TARDIS Index File

Before the Flood (TV story)

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Before the Flood
Before the Flood
Doctor: Twelfth Doctor
Companion(s): Clara
Main enemy: Fisher King, Ghosts
Main setting: Краснодар, Caithness, Scotland, 1980; The Drum, Caithness, Scotland, 2119
Key crew
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Daniel O'Hara
Producer: Derek Ritchie
Release details
Story number: 254b
Season/series: 9
Premiere broadcast: 10 October 2015
Premiere network: BBC One
Format: 1x45 minute episode
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Doctor Who television stories
Under the Lake The Girl Who Died
Official trailer
Before The Flood Trailer - Series 9 Episode 4 - Doctor Who - BBC00:21

Before The Flood Trailer - Series 9 Episode 4 - Doctor Who - BBC

Another official trailer
Before The Flood - Next Time Trailer - Doctor Who Series 9 - BBC00:26

Before The Flood - Next Time Trailer - Doctor Who Series 9 - BBC

Memorable moment
The Bootstrap Paradox - Before The Flood - Doctor Who - BBC01:58

The Bootstrap Paradox - Before The Flood - Doctor Who - BBC

Another memorable moment
The pilot's hearse - Before the Flood Preview - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC00:38

The pilot's hearse - Before the Flood Preview - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC

One more memorable moment
The Doctor vs The Fisher King - Before The Flood - Doctor Who - BBC04:10

The Doctor vs The Fisher King - Before The Flood - Doctor Who - BBC

Behind the scenes video
Introduction to Before the Flood - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC One00:53

Introduction to Before the Flood - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC One

More behind the scenes stuff
Steven Moffat's teaser to Before the Flood - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC One00:23

Steven Moffat's teaser to Before the Flood - Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 4 (2015) - BBC One

Another behind the scenes moment
Strictly Come Ghosting - Doctor Who Series 9 (2015) - BBC One00:39

Strictly Come Ghosting - Doctor Who Series 9 (2015) - BBC One

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.

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.

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 Doctor is explaining the bootstrap paradox: a hypothetical time traveler decides to go back in time to meet Beethoven, whose music he admires. However, he discovers that Beethoven never actually existed. The Doctor mentions that this never happened, by the way, as he has met Beethoven. The time traveler then decides to publish Beethoven's music himself, essentially "becoming" Beethoven. "But," the Doctor asks, "how did the music first originate, then? Who composed Beethoven's Fifth?" and plays said piece on his electric guitar.

The Doctor arrives with Bennett and O'Donnell at the Army base in 1980, before it was flooded, on the day the spaceship landed. They encounter the Tivolian Prentis, still alive at this point, and find that the writing has not yet been scratched into the wall. Prentis reveals that the spaceship is actually a hearse carrying a deceased conqueror called the Fisher King. Back in the future at the underwater base, Clara, Cass and Lunn realise that the Doctor's ghost is uttering a list of their names instead of coordinates. 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. Back in 1980, the Fisher King is revealed to be alive, writing the words on the ship's wall and killing Prentis before fleeing.

O'Donnell hiding

O'Donnell hiding from the Fisher King.

O'Donnell, Bennett and the Doctor run, but they get separated and O'Donnell is killed by the Fisher King. Bennett chastises the Doctor for allowing O'Donnell to die after the Doctor reveals that the list of names his ghost was repeating was the order in which the crew members will die. 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. The Doctor and Bennett observe the earlier events, unable to interact or interfere. O'Donnell's ghost appears in the future and steals Clara's phone, her only means of contacting the Doctor. 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.

Meanwhile, Lunn leaves the cage and locates the phone, but the ghosts chase him and manged to trap and lock him inside the main room. When Lunn fails to return, Clara agrees to accompany Cass to search for him.

Fisher King flood

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

Leaving Bennett in the TARDIS, the Doctor confronts the Fisher King. The creature reveals that the ghosts he's created will signal his people to send an armada to conquer Earth. It also taunts the Doctor's unwillingness to alter the future, but the Doctor chastises it for violating the souls of those it killed simply for its own ends. The Doctor then tells the Fisher King that he's erased the writing from the spaceship's wall, meaning no-one in the future will discover the message. 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. As they arrive, the stasis chamber opens and the Doctor climbs out. The Fisher King is then heard roaring and the ghosts follow the sound, only to be trapped again inside the Faraday cage with the Doctor's ghost, revealed to be a hologram the Doctor controlled using his sonic glasses from the stasis chamber.

The Doctor informs the survivors that UNIT will come to cut the Faraday cage from the base with the ghosts inside, and he erases the memory of the writing from everyone's minds. After Clara comforts Bennett over O'Donnell's death, he convinces Lunn and Cass to admit their love for each other. 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

Uncredited 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.

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.

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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