Doctor Who: Flatline
October 18, 2014 1:25 PM - Season 8, Episode 9 - Subscribe

While the Doctor is trapped in a tiny Tardis, Clara has to save Bristol and the world from invaders from a flat universe who have come to steal our dimensions.

The second of this season's Jamie Mathieson episodes after last week's Mummy on the Orient Express, and in some ways the mirror of that episode (where Clara was trapped in the goods van, while the Doctor was confronting Gus).
posted by Grangousier (50 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hope Mathieson will be sticking around - these last two episodes have had a bit of the energy and fun that's been lacking from Who for a while. I also liked that there wasn't any redemption for the West Country scumbag character (not even enough imagination for psychic paper!) and that the baddies were 2D creeps who needed a good kicking rather than understanding. The Addams Family sight gag was wonderfully silly too.
posted by sobarel at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'd also say that Clara was in some ways a mirror of the Doctor. From the SFX review, this little side item:
MAKING MAGIC Mathieson successfully pitched the idea for “Flatline” to Steven Moffat with a single drawing. We’d put good money on that being a drawing of the Doctor’s hand sticking out of the mini TARDIS.
Am wondering too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:30 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Doctor Who Extra show said it was a picture of one of the monsters (Apparently called the Boneless).

I thought this episode was great. Funny and scary in equal proportions and a great monster.

Clara was wonderful. "I really like that headband. I'll always remember the hero that died to save it."
posted by BungaDunga at 4:49 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


According to Mathieson's blog, the tiny TARDIS stuff only showed up after he turned in the first two drafts.

I've really enjoyed his two episodes this season -- great fun without losing the forward momentum of the Doctor-Clara developments, well-rounded supporting characters (Rigsby especially I'd be glad to see again in future episodes), and while his sci-fi hooks aren't blatantly high concept like Moffat's, he seems more at home in the genre than many of the other writers we've had for the show. I hope we'll see him back for more episodes next series.
posted by bettafish at 4:50 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Going to just do some scattered thoughts again:

Clara's Headband Lives!

This was a fun episode other than the angst; I'd also be fine with more Mathieson.

What do you know Christopher Fairbank from? Everything basically.

The Doctor had a trim while he was waiting around in his mini-TARDIS, I guess, eh?

Missy aaaarggghhh. So, okay, we learned a little bit (sort of) in that last scene. I guess. Maybe.
posted by wintersweet at 5:17 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


That sounds like I disapprove of the angst, and that's not the case. But I wouldn't call it "fun."

Also: I hardly ever find either new or classic DW creepy, but when they moved the camera to show the crewmember's torso flattened on the wall, it was chilling! Even though I knew it was coming!

(While I was trying to look up his name--which I still can't find--I discovered that apparently Forbes reviews Doctor Who episodes. Buh???)
posted by wintersweet at 5:26 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


the Doctor’s hand sticking out of the mini TARDIS.

That was a great touch. I imagine next week will see Craig Ferguson doing the hand gag with his little TARDIS a few times.
posted by homunculus at 6:53 PM on October 18, 2014


This was very entertaining.

Great:
The young man not dying
Addams Family gag
Clara saving everyone
Mini-Tardis
Cube-Tardis
Psychic paper not working
The mean estate worker (I feel like he may have been a spy or something for Missy)
2D Monsters
Missy
The shadowy hand grabbing one of the workers
Clara absentmindedly sending an auto text to Danny
The Doctor telling Clara that "good" had nothing to do with her success in channeling him.  


Not So Great:
Life support failing (Tardis isn't a damn spaceship)
The bad CGI for the trains
The monsters. Who universe has a ton of old baddies that could be resurrected. I wish we had more Classic Who monsters sometimes. That said, I'm super tired of the Daleks and the varying flavours of Cybermen. 
Missy's tablet. Be more creative.
Clara lying to Danny




posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 7:39 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I briefly thought the train was already coming from Flatland, and thus was a trap, because it looked so bad. :( I guess the entire train CG budget was blown on the previous episode!
posted by wintersweet at 7:44 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought this was a great episode. I'm betting there's going to be a thousand people cosplaying the episode by stuffing a cell phone into a toy TARDIS by next week.

I resisted the urge to say 'Meka leka hi meka hiney ho' out loud, which I am proud of myself for. But did Barry Sonnenfeld direct the episode? Just a few moments got a little 'Thing-y'.

Also great call back to the Pandorica.
posted by Catblack at 8:11 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


And also, that miserable bastard fellow. I thought that was an awesome character to throw at the Doctor.
posted by Catblack at 8:15 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Heh, I was actually kind of surprised that Christopher Fairbank's character (the miserable bastard) wasn't In On It. It seems like in an earlier season, he would have been.

(Someone on Gallifrey Base is convinced that he is, but someone on GB is always convinced of any given thing. It's like some kind of Rule 34 of nutty fan theories.)
posted by wintersweet at 10:31 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


The monsters. Who universe has a ton of old baddies that could be resurrected. I wish we had more Classic Who monsters sometimes.

They mine the classic series all the time. I actually liked having new monsters that could be reoccurring. Now let's just hope they can go longer than the weeping angels before they become completly campy and ruined.

If we want to be nostalgic, then where was the cloister bell? Did that run out of power too?
posted by Gary at 12:42 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


The cloister bell definitely chimed at one point - when the Tardis was on the tracks I think.

Personally I think they get the mix of classic/modern monsters down pretty well apart from the endless contractually obliged dalek episodes.

Would like to see the Robots of Death return though.
posted by brilliantmistake at 1:27 AM on October 19, 2014


The cloister bell definitely chimed at one point - when the Tardis was on the tracks I think.

I'll blame it on the sound mix instead of me not paying close enough attention. Certainly the background music and Scottish accent made me completely miss the "Boneless" name reveal. I tried rewinding twice and resigned to look it up on the Internet later (thanks, BungaDunga).

I love Capaldi, but I do want to watch this season over again with subtitles. This is problem for me most seasons, but I feel like there are a lot more little jokes and under the breath quips this year.
posted by Gary at 1:50 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really liked this one! Also the moon didn't hatch tonight, that's always a bonus IMO.
posted by Coaticass at 2:42 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Clara absentmindedly sending an auto text to Danny

I think she selected "I'm in a meeting" ... while simultaneously lying and telling the Doctor the call wasn't from Danny. Oh, Clara.
posted by sobarel at 4:52 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is almost certainly my single favorite season of Doctor Who.

I actually liked having new monsters that could be reoccurring. Now let's just hope they can go longer than the weeping angels before they become completly campy and ruined.

The Boneless will be a great recurring monster because they can be easily built upon and altered without ruining their core premise. The Weeping Angels have an outstanding premise, but it's a one-note premise. The first time Moffat revisited them, he introduced all this other mythology just to do something new with them, and it sullied the simple idea behind them. The Silence are also pretty one-note, so I think it's good we haven't seen too much of them. On the other hand, you can do pretty much anything with the Boneless: there are all sorts of creative and visually arresting possibilities for 2D creatures who want to invade a 3D world. And in this episode, they looked great. I suspect Moffat and Mathieson might have had the Doctor name them only once they realized their potential to become iconic villains.

I hope the next iconic race of baddies is a race that talks. The Weeping Angels, the Silence, and the Boneless are all great, but having bad guys you can't converse with really limits the number of stories you can tell. (I guess the Silence can talk, but they're pretty laconic.) All the classic Who villains can talk.
posted by painquale at 5:44 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd like to think that this episode's reference to Hammerspace was intentional.
posted by painquale at 5:59 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, Murray Gold certainly reminded us of that he can do "triumphant!" music scores and pretty damned loudly at that. It's sort of his thing. His annoying annoying thing.
posted by Kitteh at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, Murray Gold certainly reminded us of that he can do "triumphant!" music scores and pretty damned loudly at that. It's sort of his thing. His annoying annoying thing.

Yeah, this. I'm finding Gold's scores more and more annoying. This episode, especially, had moments where the (TRIUMPHANT!!!)score was utterly wrong (and overwhelming) for the scene. Gold's bombast more-or-less matched Tennant and Smith's manic Doctors, but I think it's totally out of place for Capaldi's Doctor, even when he is whipping around the place.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:07 AM on October 19, 2014


In the AV Club review Alasdair Wilkins makes the good point that the Boneless weren't just alien, they were completely alien (and I'd add unknowably alien) in a way we haven't seen in a long time.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:52 AM on October 19, 2014


Sort of a callback to the Time Meddler (where the doctor deactivates a Tardis by removing it's dimensional controller making it small on the inside)

I was a little annoyed (unreasonably I know) that the train had the headcode 2M65 that indicates a stopping (i.e. non express)passenger service. I really ought to have been 5M65 to indicate an empty stock move train. (However A113, that's miles off, so...)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:17 AM on October 19, 2014 [12 favorites]




I was a little annoyed (unreasonably I know) that the train had the headcode 2M65 that indicates a stopping (i.e. non express)passenger service. I really ought to have been 5M65 to indicate an empty stock move train.

Setting new standards for nerdery on a thread full of grown adults discussing Doctor Who. Kudos!
posted by sobarel at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2014 [15 favorites]


(However A113, that's miles off, so...)

Others have suggested that was an Easter egg put in by the CGI team.
posted by Gary at 9:42 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


The TARDIS in siege mode didn't remind me of the Pandorica; instead it reminded me of a Lemarchand box. I'm sure that's not what they intended.
posted by johnofjack at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


I definitely enjoyed this one and definitely want Mathieson to stick around. We also missed the "Boneless" reveal because of the Murray Gold music. The cranky old dude was a great foil for Clara, and I'm all over the teen companion-lites we're getting this season (Rigsy and the girl from Kill the Moon). I hope to see them again, along with the bank robbery folks, or at least to hear that they're reappearing in Big Finish audios or something.
posted by immlass at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


...it reminded me of a Lemarchand box. I'm sure that's not what they intended.
A Lemarchand's box is a mystical/mechanical device that acts as a door — or a key to a door — to another dimension or plane of existence.
(from wikipedia, because I had to look it up).
Intentional or not, that sounds dead on to me.

I really liked this episode. I agree about the triumphant music being a bit much (although I didn't have any problems hearing dialogue on my really crappy speakers), and I think "boneless" is a rubbish name. I'm indifferent to Missy -- could be interesting, could be a big letdown -- but seeing her reminds me to watch an episode or two of Green Wing, which is always a good thing. (You guys have all seen Green Wing, right? If not, you should really get on that.)
posted by metaBugs at 3:01 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jamie Mathieson, who wrote Flatline and Mummy, discusses the writing process for Flatline in Tiny Tardis of TERROR and The Boneless on his blog. He also did an interesting Twitter Q&A this afternoon (not sure there is a good way to link to that).
posted by plastic_animals at 3:09 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm indifferent to Missy -- could be interesting, could be a big letdown -- but seeing her reminds me to watch an episode or two of Green Wing, which is always a good thing.

Is this the place to admit how attractive I found her character in that? A "cruel and devious lunatic" with a lustrous ponytail and Scottish accent - what's not to like?
posted by sobarel at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


I thought it was a nice touch that all the people at the end left Clara with hugs and gratitude, then just kind of. .. acknowledged The Doctor. It was a nice little moment that got to the heart of what it's like to be the doctor, and what it's like to not be.
posted by meese at 7:20 PM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]


The Boneless! That's what the Doctor said! Completely missed that, as the sound levels this series have been a little funny occasionally. Loved this episode. The idea of a tiny tardis was just brilliantly funny, and Clara having to work out the fairly decent solution to the problem was great. If the episode had been structured differently, the Doctor magicing up a way to trap the Boneless would have been cheap, but here it had to be worked for, even utilising the skills of the young graffiti artist.

Loved Clara being the Doctor, and her near desperation to demonstrate that what she's doing is good, even if she knows the reason that she is doing it is because she is having fun, not that she is saving lives.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:00 AM on October 20, 2014


I have definitely appreciated the continuing focus on Clara in this season. Now, given her chance to be the Doctor, she excelled at it. Even though she didn't have the technical background, educational background or experience, of the Doctor, she was still capable to be extremely cool in the worse situation and device a strategy that rose above what most companions are allowed to exhibit (can't outshine the Doctor!).

I enjoyed the original nature of the monsters and how they were presented. At the same time, we got to see the Doctor reassert his guardianship of Earth Galaxy Third Dimension, something he hasn't really done this season (which was a continual bit for Tenant's doctor, and how Smith's doctor actually started off from the first full episode). It was arguably a "good" thing he did in contrast to him telling Clara that 'good' had nothing to do with being the Doctor, when in fact, it has a lot to do with the modern Doctor.

When the Tardis went into siege mode, I also thought Pandorica, which has weight to it given by the fact that it has a history in the show. It was a prison and the Doctor noted after it went into siege mode that nothing got out or in, etc.

I concur with the boo Pink and Clara development. I'm still perplexed by the Missy development, and realized that Apple brand popularity had spread to whatever weird world she existed in.

I look forward to more scripts from this fellow!
posted by Atreides at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2014


There's a repeated bit where someone says to Clara something like "So, the Doctor is your...?" or vice versa, and we're left to drop a word into the gap. And there's a certain amount of sniggering about that. But I think it's interesting that the words that haven't so far been dropped into the gap are "Teacher" and "Apprentice". It's not so much that Clara thinks she is the Doctor, but that she is training to be the Doctor. And I wonder whether the Doctor hasn't accepted the assignment. In a way, that's why he can't compliment her - because he has to keep her on her toes. She doesn't need encouragement at this point.

Something I'm tensing for is where she makes a catastrophic mistake - the Sorceror's Apprentice moment. The most famous one in popular culture would be the end of The Empire Strikes Back. It is a necessary part of learning, or at least a story about learning. Something the apprentice needs to regroup from and carry on - it's important that the master* has a scar to remind them that they are not all-powerful and must always be on their guard. And after that will come the Masterpiece. I'm tensing because I'm not sure that the Twittersphere will see the bigger picture (assuming I'm right, which I very rarely am) and it will get messy for a while. In order to succeed, the apprentice has to fail.

Though it looks like she'll also have to choose between the Doctor and Missy. I hope she makes the right choice.

*Small 'm', obviously.
posted by Grangousier at 10:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


I was actually a big fan of Murray Gold's scores, schmaltzy, bombastic though they were... until this season. I fell like in trying to branch out and try new things, he's instead making it pretty clear that he doesn't have that kind of range. It may be time to try someone new in the position.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:30 AM on October 20, 2014


I'm a little surprised that some folks like this season so much. I'm okay with the darker Doctor and with Capaldi, but I'm finding the writing lagging. Until Mathieson's two episodes, it didn't feel like they had the right rhythm or feel for writing for Twelve at all. And this is pretty late in the season.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm liking this season because there's a focus on characterization and relationships which I thought the last few seasons lacked. Much of the last two seasons struck me as slapdash and nonsensical, with baroque frenetic plotting and pawns rather than characters.

(rot13 because spoilers [lots of them])

("Jub vf guvf? Vg'f Gur Tvey Jub Jnvgrq. Fur npgf whfg yvxr ure qnhtugre, juvpu lbh qvfpbire jryy orsber lbh qvfpbire gurl'er eryngrq, juvpu zvtug znxr lbh jbaqre vs vg'f whfg ynml jevgvat vs jr qvqa'g qvfgenpg lbh jvgu n fuval guvat. Bu ybbx, urer'f gur Ynfg Praghevba, jub oevrsyl qvqa'g rkvfg ohg qbrf ntnva, rkprcg ur'f na Nhgba, rkprcg abj ur vfa'g; gehfg zr, vg nyy znxrf frafr vs lbh qba'g guvax nobhg vg. Qvq lbh abgvpr ur vfa'g pnyyrq Gur Obl Jub Jnvgrq? Bu, ybbx, Gur Tvey Jub Jnvgrq naq gur Ynfg Praghevba unq n onol! Fur tbg xvqanccrq; yrg'f tb ybbx sbe ure. Jbj, vg'f Uvgyre! Yrg'f xvyy Uvgyre. Ab, yrg'f abg, pbhyq or n svkrq cbvag, V qhaab; sbetrg Uvgyre, Uvgyre'f va n phcobneq. Bu, urer'f lbhe qnhtugre, fur'f jnf lbhe arvtuobe naq abj fur jnagf gb xvyy gur Qbpgbe. Lbh qba'g zvaq abg envfvat ure, evtug; lbh'er svar whfg xabjvat gung fur tebjf hc oenvajnfurq ohg snyyf va ybir jvgu gur Qbpgbe naq gura fcraqf zbfg bs ure nqhyg yvsr va cevfba orpnhfr bs vg? Jngpu bhg! Vg'f gur Fvyrapr! Qvqa'g jr frr gurz orsber? V qba'g erzrzore. Jr zhfg svtug gur rivy, rivy Fvyrapr jub ner cybggvat gb znxr lbh pbasrff lbhe jebatqbvatf naq sbetrg lbh qvq fb, fb vg'f gbgnyyl bxnl gur Qbpgbe gevpxrq gurz vagb beqrevat uhznaf gb pbzzvg trabpvqr ntnvafg gurz. Naq gur Jrrcvat Natryf! Abj gurl unir onggrevrf, onggrevrf cbjrerq ol grzcbeny cnenqbkrf naq fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs. Nyfb qvq lbh xabj gur Qnyrxf unir na nflyhz, naq pna ghea bgure guvatf vagb Qnyrxf? Guvf zvtug or hfrshy vasb yngre, sbe rknzcyr vs gur Qbpgbe tbrf vagb n Qnyrx naq rzretrf penaxvre guna Qnyrx Pnna--ab, jnvg, arirezvaq, ur unfa'g tbg na rlr fgnyx, unf ur, naq Qnyrxf qba'g unir n Fpbggvfu npprag. Sbetrg V fnvq gung; gung'f n greevoyr vqrn. Naq jub vf guvf? Guvf jbzna vf vzcbffvoyr. V funyy pnyy ure gur Vzcbffvoyr Tvey, juvpu vf abg n ynzcfunqvat bs n cybg qrivpr ohg n gehr punenpgre qrfpevcgvba. Fur vf va gur rkprcgvbanyyl ener Zlref-Oevttf tebhc VZ. Abg VAGW, abg VFSC, whfg VZ, VZ sbe Vzcbffvoyr.")
posted by johnofjack at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


You don't need to encode spoilers from multiple seasons ago. Anyone reading about season eight takes their chances on references to earlier episodes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:38 PM on October 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


Recently I posted a comparison to a scene from The Godfather in one of the Breaking Bad discussions, then wondered if I should have assumed that people had already seen it (and thought "no, probably not, since it's not part of the series.")

Should we assume that people have seen all of a series up to the episode under discussion? I know that a fair number of people have said here (and at my workplace) that they checked out of the Matt Smith years for one reason or another.

Not trying to start a fight, just genuinely curious what the best assumption/behavior would be.
posted by johnofjack at 3:48 PM on October 20, 2014


I second this:

You don't need to encode spoilers from multiple seasons ago. Anyone reading about season eight takes their chances on references to earlier episodes.

The alternative does not seem reasonable.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:05 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


I like this season because of the focus on character, because of the Doctor's new personality, and because they've stopped presenting the show as a fairy tale and veered back in the direction of sci-fi. I also think the writing has been top-notch. I know that people were left cold by Time Heist and Listen for some reason, but I thought they were outstanding. The only episodes I didn't care for were the opener and the Robin Hood one. Those two slipped back into the over-the-top silliness that characterized Smith's run.

Smith's first season was also unusually strong. It's probably my second favorite season of NuWho. Moffat seems to be good at introducing Doctors and companions and villains but then soon after running them into the ground. I hope he doesn't lose the new-Doctor excitement that has been animating this season.
posted by painquale at 5:26 PM on October 20, 2014


Should we assume that people have seen all of a series up to the episode under discussion?

Yes. If you're willing to risk the spoilers inherent in watching later seasons of a show if you haven't seen the early ones, you've already dealt with and moved beyond fear of spoilers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you're willing to risk the spoilers inherent in watching later seasons of a show if you haven't seen the early ones, you've already dealt with and moved beyond fear of spoilers.

Ah. Yes. That makes sense.
posted by johnofjack at 6:45 PM on October 20, 2014


[Yeah, just to reaffirm the above from The Land of Mod: rot13 discouraged, discussion of past series aired show content in a given later episode's thread totally fine. Readers read ahead in clearly-marked threads at their own discretion and risk.]
posted by cortex at 10:39 PM on October 20, 2014


Thanks, cortex.

The Mary Sue review says that the Doctor didn't insult Clara's appearance this week. I didn't notice that, and will have to look for it in watching it again. It's disappointing, though, that it's something worth commenting on; for years I'd just expected it without realizing it.
posted by johnofjack at 4:26 AM on October 21, 2014


The weirdest thing about this episode was how the train driver was like "oh, you want me to ram something blocking the tunnel? OK sure" without even having to be shown the psychic paper. Speaking of which, has anyone else ever defeated it through lack of imagination?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:16 AM on October 23, 2014


I think it's happened, but I couldn't tell you when.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:45 AM on October 23, 2014


I don't know if it counts as having no imagination but the young Kazran in A Christmas Carol only saw wavy lines.
posted by plastic_animals at 11:32 AM on October 23, 2014


Exceptionally bright people (like Shakespeare) also aren't tricked by psychic paper.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:58 AM on October 24, 2014


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