This episode was really boring at first, I mean I was watching it and couldn’t find myself interested in anyone…and I like the Doctor and Clara. What changed it though was what they did in the Second half when the action started happening and we saw the Doctor as more honest than he’s been in a long time. It was refreshing. I’ll get into what I mean in the assessment.
“Flatline” was written by Jamie Mathieson and directed by Paul Wilmshurst. It is also the 9th episode of Series 8.
The premise of the episode is that aliens from another dimension are taking people away and sucking out the energy of the TARDIS. This shrinks the outer dimensions of the TARDIS while the Doctor is still on board leaving Clara in the Doctor role as she works with some folks doing community service work to make up for their crimes as people continue to be sucked away and the intentions of the new aliens are slowly revealed.
Here is the assessment of the episode:
The Pros: The Premise – Aliens from the Second Dimension causing chaos is a great idea! The idea of Clara having to take the role of the Doctor is a great idea! These two main points do eventually payoff but initially do not.
The Boneless – These aliens are great (We’ve had a lot of great aliens this series) and I like how they eventually made themselves 3 dimensional after stealing the energy and matter from others. They built themselves up and we didn’t know their intentions and still don’t fully except that they are destructive. It’s nice seeing a monster for the Doctor to face for once. Most of his enemies this season have had redeemable qualities, even a Dalek. They feel like a good threat too and get defeated very creatively.
Clara – Clara is still lying to Danny and is very much like the Doctor in personality (much to his dismay). We see this in action as she says that to give them hope she needs to lie to them so they’ll be more likely to survive and to weigh each situation and so that the least harm takes place. Clara has no place for warmth an empathy in this episode and we see it in her lying and brushing off of Danny and how she talks the people around her and the Doctor as her companion. She calls herself “Doctor Clara” and mocks him to comedic affect throughout the episode. This is really her giving him his own medicine and he gets the message it looks like at the end.
The 12th Doctor – This episode started out boring, but once it got into the meat and bones of the Doctor’s character gave us some great character moments and exploration. Him having to fully depend on another because he was stuck in the TARDIS is a good illustration of how the Doctor/Companion relationship can sometimes be at it’s core. He saw himself through Clara’s eyes and realized just how far from being a good man he is. He weighs everything logically and doesn’t allow himself to get fully invested in people beyond bringing about balance. He saves people, though some die. He stops Monsters (his speech to the Boneless about this dimension being protected and them being monsters even though the Doctor tried to communicate was brilliant) though many times though becoming one…He takes people for granted and lies and he realized that in the process he destroys those who try to be him. We don’t know how things will end with Clara but Missy feels she chose right at the end of the episode and the Doctor leaves in sorrow.
“You were a exceptional Doctor…it had nothing to do with good.” The Doctor realizes that about himself and what that does in regards to others. I like that as Capaldi’s Doctor started out as one of the more unaware Doctors, though that has always been a thing which is why there have always been companions.
The Cons: The First Half – The first half was boring even as the aliens were introduced. I didn’t care about anyone because nothing happened. There was no action that felt like it advanced the plot and even though the TARDIS was shrinking and it was intriguing I felt as detached as the Doctor.
The Minor Characters – The folks doing community service and the guy in charge of them were tropes. The kid down on his luck trying to get his life back together and the dickish leader of them. I didn’t care about all of them.
This was a good episode but in no way great. The first half could have been a lot better and given us more of Danny and Clara and the lies as well as the Doctor’s reaction to it or we could have got more of the aliens reeking havoc or some of the minor characters. Because it started out detached it gave us nothing to invest in initially. I personally did think it was still good but you have to have patience to get to the second half where there is actual payoff.
Final Score: 8 / 10