Monday, 20 October 2014

Flatline - Review

We had seen the photos from the location shoot - of the little TARDIS at Barry Island and the Doctor climbing out of it. Despite this, I still laughed out loud when we saw the scene on screen.
The ship has been shrunk in size before - and usually the occupants are shrunk with it (Planet of Giants being the obvious example). It's an idea that goes right back to a potential first story back in 1963. Here, the imagery of the tiny TARDIS and a full size Doctor is one of the great things about Flatline. The face peeking out - like someone looking through their letter box - and the hand popping out, giving items to Clara, were all wonderful images. Best of all was the Thing-like way the Doctor moved the ship out of the path of the on-coming train. That's Addams Family Thing.
For a Doctor-lite story, Capaldi had some great material to work with. Despite being stuck in the tiny ship, he communicates with Clara throughout, so you don't feel he's sidelined at all. Then there was that little dance he gave. And "The Man Who Stops The Monsters" scene once the TARDIS has been restored to its proper size is this Doctor's first proper rousing moment.
This is a much less abrasive performance from Capaldi. Less heartless. Furious only when he finally confronts the aliens and expels them - having given them every chance.
The way that the Doctor is sidelined in this works far better than the way in which Clara was sidelined last week, despite both stories being written by the same author - Jamie Mathieson. He's proving to be quite a find for the programme.
Clara gets to be the Doctor this week - even wielding the sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper (which apparently does not work on people with no imagination - probably why the Doctor never tries it on the monsters). Jenna Coleman is great again this week. She - and her character - have been so much better this series. Once again, Danny only appears during the course of a phone-call. The Doctor has now discovered that Clara has lied to Danny - so she can't take the moral high ground any more - the way she has done recently.
The two-dimensional aliens were very well realised - first as snake-like tendrils then as warped versions of their human victims. The Doctor names them the Boneless.
The deaths are quite disturbing. Compare with Series 2's Fear Her, where people are going missing from another housing estate. That had zero atmosphere, and was cloyingly sentimental. This was never going to be like that.
Joivan Wade's Rigsy is the surrogate companion. Christopher Fairbank (old meanie Fenton) was one of those characters you expect to see meet a dreadful fate, but - like Rikston Slade in Voyage of the Damned - somehow manages to survive.
The rest of the Community Service gang were obviously there merely as Boneless-fodder. A shame as Matt Bardock certainly deserved a better role.
Overall, a great little episode, with some wonderful imagery, creepy monsters, and a much less abrasive Doctor / Clara relationship - mainly because the plot separated them so quickly.
The series story arc moved on just a little - Missy seems to have selected Clara for her, as yet unknown, scheme.
Next week - tigers and wolves, and trees. Lots and lots of trees.

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