Clara Oswald finally becomes The Doctor (metaphorically – Doctor Who is the kind of show where this needs to be pointed out) in this brilliantly entertaining episode. From the pen of returning writer Jamie Mathieson, Flatline contain the elements of a classic Who: a genuine threat, a cheeky companion, witty dialogue and what may well be the funniest visual gag of the entire series.
Jenna Coleman, whose stellar performances this series have been well-documented in earlier reviews, brings to this episode an energy that propels the story and drags us all along for the ride. Returning from their latest adventure, Clara is still keeping up the pretence that Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) is fine with her continuing to travel with The Doctor. Miffed they have ended up in Bristol, a mystery is soon afoot when the TARDIS seems to have…shrunk. The Doctor stays behind to try and fix the problem whilst Clara heads off to investigate alone.
In doing so she teams up with community service graffiti artist Rigsy (played with easy, likeable charm by Jovian Wade) and, as the TARDIS shrinks into a portable size, she takes over as The Doctor. It’s fun and entertaining as the real Doctor barks at her indignantly via an ear piece but there are also darker repercussions for Clara in taking on this role. As the two dimensional creatures take terrifying (but impressive) CGI 3D form, she comes to all too soon appreciate the decisions The Doctor has to make – can she save the innocent bystanders under her care or is their sacrifice worth the greater good?
Flatline presents a wealth of enjoyable moments whilst never neglecting the themes woven through this series. Stand out moments include Clara’s amusement at the Doctor in the shrunken TARDIS, her and Rigsy’s easy camaraderie (he’s her companion), the ‘Addams Family’ suggestion and, in a shift of tone, Clara’s acceptance of the lives lost as being worth saving the world – not so long ago she would not have settled for this outcome; is The Doctor’s influence a positive thing for her?
A good-looking episode in which the CGI monsters succeeded in freaking me out no end as they constantly shifted, Flatline was deftly directed by Douglas Mackinnon to maintain pace whilst also making the computer-generated elements feel very solid and part of the scene. As the episode closed, there was a definite sense of the themes of the series coming together but still a great deal of uncertainty as to what the end game is going to be over the last three episodes of the series.
There’s a real implication so far that The Doctor’s renewed pragmatism when it comes to focusing on the greater good rather than individual tragedies is going to come back to haunt him, and undoubtedly Clara too. The question remains: who the hell is Missy? And, additionally: what does she know about Clara that we don’t? Here at The Custard TV, we welcome your rife speculation and well-considered theories below…
Doctor Who Continues Saturday on BBC ONE.
Contributed by Jane Harrison