Doctor Who – Flatline Review (or “The Tagline ‘The Golden Age Express Trundles On’ Would Have Worked Better Last Week”)

Last year on December 26th, I wrote my review of Time of the Doctor and my final thoughts on the Matt Smith Era.

In those two articles, I was pretty clear in my thoughts; Steven Moffat had to go.

Examples of  lines used in those articles include…

“The big problem with Matt Smith’s era is Steven Moffat. He’s just not a very good show-runner.” and “Do I want this to be the end of Steven Moffat in charge of Doctor Who? Yes.”

And I feel I was justified in saying that. Matt Smith’s final season was easily the sixth worst of all time, which is incredible when you think about how much more money and effort is spent on the show these days, and how much more talent there is supposed to be on the creative side of things.

Yet there it was; episode after episode of dreariness.

I did write something else in that article though. In it, I said to future readers – in the event of Moffat staying on for another year – ” …if he got his act together to make the next season amazing, then chuckle with hindsight”.

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs "Kilroy Was Here" written on it

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs “Kilroy Was Here” written on it

Well it’s time to chuckle with hindsight, because against all expectations, that’s exactly what he’s done.

So far this season, we’ve had two decent episodes, one poor one and then a run of five crackers in a row.

It seems almost unfeasible that we could have six. That would put it up there with some of the best runs the show has ever had.

It would get people considering it a Golden Age.

So there’s a lot of pressure on Flatline to be good then…

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: What’s This One About?

2D Monsters attack Bristol, and the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS

Thoughts – To Start With A Criticism

Well I’ll start with my one big criticism of Flatline.

Put simply, the monsters were too easily defeated.

Now I can understand why that was the case; this was an episode based around the idea of the Doctor being trapped and Clara filling in for him. To centre the story around that meant that time could not be devoted to the Doctor hatching a plan to defeat them, and

This guy wouldn't have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

This guy wouldn’t have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

it was also unfeasible for Clara to be the one to send them packing.

So what could the writer do? Probably not much else.

And while our hero saved the day and Clara had her own victory by being the one to bring the TARDIS back from the brink, it just ended up making it feel like the 2D monsters were no match for the Doctor.

Now you could argue that this means the monsters are so weak that any return for them would be unfeasible – after all, if the Doctor hadn’t been trapped, it would have been over in two minutes – but why would they need to come back again anyway? One story with them is enough.

Overall though, that was a relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, and once again another highly enjoyable episode has been delivered.

And Now To The Praise

Yup, Flatline is another quality story.

In particular, what I liked about it this week was the freshness of ideas.

It’s not just that writer Jamie Mathieson has come up with completely new ideas for the show – like the 2D monsters – but he’s also taken previously used ideas like the psychic paper and the Doctor being stuck in the TARDIS and made them feel reinvigorated. It’s a remarkable thing for a writer to achieve at this point in the show’s life, and it’s definitely something he deserves a massive amount of praise for.

Already, fans are throwing his name into the hat as a potential new show runner – which is a huge relief because a year ago the best picks were Gatiss, Whithouse or even Hinchcliffe again – and it’s something I would agree with, but I think people are forgetting that it appears as though there’s life in Moffat’s reign yet.

Either way though, it’s great to have such a talented writer delivering enjoyable scripts for the show; everyone benefits from that.

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

And it’s not just the freshness of ideas that made those scripts enjoyable, but it was also the tone.

At times during Flatline there appeared to be a sense of serious urgency that the show has perhaps missed for the last wee while. I think the reason for that is largely down to the setting. While last week, there was some level of urgency, as a viewer, I think I was more disconnected from it because of where it was set. Having a mummy attack people in fancy dress aboard a train in space doesn’t have that same sense of familiarity about it as two-dimensional creatures living inside walls and sewers in contemporary Bristol.

So that was great, and what made it even more great was that in amongst that seriousness, there was still plenty for the viewer the chuckle at, and it was done in such a way that didn’t detract from the overall tone.

All that adds up to Flatline being another rousing success. Long may it continue.

Random Observations

  • This is yet another story that presents Clara in powerful way. Here, she is the Doctor, and as the Doctor says, she was “exceptional”. Much like the turnaround in Steven Moffat’s abilities, I still can’t quite get over how much my perception of Clara has changed in the space of a year.
  • I like that the Doctor impressed upon her though that goodness had nothing to do with it though.
  • The Missy cliffhanger was a bit of a game-changer. I’m keen to know where they are going with that.
  • My brother seemed to get awfully excited upon hearing the noise the TARDIS console made when the Doctor opened the doors remotely. I can’t say I was blown away by it, but hey, whatever floats his boat, eh?
  • But seriously though, there can’t have been made times in Modern Who where the TARDIS doors have been opened from the console?
  • Among the most amusing parts of today’s episode were the Doctor moving the TARDIS by hand, and him passing Clara a sledgehammer from her handbag,
  • The special effects for the 2D monsters were mostly good, but perhaps a little hit and miss. I thought the scene in the living room looked excellent, as did the bit where the door handle was made 3D, but the movement of the aliens near the final confrontation seemed less impressive.
  • The part played by Christopher Fairbank would have been ideal for John “LiH’sen Chang” Bennett, but unfortunately he’s dead. Them’s the breaks, I’m afraid.

    If you're anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you. But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

    If you’re anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you.
    But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

  • I’m assuming this was really a “Doctor-lite” episode and we just weren’t supposed to know it?
  • Characters in TV and Film who die for the sake of it is one of my bugbears. There’s no need for people to give up their lives in that sort of “Oh just leave; I’m happy to die here even though there must be a simple way for us both to escape” way and yet it happens time and time again. I like how the scene on the train addressed that.
  • In my review of Kill the Moon, I noted that I hadn’t picked up on the abortion subtext, but even I couldn’t miss the nod to Banksy in Flatline. A graffiti artist in Bristol called Rigsy? Yup…I spotted it. Well done me.
  • For no good reason, I got sidetracked writing this review by a sudden desire to watch the Budweiser “Wazuuuuuup” adverts from 2000 on youtube. So while you read this, roll back the years and give me a “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup” for good measure.
  • Danny only seemed to be in this episode to remind us he still exists, although it looks like he’ll play a bigger part next week, judging by the trailer.
  • This is yet another story I could imagine involving McCoy and Aldred. Weird.
  • I’ve not mentioned Capaldi yet. Awesome as usual.
  • I thought a good title for this review would be “The Golden Age Express Trundles On”. And it is, although it occurs to me it would have worked better last week considering the episode was set on a fucking train!! Oh Stuart, you do come up with good ideas at the wrong time.

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: Final Thoughts

Last week when I watched the Next Time trailer for Flatline, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for it, and I based that purely because of where it was set. To me it looked a bit dull.

So I didn’t expect this run of quality episodes to continue.

But it did.

Since Doctor Who came back in 2005, consistency has been hard to achieve, and yet here we are with an extraordinary sixth hit in a row.

We’re in a Golden Age folks.

And now that I’ve said that. just wait for it to come crashing down next week.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said this week, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.

Also, if you’re on Facebook, remember to “Like” Stuart Reviews Stuff to keep up with all my articles.

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3 Responses to Doctor Who – Flatline Review (or “The Tagline ‘The Golden Age Express Trundles On’ Would Have Worked Better Last Week”)

  1. Flynn Sullivan says:

    Hey, it’s Grumpyface here again. 🙂
    Yeah, I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed Mathieson’s episodes(well, I enjoyed Mummy and meh’d Flatline).
    I won’t take back anything I said before because at least half of Series 8 is still boring bollocks in my eyes, but I have the same faith in Capaldi as you do.

    Tell me you didn’t cheer inside when he went “nosy Parker!” That was genius.

  2. I have to agree with you, Stuart. I wanted Moffat to go so badly the last couple of years, so much so that I stopped watching Doctor Who altogether. And yet here we are; Series 8 (aside from Deep Breath) is so much better and Capaldi is just excellent. I just hope it continues for the last few episodes.

  3. Afraid I can’t agree with you on the Golden Age thing. Kill the Moon was just way too problematic for me to put it in one under your criteria. As for Flatline it was alright but I find it’s a bit overrated, kinda like Mummy but that one not as much (that 66 seconds thing keeps your interest), people were giving Mathieson too much credit I think. Gotta say looking back there were a lot of consistency issues with the characters as well and that they just weren’t able to properly convey some of the arcs correctly. Missy is the winner of this season hands down and long may she reign.

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