Flatline

Posted in Episode by - February 17, 2016
Flatline

Aired 18 October 2014

‘Flatline’ is yet another episode whose ending is going to the main talking point. With the Doctor and Clara as friendly towards each other as thy have been all series, Missy- with only one line- throws everything the audience thinks it knows about the relationship into turmoil. There’s an unknown implication here as Missy says that she has chosen well with Clara, perhaps revealing that Missy has been the one continually bringing Clara into the Doctor’s lives or that Clara is in some fashion allied with Missy. This masked divulgement will assuredly manifest in broader terms later in the series.

As has been a bit of a recurring theme with this series, though, the events leading up to the bombshell ending are just as worthy of discussion since ‘Flatline’ continues the trend of fantastic episodes. It’s been broadly apparent since Capaldi’s debut episode that Clara has been taking on more of a Doctor-like role, becoming more confident and decisive, and that reaches a whole new level in ‘Flatline.’ With the TARDIS shrinking and the Doctor caught on the inside, it is up to Clara to carry on the investigation in the real world, going so far as to introduce herself as the Doctor (much to the joyous chagrin of the Doctor whom she is carrying along in the toy-sized TARDIS.

In true Doctor fashion, then, it is Clara who bravely investigates, lies, inspires, and even accepts others’ deaths, the latter being a true turnaround for the character since she has been so protective of all life up to this point. Undoubtedly there will be consequences for Clara in choosing this path, whether related to Missy or not, but it’s fascinating to see how naturally and quickly the character is changing.

For the second straight episode, the story relies heavily on CGI, and once again those graphics deliver. Aside from the amazing effects regarding the interior of the shrinking TARDIS, the antagonists themselves are computer animated, essentially two-dimensional creatures attempting to get into a three-dimensional world by using the TARDIS’s dimensions. The prospect seems absurd at first, but the notion is given credibility as people are being turned into wall art. The mishmash of 2D and 3D effects as the creatures rise and take form is fantastic and disconcerting at the same time, especially when paired with the excellent directing choices of Douglas Mackinnon in the tunnels. They are ultimately defeated a bit too easily once the Doctor escapes from the restored TARDIS after Clara cleverly channels her inner Doctor and uses the creatures’ powers and dimensions against them, but they are a worthy addition to Doctor Who‘s long list of monsters while they are around and their threat a wholly unique one.

It hardly needs mentioning, then, that a lot of events were crammed into this episode; impressively, though, writer Jamie Mathieson is able to breathe some life and depth into two supporting characters, Joivan Wade’s Rigsy and Christopher Fairbank’s Fenton. While Fenton is more of a cold and unlikable nuisance throughout the episode, he proves vital in allowing the Doctor to be the one to argue for life instead of accepting collateral damage with lives lost, a stark contrast to his usual viewpoint and to Clara’s own changing stance within this episode. On the other hand, Rigsy, a kind-hearted but misunderstood graffiti artist, instantly takes to Clara’s side and proves instrumental in helping to save the world.

Following the success of the ambitious plot of ‘Flatline,’ the main questions still center around the Doctor and Clara and just what kind of presence Missy will ultimately have. Interestingly, Clara is now covering up the fact that she is still travelling with the Doctor from Danny whereas early in the series she was hiding Danny’s existence from the Doctor. Clearly her two worlds have not yet meshed even after the heartfelt conversations that have been woven through episodes since ‘The Caretaker.’ With time running down in the series, surely a choice must be made soon.

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