DOCTOR WHO - Flatline Review

Pocket sized Christopher Morley takes a cheap day return to Bristol to bring us his review of Flatline.

One of the things we & indeed the Doctor have taken for granted is turned on its head as the starting point of Flatline- its always been presumed that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside as painstakingly explained to Leela by the Fourth Doctor & then remarked upon several times during his subsequent incarnations...

But what if it shrunk? And what if the Doctor wasn't even able to be the Doctor in a conventional sense? There's surely only one person who could save the day- a companion who'd been allowed to shape his life more than any other.

That's right, the Impossible Girl has to do the previously unthinkable & actually metaphorically become him! At least she's armed with the trusty sonic screwdriver, which has undergone more than a few remodels since its d├ębut in Fury From The Deep as well as the advice of the Doctor himself. Just the job when there's something in the walls that's killing people.........not to mention mucking about with the relative dimensions of things. If you're an art student, as Peter Capaldi once was it seems there'll be plenty to enjoy here. And all without the need to invest in a massive scarf & a ticket to Paris!

But why is it doing it, & why are its victims subsequently appearing as a form of living graffiti? It doesn't have a name or a physical form, & there are no previous records of it for the TARDIS to go on. The nearest approximation is most likely something similar to what the Tenth Doctor was up against in Fear Her. Of course, the Isolus could give the drawings of Chloe Webber life- whatever it is that's menacing Bristol here is seeking to master the art of three-dimensional living. It leaves crude scribbles of its victims made from their own innards, too. Bet Banksy never tried that! And it would certainly have made the late Tony Hart a bit sick, you'd imagine.

What we're facing then is almost a literal art attack! Not even Neil Buchanan stands a chance if the Doctor can't get to grips with what's going on, you might think. Think again. Clara is surely striking a blow against anyone who's ever said future incarnations of the Doctor shouldn't be female ( including an actual former Doctor in the shape of Peter Davison...
"I’ll probably get into trouble for saying this but I think it sort of has to be a man. If you suddenly make the Doctor a woman, you effectively say, “Well, let’s give him a sex change” and I don’t think that works."
Although she still has the 'proper' Time Lord in her ear offering input at selected points, she still has to use her own initiative. And how does she do it? By drawing on her experience of her travels with the Doctor to work out how he would act in the situation & tempering her own actions accordingly. Simple if you think about it!

And it's by such means that the 'proper' Doctor is able to escape the confines of his shrunken TARDIS- he's remained full size while 'Sexy' is now about as big as the toys you see kids, & probably Steven Moffatt, playing with. If it's one from the showrunner's personal toybox, we hope Jamie Mathieson was very careful with it! Perhaps he earned the right to borrow it by establishing himself as a promising new writer, having also penned Mummy On The Orient Express? Careful though, Jamie- should you fail Steven keeps you to use in his games forever!

Popping back to the 'could the Doctor ever be a woman' theme, what does the Moff make of the idea? Speaking at this year's Hay Festival he said
"I don't know why I'm the one who gets the grief for this. I'm the one who put the dialogue into the show to say it can happen. ( see The Doctor's Wife). Do you know how it will happen? It will not happen that somebody sits down and says we must turn the Doctor into a woman. That is not how you cast the Doctor. A person will pop into the showrunner's head and they'll think. 'Oh, my God, what if it was that person?' And when that person is a woman, that's the day it will happen. Casting is the dark arts of television. It is everything. That decision is central and absolute to everything you do. It's the difference between a television programme and a sensation. So you don't mess around with that; you don't cast for any other reason than for passion and for aesthetics. It's not a political decision, it's an aesthetic decision and will always be."
The BBC's Director of Television Danny Cohen is believed to be a fan of the idea of giving a lady the key to the TARDIS- asked at the same event whether he thought it would or should happen he simply answered “I hope so.” though he steered clear of putting a time-scale on the event.

Inevitably Jenna Coleman's performance here as 'Doctor Clara' might get the debate going again, with the flipside that people might presume the whole thing is hard-line evidence that Ms Oswald is having too much of a say in shaping in the Doctor. Appearing to the frightened young First Doctor in that barn on Gallifrey, influencing the older one to pinch the TARDIS in the first place then saving him from the Great Intelligence across his time-line & persuading him to act as an agent of change in the outcome of the Time War.

Just who does she think she is? There's also the mystery of her implied relationship to Missy, the mysterious Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere/demented Mary Poppins lookalike. Indeed if you listen closely to Feed The Birds you'll note a reference to St Paul's...

...which just happens to be the scene of The Invasion...

...and of course Series Eight's big finale Dark Water/Death In Heaven. Think about it- she carries a transdimensional handbag, & that umbrella of hers could easily be a sonic screwdriver...............and with his little jig at the end there the Doctor just might find himself an unwilling Bert, left to curse the fancy footwork he seems to have lost since his Ninth incarnation!

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