"Does this mean I'm you now?"
There are factions of Doctor Who fandom who are not altogether happy with the role of the, supposed, 'assistant'. It's been a growing concern for some since the series returned in 2005, and currently they really aren't happy that Clara has been built up to be as important (some say more so) and central to the series as the Doctor himself.
Those people are not going to like Flatline that much.
For the rest of us though, it's another cracking episode in what is now surely the strongest series Doctor Who has delivered since its revival.
Clara-haters, please try and contain your feelings for 45 minutes and at least attempt to enjoy this one. It's either stay with Clara for this adventure in Bristol or go and enjoy some "classic park action" with Danny Pink - and really, none of us fancy the sound of that do we?
Without getting too spoilerific, Flatline does see Clara doing the brunt of the work, and has been touted by many as the 'Doctor-lite' episode of the series. Well it is, and it isn't. More so the latter in all honesty. Because Peter Capaldi is very much there most of the time... just not in the traditional sense. However the Doctor does like to throw his companions in at the deep end, so what we really have is Clara walking a mile in his shoes and finding they are quite big boots to fill. But if anyone can handle it, it's Doctor Oswald.
Plus, you can say what you like about the character but it's hard to argue against Jenna Coleman's acting ability. She delivers her A-game pretty much each and every week, and Flatline is no exception. And let's not forget who she's acting opposite - it's only bloody Peter Capaldi! An actress of lessor ability would be lost against him, heck he'll outshine most people, so for Miss Coleman to steal the show occasionally is no mean feat. If the gender roles were reversed in the series she'd make a mighty fine Doctor, we should applaud her for that and enjoy the fact that we have a pair of first rate actors in consistently high quality episodes week after week.
Flatline is most definitely one of those high quality episodes, and it certainly continues the new dark era of the Doctor. Initially the story feels very Steven Moffat-ishy, and one can't help but wonder how much input he's had into Jamie Mathieson's script. But Moffat tinkering or not, it works! What we have is quite a disturbing tale with some very creepy 'monsters', packed full of clever ideas, which really do pay off well. All in all Flatline feels like very British pre-watershed horror, ably brought to the screen by director Douglas Mackinnon - who makes it three for three this year after the mighty impressive Listen and Time Heist. Here's hoping that both Mackinnon and Mathieson return for series 9.
If there's one quibble from me it is that, not for the first time this year, the guest stars seem a little underused, with many of them really there as fodder. But this is a real minor point, and of course that does not apply to veteran actor Christopher Fairbank, who, as Fenton, gives us a great character to despise.
Flatline builds and builds (and shrinks and shrinks), and keeps you engrossed throughout. It's an episode which gets better as it goes on and finishes in an interesting place. Whilst maybe not the best episode of the series, Flatline is really not far off.
Flatline premieres Saturday 18th October at 8.25pm on BBC One.