Critiquing Capaldi: “Before the Flood”

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Question: Is it possible to really like something, and yet still be aware it’s really flawed? Well, yes, of course it is. That’s the difference between subjectivity and objectivity, and what we like to refer to as guilty pleasures. You know, the things we like and mean something to us and yet may not be anything special impartially. We all have them, and it’s great to have them. I’m a very strong believer that people should like and dislike what they want regardless of how it’s generally perceived. But the question I want to ask is why we like these things. Why do we find quality in things we know we aren’t great? There’s probably a psychological reason if we looked for it, and I’m not a man intelligent enough to do that, but I must admit I find the concept of a “guilty pleasure” interesting. Both why do we like these things, and why do we feel guilty about that.

Okay, I’m drifting a bit. I certainly wouldn’t call Before the Flood a guilty pleasure, as personally, I think it’s far from a bad story. Hell, I’d even call it a good story. I think it’s well made, well written, and well directed for the most part. However, I do feel that I love it more than I should. Where this story has flaws, they’re pretty big and baffling too. However, I still can’t help but love this story. I also think what this story does well, it does superbly, and overall, I do think the good outweighs the bad here.

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Let’s start with The Fisher King. As Madame de Pompadour said in The Girl in the Fireplace, “The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other”. I just so happen to think The Fisher King is great. The creature looks marvellous, and the amount of detail which has gone into the design here is magnificent. Plus, this guy has an impressive CV. He’s played by the tallest man in Britain, his growl is done by the lead singer of Slipknot, and he’s voiced by Darth Maul himself. I also really like how he’s used. While it would have been nice to see him in an extra scene or two, I do think he’s used really effectively. The standoff with Capaldi is magnificent. Whithouse is very good at writing Doctor/Monster standoffs and while this isn’t a patch on the Mr Finch/Tenth Doctor one from school reunion, it is fun to see Twelve and the Fisher King together.

While we’re on Twelve, he’s really good here as well. This is mostly helped by Capaldi’s ecstatic performance. This is one of those episodes where you can really see he’s so glad and grateful to be playing his childhood hero. He’s having so much fun in the role, and I honestly cannot take my eyes off his energetic performance. Clara is also really good here, receiving some great characterisation. There’s some really nice foreshadowing here for a start, which of course is helped in retrospect, but the care that Twelve and Clara have for each other is written beautifully. Jenna’s also having a lot of fun, and the “die with whoever comes after me” scene is very powerfully acted. Really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and she shows what a fantastic actress she is.

BEFORE THE LAKE (By Toby Whithouse)

Speaking of fantastic actresses, my favourite part of the story is, of course, the wonderful Sophie Stone, or Cass. The absence of the majority of the guest cast in her scenes (only Lunn to sign), makes her even more prominent, and Whithouse writes her magnificently. She’s a fantastically strong female character, showing great leading skills, and refusing to put up with Clara’s nonsense. The “did travelling with the doctor change you” scene is really powerful. Stone performs with such emotion. The way she signs each phrase is so emotionally brilliant. You probably don’t even need Lunn there to translate to know what she is saying, and I only know how to say Hello and Thank You in sign language (though it is a skill I am very interested in learning one day). The best scene though is when Cass, being the badass that she is, uses her disability as a strength, using it to literally save her life. It’s a powerful scene, well written, well acted, and I always cheer at the end of it.

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Unfortunately, the other female character is written atrociously. In some ways, I find it baffling more than offensive (though it is offensive, don’t get me wrong), as I have no idea how the same man who wrote a fantastic female character like Cass also managed to write this. O’Donnell’s fridging is textbook, almost like Whithouse read a book called “fridging for dummies” before writing this. I can’t really get my head around why it happened. I’m fine with the Doctor wanting to test his theory, the Doctor can be a manipulative twat sometimes, I just don’t get why a character as clever as O’Donnell would fall into a trope like this. It’s a scene which makes you aware you’re watching a TV show, as anybody with any sense wouldn’t do this in the real world. It would have made more sense to have killed Bennett. He was written as a poor man’s Rory I felt, (and was probably the blandest of the guest cast) and we know that Rory has had more deaths than most writers have had scripts. It’s the inconsistency which gets me the most. Maybe he doesn’t know what he was doing, it does scream ignorance to me, but I still don’t get how it managed to happen, particularly when he wrote Cass so brilliantly.

Production wise it’s fine. The directing is really nice in this one, and Gold’s score is decent. The lighting’s a tad too dark at places, however, but the pacing is brilliant.

However, I don’t really know why I love this one as much as I do. There are some things which work really well here, but nothing which really screams “love” to me. But I do love it. Maybe it’s the base-under-siege classic story, I’m a sucker for those, maybe it’s my childhood excitement of seeing a 7ft monster. I don’t know. It’s an irrational love possibly, but this feels very Doctor Who-y, or my idea of Doctor Who, to me. And overall, I think it’s great.

Overall: A good second part with some fantastic moments which I love more than I should. The fridging isn’t cool, though, and in 2015, it’s way past its use by date.

Previous score: 10
New Score: 9

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