Doctor Who, S8 Ep10 — Flatline

The Doctor Who body count continues to rise with the 9th episode of the season, “Flatline.” People are mysteriously disappearing in Bristol, so naturally the TARDIS takes it upon herself to reroute the Doctor and Clara, to Clara’s disappointment.

Right off things are different. The TARDIS is suddenly about 1/4 of its regular size on the outside. It’s still the same size on the inside, but the outside keeps shrinking to the size of a toy (which won’t hurt toy sales). The Doctor becomes trapped inside, leaving Clara, with the TARDIS in her purse and a device in her ear that allows them to communicate while he sees what she sees.



Essentially, Clara has to be The Doctor for the episode. It’s not exactly a “Doctor Lite” episode, but Clara is front and center. But, like The Doctor, she didn’t do it alone. She quickly finds a “companion,” a teenage boy named Rigsy who lives in the Council Estate at the middle of the mystery. Rigsy is currently stuck doing community service for painting graffiti on the property.

When Clara comes upon a tunnel painted with pictures of people’s banks, Rigsy asks her if she’s lost someone, too, and tells her that one of the people depicted represents his aunt, who was mysteriously killed. Clara wants to know more, of course, and the pair wind up in the estate flat of the most recent victim. A police officer joins them, but her time is short — she is sucked into a rug and killed. As Clara and Rigsy investigate, an abstract painting appears on the wall. Only it’s not a painting. It’s the officer’s nervous system, now two-dimensional. The killers, whatever they are, exist only in 2D.

Then, for the second time in as many episodes, Clara and her new friends are locked in the room (the killers turn the doorknobs 2D and therefore unusable), and, as they jump onto a hanging 60s-style globe chair, Danny calls. Clara tries to act normal as the 2D creates encroach on them. They manage to launch the chair out the window to safety.

As far as Danny goes, Clara is open with him about what she’s doing, though she downplays the almost constant danger. The Doctor thinks she’s lying to Danny about what she’s doing altogether, which seems to make him happy. Lying is necessary. He doesn’t realize that she’s lying to him, not Danny.

Classes and Rigsy’s safety doesn’t last long. They go back to the tunnel, where they find the Council guy (already established as a jerk) and several workers painting over the “memorial.” It doesn’t take much to figure out that it’s not a printed memorial at all, but the actual missing people, their remains trapped in 2D.  Clara tries to use psychic paper to pull rank on the Council guy, but he sees nothing but black paper. Usually, this means that the person is extraordinarily exceptional; in this case, The Doctor says he has an extraordinary lack of imagination.

dws8e9councilThe Doctor manages to translate something from the 2D monsters: the number “55.” Rigsy remembers that 55 was the number one of the victims wore on his uniform. When the translated number changes, it’s only a matter of time before another worker is killed. The “who’s next” scenario is very similar to last week’s “Mummy on the Orient Express,” not to mention any number of horror films, but it works. “Flatline” is a horror episode, and, as the “mural” people come “alive” and start to chase the group, their jerky, surreal look (like The Ring, only melting), is more than a little disconcerting. This isn’t one for the kids, unless they’re especially fearless.

Things go from bad to worse when the main Council worker guy tosses the TARDIS over a railing. It winds up on an underground train track, and The Doctor has to “Addams Family” his way out of the situation, by sticking his fingers out of the tiny doors of the tiny box like Thing and using them as “legs.” It’s cute and kids would love it, if they can handle the scary 3D2D zombie monsters. Also, a hand-walking TARDIS would make a great tie-in toy.

Now forced to rely on her own wits, Clara takes the lead. She finds a tiny cube that she recognizes as what must be left of the TARDIS and comes up with an ingenious plan to re-energize it, with the help of Rigsy’s artistic residents, using 3D2D zombie power. The TARDIS returns to its original size, freeing The Doctor, who declares the beings monsters who must be eradicated. He sends them into oblivion, saving the day.

As the episode closes, the mysterious Missy looks at a picture of Clara and says she’s chosen well. Eh, still not interested in the Promised Land arc yet, but it sure is accumulating of lot of dead people. I do like the idea that these minor character redshirts could hold some kind of importance to the storyline. That’s something that would really be original.