This latest season of Doctor Who gone in some interesting directions when it comes to show’s iconic monsters. With the exception of last week’s Mummy on The Orient Express, much of the season has angled their use of the monsters more as tools and metaphors to enable more substantial character development between Clara and the Doctor – in short, it has made them less of foes for the Doctor and more of foils reflecting his own flaws.
Though this has been a really fun angle to watch the show explore, it was fun to see Flatline break from that to deliver a truly meaty creature-driven endeavor.
Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 9, ‘Flatline’ Review
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
More than a few episodes of Capaldi’s run have started off the back of an offscreen adventure and the trope has never felt quite as natural and well-executed as it was during this Flatline. It was cool to see the show dive back into the thick of things and pick up Clara’s romance subplot with Danny but from the moment the Doctor observed that things seemed a bit “-ishy”, it was clear a detour was in order.
This week’s monster in question consisted of shapeless and seemingly-unstoppable legion of two-dimensional beings quietly wreaking havoc across a contemporary Bristol. I really liked how Flatline played around with the presentation of these creatures throughout the episode. Early scenes saw them as a mindless enigmatic threat, later escalations saw them act as a methodical and calculated menace. I loved how Capaldi’s Doctor kept clinging to the hope that the episode’s otherworldly horrors could perhaps be the hope of some misunderstanding – but as things went from bad to worse, he played off the Doctor’s awesome power and let loose some of that Timelord fury.
Overlooking some inevitable similarities to Fear Her, the special effects were on point in Flatline. There was a palpable sense of fear as Clara and Rigsy narrowly avoided being flattened and the subterranean second half of the episode was a nice and effective scenery change that kept things interesting.
In addition, the episode’s constriction of the Doctor to the TARDIS not only helped build genuine tension, but also kept things from getting too serious with some great comic relief and Adam’s Family jokes.
Previous episodes have played around with the dynamic between The Doctor and Clara but Flatline was compelling in the way it sidelined the Doctor and saw Clara really come into her own. It was fun to see her take up the Timelord’s mantle and poke fun at it. Flatline did an interesting job of reiterating what Clara has learned about the Doctor through her adventures, via her impersonation of him. It was fun to see her pull off the “I’m the one who’s going to save you” speech and save Rigsy from sacrificing himself. It was fun to see her in the driver’s seat and The Doctor stern warning of “Goodness has nothing to do with it” brought things to a satisfying finish.
Flatline was another strong episode for Capaldi and Coleman. It did a great job of introducing a new monster to the Moffat’s menagerie – two-dimensional terrors unnerving and incomprehensible in all the right ways – and giving us a taste of what Clara is truly capable of.
Flatline is a classic in the making.