Episode Review: Under the Lake & Before the Flood (Spoilers)

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If you read my last blog post on the newest season of Doctor Who, then you will know that I haven’t been a fan of it so far. I’m not totally caught up on this latest season, but what I have watched has been disappointing at best.

This episode is no exception. Many of gripes can be described via the questions I was left with. To see that version, click this link. If you want to see my more in depth reasoning for a couple of my questions and issues, read on.

First off though, there were a couple of positives.

I liked what they did with the opening theme music. I have found the little buzzy, electronic Doo-wee-oo really annoying, so having the guitar cover that up a little was actually a relief. I just wish they kept it for the next episode.

While I will complain a lot about the Bootstrap Paradox (I think that the Moffat era has relied on these Paradoxes a little too much), I do think that it was handled alright in this instance. despite the plot holes. More on my feelings about the Bootstrap Paradox later.

Also, I thought the scene where Lunn confesses his love to Cass was sweet. Especially since the guy who played Lunn did such a great job throughout the story of showing how protective he was of Cass, so it was actually pretty believable.

Now for the negatives.

My first issue is that these episodes could have been one episode. The first episode dragged and only acted as a way to set up for the rushed ending in the next episode. I found myself mentally checking out at times, which sometimes made it difficult to follow what was happening.

So I guess you could say that my caveat for this post is that I might have missed a couple of things since there were times when I checked out for a little bit. This is a review of my first impressions on the episodes.

My issue with this storyline comes down to the use of the bootstrap paradox. First off, how patronizing is that random scene when the Doctor explains the paradox to the audience? To me, it came off as, “Let me me explain this to you so that you actually understand what I’m doing.” One: Way to just assume that we won’t get it. Two: If you need a stand alone scene just explain your plot, then your doing it wrong. It’s an example of the lazy writing that has been rubbing me the wrong way for the entirety of Moffat’s run on Doctor Who.

This is not to say that I didn’t think the scene was badly acted, or that the scene itself was patronizing. It’s the fact that it is there at all  that bothers me.

I also find the use of the bootstrap paradox lazy. At least how Moffat uses it. Also, the amount of times he uses it, or something similar is frustrating. He used something similar in the last storyline with planting the idea of mercy into Davros’ mind so that Clara in the Dalek body could say ‘mercy’, and I recall him using it at least once with Matt Smith. (He also used something similar in ‘Blink’ during Davies era. But that was a really solid paradox loop.) Basically, I think that Moffat is relying a little too much on paradox loops, so they are becoming rather predictable rather than exciting and interesting like they should be.

It’s not just that I have problem with his over use of the paradox, but I have a problem with the paradox itself. Like the Doctor asks at the end of the unnecessary explanation scene, “Who really composed Beethoven’s Fifth?”

According to the Wikipedia article on the Bootstrap Paradox,

It is a paradox in the sense that an independent origin of the events that caused each other cannot be determined, they simply exist by themselves. (emphasis added)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can’t accept that the something simply exists. That feels lazy to me. Beethoven’s Fifth just exists and we are just supposed to accept it?

Here is my caveat. I’m fine with this paradox as long as it creates a closed loop. By this, I mean that there isn’t an outside thing or idea that comes into play that has an uncertain origin. Mostly, my issue comes with the example, not necessarily how he uses it in the plot. The fact that Beethoven’s Fifth, in this example, exists outside of this circle, and nothing can explain it’s existence bothers me. Nothing just comes out of nowhere.

Now, since the Doctor is inspired to act based on an idea he has inside of the causal loop, I can find that a little easier to swallow. But, if he say, got the idea from a piece of paper that had the idea on it, and the origin of that piece of paper is never discovered because neither him or anyone else wrote it, then I would have a problem. So, as far as paradoxes go, this one is relatively solid. It just leaves us with a few plot holes, which I talk about in my other post.

Alright. On to my annoyance with the amount of times this or something similar is used. I understand that Doctor Who as a series is full of times when you have to suspend disbelief. I can think of a couple episodes from the top of my head during the Davies era when you had just accept some things.

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Yep. This is how vaccines work.

But here is the key difference between when it happened then, and when it happens now. The weird explanations that don’t make much sense–like the above mentioned vaccines through water sprinklers–aren’t the main point of the story. The point of the above episode was to examine the lengths that medical science is willing to go to to create cures and how there should be limitations to what they should be allowed to do. That episode did not revolve around the end climax. It revolved around its message and character development.

This episode, on the other hand, completely revolves around this paradox. A paradox that allows a writer to cheat a little on creating an actual solid storyline. There isn’t any particular moment that points to any particular character development. Only moments that reiterate the fact that the Doctor has become kind of a jerk. Which we have seen enough of, and I’m getting tired of it.

(I get it. He has for some reason completely lost touch with his sense of human empathy–as seen by his apparent need of cue cards to apologize when he says rude things–and Clara is still obsessed with finding perilous situations that could get them killed.)

Now I have heard the argument that this episode was more of a satire on how you just have to accept some things in the Doctor Who universe, and how sometimes it is illogical and contradictory. However, I don’t believe that it did that particularly well, and when this similar plot device is used multiple times, you can’t claim it as satire. It’s just you running out of ideas.

That is my major complaint about these two episodes. The rest of my gripes are more in the form of questions, because honestly, that is all I was left with when I finished the episodes. Here’s the link to my complaints in question form. Leave any comments below, and if you can answer some of my questions, please do.

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