Given the natural progression that’s occurred this series concerning Clara, the events of ‘Flatline’ should’ve been obvious – Clara having to, albeit briefly, don the mantle of The Doctor, with a willing companion and a group of tag alongs to boot. Whether it was predictable or not, boy was it enjoyable. Of course, this owes much to the continually stellar work of Jenna Coleman, but also in this instalment to exceptionally savvy writing by Jamie Mathieson, managing to infect the script with as many moments of Doctor-y-ness from Clara as possible.
On the subject of ‘how hasn’t this been done before’ – 2D monsters! The concept at the heart of ‘Flatline’ was such a brilliantly simple premise that it’s a relief it was in the hands of a capable writer; the idea of people being sucked into the walls and of creatures trying to escape into 3D, could easily have turned out badly. The direction one might have suspected it would’ve gone in – revealing that the 2D people had been there since the dawn of time, in wall art ranging from the Egyptians to Banksy – was ultimately well off the mark, replaced instead with the far more emotionally resonant idea of a species trying to evolve.
The one downside was how formulaic the resolution ended up being – a typical bombastic soundtrack accompanying The Doctor banishing the villains face to face – but it was covered for by the fact that everything else worked brilliantly. The cast were all fleshed out far more than the norm – from the Community Support manager who never hides his disdain for his subjects, to the train driver who’s “always wanted to ram something”. The creepy effect used for the 3D animated zombies was usurped only by the brilliant use of perception to show George had been killed – a shot of him, seemingly okay, only for the camera to rotate to show he was now 2D, embedded on the surfaces behind him.
The way The Doctor listened in as he was impersonated was a highlight, with Clara immediately going against The Doctor’s instruction ‘not to be him’, running wild with her freedom to do exactly that. Coleman certainly fit the role well; her and The Doctor’s simultaneous reaction to the Psychic Paper failing was amusing, as were her not-so-subtle digs at The Doctor’s modus operandi throughout the episode.
Meanwhile, we got yet another tease of Missy at the end. It’s certainly an intriguing arc, but only because we still know very little about her or her plans. Presumably all will be revealed in the final two-parter.
Next week: A Coal Hill school trip takes a slight detour…