Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: Season 8 – Episode 9 – “Flatline”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 9

Flatline

Written by Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

Cast
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink
John Cummins – Roscoe
Jessica Hayles – PC Forrest
Joivan Wade – Rigsy
Christopher Fairbank – Fenton
Matt Bardock – Al
Raj Bajaj – George
James Quinn – Bill
Michelle Gomez – Missy


Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Quick Summary: The Doctor and Clara return to Earth, but end up several hundred miles away from London. It seems some kind of creature is leeching away dimensional energy, which causes the exterior of the TARDIS to shrink trapping the Doctor inside. Clara finds a companion of her own, a graffiti artist named Rigsy and works to save the day on her own from the powerful and mysterious beings called the Boneless.


First Impressions:

  • Just like last week’s Mummy on the Orient Express, this episode was written by Jamie Mathieson, a newcomer to Doctor Who. Mathieson seems to have mastered the perfect balance between scary and the inherent weirdness that a good episode of Doctor Who has. The Boneless were damn creepy villains. Whether they were sliding across the ground and walls, or they were shambling about as pseudo 3d images, they really created a disturbing atmosphere for this episode.
  • I couldn’t help but think the Doctor as being a little naive throughout the episode. We saw the Boneless ripping skin off, tearing out nervous systems, and leaving lots of dead people in it’s wake. But the Doctor was still trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. This incarnation of the Doctor has been pretty cold and calculating at times, so I did think that might have been a little out of character. That said, it did make the denouement powerful when the Doctor decided that there was only one way to stop the Boneless, and that was expelling them from this plane for good.
  • To balance out the creepy monsters, Matheison gave us the idea of a shrinking TARDIS with the Doctor stuck inside. This led to several amusing sight gags, like Clara pulling a massive hammer out of her purse as the Doctor handed it out through the TARDIS door. And a few times, when you just see the Doctor’s hand poking out of the tiny TARDIS, I couldn’t help but think of Thing in the Addams Family movie…a reference that Clara ends up making later in the episode to help the Doctor escape sudden death by using his fingers to help “crawl” the TARDIS to safety.

  • Jenna Coleman had to shoulder the load for most of this episode, and I think she did an excellent job. I loved that she ended up recruiting her own companion and was even able to use the Doctors’ toys and methods in her own way. Clara has been a great companion, and this episode gave her a long needed spotlight outside of the Doctor and Danny. Too often, she seems defined by the men in her life, and it was great to see her standing on her own.
  • I especially loved how Clara was able to trick the Boneless into repairing the TARDIS. I’ve said this before, but I love when the characters in Doctor Who do something that is genuinely clever and not just some mind numbing technobabble. The story set up the plan perfectly, and it never felt like a big jump in logic that Clara could have come up with this solution on her own.
  • I thought it was kind of odd that two shows I watched this week used graffiti as a plot point (Doctor Who and Star Wars Rebels)…this was definitely a throwback to the 80’s. Clara’s companion, the graffiti artist Rigsy, was kind of one dimensional, but he didn’t really take away from the episode. And I would definitely see him back instead of Courtney Woods ::shudder::

  • I do want to give bonus points to Christopher Fairbank’s as Fenton. Usually at the end of a Doctor Who adventure, the unpleasant character have learned from the adventure and are now goodish people. In the end, Fenton was still an insufferable asshole, and I loved that the show had the balls to do that. I also thought it was kind of bad ass when it prompted the Doctor to remark, “Yes, a lot of people died and maybe the wrong people survived…”
  • I was really curious about the Doctor’s last line. Clara is fishing for a compliment….CLARA: It’s not him. Come on, why can’t you say it? I was the Doctor and I was good.
    DOCTOR: You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara.
    CLARA: Thank you.
    DOCTOR: Goodness had nothing to do with it.Not only is it an odd line, but Peter Capaldi delivered it with a real odd grim tone. I get that it is a line Mae West made famous (it’s even the name of her autobiography), but I definitely didn’t get the context here.
  • I loved the continuity the series used when the TARDIS went into siege mode. It definitely looked like Gallifreyan tech, reminding me immediately of the holocubes from the 50th Anniversary episode. I also thought it looked quite a bit like the Pandorica.
  • I also loved the A113 reference on the train. I have definitely seen this a few times in shows and movies over the years, but I didn’t know exactly what it was about, so I ended up looking it up after this episode. See, Doctor Who is still educational….sort of…
  • Missy is back again at the end of this episode and seems to suggest that she has “chosen” Clara in some way. I have heard a lot of people suggest that Missy is an Avatar of Death, but makes sense. Typically when we see her, it is after another character dies. And several people did die during this one (though it’s hard to blame Clara for those deaths). It would make sense, with her Promised Land being heaven of a sort. I really have no better guess, so I am sticking with that one for now. Guess we’ll know for sure in a week or two.

  • Once again, I couldn’t think of any real issues I had with this episode. Maybe Rigsy was a bit flat as a character (that was not an intentional pun), but he wasn’t annoying or a bad character, just not exciting. But, he didn’t really take away from the episode at all. This episode had great action, unique effects work, great monsters, some genuinely funny moments, and we got to see Clara take on a strong role for a change. I really couldn’t ask for anything else.
  • Next week’s episode: In the Forest of the Night – The Doctor and Clara try to go to London, to find that entire world has been overrun with a massive forest. “Forest of the Night” is the last episode before the two-part season finale. Can’t believe it’s almost over already!! Been a great season. On the bright side, that means I only have three more reviews to write. It has been tough finding something new to say every week.

    Final Score: 9.5/10: Second episode in a row that was damn close to perfect. The end of this season is coming up fast, and I hope it ends up as good as the rest of the season.

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