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Before the Flood (Doctor Who)

"Before the Flood" is the fourth episode of the ninth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is written by Toby Whithouse and is directed by Daniel O'Hara. It was first broadcast on 10 October 2015. It is the second part of a two-part story – the first part being "Under the Lake" – featuring alien time traveller the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

255b – "Before the Flood"
Doctor Who episode
The Fisher King in Doctor Who.jpg
The Fisher King (played by Neil Fingleton and voiced by Peter Serafinowicz), the villain of the piece
Directed byDaniel O'Hara
Written byToby Whithouse
Script editorNick Lambon
Produced byDerek Ritchie
Executive producer(s)Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
SeriesSeries 9
Length2nd of 2-part story, 42 minutes
First broadcast10 October 2015 (2015-10-10)
← Preceded by
"Under the Lake"
Followed by →
"The Girl Who Died"
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

The first episode of the story is set after events in the second episode. "Under the Lake" is set in 2119 and "Before the Flood" is set in both 2119 and 139 years before, in 1980.[1][2]


In the cold opening, the Doctor explains to the audience the nature of the bootstrap paradox, posing that if a time traveller recreated Beethoven's music after learning Beethoven never existed, what is the origin of the music, or "Who really composed Beethoven's Fifth?"

The Twelfth Doctor, O'Donnell, and Bennett arrive in 1980, before the town was flooded and the day the alien craft landed. Bennett asks why they are in Russia, and the Doctor explains they are still in Scotland, but in a mock Soviet town. They meet its pilot, the Tivolian Prentis, whom they recognize as one of the ghosts in the future. Prentis had stopped on Earth while carrying the corpse of the Fisher King, a powerful warlord, to its resting place. The Doctor observes Prentis' ship still has the stasis chamber, both power cells, and the absence of glyphs on the walls.

The Fisher King, as shown at the Doctor Who Experience

In 2119, Cass reads the Doctor's ghost's lips to get a set of names, those of the base crew and Prentis, the Doctor, and Clara. Clara relays this via phone to the Doctor in the past, who laments he now knows his future. During this, the still-alive Fisher King escapes the stasis chamber, kills Prentis, and scratches the glyphs into the walls. O'Donnell is separated and is killed by the Fisher King, and the Doctor confirms his theory that his ghost's list is the order which they will die, and vows to save Clara who is next. Bennett, who had been in love with O'Donnell, lambastes him for using her as a test subject. When they try to return to the future, the TARDIS only sends them back a half-hour, as the Doctor is locked into his time stream. He tells Bennett to stay aboard while he goes to meet the Fisher King without changing past events.

The Fisher King, after scavenging his stasis chamber, confronts the Doctor, affirming that his glyphs and the ghosts he creates with them will send a signal that will draw an armada to conquer Earth. The Doctor says he has removed the glyphs from the ship's wall. The King runs to the ship to find the Doctor lured him away to a trap, as the glyphs are still on the walls. The Doctor had set one of the power cells to detonate and destroy the dam, flooding the town and killing the King. Meanwhile, the TARDIS transports Bennett back to the base.

In the future, Clara, Cass, and Lunn attempt to escape the Faraday cage but are cornered in the hangar bay, when the stasis chamber opens, revealing the Doctor, who had used it to survive the flood. He uses his sonic glasses, which created the image of the ghost Doctor, to lure the ghosts to the Faraday cage and trap them there until UNIT can arrive to remove it. The Doctor wipes the memories of the glyphs from everyone's minds. Bennett, still mourning his loss, convinces Cass and Lunn to admit their love for each other.

As they leave, Clara asks about the origin of the list of names he had his ghost repeat, to which the Doctor replies "Who composed Beethoven's Fifth?"


In the prologue, the Doctor performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 with his electric guitar. The Doctor had previously been shown playing such an instrument atop a tank in the ninth series opener, "The Magician's Apprentice".[3]

The electric guitar amplifier seen in the Doctor's prologue has a plaque reading Magpie Electronics, a shop originally owned by Mr Magpie and visited by the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler in the episode "The Idiot's Lantern".[4] The name often appears on electronic equipment throughout the series, such as Martha Jones' television in "The Sound of Drums", and a shop with the same name is seen in "The Beast Below".[5]

O'Donnell mentions prior companions Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Amy Pond, as well as Harold Saxon and events from "Kill the Moon". She also mentions "the Minister of War", but the Doctor has no knowledge of this, surmising that this will be in his future.[5][6]

The Tivolian race previously appeared in the episode "The God Complex". Prentis says they were liberated from the Fisher King's people by the "glorious Arcateenians”, only to be conquered by them in turn; the Arcateenians were first mentioned in the Torchwood episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts". Both episodes were written by Toby Whithouse.[6][7]

The TARDIS' "Security Protocol 712" first appeared in "Blink".[8] Other console room holograms have included the Emergency Program One ("The Parting of the Ways") and the "voice interface" with a holographic feature ("Let's Kill Hitler").[5]

The Fisher King describes Time Lords as “cowardly, vain curators who suddenly remembered they had teeth and became the most war-like race in the galaxy,” referring to the Time Lords' passive role in earlier series and their subsequent participation in the Time War.[9]

Outside referencesEdit

During the episode's prologue, the Doctor mentions that he met the actual Ludwig van Beethoven – a "nice chap, very intense".[5] The Tenth Doctor alluded to such a meeting in Music of the Spheres.

O'Donnell alludes to Neil Armstrong's famous line from the first moon walk: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind". The Eleventh Doctor made use of Armstrong's line when he first defeated the Silence in "Day of the Moon".[5]

The Tivolian mortician Prentis has business cards with the motto "May the remorse be with you." This is a pun on the Star Wars catchphrase "May The Force Be With You".[5]


Unusually, the opening theme was performed with an electric guitar for the episode. The inclusion of an electric guitar was prompted by a joke from Twelfth Doctor actor Peter Capaldi, who performed the theme for the episode, as well as Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in the prologue. Capaldi played lead guitar in the 1980s punk band The Dreamboys, alongside Craig Ferguson.[3]

Broadcast and receptionEdit

Doctor Who saw a considerable rise in the overnight ratings to 4.38 million (up from 3.74 million the previous week). The show had a 21.5% share of the available audience and little competition from the Rugby World Cup. Doctor Who came fourth for the day, ratings wise.[10] It received an Appreciation Index score of 83.[11] Overall, the episode had 6.05 million viewers after a week of timeshifting, a rise of 1.67 million on the overnight figure. The show came eighth on BBC1 for the week.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Rotten Tomatoes (Average Score)8.52[12]
Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer)95%[12]
Review scores
The A.V. ClubB+[13]
Paste Magazine8.9[14]
SFX Magazine    [15]
TV Fanatic     [16]
New York Magazine     [19]
Daily Telegraph     [20]
Radio Times     [21]

"Before the Flood" received positive reviews. The episode holds a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of the series, with an average score of 8.5. The site's consensus reads "Doctor Who provides a satisfying conclusion to the previous installment's cliffhanger with "Before the Flood," a playful and exciting episode".[22]

IGN praised the episode, giving 9 out of 10 (Amazing). They praised the resolution to the episode particularly, as well as the performances of Capaldi and the guest cast.[23] Dan Martin of The Guardian praised Coleman's performance believing her and Capaldi to be "surely now one of the most successful pairings in Doctor Who’s history." He praised the design of the Fisher King admitting that it actually scared him.[7] Morgan Jeffrey of Digital Spy thought the episode was "scary and smart," and an improvement over the previous episode. But he was disappointed by the lack of screen time given to Paul Kaye's character Prentis and some of the crew members of the base. Overall he felt that the story was Whithouse's best since "School Reunion".[24] Den of Geek gave the episode a positive review, praising Capaldi saying, "it just feels like he utterly belongs there...he's been on excellent, excellent form." However, they found the design and use of the Fisher King to be "not really very arresting, really. Disappointing, even." Overall, they found the episode to be "patchier than last week's, but I'm not grumbling about the strength of the two parter, I do still strongly feel that the move towards two-parters has been beneficial to Doctor Who series 9 thus far."[25]

However, Catherine Gee of The Daily Telegraph gave the episode 3 stars out of 5, arguing that the episode "needed more Fisher King."[26]


  1. ^ "Doctor Who Series 9 Guide". Blogtor Who.
  2. ^ "More Details on Series 9's Four Episodes". Doctor Who TV.
  3. ^ a b Jones, Paul (10 October 2015). "Peter Capaldi plays electric guitar over Doctor Who opening credits". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  4. ^ Dillon-Trenchard, Pete (10 October 2015). "Doctor Who series 9: geeky spots in Before The Flood". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "BBC One – Doctor Who, Series 9, The Girl Who Died – Before the Flood: The Fact File". BBC.
  6. ^ a b "Before the Flood: Hints & Teasers (Set #1)". Doctor Who TV.
  7. ^ a b Dan Martin. "Doctor Who Series 35, episode 4: Before the Flood". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Before the Flood: Hints & Teasers (Set #2)". Doctor Who TV.
  9. ^ Jennifer Hodson. "'Doctor Who' Season 9, Episode 4 Recap: 'Before the Flood'". WSJ.
  10. ^ "Doctor Who News: Before the Flood – Overnight viewing figures". The Doctor Who News Page.
  11. ^ "Under the lake – AI:83". Doctor Who News.
  12. ^ a b "Before the Flood". 18 November 2015.
  13. ^ ""Before The Flood" · Doctor Who · TV Review Doctor Who gets tied up in the bootstrap paradox · TV Club · The A.V. Club".
  14. ^ "Doctor Who Review: "Before the Flood"".
  15. ^ Russell Lewin (10 October 2015). "Doctor Who S9.04 – "Before The Flood" review". GamesRadar+.
  16. ^ Schattentochter. "Doctor Who". TV Fanatic.
  17. ^ Kaite Welsh (11 October 2015). "Review: 'Doctor Who' Season 9 Episode 4, 'Before the Floo - Indiewire". Indiewire.
  18. ^ Scott Collura (10 October 2015). "Doctor Who: "Before the Flood" Review". IGN.
  19. ^ "Doctor Who Recap: Lovely, Lovely Wibbly-Wobbly". Vulture.
  20. ^ Catherine Gee (11 October 2015). "Doctor Who, Before the Flood: 'needed more Fisher King'".
  21. ^ Patrick Mulkern. "Radio Times - TV news and guide, TV and radio listings, film reviews guide". RadioTimes.
  22. ^ "Before the Flood". 13 October 2015.
  23. ^ Scott Collura (10 October 2015). "Doctor Who: "Before the Flood" Review". IGN.
  24. ^ "Doctor Who review: 'Before the Flood' is scary and smart". Digital Spy.
  25. ^ "Doctor Who series 9: Before The Flood review". Den of Geek.
  26. ^ Catherine Gee (11 October 2015). "Doctor Who, Before the Flood: 'needed more Fisher King'". Telegraph.

External linksEdit