After 12 (or thirteen depending on how you look at things) versions of the Doctor, you’d think the writers of the show would be out of clever ways to change-up the typical “Doctor saves the day” routine. But you might just be wrong. As the latest episode, “Flatline”, delivered an amazing twist on the standard Doctor antics and gave us a powerful look at the roles we take for granted on the show.
What started out as a typical missing people/alien menace story turned into something much more deep, and horrifying. As a disturbance caused the Tardis to shrink on the outside, soon confining the Doctor to it’s walls. Meanwhile, Clara was forced to wield the Sonic Screwdriver in an attempt to solve the case, and as we would all find out, save the world.
While it’s true that the companions have saved the world many times over, this time felt completely different. As the Doctor was truly isolated form the action, and had to use only the information he was getting from Clara to figure out what was going on. And just like in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, the mystery was intense from start to finish.
The slow build as to what the “monsters” were was very well done, and very visually appealing. First they were just flat images on the walls or floors, then they became 3D! Every step forward gave them new purpose, new abilities (“of course they can”), and a new level of horror.
Yet while it would have been easy for the Doctor to just try and destroy them, I found it very interesting that he tried to discern first whether they were evil or not. This goes back to his revelation during “Enter the Dalek” where he was called out for having hatred in his soul. It was a nice twist, and even though it didn’t work out the way he hoped, he did get to have an epic hero speech to end the encounter!
Truly though, Clara was the highlight here. While I criticized earlier episodes for the focus on Clara, “Flatline” felt different. It didn’t feel like a needless focus, but rather one that was almost necessary, especially since the Doctor really couldn’t do anything.
The back and forth between the Doctor and Clara throughout the episode was great, and as mentioned above challenged the notions that we make about these characters. Clara admitting that she needed to lie to keep people’s hopes up was nice, as was the Doctor’s stuttering that it “may” be what he does sometimes. Also, the final plan, which Clara had to come up with on her own, was great as well. One may think the Doctor always has a plan ready, yet sometimes it’s just not that easy. Clara’s ability to keep a calm head and think things through made her worthy of not just being a companion, but also a “Doctor”.
There were a few small oddities in “Flatline”, mainly in that we still don’t know what the creatures were doing on Earth. True, as the Doctor said it didn’t really matter. But it would’ve felt better to know. Also, the “officer” in charge was way to annoying for his own good.
In the end though, “Flatline” was a great episode that turned the tables on the typical Doctor Who formula, and gave us insights into characters we thought we knew oh so well.
Oh, and what do you think Missy meant when she said, “My Clara”?