Huzzah, it's the conclusion to our second Doctor Who two-parter this series: "Before The Flood". The storyline really amped up the week-long break between episodes. I mean, between "The Magician's Apprentice" and "The Witch's Familiar", we were left to wonder if Clara and Missy were really dead, but, this time, it's The Doctor's fate we're left to ponder! What happened that he wasn't able to regenerate? (Showrunner Steven Moffat recently told us that The Doctor dies in this episode -- what do we do with this information?)
The Doctor is in the TARDIS and telling us (yes, us) about a man going back in time to meet Beethoven. He asks around, and he can't find him. No one knows Beethoven -- he doesn't exist. The Doctor tells us that this is only a story, not a true story, not him, no sirree. The Doctor looks directly at us and says it's the Bootstrap Paradox. Google it. The man had brought all his Beethoven sheet music to have him sign, but he publishes it instead -- he can't imagine a world without Beethoven -- and he is suddenly Beethoven. It begs the question, though: who wrote Beethoven's 5th?
We get more Doctor guitar! I am loving how much they are taking advantage of Peter Capaldi's varied talents this series. He starts in on Beethoven on electric guitar, and it transitions into a rocking version of the DW theme we all know and love!
It turns out that Alice Fangirl O'Donnell doesn't just know about The Doctor -- she has done a lot of research on him. They plus Bennett land in 1980. The TARDIS brought them to when the ship first landed in the height of the Cold War. The town is like a practice Russian village, you know, just in case. They discover that the LEGO spaceship is actually a hearse, and there are no markings on the inside wall.
Play-doh Face Non-Ghost has no concept of personal space. He's an alien funeral director named Prentis who is obsessed with being oppressed (Remember Tivoli?). He introduces us to the dead Fisher King. His Play-doh face, when not all ghosty, looks more like a mole than anything.
They head back to the TARDIS to talk to Clara, who is still in the base with Ghost Doctor in the water. Lunn wants to comfort Clara, but he doesn't know how. Cass thinks Ghost Doctor isn't saying the coordinates -- he is saying all their names + 'Prentis' ('Moran, Pritchard, Prentis, O'Donnell, Clara, Doctor, Bennett, Cass' for those playing along at home -- no one notices that Lunn's name isn't on the list). The Doctor phones Clara, and she tells him about his ghost self. He says it must happen -- "The proof is right there in front of you. I have to die." He takes it in and, then, shrugs it off: "This regeneration is a bit of a clerical error anyway. Got to die sometime."
Clara tries to guilt him. She suggests that he die with whoever comes after her. Break the rules -- he owes her. I really like the dynamic between 12 and Clara now. I feel like they've finally hit their stride. I never thought I'd be sad that Clara's going (she's never been a favourite of mine/no one replaces the Ponds), but they finally work so well together.
Play-doh Undertaker goes into ship and finds the Fisher King missing and the symbols on the wall. He takes them in, there's a weird shadow on the wall as heavy stomping rings out, and, then, boosh!
The Doctor asks Clara if there are any clues about his death. The only thing she notices is that his coat is torn on the right shoulder. She shares the list of names with him. Ghost Doctor suddenly steps through the glass and inside the cantina. Ghost Doctor fiddles with the electronics and opens the Faraday cage to let the other ghosts out. He's saying something different now: "The chamber will open tonight."
The Doctor says that they must get to the Faraday cage now that the ghosts are free. Her phone signal won't reach in there -- despite working anywhere in time or space, I guess a closed Faraday cage is the end of her tower strength. She needs to leave it outside the door, and, if she sees it ringing, go out when it's safe to answer. The phone is so important because he needs details of the future.
The Doctor tries to get O'Donnell to stay behind in the TARDIS, but she's not having it. They see the Fisher King is gone from the LEGO ship and Play-doh Prentis is now dead in his place. They can hear the Fisher King roaring. He apparently took the suspended animation chamber with him. They need to get back to the TARDIS for safety, but, suddenly, the Fisher King has seen them, and they must split up. More stomping and more roaring, and we hear a charged weapon and moaning. Bennett gets there just in time to watch O'Donnell die -- and he seems more than a little upset over her death.
Bennett says he now knows the list is the order of dying. He confronts The Doctor with the idea that he already knew that's what the list was; The Doctor argues that, since her ghost wasn't there, he thought she might not die. Clara is next on the list, so The Doctor will change history to save her. Bennett isn't so pleased with The Doctor's priorities -- though he should be a little more grateful because Clara's name comes before his.
O'Donnell's ghost is now in the future with Clara, Cass, and Lunn. She takes Clara's phone, about which The Doctor had given her strict instructions -- remember that she was there listening to him talk about its importance when she was alive. The Doctor and Bennett are back in the TARDIS, traveling again. There is a lot of clanging -- the cloister bells again. They haven't actually traveled very far; they are still in the town and have moved back only half an hour. Since they were already there then, The Doctor, the TARDIS, O'Donnell, and Bennett are still there. They must stay away from themselves! (9 & Rose with her dad, anyone? There are so many little references to past adventures in this series so far, and I love it.)
Clara figures out about the writing in the spaceship and explains that's why Corporate Ghost didn't hurt Lunn -- he never read the markings! (One of our lovely Popples mentioned this in the comments last week -- gold star, Ashley!) Cass wanted to protect him, and she did. Still, no one mentions that his name was missing from The Doctor's list. Since Lunn is safe, he can get Clara's phone back! Cass calls her out: "Did traveling with The Doctor change you, or were you always happy to put others' lives at risk?" Ouch. She's got a point. Clara always has faith that things are going to work out when she's with The Doctor, so she doesn't even think about the potential dangers. She has seen enough death on her travels that she should know better.
The Doctor's coat shoulder is now torn. He wants more time. (Is he "not ready to go"?) Tick tock. He's off to face the Fisher King. He heads down a creepy basement -- don't go down there! The suspended animation chamber is open. The Doctor explains that he has seen the future of the Fisher King -- "the chaos, the bloodshed". The Fisher King wants to know how many ghosts he has created. He wants to bring an armada. He is bragging. His death was a plot.
Meanwhile, in the future, the suspended chamber is lighting up. Lunn is searching out the ghosts. They inspect him. They don't hurt him. Lunn finds the phone, but the security doors lock.
The Doctor and the Fisher King are still sizing each other up. They finally see each other -- no more stomping in shadow -- and he knows he's a Time Lord.
Clara and Cass are restless waiting for Lunn, so they strike out together.
The Fisher King is quite talky, isn't he? You think The Doctor is talky, but the Fisher King puts him to shame with his endless monologuing. (Hats off to Peter Serafinowicz as the voice of FK). He's also massive and intimidating.
Clara and Cass inadvertently split up. Big Ghost has an axe and is dragging it following Cass, but Cass can't hear it.
The Doctor decides that he can change the future because "even a ghastly future is better than no future at all" -- the ripple effect holds no power over him. The Fisher King has bent the rules of life and death, so The Doctor is going to do whatever to put it right.
Cass knows something isn't right as she's walking, so she stops and puts her hand to the ground. She feels the vibrations of the axe and can picture it. She manages to escape its swing just in the nick of time. She runs away, and she and Clara are back together.
The Doctor says he has erased the message from the ship. There will be no more beacons, no more new ghosts. It doesn't do the Fisher King any good to kill him now. The Fisher King shoves him and goes back to his ship. He sees the markings are still there, so he knows The Doctor lied to him. The power source is flashing; the dam is bursting. Holo-Doc announces the TARDIS is leaving as safety protocol with Bennett on board.
Clara, Cass, and Lunn are running and running and find themselves next to the suspended animation chamber. Back in the town, the Fisher King gets wiped out by the flood from the broken dam. On the base, the chamber opens and ... IT'S THE DOCTOR! He runs to the command panel, installs the "call" of the Fisher King, and all the ghosts start to move into the Faraday cage, then Ghost Doctor simply disappears.
The Doctor says his ghost was a hologram projection that was activated by the sonic shades. He uses the sonics to erase the memory of the writing from their brains. They go looking for Bennett to erase the writing from him, and he tells Lunn to tell Cass he loves her. He wishes he could have told O'Donnell he loved her before it was too late. Cass looks offended then kisses Lunn.
Ghost Doctor's messages weren't for Clara; they were for himself. The list was mostly random -- starting with the ones who were already dead -- but Clara's name in the list made him confront the whole issue. He told himself to get in the suspended animation chamber -- but when did he first have those thoughts? Who composed Beethoven's 5th?
Given that we had The Doctor and Ghost Doctor existing at the same time, how could he have avoided a paradox (That one's just for my dad.)? Do you expect that there will be more consequences to face for changing the future? And why do we still bother listening to Steven Moffat about anything?