Someone must’ve put in a good word for Jamie Mathieson, as this is his second episode for the show, in as many weeks. In many ways this episode is very Doctor Who, and in as many ways it’s not. Again, this solidifies the notion that Doctor Who can be whatever it needs to be each week to produce a solid hour of programming. Last week Mathieson wrote about a mummy that killed people 66 seconds after the person first noticed it, on a train in space. This week we’re in modern day Bristol warding off an alien race from another dimension with control over multiple dimensional planes while the Doctor’s trapped in a miniaturized TARDIS. What’s not to love?
Being that the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS, we get the unmissable opportunity of seeing Jenna Coleman act the part of the Doctor. The fact that the Doctor is fully aware of all her goings on and is capable of communicating to her throughout is teasingly brilliant, and is worth more than a handful of laughs. How does Clara do? Well, she certainly takes charge of this episode, quickly earning herself a companion. Along with her usage of the sonic screwdriver and psychic paper she also receives a 2Dis which reverses things from 3D to 2D. In the end it’s Clara’s ingenuity and leadership that save the day.
What she’s not so good at is finding time to talk to her boyfriend, Danny. When he first calls and she’s in the middle of trying not to die from a monster that turns things into 2D, with another screaming human beside her, what would be anyone’s gut reaction? Deny the incoming call? Ignore it? Not even notice it was ringing in the first place? But no, she chooses to answer. And then have a lengthy conversation about how she’ll be missing their lunch date. And then later in the episode she gets another phone call from him, absolutely nothing is going on except the fact that she’s trying to get the Doctor’s favor, and she denies the phone call and sends him a text instead. This is on top of the fact that she lies to him about not going on trips with the Doctor anymore, and after getting caught in a lie by the Doctor, who assumed Danny was okay with it all. Something tells me she’s not good at leading a double life.
How excellent was it that the TARDIS got smaller? I’m pretty sure Jenna Coleman was just walking around with a toy TARDIS a the whole day. A Doctor in your pocket if you will. They utilized this facet of the story extremely well. We had the Doctor and Clara inch their way out of a mini-TARDIS. The Doctor handed Clara equipment from the TARDIS, my favorite scene being when Jenna Coleman pulled the sledgehammer out of the bag. And we’ve got a new TARDIS mode that’s never been seen before: Siege Mode. This after the fact that the Doctor went all Addams Family with it. We now have it in canon that the TARDIS is heavy enough to fracture the surface of the Earth, if it didn’t lessen its true weight. Excellent. For this facet of the episode alone, I can see this episode becoming an instant classic amongst fans.
But no classic episode is complete without a great adversary. How did the monsters hold up this week? For the sake of not calling them the 2D monsters for the rest of the review, let’s just call them what the Doctor calls them by the end of the episode: Boneless. The Boneless as a race aren’t from the known universe. They’re extra-dimensional, capable of controlling and bending the 2nd or 3rd dimensions to their will. Whether they’re doing what they’re doing as a form of communication, or weaponization is never really answered, which is creepy in its own right. The Doctor eventually sends them away because regardless of their intent, they were causing unheard of trouble. Due to the excellent production quality and the special effects they were capable of utilizing, the Boneless came across beautifully realized. As special effects go, Doctor Who continues to wow me weekly, and this glitch-like human copycat was too good. I found no flaw in the special effects front. The best use of that effect for me was when they 2D’d the sofa and pillows. That looked superb.
Alongside Doctor Clara were her trusty companion and colleagues. Rigsy, the lovable teenage deviant doing a public service cleanup for his own graffiti, was one of the most well rounded one-off characters in recent memory. He gave the script a touch of youth, didn’t hog the limelight, but had a gravitating quality. His subtleties are rarely lost in the act. The tertiary characters are also quite believable story elements. Fenton most notably, the crotchety old man whom I’m sure we all loved to hate by the end of the episode, was immune to the psychic paper – something the Doctor attributes to a serious lack of imagination. That seemed important. Wonder if we’ll see him return.
And here comes Missy. Glad it’s not in your face every week. Every other week seems to be doing the trick for me. It almost looks like she’s in a darkened TARDIS. Rani anyone? The Master? Valeyard perhaps? I also thought it was funny she was using an iPad, case and all. They didn’t even try to cover that up. She mentions she chose Clara. So is this confirmation that she’s the “woman in the shop?” Guess we’ll find out. Overall, Flatline was an extremely fun, extremely different episode. It could’ve easily been another Fear Her, with the Boneless inhabiting 2D artwork and all, but it totally worked.
Current average ranking for Doctor Who Series Eight: 7.91