Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 9, “Flatline,” by Jamie Mathieson had so many interesting elements, I thought it was going to bring the awesome, but it never quite delivered. It didn’t make me want to throw things at my television the way “Mummy on the Orient Express” did. In fact I didn’t have any reaction at all. There is a lot to like in the setup: a graffiti artist doing community service, creepy two-dimensional monsters, The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) trapped in a shrunken TARDIS. But the episode went nowhere, and that’s largely because the last 15 minutes was lackuster.
I like the idea of Clara getting to play the Doctor, and that was the best part of the episode. The problem is that she totally handled it and came away with no better understanding of the Doctor than she had at the beginning of the episode. All the back-and-forth at the end just seemed like dialogue added to remind us that the Doctor is morally ambiguous just in case we’ve forgotten) rather than two characters having a conversation.
The biggest problem, though, was that we never learned what the two-dimensional creatures actually wanted. It’s o.k. to leave questions like that unanswered if you do it properly. It’s not o.k. to spend 10 minutes of a 50-minute episode making a big deal about the fact that the monsters might not even realize they’re hurting people and setting up a way to figure out how to communicate with them, then just drop that whole thread without an actual conversation.
There’s just not much more to say about this one. Missy spying on Clara at the end and saying “I chose well” prompted me to come up with a new crazy fan theory, though. I’ve thought all along that this season is leading up to the restoration of Gallifrey — or at least is the first stage in a longer arc that ends with the return of the Time Lords, which would be cool. I’m wondering if we’re being set up for some implausible twist which reveals that Clara is a Time Lord herself, and Jenna Coleman’s run is going to end with her bopping off to travel the universe in her own TARDIS.