I’m stuck at quite a conundrum; I love Doctor Who, I love companion focused episodes; but more importantly, I’ve grown to adore Clara as a character. So why is it when “Flatline” offers me an episode, which many fans online have dubbed “Clara Who”, have I been left semi-disappointed?
I’ve theorised in my head what exactly were the deal breakers in this episode – there clearly was the common humour which always appeals to me, there’s a menacing creature, there’s some characterisation on who has become one of my favourite characters – but all in all, it just didn’t work out.
The story felt ridiculous, I’ve found that as with any recent Earth story in the past two seasons, humans have become incredibly open-minded to immediately accept the concept of alien life, which undermines both the characters and the performance from the guest stars. The Doctor drops off Clara after resuming their adventures, where she explains Danny accepts them continuing the dangerous lifestyle; the TARDIS mysteriously shrinks, causing Clara to seek answers, whilst also unravelling that Danny is oblivious to Clara’s secret adventures she’s been continuing with the Doctor. Things then escalate as Clara discovers that the missing people in the neighbourhood have been transferred to 2D objects, and become chased by the creature which caused this, Clara then finds the correlation between the 2D people and the shrinking TARDIS.
The concept of morality is explored within the episode. The whole season has strived to portray Capaldi as a darker Doctor, which whilst true, it also neglects the portrayal of the Doctor as a hero. Clara asks whether she succeeded in her side of the role reversal with the Doctor, where he rejects to comment, while finally deciding to say that “goodness had nothing to do” with Clara being an “exceptional” Doctor. It’s quite controversial, we see the Doctor previously commenting on how “maybe the wrong people survived” and despising the fact that the innocent had to die compared to the arrogant guest star, yet he still seems to deem himself as someone lacking “goodness”, he isn’t the “good man” who he was once claimed to be.
Missy also reappears in the ending sequence of the episode, perhaps providing the most shocking cameo scene yet. “Clara, my Clara. I have chosen well” is quite an odd choice of words which obviously was intended to intrigue the audience. Could the possessive pronoun of “my” hint towards what Missy and the image of ‘heaven’ entails for the duo? It’s safe to assume Clara isn’t another assassin for the Doctor (just as River Song), yet Clara is obviously intended to become a significant plot device in the final sequences of the season. My peeve of such futuristic sci-fi using an iPad as though it’d be modern technology for the era returns once more, however I’ll let it past considering just how sinister the final scene was, and the questions it leaves open.
The actual episode itself? Forgettable. I overly praised Jamie Mathieson for writing such an incredible feat last episode, there’s still signs of his superb writing within the episode, but the actual plot wasn’t enough to actually engage me. I had no interest in these creatures from another dimension, to care for what they intended to do, which still wasn’t really revealed in the end. Leaving the key sequence out of figuring out the intentions of the creature is a bold move for Doctor Who, leaving fans to debate whether these creatures ever intended to do good within this dimension or not. Unfortunately, unlike the ‘was there a monster or not?’ debate in “Listen”, I have no interest in the outcome results. Despite that, Mathieson’s script still managed to uphold a general exceptional quality, as I await to watch more episodes from him in the nearby future.
+ I may have hated the unrealistic acceptance from the human characters, but I cannot deny my chuckle from “It’s bigger, on the inside!” … “You know I don’t think that statements ever been truer”.
+ The Doctor really didn’t like Clara taking over his identity didn’t he?
+ Capaldi climbing out of tiny TARDIS, and then later reenacting the Addams Family was absolute comedy gold.
– Forgettable plot, forgettable characters, the potential for a masterpiece episode is there, however it just didn’t have the general flair to keep the entertainment alive.