Flatline is in my humble opinion is an almost perfect episode of NuWho, join me now as I take you on a journey through my own, opinionated review, of just what makes this episode so darn good, and how it recalls the hits and misses of the past.
After and Before.
In many ways Flatline is both a sequel and a prequeal, to two other episodes, the truly, cringeworthy David Tennant era story, Fear Her, and the Series 9 story, Face the Raven.
It’s hard for me to believe, that an episode as embarrassing as Fear Her, should get a name check not once, but twice in my reviews.
(see Robots of Sherwood, for earlier reference)
Flatline and Fear Her share a common thread of DNA, not only in the idea that images and drawings can in some way be sentient, but also as the companions (Rose in Fear Her) and Clara in Flatline. take the lead in the narratives.
However, as discussed previously in my Robots of Sherwood review, where Fear Her and Flatline differ is in their approach.
From the earliest days of Doctor Who, humour has always been an important ingredient into exactly why this peculiar sci-fi show works.
Humour however is subjective, a mercurial subject, which is closely related to tone.
The tone in the episode Flatline is perfect, the humour is used to diffuse the scarier parts of the story, and later dispensed with completely when a darker, more serious tone is required.
Clara herself acts as an excellent barometer for this change in tone, her wise cracking becoming less and less frequent, as the events and responsibility begin to weigh more heavily upon her.
Flatline is an excellent example of how a story can be both funny and scary at the same time, if the writing is reflexive enough to respond to the change in tone.
If Flatline is an almost perfect example of how to blend comedy and fear together, then Fear Her is a leason in how, not to do it.
Unlike Flatline, Fear Her doesn’t really know the story it wants to tell, is it a whimsical, tale of everyday horror, sweetened with a dose of magical realisim, or is it a story about domestic violence and child abuse…
Because Fear Her tries to have it’s cake both ways, in terms of tone, it fails miserably in the endeavour, and has rightfully earned the reputation of one of NuWho’s worst stories.
Enough of Fear Her, already.
As mentioned previously, Flatline in many ways can also be seen as a prequel to the Series 9 episode, Face the Raven.
Clara’s success at being ‘The Doctor’ in Flatline is a story thread that will go on to be picked up again in the finale of Series 8, and will also eventually lead to the eventual fate of her character.
Because while there are a lot of deaths in Flatline, Clara does manage to get most everybody home, save the world mostly on her own, and save The Doctor and The Tardis, not bad for a days work, or a human.
The end of Series 8 will see Clara’s life touched by a tragedy outside her control, so it’s no great surprise that when her character returns in Series 9, she has abandoned the idea of control in favour of taking on a far more ‘devil may care’ persona, closer to that of The Doctor, than the Clara we have grown to know over Series 7b and 8.
Flatline, lays the foundation stone in Clara’s mind at least, that being The Doctor is almost easy.
All of Space and Time.
It may sound strange, but with a series like Doctor Who, it’s often easy to forget that you literally have all of space and time to play with, Flatline does not forget this fact.
It is as visually and impressive an episode as the Classic Who story, The Mind Robber, and will certainly go down, in my book, as one of the best looking episodes of NuWho.
The visuals of this episode, and the nature of the aliens featured, add to the fear factor, with door handles being flattened, and humans being dissected inside the very walls that surround them.
I am happy to give Flatline a 10 out of 10.
I urge anyone reading this, to put this episode at the very top of their re-watch list.
I am also going to suggest that you partner this episode with either Fear Her or Face the Raven, as Flatline acts as great partner to these very different episodes.
Point that thing all you like Clara, your outfit ist still getting a thumbs down.
While I love Clara’s jacket and jeans, the checked shirt just reminds me too much of Amy’s red check shirt of doom. In fact this whole look seems a little too late Series 6/7b Amy Pond, for me.
This is not a Clara Oswald look.