The spaceship is a hearse, an alien tries to invade Earth, and The Doctor ponders a paradox.
Imagine a time traveller who is a fan of Beethoven, who goes back in time to meet his favorite composer. But Beethoven is nowhere to be found! He doesn’t exist. So the time traveller copies Beethoven’s music and publishes it and BECOMES Beethoven. But who originally wrote Beethoven’s Fifth? This is called the Bootstrap Paradox. The Doctor thought it important to tell the viewers this story at the beginning of the episode.
The Doctor traveling back in time to the town before it was flooded has caused the appearance of a new ghost; The Doctor’s ghost. While Clara tries to keep everyone calm at the base, The Doctor tries to discover the origin of the spaceship and the writing. He finds this in the form of a cowardly alien from the most invaded planet in the galaxy (their capital city has a sign that says “If you’d occupied us, you’d be home already.”).
The alien, Prentiss, seems to be a funeral director and has come to the barren outpost of Earth to bury the body of The Fisher King, their second to last invader who was recently killed by their latest invader. The appearance of The Doctor’s ghost has given him a sense of urgency to discover how the message works and how to stop it. They soon discover the dead body of Prentiss, and the not so dead body of The Fisher King.
“Before the Flood” has the kind of timey-wimey complication raising questions that end up being sorted out and leaving behind even more questions, with a dash of danger and running (love the running). However, the episode isn’t what stood out so much as what happened around the episode.
The Doctor breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the viewer has only happened a select few times in the series, mostly in the very early days of the show, directly referencing knowledge of being a TV show. More recently, Ten, Eleven, and Clara have looked directly into the camera for a line, and always very briefly. Here, The Doctor gives an entire monologue. It gave the viewer a sense of knowing The Doctor knowing the viewer is on this journey with him, instead of merely being represented by his companion. While this is something that might become more gimmick than a cool nod if overused, this instance of it worked well for the episode, and, even better, ending it with The Doctor looking to us and giving a shrug. It was so… COOL!
Speaking of cool, The Doctor’s guitar playing skills make another appearance since he introduced them in “The Magician’s Apprentice.” He quickly plays the introduction of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and immediately goes into the show’s theme over the usual credits. The change in theme music is only in the added guitar, but it sounded, once again, cool. Hopefully, The Doctor’s guitar will be a recurring things such as Ten’s 3D glasses, or Eleven’s fez. Because guitars are cool. So are sonic glasses. There is almost a sense of this being a new new Doctor; The Twelfth Doctor 2.0. After his premiering as the Doctor in the admittedly weak season 8, has Capaldi finally come into his own? This is not the buttoned-up shirt Doctor from last season, but an adventurous and cool Doctor wearing sonic glasses and playing guitar.
(How many more times can I describe him as being cool?)