Sunday, October 19, 2014

When the Doctor Was Me

Review/Recap of Doctor Who, 8.09 "Flatline" - Spoilers!

Character development marches on! (I eat this up with a spoon, I tell you!)

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at work yesterday (being Saturday before I had the chance to actually watch "Flatline") - this friend hadn't yet had a chance to see much of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi beyond "Deep Breath" (time constraints and life getting in the way - you know how it is) and he still wasn't sure what to think of the Twelfth Doctor. And truly, so far in Series 8 - even for those of us who've kept on top of the show - I don't think anyone really knows what to think of him. He doesn't even have a theme tune in the background music (I'm not talking about the main Doctor Who theme - I mean there is not Twelfth Doctor character theme, like Eleven had "I Am the Doctor" and Ten had... something that I can't remember the name of right now. But he had a special theme). This season has been all about the Doctor finding his feet in this new regeneration - even beyond the initial regeneration episode. "Am I a good man?" is the theme of Series 8 and, again, it's evident in this episode.

It's strange that I picked up on this here, given that this is supposed to be a "Doctor-lite" episode (well, as much as "The Girl Who Waited" was a Doctor-lite episode - they're getting very creative in how they do these double-banked things). The Doctor is pretty much sidelined in this story, which means that Clara has to do most of the heavy lifting as far saving the world goes. That is a lot of trust that the Doctor is putting in Clara. Yes, he's trusted her before - the situation in "Kill the Moon" comes to mind (...eeeesh... that's a bad example, isn't it?) - but here, he has to stick by her side. He gives her the sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper. He even gives her his title (more or less) so she can speak with authority and get done what needs to be done. Clara is certainly capable of taking on this responsibility - even if it's just in terms of taking charge and being the leader. The best moment of this was when she got Rigsy out of the train and mocked up the train controls with her headband so he didn't have to be driving the train to ram the Boneless in whatever they were doing.

I See The Stars Through a Mirror

More or less, this story is about reflection. Clara reflects what she has seen the Doctor do - she follows his example in solving the problem of the people in two-dimensions. And she does some pretty tough and ruthless stuff. Stuff that the Doctor is all at once impressed, surprised, and taken aback by. It's strange seeing someone else emulate you - even moreso when you realize that what they're doing isn't exactly what you would want them to do, but all they're doing is following your lead. Which is exactly what the Doctor tells Clara to do - gives her the sonic and the psychic paper and says "You have to be the Doctor." Clara is thrilled by the prospect. The Doctor... not so much. Not because of his ego or anything like that - but because he doesn't want Clara to have to make those kinds of decisions. The kinds of decisions that ultimately mean that he has to pass judgment on the Boneless and send them back to their dimension. Even though they were going to destroy everything and he was saving the entire world - it doesn't ever get any easier.

Even in his moment epic moment - declaring that he is the man who makes the monsters go away and that this plane of existence is protected - the Doctor is not pleased with himself. He does not want to have to do these things. Clara is proud of him, though. And maybe that's all he needs.

Killer Graffiti (Sounds Like a Band Name)

Dressing up this lovely character study of the Doctor (I love how many of these we've had this year, by the way) - is this incredibly creative and engaging story of the TARDIS shrinking and two-dimensional creatures killing everyone. I can't be the only one who's wondered what would happen if "Bigger on the Inside" became so much bigger that the occupants of the TARDIS couldn't get out. That would have been a fun story on its own. But then this story throws in another oddity to explore - that of the idea of a race that only lives in two dimensions. How would we interact and communicate? Even the Doctor tries to do so peacefully at first - but it turns out that the Boneless are simply interested in experimenting in a destructive way and not co-existing at all. Well - fine. The TARDIS is all about multiple dimensions - she can blast those creatures back to where they came from. It's actually kind of refreshing to have a villain be a villain just for the sake of villainy (not because they were misunderstood or something like that).

Of course, this episode had all kind of nice visuals. Just a few of note -

- The Doctor reaching his hand out through the tiny TARDIS to give Clara things - at one point unwittingly making her bag into a Mary Poppins handbag (sudden sledgehammer!) Also, there was a comment by Jamie Mathieson (who needs to come back and write more Doctor Who, I have decided) that in one version of the script, the Doctor reached through and held Clara's hand for comfort. That was taken out in a further edit (darn it), but someone on Tumblr drew what it might have looked like and I share it with you now for your fan delight.

- The not-quite-3D Boneless using the people they sucked into the walls. Yeah... this was the perfect Halloween episode.

- Just the look of the people as they were being made two-dimensional. Heck, even the effect of the couch being flattened - that was creepy and weird and cool all at the same time.

- Tiny TARDIS!

I have one of those! It's a little beat-up, but it's still cute. No Doctor inside, though.
Somewhat curious if they made a special prop for that, or if they just used a mass-marketed toy for those scenes. Either way, it was adorable.

Yet another solid episode from writer Jamie Mathieson. It was enjoyable and entertaining along with taking the time to explore more of the Doctor and Clara's relationship, as well as their individual characters. There were a few stretches where it felt like it was a little slow as far as pacing goes, but the payoff was well worth it. More and more, it feels like this entire season is a slow burn that's going to have a huge resolution at the finale, which is always fun to see - as well as the one-off adventures. And this just added to the overall story. Good job, peeps!

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