Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the 8th episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called Flatline (<—that’s a recap from BBC America’s Anglophenia.)

Fair warning now: this is not a summary, just an off-the-top-of-my-head response, and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…

Doctor Who response to Flatline

 

First things first – let’s just go ahead and add graffiti to our List of Regular Things of Which Doctor Who Has Made Us Terrified….right behind shadows and statues and dreams of things under your bed.

This episode might be a game-changer for me. It had a lot of my favourite elements of Doctor Who, not the least of which is my beloved Doctor’s reappearance of compassion, complex resolutions, a respect for life, a terrifying threat, sympathetic companions, moral dilemmas, and A MONOLOGUE.

Oh, I love me some stirring and operatic Doctor monologues.

I cannot even believe how consistently brilliant every episode of this season has been. I mean, I’m a Tenth Doctor girl to the marrow and yet I cringe to recall at least two episodes per season – witness Fear Her and Love and Monsters. *shudder* And yet this season, even as I grapple with the Doctor himself, the consistently good episodes beg for rewatching. This is an incredible run of episodes – notwithstanding the hatred some have for the silly outing in Sherwood forest, which I liked.

The concept of the “killer graffiti” was brilliant, right? And like most effective monsters, the very nature of the fear is the invisibility and the inversion of what we trust. Usually we trust doors and walls and floors to protect us – and the Doctor! – but that was stripped away and so now we’re left with Clara and crew of community service workers.

Can I just take a moment of silence to respect how far our special effects have come on our beloved show? When I recall the rubber suited and farting Slitheen of the Aliens of London compared to the terrifying zombie march of the two-dimensional monsters taking form at last in the dark tunnels? Oh, my, how far we have come.

So our monsters for this episode were ominous and yet we are left to wonder about their motives for a good part of the show. The Doctor’s response to their “invasion” is core Doctor Who to me – and one of the great strengths of the show. The first instinct isn’t to wipe them off the planet but to find out who they are and what they want, to assign positive intent until the facts are clear. And of course, that went sideways this time but I love that the starting point is a respect for life and an unrestrained glee at discovering something NEW to learn.

It was so GOOD to see the Doctor moved by compassion again. Any part of my jury that remained out over whether or not I was prepared to love the Twelfth Doctor might have been resolved with that passionate speech before flinging open the doors of the restored TARDIS and declaring that this planet is protected. “You are monsters!  That is the role you seem determined to play, so it seems that I must play mine – The man that stops the monsters.”

YES, YOU ARE.

Yet again, Clara is climbing the Companion Charts in my heart. One of my favourite aspects of Clara’s character to develop over time is her cheeky irreverence with the Doctor – plainly, I like that she teases him even when it baffles him. Clever and conflicted, she did so well as the Doctor, didn’t she? Her idea there at the end to have Rigsby paint a false door to trick the monsters into restoring the TARDIS was a thing of beauty. It was her independence here that won me – she finally stopped wondering what the Doctor would do and had to figure out what SHE would do. And it worked.

Her ability to handle the community service workers – especially that particularly despicable one – was brave and sang of the Eleventh Doctor’s influence in her life. When she quietly said, “I’m the best chance you have of survival” to that bloke, I cheered. Get it, girl. The group needs a leader, the Doctor has to lead. You know how this works.

However, we see the Doctor’s conflicted response to HOW well she did – she had to make the same no-good-answers decisions that he did. She has learned to lie as a survival mechanism, to give hope in the face of despair just to make people “better.” Her lack of compassion for the ones who were lost because of the “high” of the win was telling. Even when she lies, he’s not fussed – he sees it as a survival skill and a bad habit. Which is going to come back to bite both of them, I imagine.

Devastating line of the day was right there at the end. She is trying to wring a compliment back out of the Doctor, teasing him and having a bit of fun, not seeing how bothered he is by her elation. She wants him to admit that she “was good.” And then he slowly says, yes, – “you were an extraordinary Doctor. Goodness had nothing to do with it.” 

This brings us square back to his personal crisis of this entire season – am I good man? And if Clara is taking on the skills and persona of the Doctor, he can look at her and say, no, she wasn’t good in the classic sense of goodness but she is extraordinary – she survived, she saved as many as she could, she made hard decisions, she weighed the good of the many against the loss of a few. Even how she saved at least Rigsby from his noble attempt at self-sacrifice has to be weighed against her elation at “winning” even after so many have been lost. Clara is usually his “care-er” so maybe that’s the reason why he cares more in this episode – she was the Doctor, so someone simply had to care.

The big takeaway from this episode for me: we understand the Doctor better. We understand now how incredibly hard it is to be the Doctor and we understand that he is wrestling with his goodness and his extraordinariness in equal measure.

And finally: MISSY! There you are! Her lines here just served to confirm to me that she was the “woman in the shop” who gave Clara the number to the TARDIS. She keeps throwing them together. How far back are they going to take her influence? Because Clara was “born to save the Doctor” in all his incarnations so, we could really have some fun with this. I’m guessing…. Time Lord of some sort?

Couple of asides:

No, Clara, Rule #1 is not “use your enemy’s power against them.” It’s “The Doctor lies.” River told us so! Argument could be made that the original Rule #1 was “Don’t wander off” but I think he gave up on that one long ago.

Addams Family. Hilarious.

Did anyone else think that the tiny TARDIS in siege mode (great term, right?) actually resembled the Pandorica?

One thing I loved about our time with Rose was how she was a working class girl – same with Donna.Heroes came from all walks of life and post codes. Doctor Who saw regular life on the estate as worth an alien invasion. Doctor Who in the reboot has always been a bit populist that way – even part of the joke with the War Doctor was the “posh grand-dad” voice. So it was nice to be in a regular sort of place like Bristol with regular sorts of folks while still quietly exploring a bit of class issue like how the police don’t care about the disappearances of working class folks from the estate. No wonder Clara was given unbelievable access to the apartments – people were just thrilled to hear that someone cared about them.

Now what do you think? Did you like the episode? Any theories or ideas or highlights? Have at it – I love your comments and can’t wait to get the conversation going. 

(And as a note, I did finish the Beginner’s Guide to Doctor Who – here’s hoping it’s useful to you as you try to convert your friends and family to your own Who-addiction.)

Read More:

Episode 1: Deep Breath 

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

Episode 3: Robots of Sherwood

Episode 4: Listen

Episode 5: Time Heist

Episode 6: The Caretaker

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

 Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Episode 9: Flatline

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

More than metaphors: on bearing witness to baptism
Flutters and faith
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  • Tracey

    Yes, I thought it looked like the Pandorica! I sighed with content with the monologue too 🙂 Missy is going to be an interesting character when they start letting us get to know her. As for Clara – loved her jacket this week as well as her picking it up a bit. Loved the mini Tardises and the Addams family reference. Hopefully the doc is starting to get confident in his new regen and is getting over his crisis of “am I a good man?” And where has the Galifrey storyline gone?

    • Samantha Ward

      I didn’t notice the Pandorica lookalike but yes, you’re right. Interesting.

      Yeah, why isn’t the Doctor hunting for Gallifrey?

  • Brenda P

    Oh goodness, there wasn’t a single thing I disliked about this episode. I loved the Doctor. I loved Clara. I loved the sight gags of a tiny TARDIS. I even liked the side characters in this one; they seemed to have so much depth in the short time we met them. We got a monologue and Missy and it felt just right. As soon as I saw the camera tilt to show what was hidden in that wallpaper border, I was all in for this episode. I jumped when the hand turned 3D. I cheered for Clara and was glad for her success, even though I feel a little sad about the turmoil it revealed in “being good” not having anything to do with being an excellent Doctor. This episode felt like a breath of fresh air in exploring character, and I wasn’t mad at the Doctor even once in this episode! I actually really liked him!

  • Shane Deal

    Yes, I liked the monologue. (Though Eleven’s Pandorica speech is my personal favorite.) Speaking of the Pandorica, I didn’t notice its resemblance, but took another look at it. Yes, that does look oddly familiar.

    I have liked this season, though it’s kind of hard to say for certain until the end of it.

    When I first watched this episode I thought maybe the end was indicating that The Doctor was not The Doctor, but after watching the ending again, I’m not sure where in the world I got that idea from, there is nothing of any sort to indicate it. (I think I had missed that he had walked into The TARDIS, thus when it switched to Missy, it was not Clara through The Doctor’s eyes, as I originally thought.)

    I like that we are seeing more of The Doctor’s personality as a whole. Even one person’s life can be incredibly complex and multifaceted, he’s had several. In some ways there is his current regeneration, and also his composite person. He has a dual-natured personality as such. There is the regeneration him and the core him. Thus we see his compassion and his fury, oftentimes in the same regeneration. I like seeing how complex his personality is. I like complex.

    I didn’t catch the Addams Family bit.

    I once read a blog post how Doctor Who is largely about the companion, almost more than it is about The Doctor. It definitely is a considerable point, and it would definitely make sense that we see regular life as being so central to the story as a whole. (It’s been a year or two since I read the post, I don’t think I bookmarked it, I might remember what blog it was on though. I’ll leave a link at the bottom of this post if I find it…)

    With the police and not caring, I agree, it definitely is a quiet exploration of class issues and such, even though it doesn’t provide a clear-cut solution to it, I like seeing it brought to light, however subtly, because it is an issue, definitely in America, where I’m from, and in other countries around the world. Class, race, gender, there are numerous and systematic injustices, and an unbelievable amount of damage is caused simply because we just don’t talk about them, I appreciated seeing these themes explored. 🙂

    Here is the article: http://kevennewsome.com/2012/09/03/why-i-prefer-the-11th-doctor-over-the-10th/ (Though re-reading it, it seems it is more about The Doctor as a show and actors than I remembered it being.)

    • Nicole Chase

      Addams family was when she was trying to get him to walk the TARDIS off the tracks with his hand – like Thing.

      • Shane Deal

        Thanks! 🙂

        • Nicole Chase

          You’re welcome 🙂

  • JennaDeWitt

    Rules – yes, I think it’s telling how Rule #1 is always changing. Says something about each incarnation I suppose.

    Pandorica – yes, I wondered about this…

    Hoping we get much more from Jamie Mathieson in the future. Loving his style. Agree that this episode was a game changer. I’ve had a few I liked, but haven’t delighted in it so far this season until this episode. I even really loved Clara, whereas I’m usually “meh” about her.

    I would have to watch it again to see, but I think it did kind of bother him that she was so ready to lie. Mostly, of course, to him since he doesn’t really care about her personal life so much, but I would say it’s arguable that he sees developing in her a bit of what becomes of all of his companions – they become like him in both the best and the very worst ways. He both makes them better and sort of corrupts them, or at least, there is a loss of innocence. Maybe I’m just projecting that from other seasons/characters, though. 🙂

  • Nicole Chase

    This was a fantabulous episode. Same writer as last week – let’s keep him on.

    Yes! I said “baby Pandorica!!” as soon as they showed it in siege mode. Related: I’ve been waiting for the Tiny TARDIS all season, and by golly did it deliver.

    AND HE HAD A WEE MONOLOGUE!!! Not so long as some of his old ones, but I think it’s appropriate for him. Feels like this Doctor is really integrating bits his past selves much more holistically than previous regenerations had.

    Missy as Time Lord…hmm. Could be.

    • Agreed; the shorter, more compact and to-the-point monologue felt more in line with Capaldi’s Doctor than a longer one might have.

  • eswan1600

    Anyone else think the Bristol graffiti artist (Rigsby) is a cultural reference to Banksy? And the references to “Flatland” were great. Total geekout session.

    Right after I watched this episode I went back and looked at the Pandorica. It’s not exactly the same, but similar enough that I wonder if the Pandorica was another tardis in seige mode. Hmmm.

    So, is Clara a weapon to be used against the Doctor? They kind of played that line with River, so I’m hoping there’s more to it. Overall, great, entertaining episode. I used to think Clara was a bore, but now I love her character. I’m glad they’ve given her material to work with.

  • Joy

    The Tardis in siege mode deepened Eleven’s reaction to the ‘boxes’ in the Doctor’s Wife…I mean, yes it was offensive to Eleven when he realized they were all gone, but up until this episode with Twelve, only Eleven understood in The Doctor’s Wife that those boxes ‘with Time Lord Conciousnesses inside’ were Tardises in Siege Mode. He was so very hopeful at the beginning of the episode because he knew what was IN the boxes. That makes the realization even worse.

    I did like this episode…I’m still holding out judgment though. I’m afraid of what Missy means. I think I really wanted to hope that the girl in the shop was Rose. (Plus all the red Clara wears and the roses that keep appearing around her.) I want to believe that if anyone sent Clara to save the Doctor, it would be Bad Wolf/Rose. I don’t like the vibe we’re getting from Missy at all. Her look is too severe, too unkind…I don’t know. Missy reminds me very much of the Mother Superior of the Temple of Silence- who also seemed very River-ish to me…Missy seems River-ish too, in her own way…GAH. At least this episode distracted me from all the gaping issues with Twelve so far. He acted more like the Doctor I know from all the regenerations prior. I am SO grateful that Steven Moffat has not been writing these last few episodes! It shows! I know we’ll probably never get RTD level cohesiveness back, but I’m glad to have a few episodes in a row that don’t have gaping plot holes (or sheer ignorance of canon, his other big flaw).

    • Nicole Chase

      OH. 🙁

    • eswan1600

      I totally forgot about the Tardises in seige mode in “The Doctor’s Wife.” Good catch. I’ll have to go back and take a look at those.

    • Laura

      I took a look at the boxes from “The Doctor’s Wife” and firstly, they are plain glowing white, not a metallic grey with circles like that shown in this episode, and secondly, the TARDIS in siege mode here was assumedly only so tiny because of its already shrunken size, so normal-sized TARDISs in siege mode would most likely be much larger than the white boxes 11 encountered.

  • Mercia

    Yes I instantly thought of the Pandorica when I saw the siege mode Tardis. The writer has pointed out that it had Gallifrean symbols on the outside which is presumably what made Clara think of the Tardis. Great point by the way about the ‘boxes’ in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ being ‘siege mode’ Tardises. Very clever. Missy is to me definitely a sinister character and the Doctor’s enemy plotting against him in some way. I really don’t want to think she is the one who gave Clara the number of the Tardis. How would she know it? I wanted that to be River all through the last series and am still waiting for a reveal on that. But hope it doesn’t prove to be Missy, though I agree there was an element of the Mother Superior in the church of the Silence who also made me think of River. There was that line from Eleven to her when she was fighting the Dalek inside her about her having been fighting the psychopath inside her all her life which made me wonder. And I do think that the Doctor is integrating himself post regeneration (a number of the previous Doctors were decidedly unpleasant in the immediate aftermath of regeneration) and turning back into the Doctor we can love. He still has dark sides of his personality (and his capacity to lie, even if it is necessary survival skill is not I think something he is proud of) and his impatience with the ‘pudding brains’ is frequently insulting in the way Nine was about the apes crawling around on the surface of the planet. But I loved his reclaiming his role as the man who fights the monsters. It reminded me so much both of Ten’s ‘It is defended’ line to the Sycorax and his response to the question, ‘what are monsters afraid of? Me!’ in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace.’ But the other side of that of course is that line from Nietzsche, ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.’ One of things I love about Doctor Who is that get that whole complex dynamic played out in the Doctor and in what his life does to those who travel with him. Not bad for a kid’s programme!

  • Yes, I did notice the uncanny resemblance of “siege-mode TARDIS” to the Pandorica. It got my mind spinning, but I’m not making connections. #sigh

    Does Danny know that Clara is still seeing the Doctor? Because the last word I recall him saying on the matter was asking “is it done, then?” and her saying yes, then changing her mind at the last moment. When she speaks with him on the phone in this episode, I don’t believe either of them said anything to indicate whether he knew that she was with the Doctor, and when he asked her if she was okay, she lied, and more than once. I can’t help but worry and feel sad, because a) secrets, especially of this caliber, are bad news for relationships, and b) he specifically made her promise never to lie to him – which she has done at least once, now. On the one hand, I hate to see an apparently nice man like Danny strung along by someone who hasn’t enough conscience to tell him the truth, or at least feel bad about lying, and on the other hand I am hoping to see Danny burst upon the scene and make waves, over all of this. And…for it to end well, for both of them. I keep thinking back to the Ponds; Amy was the companion, but together, Amy and Rory were so much MORE. I want to see that again with Clara and Danny.

    I’m with you – I think there’s a connect with Clara’s birth, somehow. Time Lord? Or…mechanical? Has the Doctor ever scanned Clara with his screwdriver? I don’t remember him ever doing it, and the recurring connections with mechanical people has me wondering, a little.

    • OH, and yes, I need a mini-TARDIS in my life, right now. RIGHT now.

  • Karen Morti Charles

    This was a beautifully balanced episode. Humor, suspense, character development, and deep thoughts to ponder.
    I laughed often, as the tiny tardis created some great sight gags, and as Clara took on the Doctor’s role. (And when she spouted a new rule I immediately told my husband -“that’s not rule #1”!) But since rule #1 is “The Dr. lies – I suppose lying about rule #1 is a Doctor sort of thing to do?!
    Loved the hanging chair as temporary refuge – and using it to vault through the window – while chatting on the phone. But not crazy about the lying to Danny…
    The suspense was genuine throughout, with this unique monster. So creepy to see a nervous system as wall art. These impersonal monsters are the scariest to me – relentless, heartless destruction. Like the invisible, repeat-everything monster on planet Midnight, this one learned about people and grew more devious and dangerous.
    Exploring the “goodness” of the doctor was so effective in this episode. I loved seeing The Doctor see himself in Clara as she assumed his role, mirroring his actions and attitudes. Then he does the same for her in evaluating those actions with compassion.
    Capaldi’s doctor has been a little like some parents I know who speak gruffly and critically of their children – though they care about them deeply – as though overwhelmed by how much they care. Perhaps discounting the “pudding brains” is a way our 12th Doctor protects himself from the pain of caring so deeply, bless his two hearts.
    I’m in. C’mon 12th Doctor and Clara! Let’s get Danny on board and go find out what Missy is up to – it can’t be good!

  • Melchor Yanes

    that’s it , the rules are being rewritten , the doctor no longer lies, the doctor is actually brutally honest in this one.
    the rules need to change, i’m sticking with clara’s #1 rule.

  • Kiel Ledin

    This actually helped me to better understand series 8 as a whole. Thanks a ton! (also the siege mode TARDIS totally looks like a mini-pandorica)

  • Michael Boswell

    I am sorry, I did not read the past. I watched Doctor Who every week day from my 11 birthday to near my 40th. I have since got sick of it. It was an old show when I started to watch it. I think the American were saved from such a long si fi TV series.