Flatline by Jamie Mathieson
Jenna Coleman. Clara. My favourite companion of all time? She’s certainly blown away all the other female companions in modern who, and even my loyalty to Captain Jack and Rory Williams is starting to waver. She has made series 8 one of the all-time great series, even surpassing the marvellous Capaldi in the process. I haven’t rated an episode lower than 3.5/5 so far this series, and a large part of that is down to the two leads. This is yet another episode that belongs to Clara (and a neat balance with Mathieson’s previous script, which was focused on Capaldi).
Why Clara? Well the Doctor spends most of the episode trapped in the shrunken Tardis, only able to advise and pass items to Clara as she tries to unravel the mystery and keep everyone alive. Even if it’s the Doctor who ultimately saves the day, Clara is the only reason there’s any supporting cast left alive to save. The supporting cast is one of the weakest things about this episode actually, apart from young delinquent Rigsy, who acts as a companion to Clara throughout, they aren’t particularly memorable, and you don’t really care when one of them dies. That said, the Clara-Rigsy dynamic is a neat role-reversal of her normal relationship with the Doctor (with Clara even introducing herself as ‘Doctor Oswald’ much to the Doctor’s irritation.
After his first attempt last week, Jamie Mathieson again proves himself capable of writing creepy monsters, good characters and good concepts for an episode (his aforementioned weakness to use background characters as cannon-fodder for the monsters is the only recurring weakness from last week), and this time the concept is a great one. The monsters this week are from a 2-D reality, and have been dissecting (flattening) humans into 2-D paintings on walls to learn how 3-D lifeforms work. It’s a great idea and the monsters are a real threat, being able to flatten anything they touch (including doorhandles to trap people in the room with them).
When, in the final third of the episode, they manage to achieve a 3-D form for themselves, it again highlights how good the special effects have become – you couldn’t have had this episode in series 5, nevermind in the Davies era. While the monsters are defeated somewhat easily by the Doctor, the way they managed to drain power from the Tardis to help themselves, endangering the Doctor in the process, injected some tension into the episode, which increased as they ruthlessly cut through most of the guest cast.
As for the Missy cameo at the end…is Clara’s time about to run out?
Overall the shows most fresh and imaginative concept since The Rings of Akhaten, only with better monsters and character moments. Series 8 still hasn’t put a foot wrong with 3 episodes left…
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Next Time: London’s been invaded and turned into a forest…the trees have moved back in.