Flatline: Initial Reactions

Hey guys, apologies for the delay. I’m still here and keen to continue this project, promise!

flatline promo

Since 2006, “Doctor-lite” tales have become something of a cornerstone Doctor Who format. Basically, when preparing series two the production team had a problem: they had to fit 14 episodes (13 + the Xmas special) into a 13 episode schedule. To solve the issue, Russell T Davies commissioned a tale in which the Doctor and his companion hardly appeared at all so it could be filmed simultaneously with a Doctor-heavy story. Love and Monsters may not have been well-received, but a year later the same concept in the form of Blink saw the emergence of one of the most fan-appreciated stories ever. The format was shaken up a little in 2008, when Davies formed the idea of one ‘doctor-lite’ and another ‘companion-lite’ tale that could be filmed at the same time and – hurrah! – Midnight and Turn Left were born.

In the Moffat era, however, there hasn’t been a true Doctor-lite, simply because the split seasons and shorter runs meant there wasn’t any need for one. The Lodger tipped on a companion-less tale, but Amy’s lack of involvement was down purely to writer Gareth Roberts’ (and, of course, Steven Moffat) choosing not to include her – as with 2011’s Closing Time. In a similar sense, Flatline isn’t really a Doctor-lite; although Jamie Mathieson was asked to scale down Capaldi’s involvement after he’d begun writing the episode to make room in the production schedule, the episode sat in it’s own filming block and had still had a huge amount of involvement from the Doctor.

However, for comparative reasons, it’s still a fun to compare this story with the other Doctor/companion-lites. How well does it stand up with only half the main cast? How do the writer’s methods of excluding particular team members compare? It’s definitely time to find out how this episode stacked up (in a 2D sense, of course) against it’s predecessors as we turn our attention to Clara Oswald.

A Few Initial Reactions

  • The cold open was nice and grippingly classic, but in hindsight I don’t ‘get it’. How could any human being ever “figure it out”? What makes that guy special? Whatever, anything that happens before the theme doesn’t really count.
  • And right away we jump into those infamous filming photos that surfaced earlier this year. At least we got the “weightwatching Doctor” jokes out of our system then and there.
  • *Point to TARDIS* “This is impressive!” *Points to Clara* “This is annoying!”. If you don’t like Twelve by now, you’re lying. He’s definitely got the most sass out of any Doctor ever (although One comes in a close second, and Six was in a whole other category)
"Could you not just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something?!"

“Could you not just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something?!”

  • The TARDIS has shrunk a few times before, probably most notably in the Fourth Doctor’s swansong Logopolis (1981).
  • Aww, Rigsy is cute! He’s one of those kids that so could have become another Danny Pink if he grew up in the right neighborhood. Maybe that’s why Clara takes to him?
  • Aaaand it’s time to comment on Clara’s fashion choice. That outfit though. Yup, totally going to write the “Clara fashion chronicles” I was talking about a few episodes back. Her style here is very similar to what I wear to uni every day – except her jacket is gorgeous and designer, and I’m a backpack girl.
doctor who flatline clara's outfit

That fashion sense though

  • “Clara, it’s always lighter. If the TARDIS were to land with it’s true weight it would fracture the surface of the Earth”. And, in a single sentence, a million often-asked questions are answered. Does the TARDIS have the weight of an infinite machine full of infinite equipment, or a single police box? Why did it not wash away with the tide in The Time Meddler (1966), but could still be carried by the Doctor and his companions (the Doctor and Susan were even inside at one point!) across the Gobi Desert in Marco Polo (1964)? The fact that it has an adjustable weight (not mass, weight – if you don’t know the difference look it up) makes a load of sense.
  • “Does that mean I’m you now?” ah, good old Clara, milking the situation…and somewhat foreshadowing what I’m now convinced is one of her last episodes. No matter what happens, I’ll be very surprised if we see her in 2015. Which makes me sad, because I’ve always loved her character, but she’s becoming more and more perfect with every episode.
  • “I’m the Doctor” bahahaha Clara I love you.
Can I just sit here all day and post screencaps of Jenna Coleman's style?

Can I just sit here all day and post screencaps of Jenna Coleman’s smile?

  • “Hello, barely sentient local”. Keep on working the sass Twelve.
  • “Maybe he’s…lost in the desert or something.” Did anyone else just think of Planet of the Dead (2009)? You know, a group of people disappearing from inside a sealed tunnel and ending up lost in the desert? I’m calling a subtle reference.
  • We’re pulling the “outside the known universe” thing? Really? Ugh, fine. Although, I will admit that these aliens are awesome. A being that’s non-corporeal because it’s only 2D? Aww yeah.
  • Danny and Clara’s conversation was hilarious. I love how he basically figured out she was TARDIS travelling, but you could tell he stayed calm and gave her the benefit of the doubt.
Clara Oswald: authoritatively drowning in upsettingly strong foreshadowing.

Clara Oswald: authoritatively drowning in upsettingly strong foreshadowing.

  • When Fenton resisted the psychic paper, I became convinced he was an alien in disguise – especially when he constantly challenged Clara later on. I love being wrong. Or maybe he’s an alien? What if he links back to Missy somehow? (more on her later)
  • Apparently Fenton has a “lack of imagination”. Which is interesting, because Shakespeare – who had one of the best creative minds in the world – was also immune to the psychic paper. An interesting pattern…
  • “Attack of the killer graffiti” haha I love it. That totally should have been the name of this episode. I wish they still made Target Novelisations these days, because I could totally see “Doctor Who and the Attack of the Killer Graffiti” on my bookshelf.
  • “Soon a leader is going to emerge. Make sure it’s you”. You know, I never thought of it that way before. The Doctor isn’t as much a natural leader as he is a deliberate situation-manipulator.
Would they've been better if they stayed 2D?

Would they’ve been better if they stayed 2D?

  • 2dis?! Hahahaha! Also, if you Google “twodis” Google asks “did you mean tardis?”. Just putting a useless fact out there.
  • I’m not so sure about these 3D aliens. I felt it wrecked it a little, if they had’ve stuck to achieving everything in 2D it would have been scarier and more effective. Sort of like Midnight, an alien that you can’t really see or grasp is so much scarier.
  • Was the ‘TARDIS on the tracks’ thing really neccesary? I mean, it did nothing for the overall plot, Clara still could have become cut off from the Doctor and come up with the “de-shrink” solution without that development – although gripping, it still felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the story.
Hold on, did I just spot an external Easter egg?

Hold on, did I just spot an external Easter egg?

  • The CGI train saw the appearance of the good-old “A113” CGI joke. Apparently it’s the number of a graphic design classroom at the California Institute of the Arts, and has appeared in every Pixar movie, some episodes of The Simpsons, as well as many other TV and movie productions.
  • Twelve’s theme is here again! Yay! I’m really getting attached to it now, it suits him so well. I can’t wait for the soundtrack release.
  • Addams Family! A great reference! And, extremely surprisingly, this is the first time it’s even been referenced in the history of the show. It only took 50 years!
Of all the...erm...things...

Of all the…erm…things

  • Poor Rigsy, trying to sacrifice himself. How Danny Pink of him.
  • I love that Clara came up with a plan all on her own. It’s the companions who can get themselves out of trouble that I love best.
  • Interesting that the TARDIS ‘seige mode’ is covered in Gallfreyan writing. Also, did it remind anyone else of the “trickster’s box” from The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?
Impenetrable TARDIS...

Impenetrable TARDIS…

...and the Trickster's impenetrable box,

…and the Trickster’s impenetrable box.

  • When Clara first laid out the sheet of paper, I honestly thought she was going to paint a life-size TARDIS and then somehow de-flatten it. Which in hindsight makes no sense whatsoever, thank goodness they didn’t do that.
  • “I don’t know if you’ll ever hear this, Clara. I don’t even know if you’re still alive out there. But you were good! And you made a mighty fine Doctor.” Always nice to know that underneath all the sass Twelve still has a heart.
  • I found it interesting that none of the flattened people were brought back to life. It’s definitely a fascinating change that added new substance (no pun intended) to the enemy.
  • “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it.” Ah, we’re harking back to that “Am I a good man?” stuff from Into the Dalek. Why do I feel this will be addressed in the finale?

Let’s talk, Missy

“Oh Clara, my Clara. I have chosen well.”

So, I wanted to discuss Missy, and how the final scene affects current theories. Here’s a few notes:

  • A popular theory is that Missy is an evil version of Clara – and that her name is, in actual fact, “Miss C”. The fact that she referred to the Doctor as “her boyfriend” in Deep Breath seems to be the key here; this new line could, however, support this theory.
  • However, I feel as though we’re leaning toward what I always thought was going to happen – Clara’s death. I know Jenna Coleman appears in the upcoming Xmas special, but that doesn’t really mean anything at this stage.
  • But either way, the fact that the entire series feels very Clara-centric is making sense. We assumed that Missy was after the Doctor and anyone involved with him, but what about his companion? It would definitely be an interesting turn of events…
  • Another popular theory is that Missy is the TARDIS. Interestingly, the setting Missy was in kind of resembled the interior a little. I went back and looked at the robot spaceship from Robot of Sherwood (the one that was headed for “the promised land”) and realised that it also resembled the TARDIS. Coincidence?
  • I have a feeling that Fenton was an alien, and he’s possibly involved with Missy in some way. The fact that he resisted the psychic paper and resisted Clara at every single turn seemed a little fishy to me.

The Missy-related settings so far, some of which seem to resemble the TARDIS in one way or another:

capaldi deep breath missy ranidoctor who into the dalek missydoctor who robot of sherwood flatline tardis robot spaceship missythe caretaker missy netherspherethe caretaker missy nethersphere 2doctor who flatline missy


Next Week: In the Forest of the Night

To be honest, I don’t know what to think – except it looks really, really cool. And, this story was written by the guy who wrote the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Who knew someone even wrote opening ceremonies?! Anyway, I think it’s going to be full of themes and symbolism and absract-y stuff…there’s a word to describe that kind of art but I can’t remember it now. I will say one thing though, it all reminds me of Una McCormack’s Eleventh Doctor novel The Way Through the Woods which featured a woods where people went in and never came out. (***BOOK SPOILERS*** it turned out to be an invisible spaceship with constantly twisting corridors that everyone got lost in ***BOOK SPOILERS***)

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Posted in Doctors, New Series Reactions, New Series Tele-Stories, Projects, Series 8, Story Media, Twelfth Doctor

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