Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Doctor Who 8.09: "Flatline"

“Could you not just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something? I mean, it happens so rarely!”
-The Doctor

Flatline was a kind of mediocre episode of “Doctor Who” for me. I tend to prefer more action-oriented episodes of “Doctor Who” I especially like proper outer space adventures. The villains in this episode were a bit more ephemeral. They were dimension hopping beings who could inhabit the bodies of the dead. In that sense, it was a bit ho hum. The situation was also a bit too serious. I like my “Doctor Who” to at least have a little spark of fun and wonder. Maybe that means it’s time for a new companion? I really like Clara (I’ve dressed up as her twice now), but when a companion gets jaded, it’s probably time for her to resume her regular life. Speaking of Clara, though, the one thing I really liked about this episode was it gave Clara a chance to shine. The Doctor was partially incapacitated, and Clara had to take charge. You can bet the Doctor wasn’t thrilled about that!

Early in the episode, the Doctor and Clara are in the process of returning Clara home after an adventure. Even though she swears Danny is fine with her toddling off on the TARDIS all the time, she wants the Doctor to leave her at the exact time and place from which she left. And she can’t leave any of her belongings lying about. Because Danny is territorial like that. But he’s totally cool with her continuing to travel. I guess we know why Clara will eventually decide to leave TARDIS life. I’m not thrilled with her for lying to Danny like this. This episode asks the question of whether TARDIS travel is an addiction. I think we’re supposed to believe Clara acts this way because she is, indeed, addicted to the adventure of living life with the Doctor.

The Doctor gets the timing of the landing right, but he kind of messes up with the space part. Instead of London, the duo are in Bristol in the middle of a council estate. It is even more clear that all is not right when Clara and the Doctor see that the TARDIS door is smaller than usual. They step outside to find that the TARDIS is now smaller on the outside. The Doctor thinks some sort of dimensional drift is happening, and it’s affecting the whole “bigger on the inside” property of the TARDIS. Clara goes to investigate while the Doctor goes back inside the TARDIS. Clara meets Rigsy, a graffiti artist who is doing painting as community service, and the annoying boss of his work crew who doesn’t think anybody who lives on the estate will amount to anything. She learns that a bunch of people have gone missing from the estate recently, and they keep showing up in a mural.

When Clara returns to the TARDIS, it is even smaller. The Doctor is trapped inside, so he hands Clara the Sonic and the psychic paper through the door. At first, Clara kind of relishes getting to play Doctor. She even introduces herself as “Dr. Oswald” when Rigsy finds her again. Clara, Rigsy, and the Doctor (mini TARDIS is safely ensconced in Clara’s bag) go look in one of the estate flats. The Doctor watches all of Clara’s actions intently and keeps providing commentary. Clara’s constant talking to the Doctor almost scares Rigsy off, but Clara makes a last minute save by showing Rigsy the Doctor in the box. That sounds vaguely dirty, but it’s not! Whatever is causing dimensional drift has latched on to the TARDIS and started draining its energy, so the Doctor tells Clara to get him out of the house they had been exploring.

Clara and Rigsy pretend to be MI-5 agents to get a police officer to show them another house. The Doctor says that one of the classic solutions to a locked room mystery is to look in the walls, so he gives Clara a sledgehammer, and she goes to town. Unfortunately, this just agitates the pan-dimensional creatures, and they start attacking the perfectly nice police officer who was pretty much the only person who cared that council estate folks were disappearing. Clara and Rigsy find themselves having to jump up into a suspended chair/swing thing to keep away from the walls, where the creatures are attacking, Of course Danny chooses that moment to call Clara, and he’s understandably worried about all the crashing noises he’s hearing. Clara insists she’s okay, though.

The Doctor figures out that the creatures who are disappearing folks come from a 2-D universe. He kind of hopes that they’re just innocently trying to explore the 3-D universe in which they found themselves. The rest of the crew is more skeptical, though. As one of the painting crew tries to paint the train tunnel where the portraits are, the portraits all start moving. It’s kind of creepy. Still hoping that the creatures are just trying to communicate, the Doctor rigs up a means of communication. First the creatures say the number that was on the jacket of the most recent person to disappear. Then they say the number of someone who is still alive. Soon enough, they get him, too. They don’t seem so innocent anymore.

The Doctor goes into his lab and whips up something he calls the “2dis.” It’s supposed to restore flattened things to 3-D. Clara and the painting crew use it when they’re stuck in the subway tunnels and the handle to the most convenient door has been flattened. Things get worse when the creatures finally get a handle on 3-D, turn into a hand, and snatch one of the painters away. The rest of the crew starts running, and we see fuzzy versions of all the people who have died rise from the ground. Thanks to the jerk of a paint crew leader giving Clara a hard time, she accidentally drops the TARDIS on the train track, and there are some tense moments as the Doctor tries to move himself out of harm’s way by sticking his hand out the door. It looks awkward as hell, but there’s real danger, so appearances be damned.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor has placed his ship into siege mode. Nobody can get in or out. The problem is that the TARDIS doesn’t have enough energy to take itself out of siege mode, even if the Doctor wanted her to. Meanwhile, another train approaches. Clara stops it with a red light, and she wants to use it to ram into the dimensional creatures that are approaching. Rigsy jumps in and starts driving the train, and Clara jumps in after him. He really wants to be the one to ram the creatures, but since Clara can rig the train to keep going with her headband, it seems like a waste of life. Clara and Rigsy manage to jump off the train right before it reaches the creatures. For their part, the creatures flatten the train before it can do any damage.

Clara picks up the TARDIS as they are running away from the creatures, and safe (for now) in another room, she remembers that the Doctor said the TARDIS needed energy, and if she was powered up, he could stop the dimensional creatures. Clara rolls out a big piece of paper, and she asks Rigsy to draw a door on it. They then hang the paper up in the subway tunnel, and the creatures are drawn to it. They start shooting energy at it. The energy goes through the wall where the TARDIS is waiting on the other side. Because apparently the energy doesn’t affect 2-D things that were never 3-D to begin with.

The TARDIS is reenergized, and it grows back to its normal (still smaller than the inside, but bigger than it was) size. The Doctor steps out, does some Sonic-ing, and with his own version of the Tenth Doctor’s “It is defended!” speech, banishes the creatures, which he names the “Boneless.” Afterwards, the Doctor congratulates Clara for the good job she did in his absence. Danny tries to call Clara, and she only responds with a pre-written “I’m in a meeting” text. This won’t end well.

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