With only compelling images of a shrunken TARDIS, and images of people stuck on walls, it’s completely impossible to have any idea what Flatline is about without seeing it. While the “next time” trailer and TV spot both tragically ruined the big reveal of the episode, it was still great enough of an adventure to not be disappointing. As it turns out, Flatline may be a new gem in the long history of great Doctor Who serials.
But on to the Doctor and Clara. Despite the rough ride together in the previous episode, the Doctor and Clara are again traversing space and time. But before they land at their latest stop they notice something isn’t right with the doors to the TARDIS. They’re smaller. When they do land and emerge from the TARDIS, they realize the Blue Box has become… smaller on the outside…
Clara takes a look around outside while the Doctor investigates the TARDIS’ malfunction. Of course whenever a companion has a lonesome look around after the TARDIS lands trouble inevitably finds them. Clara gets wind of some people disappearing around the area, but when she returns to the TARDIS to round up the Doctor she finds the TARDIS situation has gotten worse, in a small way!
I have to take a moment to applaud how cleverly brought to life the episode’s main gag, the TARDIS shrinking to pocket size, really was. The episode has some really cool effects that completely make this episode believable. Watching the Doctor interact with Clara outside the TARDIS while it was the size of a small dog, was something Doctor Who just hasn’t had much of in a while: striking visual and storytelling elements coming together. Also, this episode confirms my long-standing belief that Mary Poppins is a Time Lord!
The problem with the TARDIS eventually coincides with the local disappearance, and Clara is tasked with taking the lead in the investigation. While sleuthing around they experience a vanishing first-hand, although not actually seeing it. But the situation escalates as the grisly nature of the disappearances becomes revealed through the Doctor’s superior intellect.
At the height of the episode’s tension a quick “howdy do” call from Danny Pink actually breaks up what could have been a really memorable scene. While I’ve enjoyed Danny’s evolution thus far, my frustrations over his lack of integration into the TARDIS crew have reached a limit. Either have Danny travel with the Doctor and Clara, or have Clara leave to be with him. The damaged scene would have been so much better if Danny had been there with Clara to experience it firsthand.
Clara actually does a good job taking on the roll of Doctor in the Doctor’s absence. It basically serves as the fulfillment of her maturation over the course of this season to become a distinct and enduring companion. She so effortlessly becomes the Doctor when the need arises that we are once again visited by one of Doctor Who’s darker recurring themes. That of the Doctor turning people into weapons. It probably wasn’t so intentional as much as it happens to be well illustrated by good writing, but I found it an enjoyable element of the episode.
Of course things eventually get sorted, as they always do. My surprise came not in the somewhat typical resolution to the threat of the week, but in light of all those killed in this episode, I never expected that Missy was going to show up. She did, and again her presence is cryptic and enticing. What does it mean that she chose Clara? What for? Who is she? As we near the end of Season 8 it’s time the Missy-Nethersphere storyline takes center stage. Whatever happens, it’s not going to be pleasant.
For me Flatline is the coolest episode this season so far. Very clever SFX brought to life a really fun script that I honestly believe will endure as one of the best Twelfth Doctor episodes. Coming off the heels of Mummy on the Orient Express, Doctor Who has been really heading in a great direction. Flatline gave both the Doctor and Clara even more opportunity to grow as characters, and each really shined as roles were reversed and responsibilities swapped. With the Doctor hog-tied by crazy circumstances, and Clara wearing the mantel of Doctor to surprising success, Flatline captured me from beginning to end, and still lingers on. This is Doctor Who as it was always meant to be!
image source: [doctorwhotv]