Before the Flood was the fourth episode of series 9 of Doctor Who. It was written by Toby Whithouse, directed by Daniel O'Hara and featured Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald.
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. Despite the positive responses from fans, this version of the title sequence remained one-off.
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.
A twisted and vile 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?
At an unspecified point in time, the TARDIS flies through space. The Doctor addresses the audience directly, telling a story about a time traveller who has had many misadventures zipping around the history of the cosmos. 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 even got tips on how to play piano from Beethoven). The Doctor says he's trying to explain the Bootstrap paradox with this hypothetical scenario, going to put the bust down; however, he turns around and tells the audience to "Google it" if they want specifics.
Placing the bust near an amp and clockwork squirrel, the Doctor explains that the time traveller panicked at the idea of a world without Beethoven's music. That's when the traveller remembered he brought sheet music for Beethoven to autograph. Copying out the music, the time traveller gets it published, effectively becoming Ludwig van Beethoven himself. And history manages to continue on with barely a feather ruffled. However, one little thing about this whole situation is still confusing.
Grabbing his electric guitar, the Doctor turns on the amp attached to it. Tuning his guitar, the Doctor poses the question about how the music of Beethoven first originated. Did the time traveller create it, or did it simply exist without creation? "Who really composed Beethoven's Fifth?" With that question, the Doctor 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 with first-timers to time travel, O'Donnell points out it's unlikely that Rose, Amy or Martha ever did that on their first trips (likely because they had stronger stomachs). 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; he had shrimp. The Doctor explains that they've arrived at the same location, only before the flood, on the day that the spaceship landed. O'Donnell excuses herself to get a rock out of her boot, with the Doctor going ahead; once the Doctor is out of sight, O'Donnell giddily states the absurdity of the TARDIS interior to Bennett before regaining her composure. They quickly catch up to the Doctor, who has already found the spaceship; he explains that it's basically a hearse. A body-bag is inside, but the strange writing isn't present. They are surprised by a very much alive Albar Prentis, whose sense of smell identifies their species. The Doctor notes he meet a Tivolian before, and is not a fan of the species. Prentis laughs, noting his species have a tendency to antagonise others.
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 proper 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. He then explains about the future message, wondering if a special pen is what causes it; Prentis tells him that Tivolians do not have such technology. Even the ship was given to him by the Arcateenians.
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; however, only the Doctor and Clara have realised this. Oddly, Lunn is missing from the list.
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 appeared. As soon as the writing has finished altering his mind, Prentis is surprised by the Fisher King and shot 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; he faked his death to get away from the Arcateenians. Hearing a roar from the mighty monarch, the trio run into the buildings, hoping to avoid becoming Ghosts.
Hearing the stomping, mechanical footsteps of the Fisher King pass by, O'Donnell breathes a sigh of relief. However, when she moves to hide elsewhere, she is surprised by the Fisher King; 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 finally realises the list is the order in which they die. When asked who's next, the Doctor says Clara is. Bennett laughs, snidely asking the Doctor if getting closer to his name makes him scared. However, the Doctor says he is attempting to save Clara, not himself.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor attempts to return to the future. TARDIS rocks violently briefly before refusing to move. They exit, finding themselves behind the building the TARDIS originally landed at; hearing himself asking O'Donnel where Bennett is, the Doctor realises they've moved 30 minutes back in time. The TARDIS won't let him leave; he's locked in his own time-stream. 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. Until past Doctor and Bennett attempt to leave, they have to remain hidden to avoid causing anymore complications via a paradox.
Back in the future, O'Donnell's ghost appears and steals Clara's phone; having known about it before dying, she had an advantage that the others ghosts did not. Clara is furious, yelling for O'Donnel to put her phone back; however, she then realises that the ghosts did not attempt to kill Lunn when they were being lured to the Faraday cage. Lunn explains that Cass didn't let him in the ship. Clara tells him that means he didn't see the writing and does not have the coordinates in his brain. The ghosts won't kill him since he won't turn into another ghost; this frees him to get the phone back.
Cass is confused, prompting Lunn to translate; she gives a horrified "no". She frantically signs, confusing Clara. She asks what Cass is saying; Lunn says Cass is wondering if travelling with the Doctor has changed her as a person. Clara tells them that her travels with the Doctor have taught her to do what needs to be done, regardless if it might be dangerous. They open the door and Lunn creeps out silently. Clara tells Cass that she doesn't need to worry, Lunn will be fine. However, an upset Cass signs something offensive to Clara to voice her anger before going back inside the Farday cage. "OK, did not need help to understand that one."
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.
The Doctor notes that plan 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. Angered, the Fisher King decides to hold off on killing the Doctor until he can rewrite the words. Racing back to his ship, the Fisher King discovers that the writing still there. He realises the Doctor tricked him into moving away from the safety of the stasis chamber and has used one of the power cells (shown as missing in the previous episode) to destroy the dam wall, flooding the town and killing the Fisher King.
Due to the imminent threat of the flood, TARDIS Security Protocol 712 activates with Bennett still inside, but the Doctor's whereabouts remain unknown as the town floods. (Although there is one possibility as to where the old Time Lord went...)
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 opens up 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; even though the threat has passed, if she dies and becomes a ghost, that will cause trouble. He then does the same for Cass. The Doctor then mentions that the erase might have affected some of her other memories (such as addresses and how to eat); 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 after O'Donnell, but he placed Clara's name second to motivate himself to action. Keeping Lunn off the list was a hint about his immunity to being targeted by the ghosts. 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......
- The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
- Clara - Jenna Coleman
- Moran - Colin McFarlane
- Cass - Sophie Stone
- Lunn - Zaqi Ismail
- O'Donnell - Morven Christie
- Bennett - Arsher Ali
- Pritchard - Steven Robertson
- Prentis - Paul Kaye
- Fisher King - Neil Fingleton
- Voice of Fisher King - Peter Serafinowicz
- Roar of Fisher King - Corey Taylor
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin|
|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.|
- 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.
- O'Donnell mentions Rose Tyler, Amy Pond and Martha Jones.
- 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.
- The Doctor has a bust of Beethoven 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.
- 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.
- 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, segueing from 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. Though it has become popular with fans, who enjoyed it.
- 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.
Filming locations Edit
Caerwent Training Area
Production errors Edit
- 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.
- The guitar amplifier at the start of the episode features the Magpie Electricals logo. (TV: The Idiot's Lantern)
- Upon the amplifier is the Doctor's clockwork squirrel. Clara had previously mentioned that the Doctor dismantled the TARDIS radio and used the parts to make the clockwork animal. (TV: Under the Lake)
- The Doctor uses his electric guitar. (TV: The Magician's Apprentice)
- Upon learning from the Doctor that they have travelled back in time to 1980, O'Donnell notes that it is pre-Harold Saxon (TV: The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords) as well as "pre-the Moon exploding and a giant bat coming out." (TV: Kill the Moon)
- When O'Donnell notes that Bennett is throwing up, the Doctor says that time travel does that sometimes. (TV: The Caretaker) O'Donnell doubts that Rose, Martha and Amy did so on their first trips. (TV: The End of the World, The Shakespeare Code, The Beast Below)
- O'Donnell mentions the TARDIS is "bigger on the inside" (TV: An Unearthly Child, etc), but is one of the few to stay calm about it (momentarily). (TV: The Vampires of Venice, COMIC: Assimilation²)
- When meeting Albar Prentis, the Doctor notes that he has met Tivolians before and that he isn't "a fan." (TV: The God Complex) In that story, one ruined his plans and cost additional lives.
- The current masters of Tivoli who have sent Prentis to Earth to bury the Fisher King are the Arcateenians. (TV: Greeks Bearing Gifts, Invasion of the Bane)
- The Doctor says "I've had a good innings" when he prepares to meet his potential end. The Sixth Doctor said this right before regenerating in two differing accounts, AUDIO: The Brink of Death and PROSE: Spiral Scratch.
- The Doctor repeats the phrase "tick-tock" while contemplating his apparent death. During his previous incarnation's life, the Peg Dolls' nursery rhyme also used the phrase for the same purpose. (TV: Night Terrors, The Wedding of River Song)
- The Doctor calls his current regeneration a "clerical error", referring to the fact that it is in fact the first of a new regeneration cycle, given to him by the Time Lords. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
- This is the second time the Doctor has landed the TARDIS in a location at the height of the Cold War. (TV: Cold War)
- The Doctor has finally got around to patching the TARDIS phone back through the console unit. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
- The Doctor tried before to fight time itself. (TV: The Waters of Mars)
- The Cloister Bell rings. (Logopolis et.al.) this is the second time in a row, having sounded only hours before. (TV: Under the Lake)
- Clara mentions the words the ghosts are saying. (TV: Under the Lake)
- The Doctor mentions that even the tiniest change of history can change the future. (TV: The Aztecs, et al)
- The Doctor tells the Fisher King that people who know they're going to die have nothing left to lose. His predecessor voiced a very similar sentiment when confronting the Mara during the Siege of Trenzalore. (PROSE: The Dreaming)
- Clara reminds the Doctor that he owes her and that it means he has to come back. (TV: The Magician's Apprentice)
- Clara tells the Doctor that she "isn't ready yet" to lose another person she cares for. (TV: Death in Heaven)
- Clara acknowledges that she likely will not be the Doctor's companion forever and that another will "come after me". (HOMEVID: Clara and the TARDIS)
- The Doctor's blackboard is seen. (TV: Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood, Listen, Time Heist)
- The Doctor states that Earth is under his protection. (TV: The Christmas Invasion, The Eleventh Hour)
- The Doctor uses his enemies' resources against them. (TV: The End of the World, Tooth and Claw, The Shakespeare Code, Flatline, etc)
- The Eleventh Doctor also encountered a bootstrap paradox in the form of a Time Lord hypercube. (AUDIO: The Time Machine)
- Clara tells Bennett to trust that she knows what it feels like to see a loved one die. (TV: Dark Water/Death in Heaven)
- Security Protocol 712 is activated again. (TV: Blink) The protocol has been updated to use an image of the Twelfth Doctor who is seen wearing his formal Series 8 suit (last seen in TV: Death in Heaven, this is its only appearance in Series 9).
- The Doctor said the Fisher King played around with life and death. He previously told the Bad Wolf Rose Tyler to stop as she couldn't control it (TV: The Parting of the Ways)
- The Fisher King mentions how the Time Lords became the most warlike race in the galaxy. (TV: The End of Time, The Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor) and how the Doctor is more willing to sacrifice himself rather than change the past or future, (TV: The Fires of Pompeii, The Time of the Doctor)
- The Doctor said his ghost was a hologram like the one made of Clara. (TV: Under the Lake)
- The Doctor mentions the base's day mode. (TV: Under the Lake)
- The Tenth Doctor had already claimed to have met Beethoven. (TV: The Lazarus Experiment, Music of the Spheres)
- The Doctor encountered a similar bootstrap paradox during his original incarnation, when he gave the idea of the Trojan Horse to the Greeks based upon accounts of that very incident. (TV: The Myth Makers) Another specific one was the "Fall of the Eleventh' Arc, which was complete accident on part of the Kovarian Chapter. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
- Another bootstrap paradox was shown when the Tenth Doctor met the Fifth Doctor during an accidental melding of their two TARDISes. (TV: Time Crash) The Twelfth Doctor uses a similar line as the Fifth Doctor, who remarks on the Tenth Doctor's solution to their dilemma, "You remembered being me watching you doing that. You already knew what to do because I saw you do it." A nearly identical scenario also occurs between two versions of the Eleventh Doctor in TV: Time.
- Clara also previously created such a paradox in TV: Listen in which she accidentally creates the nightmare that the Doctor later investigates; she creates a second one by implanting the concepts of "fear is a superpower" and "fear makes companions of us all" in the young Doctor's mind after hearing the Doctor utter them.
- When the Doctor goes back 30 minutes in time, he sees himself and watches the scene, much like when the Ninth Doctor and Rose did. (TV: Father's Day) He holds Bennett back from saving O'Donnell, fearing an incident like when Rose prevented her father's death.
- Upon arriving at the town in the 1980's, the Doctor licks his finger and raises it to the wind to confirm the date, as done previously by his predecessor. (TV: The Time of Angels)
- The Doctor cheats death similarly to how he did it in TV: "The Wedding of River Song" -- what the characters thought was a dead Doctor was something else. Here, a hologram. In that episode, he was inside the Teselecta.
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.