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
13 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Flatline (EPISODE REVIEW)”
This is the first episode of series 8 I have completely enjoyed…. except, minor niggle, despite the fact that I’m glad Clara herself isn’t one dimensional anymore, this week I imagined what the episode would be like if Amy Pond was still the companion and I came to the conclusion that she would have done the exact same things. So Clara, at best, is still a copy of previous companions. In short, can’t wait til she leaves.
This episode was quite entertaining. Had a good time watching this. Enjoyed Clara’s role as the ‘Doctor.’
The Doctor admits to Clara that she did well in the lead role but, reluctant to repeat his praise.
Was there a self realization that the Doctor’s actions aren’t all from goodness? Was it necessary to convey that realization to Clara to prevent the ego from taking over, and becoming an impedance to any future success?
Was it his way of telling Clara to drop any egotistical standard from her role?
Ego caters to the Doctor giving his actions greater strength as opposed to the Doctor catering to ego which would weaken the Doctor’s overall effectiveness. Allowing the ego in, is to taint any success.
…And at the end, Missy praises herself for having chosen Clara. Is Missy actually at the root of all evil? A promised land in disguise? Is the ‘promised land’ not necessarily a place but, a living attitude represented by Missy, that may come to the surface even in the best of us (IE Clara)?
Perhaps not only the living attitude but, also the final destination for those who allow the attitude to live, and prosper?
Over all this season gets high marks for entertainment, and exploring new areas.
It is possible to tear down several stories that have come up this season that don’t fit the pure umbrella story but, I rather like the expansion of story lines they have attempted, giving new direction and possibilities.
I still do miss the River Song story, and think it would somehow work well with Missy.
Peter Capaldi, and Jenna Coleman are great, together!
I really had a hard time liking Capaldi as the new Doctor. Not because he’s not doing an excellent job (he’s an amazing actor), but because the new Doctor is so dark. I miss the lightheartedness of the 10th and 11th Doctors. The last 2 or 3 episodes, I feel like Clara is getting an insight into why he can be such a dark character: why he lies so much, the amount of pressure on him to save the day and everyone involved, that sort of thing. I think this episode finally clinched it for me that I fully approve of this new darker Doctor. He’s still the protector of mankind, and his warning to the Boneless made me think of the warning of previous Doctors to alien races that threatened humanity.
This was a great post! I love your reviews!
Interesting. I’ve been hoping for a darker older Doctor for a long while, so his presence in the TARDIS was instantly appealing to me. But I see what you’re saying about Clara getting into his head almost. Thanks for reading!
Excellent episode this, these shows that air later in UK are definitely superior to the ones that the younger audience are “allowed” to watch pre-watershed. The more adult themes including the relationship of Clara albeit with an actor with one of the most annoying accents I’m having the misfortune to suffer are very welcome as I felt the new era was aiming for too young an audience originally. I guess the Eccleston fans have grown up now so Moffat and co. have realised that their fan base is becoming bigger and older who they’ll want to keep hooked until their progeny reach “behind the sofa” age. As the chap who penned this story did last weeks show I hope he does some more. excellent use of special effects, the door handle really did it for me.
I wonder whether the Bristol setting was intentional being the home of world famous “anonymous” artist Banksy and his priceless wall mural art. I was convinced he (or an actor portraying him) was going to pop up in the end.
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You know, I totally missed that reference to Banksy. But Rigsy is very close to that. Yeah, I’m sure there has to be some connection or influence there. Now that you mention it, the mural in the tunnel looked a bit like his work.
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I do have to pick one little nit with this episode.
In the beginning… when the TARDIS is still just big enough for them to get in and out through the door… why did they work soooo hard to squeeze in and out of just that one side? We’ve seen repeatedly how both doors open… so even at that half-size version, with both doors open it should have been easy to get in and out.
That honestly bothered me that they were squeezing to just that one side instead of opening both doors to make it easier.
Outside of that… it was a good mix of the silly and the serious.
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I noticed that also. Simple answer? The prop they were using only had access to one door. It bothered me, but not so much to perturb my overall score. Didnt effect the story or writing in the slightest.
Yeah, I figure the smaller prop they made was the issue and the real reason behind it… it just bugged me. But you’re still right, it didn’t mar the episode. It was a good episode and Clara kind of got a taste of what it meant to be in a position to lie and mislead for the greater good. I’m not sure if ultimately that is a good thing or a bad thing, since it is a slippery slope. I think the Doctor probably likes his companions to be more in the dark and optimistic without seeing behind the curtain for fear they might become more like him.
Hmm, which may have been why he was so against conceding that goodness had anything to do with her ability to be the Doctor.
Yeah, I figure that was the Doctor’s way of calling attention to Clara that she was TOO good at being like him for her own good.
I think the sole purpose of that was the “dramatic effect”…