Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Flatline

The TARDIS really was bigger on the inside this week but did the episode itself exceed its dimensions or did it just 'Flatline'?

'I'm the Doctor. But you can call me Clara.' 

Some Doctor Who titles say it all. No one sat down to watch last week's 'Mummy on the Orient Express' saying 'I wonder what this will be about?' This week's episode, however, sported much more nondescript nomenclature. With so little able to be gathered about the episode, it could have gone anywhere. In the end, it was one of the strongest episodes of this series, featuring a fantastic new enemy and a great use of its leading characters. 

This series is already full of fabulous monsters - The Teller, the Foretold, Skovox Blitzer (only joking) - but this week's lot (no idea what to call them - living graffiti? The muralons?) might just be the best so far. This show's already made us take notice of statues, or flickers in the corner of the eye but now we also have to watch our backs when we pass a piece of street art. Two-dimensional aliens could have felt like a hodge-podge of other monsters - a bit of Vashta Nerada, a sprinkle of Chloe Webber and her penchant for literally capturing people on paper - but it never does and the aliens come out as true original creations. Kudos to Jamie Mathieson, who has proved himself these last two weeks to be a talented Doctor Who writer. A veteran of other quirky genre shows Being Human and Dirk Gently, he clearly understands how to spin a proper Doctor Who yarn. In my books, he is welcome back any time. 

It is indicative of the extent of Clara's growth this year that an episode led by the character last series might have been a worrying concept - would she be strong enough to carry it? - but here it feels perfectly natural, and, just as the Doctor says, she made a 'mighty fine Doctor.' Speaking of the Time Lord, compared to other so-called 'Doctor-lite' episodes, he really was in it a fair amount. In reality, the episode was more of a role reversal for the two - even down to the fact that the Doctor gets to chastise Clara for her lack of 'goodness.' Is this the start of a slippery slope for Clara? Will she be able to climb back up? With the finale only weeks away, we may find out soon enough...

This has been one of those reviews that has turned into a string of praise but there were simply so many moments to relish this week. The Doctor acting like Thing from The Addams Family when pulling the tiny TARDIS away from the train tracks. The rather Looney Tunes method of fooling the aliens (remember Wile E Coyote drawing a fake door in a mountain to trick Road Runner?). Even the 'phoning home' segments of this episode had much more of a purpose than last week, embellishing the idea of Clara's 'cheating' on Danny. The bottom line is, though it was at first as hazy as the nature of this week's ambiguous aliens, 'Flatline' turned out to be anything but flat.

You know when people say paintings follow you around the room? Apparently it's the same with graffiti...

Next Week: 'Tyger, Tyger burning bright/ In the forests of the night...' William Blake's famous poem comes true when trees sprout up overnight in next Saturday's episode of Doctor Who. 

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