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Doctor Who

"Flatline" (Aired October 18, 2014)

Samantha Wessel

“Doctor Who” is just setting me up for heartbreak. I’m growing to love Clara even more, making her inevitable departure from the show that much more painful. What I loved about this week’s episode is that we get to see, through Clara’s eyes, what it’s like to be the Doctor. And though it’s only for a brief period of time, I think it help answers a lot of questions about the Doctor’s morality, and the decisions he has to make. It also deepens the complex relationship between Clara and Twelve, which has been a really interesting relationship to watch develop. God dammit, you “Who” showrunners- you’re gonna make me cry my eyes out.

 

The episode begins with a man making a phone call, begging for help. As he’s on the phone, he’s sucked up by something that we can’t see. As the camera moves around the apartment, we see some strange markings on the wall, and realize it is the man who just disappeared screaming. (It actually reminded me a bit of “Love & Monsters” from Series 2. Ten & Rose foreverrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!)

 

The Doctor drops Clara off, allegedly at the proper time and place so she can meet Danny. Clara is, rather unconvincingly, telling the Doctor that Danny is totally ok with her continuing to have adventures with the Doctor. As Clara goes to leave the TARDIS, she notices the doors are smaller. The two manage to squeeze their way out, and Clara realizes that they are in Bristol. This makes Clara very unhappy as it’s not at all where she needs to be to meet Danny. The Doctor says they need to figure out what his happening before he can get her where she needs to go, and sends her off to see what she can find.

 

As Clara walks around, she comes across a group of community service workers who are painting over graffiti. One of the workers, himself is a graffiti artist, is being reprimanded by an Argus Filch wannabe (Harry Potter references!) who hates happiness and art. Clara comes across a mural in a tunnel. The graffiti artist, Rigsy, explains to Clara that the paintings are of people who have recently disappeared.

 

Clara returns to the TARDIS, filling the Doctor in with the information she’s learned. She finds the TARDIS even smaller than when she left it.  The only thing the Doctor can do is stick his hand out, which Clara does not enjoy. She ends up putting the TARDIS in her purse, and the Doctor gives her an earpiece so they can communicate. This earpiece also locks into her optic nerve so the Doctor can see what she sees. He also gives her his psychic paper and his sonic screwdriver. She’s the Doctor now, and even introduces herself as such when she bumps into Rigsy again, much to the actual Doctor’s consternation.

 

Rigsy takes Clara to the apartment where one of the victims disappeared. He tells her that everyone who has disappeared did so from locked homes. She tells Rigsy that she’s from MI-5, and that she’s communicating with someone via her earpiece. However, Clara and the Doctor’s hypothesizing starts to sound a little crazy, and Rigsy starts to wig out and is about to leave. Clara then shows Rigsy the tiny TARDIS and the Doctor. Why this doesn’t freak him out even more is beyond me, but he accepts this life changing information that aliens do in fact exist, and decides to stay and help. The Doctor tells Clara that something in the apartment is draining the TARDIS’s energy even more, and they leave before anything else can happen.

 

With the assistance of a local constable, Clara, Rigsy, and the Doctor (in Clara’s purse) visit another apartment whose inhabitant disappeared. The Doctor believes that the people may still be in the wall, so Clara and Rigsy take a sledgehammer to the room. Meanwhile, the officer is another room on the phone when she is sucked into the floor by whatever is causing all of this chaos. When Clara and Rigsy run in to figure out what is going on, the Doctor notices the mural on the wall is actually a nervous system. He realizes that whatever this species is flattens 3D objects to try and learn about them. When Rigsy and Clara go to leave, they realize the doorknob has been flattened, keeping them from escaping. As they stand in the room, the creatures begin to flatten the furniture around them.

 

Clara and Rigsy hop on a chair hanging from the ceiling to keep from being sucked up themselves. Right then, Danny calls to see check on Clara’s whereabouts as they were supposed to meet for lunch. Rather than waiting a hot second until she’s out of her current life-threatening predicament, Clara answers the phone while swinging the chair back and forth. She tells Danny she won’t be able to make it. Danny seems to have some kind of idea that she’s lying about where she is, and may even on some level know she’s with the Doctor. He asks where she is and if she’s in trouble. Clara is able to swing the chair enough so she and Rigsy break through the window and out of the room. The crashing of the glass startles Danny, but Clara assures him she’s ok and she’ll talk to him later.  The Doctor realizes that Clara has been lying to him about Danny’s approval of her continuing to travel with him.

 

Clara and Rigsy head to the mural under the bridge where the cleanup crew is about to paint over the mural. The Doctor realizes these are the missing people and tells Clara to stop them from destroying the mural. When Clara shows the Filch wannabe, (who’s name is actually Fenton) the psychic paper, he just sees blank paper, meaning he has no imagination. Fenton tells the crew to start cleaning up the mural, but as he does so, he’s sucked in and the people in the mural start turning around.

 

The remaining crew, Clara, Rigsy, and Fenton take off for a nearby building. Clara then realizes she’s going to be in charge of keeping these people safe, and she accepts this responsibility with calm and ease. See everybody, there CAN be a female Doctor. (Billie Piper for Thirteen!) Clara realizes that she’s going to need to lie to everyone in order to give them hope so that they continue running. She realizes this is what the Doctor has to do all the time.

 

The Doctor tells Clara that the creatures exist only in 2D and that they may not realize that humans need three dimensions to live. Clara goes about setting up a speaker so that they can hear what the creatures are saying. However, the creatures begin reading the number on the jacket of the cleaning crewmember they intended to take next. The creatures absorb the crewmember, and the remaining four take off for the train tunnels.

 

After running into the tunnels, the Doctor slips Clara a “2DIS” (pronounced two-dis, clever, clever) to flatten the handle to keep the creatures from getting to them. However, the creatures have now somewhat mastered three dimensions and can make 2D objects 3D again. They also create a hand to grab the last remaining crewmember that isn’t Clara, Rigsy, or Fenton. Then, the creatures begin to rise out of the ground as the people they have taken. They’re flickering in and out of three dimensions and their movements are slow, giving an almost zombie-esque feeling to them.

 

Clara and Co. are able to get away from them for a second. Fenton and Rigsy get into a shoving match, and Fenton knocks the TARDIS out of Clara’s hands and on to the train tracks below. Of course a train is coming, and the TARDIS is already in bad shape because so much energy has been drained from it. The Doctor sticks his hand out and tries to pull the TARDIS to safety, but right as he thinks he’s safe, the TARDIS shifts back on the tracks. Right before the train comes, the Doctor pulls a handle putting the TARDIS in siege mode.

 

Clara, Rigsy, and Fenton head down to the train tracks, but they get trapped between another oncoming train and the creatures. Clara doesn’t panic, but uses the sonic screwdriver to stop the train. Rigsy is going to sacrifice himself to drive the train into the creatures, but Clara calmly explains to him that all they need is her headband to keep the gears in place. She truly is a great Doctor. As the train approaches the creatures, they flatten it before it can reach them. As Clara, Fenton, and Rigsy walk away, Clara finds the TARDIS on the tracks in siege mode. The Doctor tells her that the TARDIS does not have enough energy to leave the siege mode.

 

In some sort of storeroom, Clara ponders what the Doctor would do now, but then realizes the only thing she needs to know what she would do now. Clara reaches full Doctor mode when she comes up with a plan to recharge the TARDIS. She pulls out a poster and has Rigsy use his graffiti artist skills to paint a realistic, flattened door handle. As the group work on their plan, the Doctor fears he may be dying, and he tells Clara that she has been “a might Fine Doctor.”

 

Clara, Rigsy, and Fenton hang the fake door. As the creatures use their energy to try and unflatten the handle, it recharges the TARDIS. With its full power back, the TARDIS returns to normal size and the Doctor emerges telling the creatures he gave them a chance, but they’ve chose to be monsters and he is the man who stops monsters. He goes on to warn them not to return to this planet and dimension because he is the protector. It’s the first time we’ve seen this type of speech from Twelve. I’ve seen some comments that it isn’t as satisfying as when Ten or Eleven gave similar speeches, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

After returning to the ground level, Clara says bye to Rigsy and Fenton, essentially her companions for this episode. Fenton proves that he’s truly a jerk and ungrateful, and even the Doctor is a little disappointed that he survived. Danny calls yet again, and this time Clara ignores it. Really, Clara? You don’t answer when you can talk, but yet you answer in a moment of life or death? I love you, but your phone answering decisions make little sense to me.

 

The Doctor tells Clara that she should talk to Danny. He’s clearly annoyed that Clara has been lying to both Danny and himself. Clara wants the Doctor to admit that she was good at being the Doctor. He tells her, “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness has nothing to do with it.” This brings us back to one of the overarching themes throughout this season. The Doctor doesn’t make decisions necessarily based on goodness, sometimes he has to make decisions based on what is going to have the best long-term results and this may mean sacrificing people. And perhaps he’s a little concerned that he’s turning Clara into a bit of a soldier.

 

Meanwhile, Missy is looking in on the action via an iPad. I guess tablet technology stopped developing after 2014. She looks approvingly upon Clara saying, “Clara. My Clara. I have chosen well.” Umm…what? So she picked Clara for something AND she refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend? What the heck is going on?

 

Concluding Thoughts

 Clara’s propensity to lie is going to come back to bite her in the butt. The Doctor is genuinely upset that she was lying to both him and Danny. She’s going to turn the two men she cares about the most against one another and that isn’t fair.

 

And Danny told Clara that if she lies to him about the Doctor pushing her, then they’re done. But the thing is, the Doctor didn’t push Clara, Clara pushed herself. As things stand now, Danny and Clara end up together because we saw their future great-grandson. I’m assuming he’s not a fixed point in time though, but her lies could change the future.