By Ken Parker
We may be enjoying the best season of Doctor Who since its return in 2005. The episodes have been consistent and absent of major issues all around. While I am still nervous at the Missy plotline, I have chosen to more or less ignore that for now. Certainly the stories have been focused and void of the frantic frenzy of episodes from the past like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “A Good Man Goes to War.” The stories are succinct and to the point and have had various themes including feelings toward soldiers and what they do for a living to the need for the Doctor to sacrifice others for the survival of the majority. These themes have helped form the personality of this Doctor along with his own eccentricity and attitudes.
Clara has also developed an unhealthy addiction of sorts with her travels with the Doctor and has disliked what Doctor 12 has been doing of late. Soon something will give and all will be revealed. With only three more episodes after “Flatline” one has to imagine that the answers will be coming soon. Will “Flatline” set up the endgame for the season? Will the Doctor and Clara have another falling out or could we be seeing the two of them changing their ways?
“Flatline” looked promising by the trailers, but many Doctor Who episodes do so that is nothing to go by. Right away though we have an interesting development as the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS and must take part in the adventure as an observer. In communication with Clara, he will guide her along the way but ultimately it is Clara that must deal with the danger which involves a race of two dimensional beings who are reaching out and grabbing people for study.
The idea of this flat land and beings who are studying the three dimensional world is fascinating to say the least. The Doctor says it himself that these beings are so different that communication is difficult and they might not even know that they are harming people. This progressive invasion eventually becomes three dimensional and Clara must save herself, the Doctor and the world.
Oh, no, Clara saving the day again. Well, not exactly. The Doctor ends up stopping the 2D beings, horribly called by the Doctor as the Boneless, in a very Matt Smith/David Tennant sort of way by pointing his sonic screwdriver at them. This was a huge let down for the story, which up to that point was nearly flawless. This cop out was not missed at all this season but it is back and hopefully nothere to stay.
Clara, with the Doctor's guidance, takes control of the situation while trying to figure out where the people have gone and why the TARDIS has shrunk. Her role expands as she must attempt to save a few workers nearby who are being chased by seemingly paintings of people on walls. The idea and imagery is chilling and most effective. Even when the beings go 3D, the effects are outstanding. Why
Clara takes on the role of the Doctor in this story and claims that she was a good Doctor. The Doctor disagrees to the point and seems more upset that people died before the 2D creatures were banished. This role reversal at first seemed odd. Clara is now lying and admits to as much and she is the one who seems oblivious to the death around her. The Doctor, being contrary, reminds us that people did die and perhaps Clara is not that good as 'the Doctor' or that he says that ugly side and does not want her to become him.
Still, Clara does okay with restoring the TARDIS in a very Doctor way, at least not waving the Sonic around. Despite this cop out Doctor moment with the Sonic, I have to admit that the Doctor's speech was good if not harkening back to that overinflated ego self that 10 and 11 used all too often. In this case the scene was a bit out of place for season 8 but as long as it is not the norm, is fine.
The humor in this story is actually well done, especially the sledge hammer scene.
Missy, I can't ignore her appearance this time, seems to have more planning involved and talks to herself as she watches Clara, via a camera really close to Clara's face, on an Ipad. This build up, Moffat, better be good because most build ups in Doctor Who don't pay off.
So I will probably say that this story is my favorite of the season so far. I think it is on par with some of the best of the best and may be the only episode this season to reach that far. I said at the start that this season has been the most consistent so far but I don't think there have been any excellent episodes. For the most part we have lots of 7s and 8s and “Flatline” might be a 9. I would love to see the season go out on a high note but unless Moffat can pull through on the main story arc, I feel we are in for a let down.