As the first series of Twelfth Doctor stories powers towards its conclusion, we had Flatline, a second story for Jamie Mathieson (who wrote the previous Mummy on the Orient Express). This is the one story per season where the Doctor does little leaving the action to his companion, Clara. Does Clara make a good Doctor?
Let’s find out…
Arriving in Bristol instead of London the TARDIS falls under a dimensional attack. As the TARDIS shrinks the Doctor ends up trapped inside leaving Clara on the outside to be the Doctor! She is armed with psychic paper, sonic and a now portable TARDIS. From inside the Doctor can monitor Clara via an ear/optic nerve gizmo.
As Clara explores she meets a group of community service workers cleaning graffiti. One of the workers is Rigsy (an ersatz companion for Clara, played by Joivan Wade) and the supervisor Fenton (a disgrace specimen of humanity played by Christopher Fairbank). Exploring Clara finds out people are vanishing and lots of new graffiti of ordinary people has appeared on tunnel walls.
Of course there is an alien threat and this time its the Boneless a two-dimensional life form intent on breaking into our world and draining the TARDIS as they do. There follows lots of running, special effects and a new siege mode for the TARDIS. Another train sneaks into the story and allows Clara some great moments with both Rigsy and the driver, Bill (James Quinn).
Clara tricks the Boneless into re-charging the TARDIS and allows for an almost desu ex machina ending with the sonic back in the hands of the Doctor as his magic wand. All ends well (apart from the dead, the missing train and Fenton’s attitude). In passing Danny gets lied to and the Doctor pronounces Clara an exceptional Doctor, but not a good one!
As we digest that the action switched to Missy and a reveal…
I liked a lot of this story though it does suffer a bit from dodgy science. In general a new story can have one new idea and the 2D alien is a staple of classic science fiction. It is also not clear how they could evolve in such a simple context, nor why they pop up in Bristol having suddenly grasped 3D and decided to invade. There is a major absence of cause and effect, something Doctor Who often suffers from. Where was the strange experiment that led to the dimensional crossover? Why did this just happen right now in Bristol? I did like the use of Bristol as a location though.
Visually this story has some of the creepiest effects and the Boneless are very scary. A nice sequence on the train and the whole claustrophobia of the tunnels worked well. Much as in Mummy I again found the supporting characters very shallow. In some respects they are all as flat as the Boneless themselves. The writing tried to bring Rigsy to life but I couldn’t buy into his attempt at sacrifice. The train driver did work though!
The series arc
So, Missy chose Clara? What is this all about? Is Missy a regeneration of the Doctor from the future? The future Valeyard? Something completely different? My money’s on the last of these!