Published on October 20th, 2014 | by Brad


Doctor Who – Flatline review

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Flatline continues the tradition in NuWho of “Doctor-lite” episodes, a smaller scale tale with minimal involvement from the Doctor and/or his companion, allowing for the production team to shoot multiple episodes at the same time. This can lead to wonderful things like Blink or The Girl Who Waited, but by the same stroke can lead to the likes of Love & Monsters or Fear Her.

On the surface, with 2D monsters incorporating into our world, and the Doctor and the TARDIS being shrunk down and out of commission leaving the companion to save the day, Flatline invites a lot of superficial comparisons with Fear Her. Fear not. This struck the right balance between the humour of the Doctor’s indignity at the ever-decreasing size of the TARDIS door (a Mary Poppins joke with a sledgehammer and an Addams Family joke involving an oncoming train were particular highlights) and the legitimate horror of the monsters.


The Boneless, the name the Doctor gives to said monsters, were very creepy as a concept. A race from a 2D universe encroaching upon ours, kidnapping human beings and dissecting them in order to better understand the notion of three dimensions is a chilling concept, beautifully realised. The effects work on them looked mostly cool, particularly the jittery stop-motion as they incorporated themselves into 3D. It’s been a hell of a while since we had an episode where the monster was more than just an afterthought to be run away from between exploring character dynamics, especially if we disregard recurring monsters. The Boneless were a very welcome return to that, even if their naming was slightly overwhelmed by Murray Gold’s overenthusiastic score drowning out the Doctor naming them.

With the Doctor out of commission, it falls on Clara to play Doctor in his stead, a la Rose in Fear Her. And where Rose proved an able stand-in for the Tenth Doctor, providing hope and comfort as she saved the day, so Clara proves an able stand-in for the Twelfth; pragmatic, liberal with the truth and yet determined to save as many people as possible. She even gets a companion, a graffiti artist from Bristol whose name ends with “-sy” (get it?)


In all, Flatline is a reasonably entertaining episode, with a cool monster, some good comedy, and great character work. It’s not going to be considered a high-point, by any stretch, but after the high-concept lunacy of the last couple of episodes, it’s nice to have a straightforward “run away from the monsters” episode to break things up. Next week, literary allusions abound in “In the Forest of the Night”

Stray Observations

  • Apparently they have iPads in paradise. The fiends!
  • The shifting dynamics between Clara, the Doctor and Danny continue to be the most compelling aspect of the series. They’ve done a wonderful reclamation job on Clara this series, and I can’t wait to see where this is all going.
  • It’s not “just like Fear Her”. Fear Her was about loneliness, and in the end everybody lived. Flatline is the beginnings of an invasion, which leaves a lot of innocents dead. Which doesn’t bother Moxey, but what’s more worrying is how chipper Clara was about the whole thing. She’s becoming more like the Doctor than is strictly healthy.
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