Doctor Who: Flatline Review
How many times has science fiction explored other dimensions? We’ve explored alternate dimensions with revised histories, good people turned evil and more. However, how many time have we explored the second dimension? Well, not only do The Doctor and Clara have to deal with creatures from the second dimension but The Doctor has to deal with a shrinking TARDIS. All in a day’s work.
This episode was probably the fourth episode of the nine so far this season that one could classify as a horror episode. Listen, Kill the Moon, Mummy on the Orient Express and this week’s Flatline would be the ones I call horror episodes. This week’s fits in perfectly with the horror themes of the season. A new and unseen menace that lurks in the wings and kills people. I don’t know if this was planned or it was just a case of Steven Moffat giving writers orders of “Give me something new and scary” but it’s worked very well this season.
This week’s villains, called The Boneless by the official Doctor Who website rather than the actual show which makes absolutely no sense, were new and scary and that ratchets up the tension this week. The Doctor thinking that the Boneless might be able to communicate from their second dimension to the third dimension was a nice little play into a sci-fi trope of miscommunication and language barriers leading to conflict.
Of course, it didn’t turn out to be true and they were just straight villains but it was interesting while it lasted. They were more interesting villains when they were just trying to say hello and instead turning people into paintings on walls which is a fairly interesting power in itself. Anyway, they were just straight evil trying to come into and take over the third dimension.
The heart of the episode was the relationship between The Doctor and Clara. With The Doctor trapped inside a shrunken TARDIS that he is now too big to fit through the front door of, it’s up to Clara to take up the role of The Doctor. It’s something that Jenna Coleman / Clara has fun with when she’s pretending to be The Doctor though Twelve is less than impressed when she’s sort of gloating in her new power role while the TARDIS is coming along in Clara’s purse that’s so big that I could use it as luggage.
And while Clara does a good job of solving the problem and unshrinking the TARDIS by using the Boneless’ powers against them, the best part of it was that she didn’t come off as the Mary Sue character that the Clara character has a nasty habit of being portrayed as. It’s not Jenna Coleman’s fault that Clara is a bit of a Mary Sue but it’s been getting grating to the point where I’m not particularly upset about the rumours that she’s going to leave the show.
In Flatline, Clara seems much more human. Sure, she comes up with a clever solution to unshrink the TARDIS but it wasn’t a completely deus ex machina ending either. She also quite obviously seems a bit over her head. Without that safety net of The Doctor to save the day, she has to seem in charge but always seems just ever so slightly hesitant which keeps her believable.
There were two very quick lines that are probably the most important in the episode but I think they might get overlooked. The first was when The Doctor realized that Clara lied to him and Danny about her being on the TARDIS. The Doctor thought Danny okayed it while Danny thought that she had broken up with Twelve. Looks like she was working both of them (to greater and lesser extents because I’d imagine Danny would be less happy with Clara being on-board the TARDIS than Twelve would be with Clara lying to him about Danny). It does reveal to Twelve a bit about Clara still wanting to buddy up with him despite how mad she was a couple of weeks ago.
The second line was Twelve saying something to the effect of being an exceptional Doctor doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good Doctor. That hints back at the slightly more shades of grey morality of Twelve. He’s willing to make the sacrifice to make sure that what needs to get done gets done. He’s not necessarily trying to save everyone at all costs. It’s the difference in opinion about the necessity of being the perfect moral paragon that has driven the wedge between Twelve and Clara while Eleven and Clara were completely on the same wavelength.
It’s this second line that should be a wake-up call for Clara. She’s obviously never thought of what the Doctor does from this perspective before even though she’s spent eight weeks (well, episodes) seeing the same thing play out from her perspective. I don’t know if this was also something that was planned out well in advance for an audience that was used to youthful white knights like Ten and Eleven but it also works as a way to subtly break the fourth wall.
And the end of that episode. After lamenting that the Mummy wasn’t part of Missy’s plan last week, we got an even better payoff this week with Missy saying that Clara is part of her plan. But what plan is this and whose side is she on? This is a new twist to the Missy story but we’ll probably have to wait a couple of weeks until the two-part season finale.
Overall, this was another really good episode. I feel as though I say this every week but this season of Doctor Who is giving us good episode after good episode and I can’t recall a string of episodes this strong at any point during the revival run of the series. I really hope this season carries through the final three episodes as strongly but as long as the finale lives up to the rest of the season’s best episodes, we’ll be fine.
Other random points of note:
- Seemingly infinite technology and Missy is using an iPad. Couldn’t she have a fancy hologram screen or did we blow the CGI budget on the Boneless people.
- I wrote this review after the Haven one (since Haven airs 24 hours before Doctor Who) so sorry about writing “ratcheting up the tension” so much this week. Note to self: Buy a thesaurus.
Next week, JUMANJI! Oh don’t tell me that you didn’t see a preview featuring forests overrunning the cities of Earth and your first thought was a movie that my grandmother hated and wouldn’t stop giving out about it every time someone brought it up? Okay, you probably didn’t think that last part but I bet you know people who detest that movie.
Anyway, next week’s episode is In the Forest of the Night which sees The Doctor exploring a London that’s become an urban forest. He also has to put up with Danny and his field trip crew from Coal Hill School.