Doctor Who: – Flatline by John Rivers (TV review).

October 24, 2014 | By | Reply More

Later than planned, this is the spoiler-filled review of Doctor Who’s ninth episode in the current series ‘Flatline’. If you haven’t seen the episode then I strongly recommend checking out Geoff’s article here For those that have seen it, please read on…


Where you watch an episode of ‘Doctor Who’ can often add a different slant to how you see it. I watched the episode in Bristol, my friend and I scratched our heads over which part of Bristol this was featuring. Bristol loves street art and the odd murals, that turn out to be things like human skin and the nervous system seemed to suit the houses that we were shown. There are certainly no underground trains of that description in the city and ‘Brunswick’ the name of the line that Clara, Rigsy and Fenton escape to, is the name of a square and shopping centre in Bloomsbury, London. My guess is that Jamie Mathieson’s script may have originally been set in the capital. It’s not Bristol, most of the location filming was carried out on Barry Island.


What can be said about Mathieson’s script is that this is another triumph for a show that hasn’t been on this great form since the 2005 revival run. This is ‘Fear Her’ done properly. Unlike that 2006 story when Rose happens to glance up at a creepy little girl staring at her from a window two minutes into the story and therefore telling you exactly what’s caused the disappearances, the Doctor and Clara actually approach the discovery and the defeat of the Boneless like a murder mystery. ‘Like one of those locked room things in books’, says Rigsy, who clearly spent his early years practicing graffiti and not watching ‘Jonathan Creek’. Joivan Wade who plays Rigsy, does a great job of communicating the sense of apathy with estate life and the escape his graffiti work provides. His antagonist is the suitably bigoted and repellent Fenton, played by Christopher Fairbank, seems to have more trouble holding down a Bristolian accent than he did a Scouse one in ‘Auf Widersehen, Pet’.

With the Doctor trapped inside a tiny TARDIS, it’s down to Clara to take on his role, solve the mystery and save the human race. Jenna Coleman, who has spent this season going from strength-to-strength and taken the lead more than once now excels at this. She brandishes the sonic screwdriver, motivates her companions, lies to them when necessary and comes up with a clever way to restore a powered-down TARDIS. The Doctor though, while impressed at her resourcefulness, is grimly reluctant to encourage her along this path. He knows both the weight of responsibility and danger that could lie ahead. There’s also probably a lot of guilt remaining over the artificially created Doctor-Donna and what that did to his friend.


Peter Capaldi once again is a joy to watch, with only his ‘man who stops the monsters!’ line coming across as a little flat. His dance over moving the TARDIS and creating a pun to name a gizmo are both a joy. His admission that if the TARDIS were to land on Earth with its true weight it would shatter the surface of the planet just reminded the audience of what an extraordinary machine the TARDIS is. Capaldi delivers the line breathlessly and brilliantly. Doug Mackinnon once again seems to be able to tread the line between comedy and horror well. The snatching of one of the doomed Community Service team by a huge fist made me jump and the Boneless themselves, in half-formed zombie mode were very creepy. Equally the Doctor passing Clara a large mallet and her timing of ‘Apparently, they’re in the walls’ was very funny. To my mind, the show always works best like this.

There were plenty of other in-jokes to enjoy too. The train with Pixar’s ubiquitous A113 designation (named after a classroom that animation students such as Brad Bird studied in and thus often crops up in Pixar’s films and shows like ‘The Simpsons’) seems to have been placed by the FX team. Meanwhile, for those of us who remember Jeff Brown’s children’s book ‘Flat Stanley’, it was amusing to see one of the Community Service team who gets dragged into the wall was called Stan.

The show is, for me at least, a pleasure to watch every week again. I look forward to it and watch each episode twice. This hasn’t been the case for quite a few years. While many seem to disagree, I feel that this is the best run of ‘Doctor Who’ in a long time and until it delivers something distinctly below average, I will keep telling people that they should be watching.

© John Rivers 2014

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