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17 October 2014

DWO’s Spoiler-free preview of episode 8.9: Flatline:

 

Since Doctor Who was revived in 2005, most seasons have featured a cheaper episode, to free up money for more expensive sequences in the other stories of that year, and a ‘Doctor-Lite’ episode, in which the Doctor’s involvement is paired right back, allowing the regular cast to work on two episodes simultaneously, and ensure that there’s enough footage in the can for our Saturday nights. Flatline is perhaps unusual, as it feels in some ways like both a cheaper episode and a ‘Doctor-lite’ adventure… but it’s not really either.

 

The episode has clearly been designed to only require two-or-three days filming from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, confining him largely to the TARDIS, but his presence is absolutely vital throughout. You never get the sense that this is in any way ‘Doctor-lite’, even though it fits the brief of being so. Of course, this does mean that Jenna Colemen gets a real chance to show us what she’s made of this week - leading the adventure and taking charge of the guest characters to investigate a mystery and save the day. It would, perhaps, be fairer to call this episode ‘Clara-heavy’.

 

Our ‘hook’ this week can perhaps be boiled down to just two words - ‘Killer Graffiti’. While the concept of the paintings being such a sinister presence through the episode could lead to comparisons with the 2006 episode Fear Her, the story here is different enough to stand on its own two feet, and manages to make the concept rather terrifying in places. How can you escape from something that can follow you through the walls, the furniture, and the floors?

 

But Flatline isn’t really about the Killer Graffiti at all - it’s an examination of the Doctor’s character, his true character that we’ve been seeing more and more of this season, now that he’s ‘lifted the veil’. Picking up on the themes of episodes like Kill the Moon, in which Clara gets to see what it’s like having to make a big decision on behalf of millions, or Mummy on the Orient Express, where she learns how you have to handle people to get the best from them in ‘end of the world’ situations, this story is about again letting her get inside the Doctor’s head, and have a taste of what it’s like to really be him.

 

As has become standard for the programme this year, the Direction is simply beautiful, and there’s some lovely locations on display. Filming in Bristol has allowed a slightly different feel to the Cardiff exteriors we’ve become so used to over the years, and this story does stand out from the pack in this respect. Sadly, the special effects are more of a mixed bag this time around - with some elements looking absolutely fantastic, while some other areas could do with a little more work, and seem more distracting than enjoyable.

 

A vital episode for the narrative of Series 8, a chance for the regulars to shine (as always), a simple concept twisted into interesting new directions… but perhaps an episode which is less than the sum of its parts.

 

Five things to look out for:


1)
“Are we really hiding from Killer Graffiti?”

2) “Don’t give me an ‘ish’.”
3) “I’m the Doctor. Doctor Oswald… But you can call me Clara.”
4) There’s a hint about how much the TARDIS actually weighs.
5) “Lying is a vital survival skill.”

 

[Sources: DWO; Will Brooks]

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