Previously on Doctor Who: The Doctor and Clara visit the Orient Express (in space) for “one last hurrah,” which, not entirely unexpectedly, involves mysterious deaths, invisible mummies and wayward computers.
Guys. I have a small TARDIS (meant to be an ice bucket). I feel the need to get a fake hand and attach it out the doors now.
Here We Go Again
This week’s episode opens with an unknown man ringing the police. He’s frightened, but sounds a little crazy when he tells the woman on the phone that he knows who did “it.” As she’s trying to get him to clarify, he’s snatched away, and apparently sucked into the wall.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Clara that it’s OK to leave stuff on board, but she says (/lies) that even though Danny’s OK with her traveling with him, he’d probably not like it if she made herself at home. The Doctor turns off the TARDIS and says they’ve returned to the place/time she left “ish,” but soon realizes that something’s amiss. Particularly when they go to exit and find that the doors have gotten smaller. They go out the doors and realize that the entire TARDIS has actually shrunk.
The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and Clara goes into town to investigate. She runs into a memorial, and a group of men doing community service. One of them, Rigsy, begins to explain about what the memorial and art is for—a bunch of people who’ve mysteriously disappeared—when something happens back at the TARDIS. Clara returns to tell the Doctor about what she discovered, and finds that the TARDIS has gotten even smaller. Nearly pocket-sized.
The Doctor gives her the psychic paper, sonic screwdriver and an earpiece so that she can continue the investigation. She runs into Rigsy again, who takes her to an apartment from which one of the missing people disappeared. He suggests that the man might still be there, and Clara take a cue from the shrinking TARDIS when she offers that he might have shrunk. Alarms begin going off in the TARDIS, and the Doctor realizes something’s in that apartment. So they run.
Rigsy takes her to another apartment, where she tricks a police officer into believing she’s MI5. The Doctor thinks the people might be in the walls, and so offers Clara sledgehammer. She pulls it out of her purse, Mary Poppins-style, and she and Rigsy begin smashing walls. PC Forrest goes into the other room to take a call, but gets sucked into the ground by some sort of watery creature. Clara and Rigsy go into the room to look for her, but no sign of her remains—until the Doctor notices that the mural on the wall is a flattened human nervous system. A.k.a. all that remains of PC Forrest.
The creatures begin to attack, but Clara and Rigsy climb onto a swing chair. With impeccable timing, Danny calls, and Clara lies about what she’s doing. The two make it out of the room by crashing through the window.
As he’s had little to do but think while Clara totes the TARDIS around, the Doctor comes to the realization the creatures are from a universe with two dimensions, and that they’re currently trying to study our three dimensions. He also makes the connection between Clara’s call to the fact that Danny doesn’t know that Clara’s still traveling with him.
Clara and Rigsy meet up with community service crew who are about to paint over the memorial mural. The Doctor realizes that the missing people aren’t painted on the walls—they’re in the walls. They all begin to turn, and then leach into the ground and give chase.
Clara and the crew escape into a subway warehouse. The Doctor thinks the creatures have been trying to communicate, and so tries to communicate in return. The creatures reply with two numbers. The first of which is the vest number of the last man killed, and the second is the vest number of another of the crew … who dies next.
They try to escape down into the tunnels, but the creatures follow. They’ve also turned all of the handles to the doors of the escape tunnels flat. The Doctor creates a device called the 2DIS (The Toodis! So great.) It doesn’t work, however, and the creatures take that opportunity to show that they’re now able to turn 3D. The Doctor tweaks the 2DIS so that it works, and Clara and the crew make their way through a hatch, but the creatures follow.
The Doctor thinks he can send them back to their own dimension, but only if the TARDIS has more energy. One of the crewmen knocks the TARDIS out of Clara’s hands, and it tumbles down a shaft, coming to a stop on a train line. The Doctor pulls a Thing and shuffles the TARDIS out of danger. Almost.
He uses up what little energy the TARDIS has left to bump it completely out of harm’s way. But it’s gotten even smaller, and now looks an awful like a tiny Pandorica. He’s OK, but the TARDIS’s systems are failing. Clara has an idea, and has Rigsy paint a fake door on a poster. The creatures think they’re behind the poster, and so send their energy through the poster … and into the TARDIS, which is sitting behind it.
The TARDIS grows back to normal size, and the Doctor uses her to send the creatures back to their own dimension, but not before he gives a rousing speech about being the protector of this plane, and naming the creatures the Boneless.
Clara and the Doctor return the remaining crewmembers (and a train conductor they picked up along the way) back topside. After saying their goodbyes and hugging, at least with Clara, Clara and the Doctor have a bit of an argument about if she did good on her own. He says that she was a great Doctor, but that goodness doesn’t have anything to do with it.
The episode closes with our friend Missy watching the scene on a tablet, and commenting “My Clara” and “I have chosen well.”
Don’t Blink or We’ll Exterminate
This week’s villains spent most of the episode both faceless and nameless. They were creepy when they were watery creatures creeping along the walls and floors, but they got even worse when they tried to go 3D and turned into shambling examples of what looked like early attempts at CGI. Although the Doctor put them in their place but good, I would have been interested to know more about where they came from and why they were bothering humans. He did try, though, to learn more. I suppose sometimes, villains are just villainous.
The New Face
We finally learned something very important about this Doctor: His signature dance. Each iteration before him (at least since Nine) has had a moment of dance that lives in infamy. (For your viewing pleasure: Nine, Ten and Eleven.) And now, we can add this moment to that joyous list:
My favorite Doctorisms of the episode:
Doctor: “These readings are very, um, ishy.”
Doctor: “Could you just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something? I mean, they happen so rarely.”
Doctor: “My point is, in a universe as immense and bizarre as this one, you cannot be too quick to judge.”
I honestly think that last line is probably one of the most poignant things the Doctor has ever said.
Companion Annoyance Level: The Ponds
Companion Annoyance Advisory System
Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement
Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning
Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness
The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering
Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness
Clara did make for an effective leader this episode, and I think she was actually even interesting for a time, but she was—in no way—”a good Doctor.” Sure, she used her imagination, led the humans, and acted the part, but really, she was just acting on her own skills for once. They weren’t Doctor skills. I kind of can’t believe I’m saying this, but: Come on Clara, give yourself some credit for once.
There are—*sniffle*—only three episodes of series 8 left. Can you believe it? There are so many things to wrap up before Christmas. I’m not quite sure how they’re going to explain Missy/The Promised Land in only three episodes, when all we’ve gotten so far are teeny glimpses, but I suppose we’ll just have to trust in Moffat.
… regardless of how hard that can be sometimes.
But, what did you think of “Flatline”? Have you decided to hang swings in all of your rooms, just in case? And never take part in a Flat Stanley project again? Let’s discuss in the comments.