I’m going to come right out and call this one of the best episodes of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. It was definitely the best episode of the current series. The concept of creatures from a 2-dimensional universe trying to invade our 3D world is a really creative idea. Writer Jamie Mathieson, who also wrote last week’s Mummy on the Orient Express, has given the Whoniverse a new, iconic monster while also turning the show’s dynamic on its head.
The threat was so alien that the Doctor found himself completely confounded by the goings on and, admittedly, a little embarrassed that he couldn’t wrap his head around it. Once he did get a grip on the nature of the threat, he realized they weren’t dealing with aliens from another planet, but aliens from a different universe – one with only two dimensions.
And I just want to take a moment to say TINY TARDIS! Sorry, had to do it.
When the Doctor finds out Clara’s been lying to Danny about traveling in the TARDIS and lying to him about what she’s told Danny, he’s more impressed than surprised. Of course, both the Doctor and Clara are jaw-droppingly surprised when Fenton sees nothing on the psychic paper. Has that ever happened before?
The effects used to portray 2-dimensional beings looked almost like living liquid paint running across the surface of everything. It was remarkably effective at showing something that was probably the most alien thing the Doctor has ever encountered. Of course, the really freaky effects came once the creatures became 3-dimensional. Those things are going to give me nightmares. Their stringy, malformed, and jarringly shifting appearance was striking enough to make me consider buying a bigger sofa to hide behind.
Clara’s plan to have Rigsy paint a door onto the back of a paper map to fool the creatures was exactly the kind of thing the Doctor would do. Using their own energy to power up the now cube-shaped TARDIS was something straight out of the Time Lord’s own playbook. The creatures thought they were restoring three dimensions to a “flattened” door, but since it was just a painting that had never been 3-dimensional, all the energy went through it and into the TARDIS.
I was put off a little, okay, maybe a lot, by the idea that the creatures could drain the TARDIS of all power. We’ve long known, and were shown in the episode Journey to the Center of the TARDIS, that the old girl is powered by a black hole. Actually, a star on the verge of collapsing into a black hole, called the Eye of Harmony. It’s a pretty damned impressive power source to say the least.
That star produces a lot of power. It would seem that such a power source would be nearly impossible to drain, simply because of the massive amounts of energy it produces. Admittedly, I have no idea how much power it takes to travel between different universes, but it’s probably a lot. And I suppose moving from a 2D universe to a 3D one needs even more power. Still, it just bugged me because if a collapsing star were drained of its energy completely, wouldn’t you need to get yourself a new star?
The role reversal between Clara and the Doctor made for loads of fun dialogue, much of which will be coming up shortly in my weekly quotes post. It also helped both characters gain a new perspective on their counterparts. The Doctor was especially impressed with Clara and how she handled being the lead on an adventure. Personally, I was even more impressed than the Doctor.
From the beginning, Clara’s been one of the best companions the Doctor has had, but this series has really stepped up her game. At this point I would go so far as to say I rank her up there in Sarah Jane Smith territory. Yeah, I said it.
It’s not so much that she doesn’t take any guff from the Doctor, many companions would call him out on his antics (Donna especially comes to mind.), but she’s also strong and capable and vulnerable and kind in ways I don’t think I’ve seen since the lovely Elisabeth Sladen occupied the TARDIS. That’s the highest praise I can give a companion.
Over the years, there’s been talk of having the Doctor regenerate into a female body. I have always been in favor that idea, but now I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt (2D pun intended) that it’s a great idea. For all intents and purposes Clara is the Doctor in this episode and she did a superlative job. Even the Doctor admitted she was exceptional.
But she wasn’t a “good” Doctor. The Doctor made it very clear that being an exceptional Doctor means that sometimes you have to do bad things – like make really tough decisions that don’t always end in puppies and rainbows. Now that they’ve run a mile in the other’s shoes, because no one walks in Doctor Who, they’ve come away with a new-found appreciation for one other.
This series started out with Clara and the Doctor having a fractured relationship, but it’s being forged into something stronger than ever before. What was once strange and alien behavior to each of them is now so very understandable, simply because they each had to swap roles. I was, um, flattened by the performances.
And once again, we get a short and cryptic scene of Missy saying ominous, weird stuff. What exactly did she mean by “I have chosen well” when referring to Clara? We already know she was the woman in the shop who gave Clara the phone number for the TARDIS back in The Bells of St. John. It would be nice to get a hint, rather than these tiny teases, and after tonight’s developments, I wouldn’t mess with Clara.
If you’re looking for all the clever quotes from Flatline, you can catch them here: Doctor Who 809 “Flatline” Quotes – Who’s the Doctor Now?
Tune in next week for In the Forest of the Night, airing Saturday, October 25 at 9/8c on BBC America