Doctor Who 9.4 – Before the Flood

After an hour of brilliantly claustrophobic material in an underwater base, the Doctor travels back to 1980, and the village that was flooded. It was abandoned several years previously, and had been dressed as a typical street in the Soviet Union for Cold War-era military intelligence training. It reminded me a little of “Target” in The New Avengers. There and then, we meet the sniveling alien undertaker whose ghost was setting the events of 2119 in motion, and a great big alien menace called the Fisher King.

I absolutely love “Before the Flood,” and told our son that this two-parter is among my very favorite Doctor Who adventures. He not only agreed that the second half was better than the first – 45 minutes of creepiness and scares locked in a base with no way out? no, he wasn’t completely happy, no – but said “the second part more than made up for the first part, it made up for some bad parts in some other Doctor Who stories I didn’t like.”

I think this is an incredibly intelligent and very surprising story that uses time travel really well, introduces a character who’s familiar with the Doctor and has read about some of his 21st century adventures, introduces another character who’s even more familiar with the Doctor and the Time Lords and how bloodthirsty they got in the Time War, and it does them effortlessly, without sounding like it’s bogging down with fannish references. The resolution turns out to be a really clever example of the “bootstrap paradox,” which is delightful, and the acting and the direction are simply full of clever surprises. I love it to pieces and want Toby Whithouse to come back and write more for this show.

Doctor Who 9.3 – Under the Lake

Well, here’s a strange little bit of casting. We saw Colin McFarlane once before at our blog, and he was playing a ghost in that performance as well! He got to join Marty Hopkirk in the afterlife as a living-large PI named Snellgrove who doesn’t end up living for very long. I must get around to catching him in something where he’s alive one day.

Anyway, “Under the Lake” was written by Toby Whithouse, who really should come back and write some more Who episodes one day because he’s extremely good. Among his previous adventures was “The God Complex”, which introduced a race of aliens called Tivolians as supporting characters. The Doctor recognizes that one of the ghosts is a Tivolian, and I love how understated this is. The whole adventure is excellent, I really love it to bits, but I especially like how this is quietly placed to the side, because there’s so much going on, and nobody has time to ask how this alien got here, or how long he’s been here. In fact, it’s an interesting inversion of the typical set-up of a modern Who two-parter. Usually they spend part one setting everything up and part two running around madly. This time we have to wait to get the full picture, and I love that they did it this way.

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) 2.5 – Marshall & Snellgrove

Sadly, this afternoon’s Randall & Hopkirk was among the few that disappointed me. The plot was breathtakingly obvious – even our son figured out that there were fewer actors than characters – and they didn’t do nearly enough with the new characters in the story. Shaun Parkes, who we saw last month in the Doctor Who two-parter “The Impossible Planet,” and Colin McFarlane, who also did a Who two-parter we haven’t got to yet, play Charley Marshall and Sebastian Snellgrove, a pair of detectives in the same building as Jeff and Jeannie. They look like they’re living large and doing very well – Snellgrove wears expensive clothes and drives a Rolls – but they’re every bit as downmarket as any other PIs. Snellgrove just calls all their expenses “tax deductions,” driving his poor partner, who’s trying to pay the bills, to despair. They all get hired on the same case by two different clients, but the only real mystery is when in the adventure Snellgrove’s going to become deceased.