cold opening. This is a one-off variant that is not repeated in the succeeding episodes.
  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of the Doctor meeting Prentis, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.25 p.m. / Raising the dead: the Doctor comes face-to-face with a reanimated Prentis (Paul Kaye)".
  • The working title of the story (and the prior episode) was Ghost in the Machine. (DWM 492)
  • According to an interview she gave on the US chat show Conan in September 2015, the clockwork squirrel glimpsed sitting on top of the Magpie speaker in the pre-credits sequence is now in the possession of Jenna Coleman.
  • The title is a play on After the Flood, the title of the first chapter of Stephen King's masterpiece It.

Ratings Edit

Filming locations Edit

Caerwent Training Area

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The "Next Time" trailer for The Girl Who Died features an unfinished effects shot of Clara floating in space.
  • The Fisher King's gun is missing when he sees the dam break up, but is back in his hand when he roars in defiance of the oncoming flood.
  • In the shot of the Doctor, O'Donnel and Bennet inside the alien spaceship just before Prentis appears, there is a person walking around in the background. It is not Prentis because he/she is the wrong height and clothing.
  • On several occasions during the Doctor's conversation with Prentis, the shot is flipped because his head garment drapes on the other side of his neck.
  • When Clara is talking to the Doctor over the phone in private, she backs against a wall in long shots, but in closeups, she is behind the glass of the cafeteria. This is noticeable because the ghost-Doctor is visble through the window.
  • When Prentis discovers the bandages inside the spaceship, they rearrange themselves between shots.
  • During when Clara is speaking to the Doctor, on several occasions we can see her phone screen. It shows a phone keypad and the red call button, showing that she hasn't actually called anyone and is merely speaking to the phone prop.

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

Before the Flood was released on DVD as part of "Doctor Who: Series 9, Part 1" on November 2 in region 2 and November 3 in region 1.

Blu-ray releases Edit

Before the Flood was released on Blu-ray as part of "Doctor Who: Series 9, Part 1" on November 2 in region 2 and November 3 in region 1.

External links Edit

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