“Flatline” is the ninth episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Jamie Mathieson, and directed by Douglas Mackinnon. The episode stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with Joivan Wade and Christopher Fairbank guest starring. The episode received critical acclaim, with particular praise directed at Coleman’s performance.
The Doctor discovers something draining energy from the TARDIS and materialises in Bristol. While Clara steps out to look around, by the time the Doctor tries to leave, the exterior dimensions of the TARDIS have shrunk too small to leave. The Doctor passes Clara his sonic screwdriver, psychic paper, and an earpiece to let him see, hear, and communicate with her, and she carries the TARDIS in her bag, acting as “Doctor” Clara.
Clara befriends Rigsy, a graffiti artist assigned community duty with a crew to paint over graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel. Rigsy explains the art appears to be of people that have gone missing over the last several days. The Doctor directs Clara and Rigsy to search the flat of the latest disappearance, and Clara convinces PC Forrest to let them in. Outside of a strange mural in one room, nothing seems amiss, but they hear Forrest scream from the next room. When they get there, there is no sign of Forrest, but there is another strange mural on the floor. The Doctor recognises it as a human nervous system, and suspects it is Forrest’s. He warns Clara and Rigsy that there are two-dimensional creatures, the Boneless, that appear to be trying to understand the third dimension and have been the cause of the missing persons, flatting them into two dimensions. Clara and Rigsy escape before they are attacked.
The 2dis, the device that restores dimensions, as shown at the Doctor Who Experience.
They race back to the crew to warn them, the Doctor suspecting the paintings in the tunnel are additional Boneless. Some crewmen are killed while Clara leads the rest through a train yard into underground tunnels, followed by shambling forms of the paintings, which the Doctor surmises is the Boneless learning how to use the third dimension. The Boneless surround them, blocking their escape by flattening the doors into two dimensions. The Doctor jury-rigs a device and passes it to Clara to let them undo this flattening to give them time to escape. Clara and Rigsy try to run down the Boneless with an out-of-service train, but the creatures simply flatten it to two dimensions. In their haste, Clara drops the TARDIS into the path of an oncoming train, and the Doctor activates its Siege Mode, preventing any physical damage but leaving him unable to communicate with Clara or return it to normal with the Boneless’s power drain.
After recovering the TARDIS, Clara, Rigsy, and the other crew take shelter in a disused office. Clara gets a plan, and has Rigsy paint a realistic door on a large poster. They hang the poster over an access tunnel, and lure the Boneless to it. The Boneless, thinking it is a flattened door, funnel their energy into it to restore it, but instead this is helping to power the TARDIS that Clara placed right behind the poster. The TARDIS reverts to its normal size and form, and the Doctor erects a barrier to hold the Boneless in place. Realising the Boneless have no peaceful intentions, he returns them to their normal dimension. After saying their goodbyes, the Doctor asks Clara how she enjoyed being the Doctor for the day. Elsewhere, Missy watches Clara’s adventure, muttering to herself that she has “chosen well”.
The TARDIS exterior was also shrunk to dolls house size in the serial Logopolis, with the Fourth Doctor trapped inside.
The further-miniaturised TARDIS in “siege mode” resembles the Pandorica, the inescapable prison first mentioned in “The Eleventh Hour” and shown fully in “The Pandorica Opens“.
The read through for “Flatline” took place on 19 May 2014. Filming began soon afterwards, on 28 May, and concluded on 18 June 2014.
Overnight viewing figures were estimated at 4.6 million, the lowest overnight rating for the show since “The Hungry Earth” in 2010 and the second lowest rating since the show returned in 2005. The episode was watched by a total of 6.71 million viewers. In the US, this episode was seen by 0.75 million viewers, being also the lowest rating for the series.
The episode received critical acclaim, with many praising Mathieson’s script, Coleman’s performance and the uniquely designed monsters. The episode also received an AI of 85, considered excellent. Neela Debnath of The Independent praised Capaldi and Coleman’s performances and believed this episode to be the stronger of Mathieson’s two episodes, although she was critical of the CGI effects. Matt Risley of IGN gave the episode 8.3 out of 10, praising the concept of the episode and the performance of Coleman, but criticising the guest cast. Morgan Jeffery of Digital Spy gave a mixed review of the episode, calling it “a bumpy ride.” He too was critical of the supporting cast, citing lack of depth to their personalities. He was however, positive of the CGI, calling it “the most impressive and distinctive this show has featured in recent memory.” Overall he gave the episode 3 stars out of five.
Reviewing the episode for The Daily Telegraph, Michael Hogan noted that Christopher Fairbank was billed as the guest star but Joivan Wade outshone him. He stated that the episode had “outlandishly original ideas, smartly executed. It was thrillingly unsettling and ultimately satisfying.” Dan Martin, for The Guardian, wrote that Jamie Mathieson’s script “is one of the more effective demonstrations of how to do the ‘cheap one’.” Martin also stated that Clara is “becoming more and more like the Doctor”. Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a B+, stating that “the show is on a hot streak we haven’t seen in a long, long time”. Wilkins closed his review by saying “‘Flatline’ isn’t perfect, but it underlines just how great the 12th Doctor and Clara have been for each other, and how great their pairing has been for the show, if for no other reason than their complex relationship has forced the show to be thoughtful in a way it hasn’t in quite some time”.
Anyhew….time to get dinner prepared. I hope this finds you loved and loving.
Fun song I found recently. Depeche Mode is one of my all-time favorite bands and VNV Nation is quite a favorite for me too. Bought the closest version I could get on Itunes, the Cicada mix:
Depeche Mode versus VNV Nation – Epicentre In Your Eyes
*I realized that in the context of how I have come to view the human body, as a car, many of us are “driving” distracted. It doesn’t just apply to moving vehicles external. The dream I had the other night, I realize wasn’t necessarily about cars. Sometimes I think, from what I’ve seen and experienced, distracted/vacant human beings can be like a used car lot for disembodied energy looking for a new ride to hop in. Sentient energy needs a body is what keeps coming to me. It’s a foreign way to think I guess, but just how I think. I don’t think about life, death, rebirth and the “in between” that the Catholics call purgatory like most people do.