Before the Flood
Written by Toby Whithouse
Directed by Daniel O’Hara
“Doctor. Hello. Can I just say: huge fan.”
In the eerie remains of a town that never was, something is stalking the Doctor and his friends. A desperate battle for survival is underway, but this time our heroes already know which of them is going to lose. With the past and the future hanging in the balance, the Doctor is breaking the rules to win the day. Can anything stop the Fisher King? And more importantly, who composed Beethoven’s 5th?
The Doctor explains 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 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?”
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 realize 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, 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 time stream – 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 realizes 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. Lunn leaves the cage and locates the phone, but the ghosts trap and lock him inside the main room. When Lunn fails to return, Clara agrees to accompany Cass to search for him.
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 realizes 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. The TARDIS’ security protocol 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 Faraway 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 her telling him what it was already saying from the future — a bootstrap paradox.