Doctor Who – Flatline review

Well, this season of Doctor Who just gets better and better. Last week’s excellent Mummy on the Orient Express is followed by the equally excellent – if not more excellent – Flatline. As usual, expect spoilers below.

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The Doctor promises to get Clara back home for some Danny date malarkey however the Tardis deposits them on some Bristol-flavoured railway sidings. There is a small complication in that the Tardis is, well, small. The insides are still normal sized but the door has shrunk. The doctor and Clara are able to climb out. The Doctor tells Clara to go off and investigate while he tries to fix the Tardis. He gives Clara a nano-tech earpiece so he can see what she sees.

Later Clara returns and finds the Tardis shrunk even more so it’s now exactly toy Tardis sized. (I bet the get them in the shops for Christmas). The Doctor is able to reach out of the tiny door and give Clara his sonic screwdriver. Clara takes the Tardis along in her bag.

Clara goes off and meets some community service guys painting over graffiti in an underpass. One young graffiti artist called Rigsy tells Clara about people who went missing and she takes him along to investigate. They go to one flat with an interesting desert mural on the wall. Rigsy explains that the missing person disappeared from a locked room and perhaps their body is somehow still there like in a locked room mystery in detective fiction. The Doctor thinks the “fluorescent pudding brain” might be onto something.

In another house they are in the next room when a police-woman is sucked into the carpet. The doctor sees a diagram of the human nervous system on the wall and realises the mural in the other flat was of human skin. The doctor explains that creatures from a two-dimensional universe are trying to makes sense of our three-dimensional one and they are sampling humans. Their manipulation of the dimensions is having an effect on the Tardis which is losing power. Clara and Rigsy have a narrow escape from the same flattening fate. These scenes are some of the most wonderfully creepy ones Doctor Who has ever done and are very gripping.

Back at the underpass Clara glimpses some murals of human figures, all of which went missing. The Doctor realises that they are camouflaged images of the aliens who sampled the humans. Clara and the others are forced to run and hide in a railway building. The doctor tells Clara she has to take charge. And she does. When the grumpy supervisor of the guys on community service asks who she is she says: “I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the one chance you’ve got of staying alive. That’s who I am.” “Very good,” observes the Doctor.

The aliens chase the survivors deeper into railway tunnels gradually picking them off. And each time it is, I will repeat the phrase, genuinely creepy. It’s a lot more creepy than a lot of big-budget movies manage to do. The creatures are now taking on three dimensional form like flickering copies of their victims. They are also able to flatten or restore door handles.

At one point Clara drops the Tardis and it lands on a railway line. She can’t get to it so she tells the doctor to move it in the style of the Addams family. We then get the delicious sight of the Doctor’s hand reaching out to physically move the toy Tardis off the line.

When Clara is reunited with the Tardis it is in”siege mode” and looks like a little blue Pandorica. The Doctor does not have enough power to restore the Tardis to working order and Clara hits on a clever idea. She gets Rigsy to paint a picture of a flattened door. When the creatures try to unflatten the picture all their energy goes into the Tardis allowing the doctor to restore it to normal size.

He exits and confronts the creatures who he now calls “the Boneless”. “You are monsters!” he tells them. “That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine. The man that stops the monsters.” He expels them back to their own universe.

Later back outside Clara is trying to get the Doctor to praise her for her taking on the roll he normally does and to say she was a “good Doctor”. “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it,” he retorts.

Well, this episode was both exceptional and good. The two-dimensional creatures were inspired and extremely well realised and led to many a creepy demise. I may have to rank them right up there with the Weeping Angels in regards to genuinely creepy monsters introduced in the modern version of the show.

There are just three episodes left of this season but I think I am safe in saying that this season is the most consistently good since the show returned in 2005.