Flatline Review

(158 comments)

This review was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Please consider joining them. Also, if you're in the New York area, I'm doing a launch party for TARDIS Eruditorum Volume 5 (it's out, by the way). That'll be next Saturday, October 25th, at 3:30 PM at The Way Station, in Brooklyn. Copies of all five volumes of TARDIS Eruditorum will be for sale, and I will be signing stuff if you want to bring copies you already own. There's a Facebook event page here. 

Hello folks. Let's take the temperature of the world, shall we? Comments thus far are quite positive. GallifreyBase has an impressive 84.4% in the 8-10 range, with 9 being the most popular at 32.69%, which has this at slightly more popular than Mummy on the Orient Express. I'll be honest, that surprises me a bit, as I was, for the first time this season, a bit underwhelmed.

That said, this one is tricky, and in a way that feels as though there’s an unusually high chance of my revising my opinion on it upon seeing what it's actually building to. We're to the point in the season where the finale is tacitly hanging over things, and this one in particular seems to be making some points about Clara that could feel very different in a couple of weeks. But for me, right now, it feels messy and untidy. Like Mummy on the Orient Express, its emotional resolution is consciously ambiguous, in a way that makes it end off feeling slightly less developed than I think the story actually is. This is due in part to the sneaky power of endings to redefine and reimagine everything that has come before, but it’s also due to the ending actually just not quite fitting with what’s come before completely.

So much of what is going on here hinges on the question of what Clara being elevated to having to “be the Doctor” actually means. Which is indeed a complex question, given the way in which the season has largely treated the Doctor as an object of the sublime - at once wondrous and terrifying. And so for Clara to become the Doctor is not merely aspiration.

This is a marked change - typically the “companion steps up” story is about the companion striving to be better. With Clara, it’s not quite. Indeed, there’s a genuine sense that in becoming the Doctor she has become lessened. In a season in which we have repeatedly been asked to consider the idea of a dark Doctor, and have in many cases simply done so unbidden, without the text particularly pushing us to, just by the knowledge that Peter Capaldi is playing him. Instead, however, especially as her relationship with Danny continues to paint her into an increasingly unsympathetic corner, it feels as though it’s in fact a season about a dark Clara.

And the contours of this revelation have been slyly hidden in the way in which the Doctor’s part has never been written as a traditional lead. I suspect part of the reason why Mummy on the Orient Express went over slightly better than I’d have guessed was simply down to the fact that it was the first story to leave the focus on the Doctor being Doctorish for the episode’s entire run. He’s been left on the edge of the plot, and not given anything like an arc - instead, he remains a constant but slightly alien figure, while Clara gets pushed in increasingly varied directions, the variety of this serving as a gradually slipping mask hiding the problems with her actions.

Which is, of course, surely tied to the fact that Missy “chose” her for some purpose. But between this and the cryptic comment on the Doctor’s part about “goodness having nothing to do with it,” the end resolves this fantastic story about Clara being the Doctor with utter ambiguity. Which would be less of a problem if everything that came before weren’t in turn dominated by a very “let’s run around and fight monsters” approach that played up plot and played down theme.

Which is fine. A straightforward adventure where Clara gets to be the Doctor (and unlike most “the companion has to be the Doctor” stories, succeeds straightforwardly, on her own merits and competence, and without having to commit suicide or anything, which is absolutely brilliant - I love that she's absolutely capable of being the Doctor) is a fine thing to do. An unsettling examination of Clara as a character that really pushes the possibility that she’s lost or is losing her moral center is a fine thing to do. But this feels uncomfortably like one that just changes what it’s trying to do at the last second without quite knowing how to do it.

It’s not that the ending is unearned - Clara’s constant instinct towards simply taking the Doctor’s callousness at face value and, indeed, turning to it as a first and most obvious choice is a clear part of what’s going on here, and the Doctor is visibly disturbed by it. But the theme isn’t loud enough in the buildup for the ambiguity of the ending to quite work. In many ways the key dropped ball here is Danny, who needs so much more than a single phone call. Five episodes ago, he defined himself in part because he knew when people were lying. Four ago, he considered what lies people told him to be the most important thing about them. Now he hears his girlfriend smashing through a window, obviously knows something is wrong, and wanders off out of the plot anyway. This, like many things in the episode, is something that might be clarified in later weeks so that this improves on rewatching - some explanation of why Danny doesn't follow up on this, or, alternatively, seeing him call Clara out for it next week. But today, on October 18th, it’s a problem - he feels like he vanishes from the story, despite so much of the story hinging on Clara's treatment of him.

This is all not entirely helped by a story that is clearly reveling in the tone shifts that Doctor Who is capable of, enjoying the sort of absurd visuals that the show can deliver and its ability to be terrifying one minute and have the Doctor squeezing his hand out of the TARDIS and walking it off a train track the next. (Which may be the most bewilderingly wonderful action sequence ever, especially given that it gets the exact same slightly overblown action theme as everything else in the episode.) It’s a marvelous bit, and is much like the mixture of camp and scares in Mummy on the Orient Express, but in a story that’s destabilized by inconsistent tone elsewhere, it exacerbates the problems.

Which ultimately adds up to the first story in Season Eight that I just don’t feel like quite comes together. After a chain of episodes that made interesting changes to their fundamental premises at the halfway point, we have one that hits its basic note of “monsters on a council estate” and then stayed there, unblinking. Its spin on the companion-led episode structure in which the companion proves a perfectly competent Doctor is great. But on the whole, the episode feels a bit like the one that fell through the cracks, or, at least, like the one that's been the most willing to settle for merely being pretty good.

  • Love the two main supporting characters, though. They’re both absolutely delightful. Although I spent most of the episode thinking that the Daily Mail one was going to turn out to be a zombie sort of thing based on his facial appearance. 
  • The visuals are in several places wonderful - the anamorphic victim in the cold open and, especially, the slow circling around the possibly 2-D guy in the warehouse. And the flickering monsters themselves are great. If an episode is going to ride so heavily on its great monster concept, it’s nice to see one that’s actually good, which the Boneless absolutely are. This is (mostly) the most visually striking episode of the season, I think, although in typical Doctor Who fashion, shambling zombie bodies possessed by two-dimensional monsters prove terribly effective, but trains are oddly dodgy affairs.
  • I find Capaldi’s acting of his big scene bursting out of the TARDIS fascinating, as he goes from reluctance to overplaying things in a really quite sly way. He’s done things like this a couple times, and I’ve still not decided if I like them or not, but they’re such striking decisions that I can’t help but be intrigued. 
  • In the spirit of probably wrong predictions, I will guess that Missy is the Master, and that she will have a ludicrously elaborate long-game plan involving Clara and the Doctor, with the excessive complexity played in part for laughs in the finale, probably in the first episode.
  • Thinking about it slightly more, and adding this bullet point after the rest of the review, my problem here, I think, is that the ending seemed to be there to push me towards not quite trusting Clara, with the double whammy of "goodness had nothing to do with it" and Missy laying a measure of claim to Clara. And that's interesting, and I like it, but it really undermines, for me at least, an episode that focused so heavily on Clara. It left me with the sense that I'd just watched a bunch of setup for a big twist ending, but without the twist ending actually being in this episode. This one might well move a bit in my end-of-season rankings.
  • And finally, rankings.
  1. Kill the Moon
  2. Listen
  3. Deep Breath
  4. The Caretaker
  5. Mummy on the Orient Express
  6. Time Heist
  7. Into the Dalek
  8. Robot of Sherwood
  9. Flatline (Pending end of season re-evaluation)


Comments

arcbeatle 3 years ago

If any of you are in the Northern Indiana Area and cannot make it over to Brooklyn on the 25th, I'll be doing two events with my Doctor Who poetry book "An Eloquence of Time and Space"

On October 24th I'll be at the Cafe/Shop "B on the River" for poetry reading and book signing. This is essentially a late launch party and going to be pretty great, so I hope some of you might be able to make it.
https://www.facebook.com/events/702826293100602/?sid_reminder=7140410187893964800

If you just want to meet me, the next day (the 25th) I'll be at Concord Mall's "Star Trek and Friends" at a booth talking to people, signing books, etc.
http://www.shopconcordmall.com/elkhart_indiana_mall_events.php

Both times I'll be dressed as David Tennant.

I'd feel more awkward I scheduled these at the same time as Phil, except for the massive travel distance between the locations :P!

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Chris 3 years ago

I'm in the New York area, but The Way Station has a TARDIS, so maybe I can make it to both events after all?

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Champiness 3 years ago

A+

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arcbeatle 3 years ago

If you managed to make it to both of our events I'd just hand you free copies of both my books out of the sheer impressiveness of being in New York and Indiana consecutively so quickly XD.

But seriously I actually wish I could go to Phil's thing, I really want to meet him someday... Though we'd probably get into an argument about the Saward Era :P!

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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dm 3 years ago

Obviously the best thing about this episode was the fact that Capaldi's hair became flatter as the TARDIS dimensions fluxuated.

Otherwise another strong one, not as strong as last week (perhaps because I had such low, low expectations for Mummy and it really blew me away)

Also, we're at a stage now where the Doctor has been defined as an aristocrat, so he's never going to explicitly align himself with the counterculture, so why do an episode about street art? Because Clara. She doesn't tell Rigsy to make something of himself or use his powers productively or any such bullshit, as the patronising (probably more middle class than truly aristocratic) Doctor does, she just gets to know him and trusts him. As in Kill the Moon, we have the Doctor expecting thanks when he hasn't done anything, and he is promptly ignored/bypassed.

I didn't absolutely love this one, but yeah, maybe this is one of the best seasons ever.

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ant 3 years ago

The Doctor names the "boneless". I must admit, I had to watch that bit again with the subtitles on. Loved the episode, hope they keep Mathieson on!

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

"Being God isn't easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker or a pickpocket. [...] When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."
-- Futurama S04E08 "Godfellas"

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dm 3 years ago

One of my favourite futurama eps.

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jane 3 years ago

I want that chair. Because, obviously, I can no longer feel safe around walls. Or floors.

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Scurra 3 years ago

"Goodness had nothing to do with it".
This season has been extraordinary. Even the run-of-the-mill stuff steps up to the mark and surprises you - I found parts of this episode properly scary, which was unexpected.
And I loved the cheapness of the stunts! Swing the ball / cut to TARDIS / cut to garden. Very nicely done.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years ago

Ideas for future post titles:

Blood on the Sawdust (A Town Called Mercy)
Small, Beautiful Events (The Power of Three)
Look, There's Another One! (The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone)
But I Can't... I Can't (The Snowmen)
If You Continue to Expand (The Bells of St. John)

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Steven 3 years ago

i loved it. so many amazing moments (the most TUMBLR-ready episode of the entire season I think - the hand walk, the dance, anything involving arms poking out of handbags).

if the next doctor is a female people will look back on this as a (perhaps unintended) massive signpost - a refutation of the argument that a woman can't do what the Doctor does, at which point a properly female Doctor becomes more and more and more inevitable.

My vote goes to Alice Lowe or Gillian Anderson btw, when the time comes.

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grovehill 3 years ago

Maxine Peake. She's been playing hamlet on stage recently, take a look:

https://static-secure.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/9/17/1410912927737/Hamlet-with-Maxine-Peake-014.jpg

(Minus the gun of course).

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Dustin 3 years ago

Great work from Jamie Mathieson these last two episodes. "Mummy" was a romp done right, whereas "Robot of Sherwood" was the direst thing I've seen in ages.

I respected that this episode kept the dead dead, instead of finding some way to cheaply magic them back to life. Stakes are important. The Doctor noted this, and the survival of the bitter supervisor stings all the more because of the loss of good people like the policewoman (poorly sketched, but sympathetic).

What a strong series this has been. No all-time favorites for me yet (a decision I don't usually make till after multiple viewings), but a consistently high level of quality that I haven't felt since Series Five.

Didn't like Missy watching Clara on a tablet. Real-world technology (and a branded consumer product to boot) intruding into whatever fantastical setting Missy resides in rather broke that last scene for me.

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Dustin 3 years ago

Fabulous. Lady Doctor ideas usually resort to women who are way too famous (and probably not affordable). But Peake is one of the best suggestions I've ever heard.

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ScarvesandCelery 3 years ago

So... I liked it. I think a lot, I'll need a second viewing to process exactly how much. Loved the surrealism, and the CG work for the monsters and the hand. Unsure about the ending - Clara's Doctor - Like solution was fab, while the screwdriver solution... came with a good doctor speech? I feel like Clara's decisions and actions were what really mattered in this episode, and the character work for her was fab. The class commentary with Rigsy felt well handled, and it's definitely good to see Moffat era who in a less middle class setting, which it often gets trapped in.
Still, I need to stew and rewatch before deciding where to put the episode. Would definitely like to see more of Jamie Mathieson, though.

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Steven 3 years ago

Peake would be faaaantastic - I watched her in 1980 last week. Main upside of the delay casting a female Doctor is that, when the time comes (hopefully just as soon as Capaldi's ready to leave) we're spoilt for choice.

As someone who really would like to see this happen, I think part of the joy I feel towards tonight's episode relates to how much more likely it made the possibility seem. Approaching inevitability, I'd say.

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ScarvesandCelery 3 years ago

Rewatched, and I loved it

Listen
Flatline
Kill the Moon
The Caretaker
Deep Breath
Mummy on the Orient Express
Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood
Time Heist

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You Know Who... 3 years ago

" find Capaldi’s acting of his big scene bursting out of the TARDIS fascinating, as he goes from reluctance to overplaying things in a really quite sly way. He’s done things like this a couple times, and I’ve still not decided if I like them or not, but they’re such striking decisions that I can’t help but be intrigued."

Notice how he talks about being pushed into a heroic 'role,' and the adjusting his costume, before coming out (almost literally) guns blazing, in full Doctor mode. Awesome.

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Gallifreyan_Immigrant 3 years ago

I feel unsure about actual alchemy (Jane and Mr. Sandifer can tell us more on that), but in fantasy fiction I've read , like the Dark Is Rising series (a wonderful series), or the Pact Web Serial, a lovely web serial everyone should check out (google:Pact Web Serial), naming something gives you power. I feel like there is something alchemical about the "I Name You The Boneless", which the Doctor says while waving his wand and casting an expulsion sp--whoops, I meant placing them back into their dimension with his sonic screwdriver. I'm being cheeky, but there is something very Merlin-like about that scene. And we all know that the Doctor will be Merlyn one day, anyway.

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Richard Pugree 3 years ago

Really surprised by the negativity from our host here. This was hands down the best of the series so far for me. Exactly the right amount of silly, scary, funny, clever, unexpected, extraordinary and yet familiar. It also felt more grounded in a contemporary UK reality that I recognise than most other similarly set Moffat era episodes.

10 points to AntonB for his flagging up of 'testing if Clara can be the Doctor' over the last few weeks.

Visuals in this were lovely.

Not sure about Missy on the ipad though...

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Richard Pugree 3 years ago

"Which ultimately adds up to the first story in Season Eight that I just don’t feel like quite comes together."

Entirely conversely this is the only one so far that I have felt comes together. Other episodes have had incredible moments,but this one is the first time its felt properly coherent.

And in terms of Danny's role, I'd just assumed that he'd tried to phone a couple of time and not got through and then tried again a little later. Seemed perfectly plausible to me.

It does strike me as odd that from Danny saying that he can 'always tell when somebody is lying' to him that you would assume that he can 'always tell when somebody is lying' to him? I had assumed that we would find the exact opposite.

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jane 3 years ago

Agreed -- Danny only thinks he can always tell when he's being lied to, otherwise he would have figured out that Clara had been lying to him as far back as Into The Dalek or Listen. No, Danny's lying to himself about his ability to read people.

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Richard Pugree 3 years ago

and just oh!...oh!... those TARDIS shots... Such an obvious idea really - as the best ones always are -, and such a good way of playing with the idea of the model TARDIS, but it was so well executed.

So, TARDIS as Pandorica... relevant?

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

munsters hand! very good.

Isn't that Addams Family, not Munsters?

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

Minus the gun of course

Easily photoshopped into a sonic screwdriver.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years ago

I loved it as well; I felt that Clara would have to truly figure something out without the Doctor's advice by the end, and she did.

I just hope that Missy (presumably the woman in the shop) and her plans with Clara don't undo the "actually an ordinary girl all along" subversion, though.

The main theme of this season seems to be everyone acting questionably (but so very human).

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David Ainsworth 3 years ago

Still waiting to hear the complaints about this episode being filled with two-dimensional characters...

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Philip Sandifer 3 years ago

Certainly, but on the other hand, he does figure out that something is up in Listen. He's generally been an at least sensible and perceptive person. To not go "wait a moment, she's blowing me off again and sounds like she just jumped through a window, I think she might be back with the Doctor" seems off to me.

I mean, unless he did, which is entirely possible, and we may find out next week.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years ago

I did very much love the ambience. I think it's the best job they've done of "strangeness on a council estate" to date, and I include the Davies era in that.

Well. Actually. I probably prefer Paradise Towers to it, but strangeness on an actual Earth council estate.

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Jesse 3 years ago

One of the best of the year, I think:

Listen
Flatline
Kill the Moon
Time Heist
Mummy on the Orient Express
The Caretaker
Deep Breath
Robot of Sherwood
Into the Dalek

...and I only think the last one's a stinker.

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Froborr 3 years ago

I've been waiting eagerly for the reveal that Missy is the Master, because it makes it basically inevitable that at least one of the next two Doctors will be a woman. But now this episode goes and makes it inevitable a couple weeks early!

Otherwise, yeah, this was a good horror episode. Not actually scary, but then I've never found Doctor Who remotely frightening. Definitely exciting in a horror mode, however. First statues, now murals; clearly this is part of an ongoing campaign by the series to raise a generation of children terrified of all non-narrative visual art. Only television is safe, children! Fear all other media!

I kid, of course.

The visuals in this episode were absolutely stunning, but then, this whole season has been impressive visually.

Overall not the best this season, but a fun runaround and it was nice seeing Clara get to be the Doctor.

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Matt Bogen 3 years ago

Easily my favorite episode of the year so far for me. It feels like we've finally found our way above first gear, appropriately enough for a newly-regenerated Doctor n his ninth episode.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to see more than a passing Pandorica resemblance in the siege-mode Tardis. In the end, I don't think it speaks to anything more, but I liked the callback.

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jane 3 years ago

I hate the "sign out" button. Absolutely hate it.

After a chain of episodes that made interesting changes to their fundamental premises at the halfway point, we have one that hits its basic note of “monsters on a council estate” and then stayed there, unblinking.

This one was weird.

I'm not so sure I agree with your assertion here, Phil, but I'll have to unpack what I think the story is doing here first. I mean, yes, it is, but it isn't. It depends on how you frame it.

First and foremost, this story is riffing on Fear Her. It's a story about people disappearing on a council estate, turning into drawings, which forms the backdrop for a Companion-as-Doctor story. Hell, even the teaser opens with someone turning into a drawing. Furthermore, it's coming on the heels of Kill the Moon, which all about saving the strange beautiful monster, and Mummy on the Orient Express, which at the very least elicits empathy for the monster at least in part because that's what's needed to save the day.

But, as you say, the tone of Flatline itself isn't playing this ball game. The monster is consistently ominous and terrifying, with no opportunity for generating sympathy.

Instead, the "narrative tension" at the meta level for what kind of story this is going to be is held by Clara. She's treating this story as the heartwarming romp from the moment she emerges from the miniaturized clown-car TARDIS. She's flirting with a boy, teasing the Doctor, waving the Sonic about everywhere, and trolling everyone with the psychic paper. She's got a dimensionally transcendent pocket in her purse. She even engineers that ridiculous escape through the window by swinging a hanging chair through it as if it were a wrecking ball.

But she's been dropped into a Lovecraftian horror that otherwise completely dominates the narrative tone, and it's exactly at the halfway point of the story that Clara turns. The psychic paper no longer works, people have died, they're on the run, and her leadership is put into question. "Who are you?" the old man asks, invoking the real Question of the series. "I am the one chance you've got of staying alive." Gone is the jokiness, the charm, she is all blistering cold. She remains aloof and calculating through the rest of the story, so oppressive is the narrative weight of the Lovecraftian horror. (Which makes sense, as our TV screens are basically two-dimensional walls, and hence easily susceptible to this particular monster.)

But the Doctor is largely shielded from it in his TARDIS. He continues to hold out hope for The Good Aliens. He gets to play Thing. He doles out compliments. And by the end of the story, it's him who's playing the Companion role, pointing out to Clara that she is not a good man, not when she's playing the Doctor. It's like they've traded places, come round full circle from Into the Dalek and their whole conversation about "being good" there.

So it ends up being a complete reversal of the Companion-as-Doctor story -- not because Clara's so competent, but because she's the fulcrum on which the "narrative battle" pivots, a battle that's effectively "lost" by the good guys. Everybody doesn't live. There's no reset button. No emotional resolution. The Companion doesn't even seem to grow -- she's still overly concerned with her ego at the end. I don't think I've seen anything like it.

More frocks, less guns? There aren't any guns here, and yet Flatline could never be characterized as a victory for the frocks.

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jane 3 years ago

The Circle in the Square is a long-running motif of the Moffat era.

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James V 3 years ago

"I was hoping for minimalism. But I think I came out with magician!"

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

Seeing Clara using the sonic also reminded me of Sarah Jane.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

That's what I fear and suspect as well, Pen Name Pending, that Clara really will be the Impossible Girl as a narrative substitution or feint by Moffat. Though Clara has become more fully realized within a real-world setting this series, compared to last series, it might be a sign that she is literally changing through her interaction with the Doctor's world. Missy might actually be trying to pull Clara deep into the Doctor's world, deeper than ever before.

And I liked the preview for next week, interesting touches. The Little Red Riding Hood angle (I haven't really read the Doctor Who comic or novels that deal with a fantasy setting like Grimm Reality or Fairytale Life, but this might touch on that a bit) and Danny trying to lead his students through a transformed London like a scouting mission. And hey, look, a Tyger! I bet Tyger, Tyger really will be recited at some point in the episode, maybe with the Doctor or Clara referring to the darkness of their setting and changing lives. Want to place bets on Missy showing up near the end and reciting Jerusalem?

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years ago

There was something about Missy's facial expression at the end that seemed to be channeling John Simm. I think you might be onto something.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

Thanks! That really captures what I liked about the episode.

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Jarl 3 years ago

I'll admit, I was shocked both by the overt villainy of the monsters and the fact that there wasn't a reset button at the end. The previews, the teaser, the first act or so, I was certainly suckered in by the feel good appearance of the episode.

The monsters look so familiar. I've seen that effect elsewhere, though I'm struggling to place an exact reference. That's what a 2d image projected onto a shoddy 3d replica of the image looks like, and there's been films and TV shows that play with such an effect before (Minority Report and Fringe season 5) but always as representing a broken hologram. The visual is very striking, and fits the monsters perfectly.

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Adam Riggio 3 years ago

What struck me most about the episode was how much Clara had changed. I don't even really think she fully accepted that Smith's and Capaldi's Doctors really were the same person. Clara ends this episode presuming that her developing a more callous attitude to the people she adventured with, believing that the deaths of the people in Rigsy's team were acceptable because they saved the whole planet.

But the Doctor explicitly points out that this isn't how he rolls. She defines Capaldi's Doctor by his harshness and distance, forgetting that this is the same warm and jolly guy with a bow-tie who was her best friend last year.

I think through the whole situation on my friendly competition with Phil's reviews.
http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2014/10/our-ideals-are-our-ethical-skeletons.html

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

Okay, I was reading the io9 review of this episode and it remarked that the Doctor had told Clara to make good use of the local knowledge--Rigsy. And that did happen in a sense, she used Rigsy like other people have been used by the Doctor in the past, to help her out in figuring what was going on and find a solution. And while Clara did admire his work, I think there was one point in the tunnels where she sort of ignored his work, that jagged, serrated, almost skyscraper vision.

And when Rigsy was talking to Clara about the memorial, at first I was almost thinking that they had gone a little ways into the future and this was a memorial to what happened when the Cybermen came, or will come.

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reservoirdogs 3 years ago

It would be funny if it turned out that Missy was the Doctor all along. Game playing egomaniac indeed.

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reservoirdogs 3 years ago

I think there was a clip of the Doctor interacting with Danny in a later episode, does anyone have a clip for that?

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

Okay, I was posting something on io9 in regards to a comment on the episode order, (because the io9 episode review had noted that Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express were necessary for Clara to develop an understanding of what the Doctor is that she employs here in Flatline) and I wanted to share it here:


'No, I think the order was right in term of the fact that this Doctor is not her first Doctor. He changed on her and she had to understand the Doctor himself. She sort of knew about regeneration, but it still surprised her. She had sort of been his uber-companion who went through all of his time-stream and saw all of the various Doctors, but those were shadows of herself. Clara wasn't really there, and so she only knew Eleven.

But he was holding himself at a distance from her before he learned who she really was, just a girl, yet still brave. And they only had a short time being really together and having fun before it all changed with Trenzalore (in Time of the Doctor), and so she had to understand a new, but the same, Doctor. And he was trying to understand his new persona as well, so again they were testing the waters with each other and the Doctor got her more involved with everything he was doing. Basically, Flatline could not happen until they had developed this new relationship with each other and Clara had a more nuanced understanding of different aspects of the Doctor.

And I think his self-doubt of being a good man will be resolved to the point where he embraces being the Doctor a little bit more. And I believe his doubt stems from the fact that his appearance, his face, comes from other people, the Roman father in Pompeii and Frobisher, and Missy might have had a hand in the Doctor's regeneration and change. Because of Clara. If Clara did not implore the Time Lords to help the Doctor and give him a new regeneration cycle, then yes, he would have died there on Trenzalore with that giant scar. And the Great Intelligence might be tied to Clara and Missy as well, if the Great Intelligence had not been around, then Clara would not have been the Impossible Girl, the Doctor would not have been searching for her, and Clara just happened to receive the phone number so that he could meet her. Missy is involved there.'

That was my comment. I definitely think Trenzalore and Missy are connected.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

Or the Valyard.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

I want to mention this, a couple of comments on io9--someone remarked on the Doctor hating himself as the Architect in Time Heist and someone had a theory about the Time Lords being involved with Missy. I suggested they were in Void-World or Nethersphere from Army of Ghosts/Doomsday along with the Cybermen, that was on the other side of the crack, 'hell' as the Doctor once described the Void.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

My perception is how this ties back to Deep Breath and the Doctor's comment to Clara, "You can't see me", she doesn't understand who he truly is, both sides of himself. Even though she learned or understood in the Name of the Doctor that the Doctor is more than the soufflé (or something like that) she has forgotten, or the Doctor has gotten blurred with the changes that have been made to him.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 3 years ago

That sort of reminds me of Eleven a little bit, now that I think of it. Maybe he is embracing more of his past heroic role here, and embracing that side of himself. Where does that mental image of Eleven I have come from, where he adjusted his costume, dashed in, and posed dramatically in a bright, almost fiery lighting? Possibly some mash-up of Curse of the Black Spot, The Almost People, and Bells of St. John.

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Champiness 3 years ago

I mean, even if it isn't explicitly telegraphed next week I don't think there's much leading us to think he doesn't come to that conclusion. Certainly after Clara brushed him off I could infer a shot of him sighing, phone in hand.
And, you know, he's along on the adventure next episode, so even if he somehow didn't pick up on it that's not going to last for long.
Really hoping this is one you come around on, Phil. I do feel like there's something in the episode worth picking into, and that's before all the obviously-telegraphed arc stuff. Though your standard of televisual literacy is probably a couple notches up from mine, so what do I know.

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Champiness 3 years ago

A++

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

I thought so too!

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

I think the "on balance" exchange is important -- and actually a bit like the Operative's "better world" speech in Serenity (if less extreme). As I read it, the Doctor is saying: "Making the kind of ruthless utilitarian trade-off calculations I make is necessary to protect the world, but it's incompatible with being a good person. I make them in order to protect the kind of world in which most people don't have to make them. Thus your emulation of me makes you a good protector of the world, but a bad citizen of it."

Also he's a bit worried because when Clara asked him if he enjoyed making the big decisions, I think the answer was no. He enjoys travelling, he enjoys solving puzzles, he enjoys showing off -- but the actual decision-making he's uneasy about (as we've known at least since "Genesis"). Just as tonight he found himself forced into the role of monster-fighter when he'd desperately preferred ambassador. But Clara seems to enjoy the big decision-making, and he finds this worrisome.

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dm 3 years ago

Vicky McClure or Tamsin Grieg

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joshleejosh 3 years ago

The number one rule of being the Doctor is not to "use your enemies' power against them," it's that "the Doctor lies." But Clara already has that one down pat.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Yep Addams Family as stated by Clara in the episode.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Yes, he finds it alarming for what it says about her, and he also finds it troubling and just plain hurtful for what it says about him. Clara, the person he asked to tell him if he was a good man, "being the Doctor" is showing him what she thinks he's like. And it's not a very complimentary picture, and it's one that ultimately just isn't fair.

We saw the same kind of sentiments at the end of Mummy, when he chided her with sorrowful sarcasm about how maybe he just saved her and left everyone else to die. He was saying, "You'd actually be prepared to believe, even if only for a moment, that I'd do something like that, wouldn't you?". He's been brutally frank with her about the moral and emotional cost of being him, both explicitly and, in terms of the ongoing character of the Doctor, simply by being this version of himself - regeneration is a form of self-expression, and this is the Doctor giving a pitiless, intimate, warts-and-all portrait of himself. A Lucien Freud, you might say. He bared himself to her, letting her see all the dark and dirty stuff, in the hope that she would be able to see and understand all that and still "see him", to recognise the warmth and compassion that is still there alongside the unflinching pragmatism and the ascetic refusal to veil it, as Adam Riggio mentioned above.

Instead, she has gone from being shocked and upset by these things to not merely accepting them but actually embracing them. She has become thrilled by the giddying, gratifying, Nietzschean sensation of being one of those who can see the real world in all its roughness and edginess, the special people who don't blind themselves with comforting illusions but can see what needs to be done and have the will to do it, and to pay the price - the true grown-ups. In retrospect, it certainly looks as though she was angry with him in Kill the Moon at least partly because when she had to make the big decision on her own, overriding the decision of the entire human race and putting them all in mortal danger because of what she thought was right, when it came down to it, she liked it. She got off on it, you might say, and that scared her. But not enough. She's hooked. The line that first really troubled me about Clara was during her diatribe there: "Don't you dare lump me in with all those little people who you think are so stupid!". That can be read as "You're supposed to be my friend!", but there's a more obvious reading which we shy away from because we want to like her.

"Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny".

I think Moffat's up to his Impossible Girl tricks again, inveigling us with the idea of the Dark Doctor, the thrill of something dark and edgy and grown-up and real and unsentimental. In that regard, Clara is filling the companion's role of audience stand-in, being walked through the paces of how people putatively react to that kind of story development. The overriding agenda of that larger scheme accounts for the business of Clara's initial difficulty, so unconvincing in itself, in accepting the new, spiky, unpretty Doctor. The "See me" speech directed at the audience seems like the keynote address for the season.

Funnily enough, while I found the Impossible Girl ploy both unconvincing and obnoxious, so far I'm not minding this, maybe just because it's all so much better done. Though, again, it seems like something that speaks more to fandom than to the general audience, in a way that is maybe slightly incongruous in Doctor Who.

"Colin Baker done right", I think someone said a while ago.

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Anton B 3 years ago

That's an interesting thought. Yeah that Rigsy mural was strangely passed over and painted in a style that we' not seen before, almost like we weren't meant to pay too much attention to it yet.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

The "See me" speech directed at the audience seems like the keynote address for the season.

Well, that and Vastra's veil speech of course.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Aside: going back to Deep Breath again, there may be something of the emotional experience of being kinky in the deep background to all this.

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Alan 3 years ago

Personally, I just loved the fact that the whole episode seemed to spring out of the episode 2 cliffhanger from Logopolis.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Regarding the frowners: Caecilius was someone the Doctor was going to leave to die, because he was too busy, in the immortal words of Philip Sandifer "being a Lonely God and looking for some rain to stand in". Frobisher was someone who was comprehensively destroyed because the Doctor wasn't there. The people the Doctor fails to save have been a big deal this season.

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Carey 3 years ago

Both Jane and Philip voice my unease about Flatline, as well as the things that are delightful.

The whole Clara debate is phrased upon two lines from Into The Dalek: "She cares so I don't have to," and "You asked me if you were a good man and the answer is… I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point." And that is the Doctor's point at the end: Clara is there as the Doctor's conscience, and for all that she did good things she did in this story (most importantly her friendship with Rigsby), as Jane said, she abandoned those principles by the end. The Doctor doesn't need another him. He needs someone, as Donna once pointed out, who will tell him when to stop.

Very divided by this story: it is, after only one watch, admittedly, a story I admire more than like.

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Anton B 3 years ago

@Richard Pugree. Thanks for the ten points! My Missy theory based on the Clara as Doctor theme is that is she will be revealed as either a future female regeneration of the Doctor or Clara (or somehow both).

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J Mairs 3 years ago

"Only television is safe, children! Fear all other media!"

FEEEEEEEEED MEEEEEEEE!

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Aylwin 3 years ago

@dm That's pretty unfair.

She doesn't tell Rigsy to make something of himself or use his powers productively or any such bullshit as the patronising...Doctor does

Rigsy is someone who enthusiastically embraced the fate of a suicide bomber, and who, even when it had been made clear to him that this was a totally unnecessary and indeed absurdly self-dramatising thing to do, was still reluctant to get off the train. That's what he thinks of his life. You think suggesting to someone in that frame of mind that he has something precious is patronising bullshit?

she just gets to know him and trusts him

And finds him useful. "You've still got work to do!"

the Doctor expecting thanks when he hasn't done anything

Well, unless you count actually defeating the threat, in a story where the task for the others is basically to get him back in play so that he can do so (while staying alive in the interim).

And it's not the Doctor who's demanding praise at the end, it's Clara.

Also, we're at a stage now where the Doctor has been defined as an aristocrat, so he's never going to explicitly align himself with the counterculture

Robin Hood?

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Aylwin 3 years ago

@Froborr: Not just visual media: "Opening books, letting out shadows..."

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

Eldrad's on the phone to his lawyers.

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Sean Case 3 years ago

The Doctor is not a good man, He's a man who does horrible things to make room for other people to be good. And Clara has done a brilliant job of emulating him, which is not at all what he wants for her.

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Richard Pugree 3 years ago

There was one thing that I had thought was going to happen - and maybe will if the Boneless return - which was that they start messing around in time.

The Doctor says something like "of course, that's what comes next - three dimensions!".

From which I had assumed that the subsequent creature development would be 4th dimension time travel - people seeing pictures of themselves before they've been taken or something, or being killed by their own Boneless skin suits. It would have felt pretty squeezed into this episode I suppose, but if/when they return I wonder how many dimensions the Boneless will eventually extend into?

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Oh, and for "good Doctor", cf. "good Dalek", again.

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dm 3 years ago

Rewatching, some more things I loved (in my second or third least favourite episode of the season- compared with my least favourite of any other season- Cold War, Asylum, Black Spot, Vampires, Planet of the Dead, Daughter, Shakespeare, Cybermen 2-parter, Unquiet- the fact I like ANYTHING about this is remarkable):

-Unimaginative Community Service man making Rigsy erase himself at the beginning. Incredibly obvious bit of imagery, but so well played, given the rather melodramatic emotional weight it deserved.

-The way the lines around the TARDIS door, leading to an imaginary vanishing point, seem to be a joke abou forced perspective. As if the set designer made them for some forced perspective shots but on the day they decided not to shoot it that way. This ties in, obviously, with the physical nature of the Boneless, but is also just funny.

-The 2-dimensional baddies! And, by this, I mean the fact that the Doctor explicitly tried to find some depth in them, tried to make them anything more than generic monsters- but of course they weren't! They were entirely 2-dimensional! Brilliant.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Re: 2-dimensional baddies. Oooh! Yes! I like that!

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John Peacock 3 years ago

It was only last night that I realised that the question "Am I a good man?" isn't (just) about moral probity: he's also asking whether he's good at being a human, whether the impersonation is convincing. Last night, the pun was inverted - Clara asks him to tell her she was good (skilful), and he inverts it by bringing up goodness (moral probity). The association of moral probity with skilfulness is a Buddhist notion, isn't it?

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Mind you, one could say the same about the Community Service git, which I was less charmed by than some. Particularly given how we were explicitly beaten over the head with the Doctor saying "Perhaps the wrong people survived", when the previous conversation had already done everything but come round to the house of every single audience member and bellow that point into their ears.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Don't know about Buddhism, but in various forms a complex relationship between notions of moral goodness and of a muscular notion of good-atness (which tends to be the older idea) seem to exists in most cultures, leaving its fossil footprints in languages. Latin virtus meant manliness, in a society where (as is even more usual than otherwise in the kind of rough-and-ready societies that do the early spadework of building up a language) that was a largely military concept. And Greek arete (virtue) and related words like aristos (best) specifically come from a stem denoting warlikeness (as in Ares). The presence of that as a stratum underlying the later term aristocracy (and so suggesting something like "rule of the most violent") is rather apt.

Not that I'm cynical about all this. The trajectory of these shifts in meaning, as also in that of words like "gentle" and Jack Graham's favourite "villain" is suggestive of societies growing more humane, redefining their notions of what is most to be valued, and what is most to be scorned, in positive directions. Material social progress, you might call it.

Still an awful lot of room for improvement, of course. I have trouble expressing just how noxious I find it that about the most terrible, all-encompassing insult our society can imagine is "loser".

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Sean Case 3 years ago

In fact, the supervisor was so horrible that I assumed right up until the end that he must be working with the Boneless in some fashion.

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Matter-Eater Lad 3 years ago

Don't we see Clara blow off a later call from Danny by choosing an excuse from a menu of preprogrammed excuses?

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Thinking less fuzzily about it, there's a much better and more obvious reason for not being irritated by the game this time around: the fact that Moffat, rather than setting out to oh-so-cleverly lure everyone into a morally-compromised complicity before pulling the rug out from under victims who may or may not actually be standing on it (with an implicit air of self-congratulation at his own cunning artifice which is rather ironic given the nature of the point he's making), came right out and told us what he thought right at the start, whether or not we actually twigged to it at the time.

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Alex 3 years ago

The Dotor says something along the lines of "I'm a Time Lord, playing with dimensions is kind of our thing" - what if these were Time Lords attempting to pass through?

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Dan 3 years ago

I'm not sure I agree that the Doctor is not a good man or the investigations in moral philosophy that the series tends towards nowadays.

Moffat recently spent so much time making sure the Doctor hadn't destroyed the Time Lords, but continues to explore this point. Is it about cold utilitarianism again?

It's trickier because we, perhaps, live in more morally confused, less compassionate times than thirty years ago.

(Although for the record, I think the good things about this season outweigh any concerns I have, and there's a good chance things will turn out all right, too.)

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

I didn't hear her say either!

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

The danger of Clara's "Don't you dare lump me in with all those little people who you think are so stupid!" line is that it leads toward the community service asshole's line about letting the shrubs die to save the great trees -- which is not (usually -- "Waters of Mars" aside) the way the Doctor's ruthless calculations work.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

And of course the next episode is about trees ....

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

Adam Riggio's post on his own blog is excellent.

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brownstudy 3 years ago

[I also hate the Sign Out button. Bitter experience has taught me to copy my entire post before pressing any buttons.]

Jumbled thoughts on first viewing (had to wait for iTunes to let me download it).

* The "wrong ones survived" reminded me of a bit of dialogue at the end of "Voyage of the Damned."

* But but but...Clara made the decisions she made because of the situation the Doctor put her in. And they were the right decisions because they enabled the Doctor to save the day (and save his life and prevent an invasion). The Doctor might have made the same decisions had he been around. So it seems a bit unfair to damn Clara for making decisions that keep a Doctor Who plot moving forward when the Doctor is out of the picture. She was quite angry about being put in a similar situation in "Kill the Moon."

I *think* what Capaldi!Doctor objected to in Clara's giddy afterglow was the giddiness that Queen Victoria objected to with Rose and Tennant!Doctor. The 12th doctor may calculatingly view human lives as data points on the way to solving the problem, but he does not feel triumphant about it afterward.

* Clara is turning into a soldier -- in fact, a command officer. I think that a good thematic ending to her arc would be for the Doctor to eject her from the Tardis as he did Journey Blue, for the reason that it isn't good for her. There are a few instances in the mythology where the Doctor refuses a companion (Susan is the first that comes to mind), but in this case, where Clara is starting to get drunk on the danger, the Doctor has to move from being the bartender to the bouncer.

* I'm sure others have brought this up, so forgive me for re-emphasizing...but Clara led a double life in "The Snowmen" also, lied, tried on different accents, was a teacher, and proved herself a quick-thinking companion under pressure. Maybe the Doctor will push Clara out the Tardis doors so she doesn't suffer the fate of the historical Claras we've seen so far.

For the moment anyway, these are my firm beliefs loosely held.

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Aster Fliers 3 years ago

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Aster Fliers 3 years ago

I just posted a comment and now it's gone? Ok, here it goes again: just quickly. The fact that Danny gets only one phone call seems very reasonable, if he is not a complete idiot, and if they have an even somewhat stable relationship. I would also give my partner some time to figure out the crashing windows before trying to contact them again. I am still disconcerted by the lying, becasue it implies that at some point a choice between the best friend and the boyfriend will have to be made. I would be pleasantly surprised to see her solve this by shutting them both up and dealing with it.
Secondly, although I don't really enjoy the lying, I'd hardly consider it Clara losing her moral center. So she deals awkwardly with balancing some men in her life, well, at the same time she had a shot at being the Doctor and did admirably. While juggling the men and lying to them she just happened to save the world, all the while staying herself. Or should we maybe put that the other way around, that she's a kick-ass doctor even if she's figuring some perfonal stuff out? I guess the Doctor's comment on no one else having to think like that is a fair one because he knows what it feels like to make those choices and he wouldn't whish it on anyone else. I don't think this lessens her in any way. I got to see a glimpse of a capable, interesting, kick-ass female Doctor! Which is why I not only loved this episode, I vastly preferred it to the Mummy on the Orient Express. Give me an episode like this any day of the week! And maybe next run an actual female Doctor. Nothing wrong with Capaldi, I am extremely happy with him. But there's plenty of amazing actresses who could take over from him, so let's get on with it already!

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Adam Riggio 3 years ago

One of the brilliant aspects of Flatline is how it depicts the Doctor's character. The Capaldi Doctor is his usual sarcastic self in front of other people, but when he's in private, he does things that are more pleasant and charismatic — that celebratory Grandpa dance after he finger-walks the TARDIS off the train tracks is probably my favourite moment of his. The problem he faces as a person (in the context of the season's narrative) is that no one sees these silly little moments but the TV viewer.

Capaldi puts his walls up in front of people, even Clara. That's why she's beginning to see him entirely in terms of his moral compromises, and that she would seriously entertain the idea that he only rescued her from the exploding Orient Express (in space) and left all the other passengers and crew to die. Because Capaldi's Doctor is snarkier and tends more to portentous behaviour in epic situations than Smith's, Clara can no longer perceive his idealism and joyfulness. That's becoming the root of her mistake about him.

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euryale000 3 years ago

I thought this episode was fantastic. It didn't quite stick the ending, but the rest was good. I enjoyed the Lovecraftian elements. This was an episode in which the monsters are entirely constructed by the Doctor. He is the one who names them The Boneless, he is the one who decides that their actions have to be interpreted as hostile, but we don't actually know that they were. As the Doctor asks earlier "Do they know they are hurting us?" And we don't get a definitive yes. We get the Doctor deciding that they're hurting us enough that we need to assume that they do. The Doctor names himself as "the man who stops the monsters" (eyeroll) but I find it very interesting that he's the one who names them monsters. He creates the enemy to defeat in order to reinforce the role in which he sees himself.

So, I don't think that we're dropping Dark Doctor in favor of Dark Clara, here. The Doctor is acting Darkly, just not in the manipulative way that 7 did. And I don't know that what we're seeing from Clara is darkness as such... She's an apprentice and she's learning her lessons very well. She's not the one who needs to have monsters to fight and people to lie to in order to know who she is.

A last note on Missy: The clip of Clara that she is watching on her tablet is exactly the same angle we had just seen in the previous scene where presumably we were watching Clara speak through the Doctor's eyes. Just felt the need to point that out.

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Richard Pugree 3 years ago

I thought it was both! She makes the suggestion that the Doctor could move the TARDIS "you know, like the Addams Family", but I thought there was a line about the Munsters slightly later when they refer back to it, but I missed what the joke actually was?

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Nyq Only 3 years ago

I didn't hate this episode but somehow it felt a bit...no I shan't say 'flat' but it really didn't feel as compelling or as engaging as the last three. Perhaps it suffers from comparison against a run of top-notch episodes.
Visuals were excellent and some neat ideas but overall it felt more like an episode of SJA or Torchwood.

1. Listen/The Caretaker
2. Kill the Moon
3. Mummy on the Orient Express
4. Deep Breath
5. Time Heist
6. Into the Dalek
7. Flatline
8. Robots of Sherwood

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Bob Dillon 3 years ago

and with the set up about how the doctor made a thingy to see out of clara's eyes, maybe someone has done that to him?

Bob

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

+1 for the "high and lonely destiny" quote.

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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elvwood 3 years ago

The Doctor is worth the Munsters.

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William Silvia 3 years ago

It seems you and I just can't quite see eye to eye this season. You say this episode puts plot before theme, whereas during my entire watchthrough the things that stood out to me were things like:
"Don't-" "I'm Doctor Oswald" "Ugh"
"Lying is a very important life skill"
"I'm the only chance you have at getting out of this alive."
While I never felt that the episode was beating me over the head with it, I felt through every minute of this episode that the point was about Clara losing the moral center role and becoming more and more a mirror of the Doctor - a persona that the Impossible Girl had to take on in order to be able to stand traveling with this new Doctor after the previous episode - and the Doctor really, really not liking this look in the mirror of his companion. It felt like a tie back to "Amy's Choice" and a few other 11th Doctor episodes in that the Doctor intentionally chooses companions that are not like him, that are not as pragmatic and haven't been exposed to as much death, because he could not stand to travel with himself. Now he's seeing himself traveling with someone who has passed the learning curve very quickly and is willing to do things that in the past he considered himself as having to do them because he was the only one able to, and over the course of the episode he finds that he really doesn't like traveling with someone like that.

Oh, and there was a plot, about which the most interesting thing was the chance to play the "2D monsters in a 3D world" in as many different visual ways as possible.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

But her “What would the Doctor do? What would I do?” moment was horrendous. It dismisses every decision she’s made thus far.

I don't think I understand your interpretation of that line.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

But aren't the Boneless presented as having just discovered the 3rd dimension?

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Peg 3 years ago

Mmmm. I'm more or less with you.

Season theme: "Is the Doctor a good man?"
Corollary sub-theme: "How will Clara resolve her relationship with the Doctor, and what will that resolution mean to both of them?"

This episode, thematically: Clara, as a result of a reasonably normal Doctor Who-ish sort of plot, has to fly solo with the Doctor looking on and commenting, but unable to do a lot to directly control events. Clara survives by quite consciously starting on a "What would the Doctor do?" pattern, which she then expands to "What would I do?" that's still very strongly framed by what the Doctor would do. Her reflection of the Doctor is further expanded by the Fairbanks look-alike character's equal but different reflection of the Doctor (in all his surly, judgemental, no-mourning, humans-are-puddingheads curmudgeonly glory). She succeeds, but in the process also demonstrates--and rationalizes--almost all the aspects of the Doctor's behavior she has objected to. (One of the reasons one needs the Fairbanks character is because that level of pure pissiness is too far out of character for Clara to pull off without it seeming utterly stupid and contrived).

The Doctor, seeing both, disapproves of both, sending the Fairbanks character away entirely, and refusing to give Clara more than the statement that she was an excellent Doctor--but that there was nothing good about it. Followed, of course, immediatly by the reminder that Missy, and a final judgment day, are fast approaching.

It's bloody near all theme. The plot, while perfectly fun and very properly spooky and clever and Doctor Who-ish, isn't what the episode is *about.* It's about the Doctor being forced to see himself from one remove, as portrayed by Clara and Fairbanks-character, and disliking it quite a bit.

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

I loved this episode, though I don't think the soufflé came together quite as well as "Mummy." But the monsters were genuinely freaky and I appreciated having a good old fashioned "proper" monster. Having so many of the threats be misunderstood or malfunctioning does get old and trophy. And besides, it makes a great contrast to highlight the ambiguity of Clara's actions.

And I love that the Doctor's "goodness had nothing to do with it" was a quote from Mae West

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

Does Blogger suck for the iPad or is it just me?

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Sean Case 3 years ago

It's not just you.

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Daru 3 years ago

BerserkRL: "Thanks! That really captures what I liked about the episode."

Absolutely with you Jane and BerserkRL. I needed to rewatch this a second time to really feel it and get it. But really did like it and where it went.

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Daru 3 years ago

Yeah interesting - when I watched the episode first, the ending just felt flat for me and I completely missed what Capaldi said. But on rewatching I heard the naming occur which was used to cast the being back into 2D universe. That worked for me then - especially as the communication could not really happen between the universes that were intersecting. Appropriate that the name used is relating to a 3D form, describing what the beings were *not* or were lacking.

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Daru 3 years ago

Loved the setting of the piece too.

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elvwood 3 years ago

I'd been pondering why the "Doctor waves his magic screwdriver" resolution didn't bother me in this episode when usually it would have done, and I think this explains it: like Deep Breath, the plot isn't the point. So thanks for sparking that moment of clarity!

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mengu 3 years ago

It doesn't bother me because anything more substantial would put the emphasis on what the Doctor did rather than Clara, which would be completely wrong.

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Daru 3 years ago

One thing I really enjoyed about this episode was that it's story of a 2D universe intersecting with our 3D universe drew on one of my favourite by maybe obscure little books - Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbot. The main narrator is A Square, who tells us about the 2D world (commenting also on Victorian hierarchy), then going onto visit Lineland, and involving also a Sphere from 3D world visiting Flatland where A Square lives - with A Square going on to dream about the possibility of many other dimensions.

One thing that is apparent from the book is that communication is hard between the dimensions - and Rudy Rucker in his book The Fourth Dimension & How to Get There, suggests that if dimensional beings from worlds with greater dimensions than those they are visiting would hardly be understood - imagine 4D beings visiting us and how they would appear - and their full form would be unintelligible to our eyes, let alone understanding and communicating intentions.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

"But then they're a nasty heathen lot up there in the higher dimensions, who ought to be smashed and done in, and would be too, if anyone could work out a way of firing missiles at right-angles to reality."

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Daru 3 years ago

Well yeah it would seem like that, but of course any communication would seem well nasty if it was coming at us from "right-angles to reality" and was broken down into monstrous nonsense. So yeah, they're all villains.

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Alex 3 years ago

Oh I admit, it's a stretch...

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

i don't understand what you don't understand

How is the line "horrendous"? In what way does it "dismiss every decision she’s made thus far? I'm completely baffled here.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

if anyone could work out a way of firing missiles at right-angles to reality

We have top people working on it.

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BerserkRL 3 years ago

I'm willing to bet that the following story has been done at some time by someone, but I can't recall it:

Two parallel universes run in opposite temporal dimensions to each other, so what's earlier for one universe is later for the other -- though neither side realises this. Universe A invades universe B as retaliation for an invasion (earlier, from A's perspective) by universe B; but universe B's invasion was in turn retaliation for the aforementioned invasion (earlier, from B's perspective) by universe A.

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Daru 3 years ago

Sounds a bit like the sort of stuff the Fringe did, and glad our best folk are working on the above.

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encyclops 3 years ago

I quite liked Capaldi's flat-hair-popped-collar look. I was a little disappointed when it went back to Big Doctor Hair at the end.

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encyclops 3 years ago

That idea makes me feel better about the name, Daru. I cringed at it both times, but it does sound rather more negative than the seemingly more natural choice "the Flatteners."

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encyclops 3 years ago

We do see that. I think Danny knows what's going on, and I think we pretty much have to see it come to some kind of confrontation. The beauty of the way it's handled here is that it could have been slotted in either before or after "The Caretaker," which I wouldn't be surprised to learn was intentional.

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Daru 3 years ago

Yeah the name's not that great.

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encyclops 3 years ago

Well, and stuff like this, obviously: http://www.bitrebels.com/design/76-unbelievable-street-and-wall-art-illusions/

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encyclops 3 years ago

I'm glad I don't read these reviews or the comments before I watch an episode twice, make up my mind, and post my own remarks about it. This is my favorite of the season so far. Right now I'm thinking:

1. Flatline
2 (tie). Listen & The Caretaker
4. Mummy on the Orient Express
5. Deep Breath
6. Into the Dalek
7. Kill the Moon
8 (tie). Robot of Sherwood & Time Heist

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Daru 3 years ago

Amazing pictures! And it was so perfect that it was set in Bristol, one of the homes of Banksy's work, but also there is a ton of great street art there hidden in many nooks and crannys - I spent days photographing it once when I lived around Somerset.

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Daru 3 years ago

And Gallifreyan_Immigrant, naming is power in magic (even if the name's not brilliant!)

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Anton B 3 years ago

I read that line as Clara effectively rejecting her reliance on the question 'what would the Doctor do?' and discovering her autonomy and a belief in her own abilities. Of course the corollary to that is, I suspect, that she might now get a bit 'power-mad' and abuse her new-found skills (perhaps becoming Missy). So potentially 'horrendous' in the future but certainly not in the context of that scene.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Giving them a pathetic name would reduce their power. So from a magickal perspective the banishing was correct. They were lucky he didn't name them the 2dis.

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Daru 3 years ago

Yes I like it! You've saved that idea for me now and the scene makes more sense for me now - thanks! Magically that makes sense in a way, as it is conceivable that one higher could then wield, through knowing the correct use of magick, power to banish.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Was it ever specifically stated that this was set on a council estate? For a guy on a council estate that guy had some very hipster accoutrements. Beard, retro furniture - the wall phone, the swinging ball chair, murals. (I know they were flattened people bits but they certainly fitted his decor). Actually the setting looked rather like where I used to live in Bristol (although I understand it was actually filmed in Gloucester) just down the road from Temple Meads rail station. Not actually a council estate but certainly near one. This is the environment that spawned Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky. It's a feature of urban life in the UK that might be lost on non-Brits that upper, middle and lower class housing often sit cheek by jowl and there is often creative interplay between them. Graffiti art is a prime example. It's pretty commonly accepted that Banksy's real identity is that of a middle class kid not the 'street wise' dude portrayed as his analogue here.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

I thought it was explicitly stated that at least one of the homes, the one with the swinging chair, was off the edge of the Council estate.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

It certainly reminded me of the Shakespeare Code.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Also 'no-bones' was a common term in medieval Britain to describe changelings - faerie children swapped at birth for kidnapped human babies. Travelling players would perform contortionist tricks at fairs claiming to be 'no-bones'. So the Doctor's naming has further magical resonance and situates the Boneless as being from the land of faerie.

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MatFuz 3 years ago

Alright. Third time lucky. Cannot be bothered to re-write the whole damn thing a third time so bullet points only:

1. Multiples of 11 abound (66 seconds, 22 & 55 chosen by boneless)
2. Likely multiples of 11 are present through all episodes.
3. I'm too lazy to check.
4. Missy is the Valeyard possibly freed as Clara was shattered throughout the Doc's timeline. Reintegration of Clara = bye bye Valeyard = Clara has normal life back without the Doctor.

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Daru 3 years ago

Yeah that really fits doesn't it. There has for me always been a conceptual correspondence between other-dimensional sci-fi beings / Ufology and the worlds of the Sidhe. Most myths describing interactions between our realm and that of the Fae, show to me that it would be potentially dangerous for us, or at the very least communication through the channels we are used to would be profoundly difficult.

I love the changeling stories - some great examples have little babies replaced with miniature weirdly adult looking creatures, swilling beer and eating copious amounts of food!

Yes - David definitely feelings of the Shakespeare Code.

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Anton B 3 years ago

It resonated with me because I'm writing a children's novel at the moment called The Changelings which deals with similar concepts.

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Daru 3 years ago

Wow that sounds very cool Anton.

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Anton B 3 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Anton B 3 years ago

Yeah captcha is cranky today.
Anyway I like your thinking and I really want this to be the answer. Love the multiples of 11, I'll watch out for them. I'd be dubious about the Valeyard connection if the GI hadn't mentioned it in a throwaway line in NotD

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Anton B 3 years ago

Thanks. I'm sure you'll all hear about it from me when I've finished it. ;)

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Daru 3 years ago

Yeah look forwards to hearing about it!

I have been fascinated by the concept of changelings for a long time. The research of Celtic scholar Caitlin Matthews is worth checking out. In a recent lecture I heard her discuss the concept of changelings as relating to the ancient Irish Bardic schools. Where children would be sent to at a very young age, and not seen for many years by their parents, and when seen again, due to the transformative nature of their poetic studies would not at all seem like the same person.

It's always been said that if you enter the world of Faerie, you either never return or come back mad or as a poet.

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UrsulaL 3 years ago

Danny did ask Clara if she was in danger. Which, to me, read that he realized she was traveling with the Doctor. That is, after all, the primary danger in her life.

He obviously didn't question her about it in the first phone call, as confronting someone about lies when they're in the middle of combat could be dangerously distracting.

But, in asking her if she was in danger, Danny let Clara knew that he knew what she was up to.

Which explains why she didn't answer the second phone call. Once she was safe, he'd be asking questions, and she didn't want to answer.

The thing that I don't understand is why she's lying to him at all. By the end of "The Caretaker" I thought it was pretty clear that the "weird" he was objecting to was the "weird" of living with lies, not her travels with the Doctor. He asked for the truth, because he wanted to support her.

And he's been quite comfortable with her friendship with the Doctor, to the point of getting her to back away from her decision at the end of "Kill the Moon" to never travel with the Doctor again, encouraging her to talk to the Doctor when she'd calmed down, and then decide. And in "Mummy" he also encouraged her to maintain her relationship with the Doctor, saying that she shouldn't burn bridges, as she and the Doctor were still basically getting along well. I don't think he'd be disappointed if, after "Mummy" she told him that she was going to continue traveling with the Doctor. He'd done too much to get her to consider that option in her life.

Danny values Clara's friendship and travels with the Doctor, without wanting to travel with the Doctor himself. He recognizes that the Doctor pushes Clara to be a greater (if not better) person, braver and willing to take risks to help others. But he also recognizes that this is dangerous. He's particularly concerned about the psychological dangers of being pushed to far emotionally. And he doesn't want her to stop traveling or to keep her safe, he wants her to trust him to help her pick up the pieces if she's pushed too far - which is exactly what he did at the end of "Kill the Moon."

Danny knows what it is to be pushed to be a greater person, and he doesn't want Clara to give up that chance, for her to be less than she can be. But he also knows that the time comes when you have to step back. And he seems willing to let Clara decide when that time will be.

So why is she lying? Because I think he'd be fine with the truth.

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storiteller 3 years ago

I think she's lying precisely because while he would be fine with the truth, she wouldn't be. She doesn't want to have those deep conversations with Danny about "how far is too far" and what kind of person does being like the Doctor mean. She's enjoying the high of making those decisions too much and being the hero that saves everyone to take the hard look at them that engaging with Danny will require.

Also, the idea of the Doctor turning people into soldiers goes back to at least Journey's End (probably before that), but I feel like this is the first time that the show has actually showed that. It felt very empty when Davros did it and Martha as a intergalactic fighter never made a lick of sense to me. But this story arc is actually doing a nice job showing that connection.

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encyclops 3 years ago

Yep, storiteller, I think that's just right. She'd much rather have a "don't ask don't tell" arrangement because then they don't have to discuss the details, and she doesn't have to question her own behavior. It's much simpler and safer to keep lying even if technically she doesn't have to.

It's not healthy, though. I'd be very surprised if we weren't headed for a reckoning.

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UrsulaL 3 years ago

Thanks, that makes sense, and is now my head cannon.

Clara has come to see this as an addiction, and the cure for addiction is detox, and she doesn't want to stop. Talking to Danny would mean confronting those fears.

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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jonathan inge 3 years ago

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Anton B 3 years ago

Have you considered that Clara's 'oscillations' are deliberate and part of the series arc? I really can't see any other continuing theme except the robots and soldiers thing which is an obvious Moffat bluff. Missy's teaser line at the end of Flatline "Clara, my Clara, I did choose well" seems to confirm a connection between Clara's behaviour and whatever the finale's mcguffin will be. In short, rather than uncovering an inconsistency in this series' depiction of Clara as a character I think you've highlighted this series' deliberate 'Doctor's jacket' continuity error.

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Jarl 3 years ago

Not really. In Fringe, the multiversal conflict was essentially a series of escalating tragedies set about by a very simple and small mistake. What Berserk's describing sounds more like Alan Moore's 4D War, where the retaliatory strike against the Time Lords comes before they were ever aware of their enemy, which lead to their own retaliatory strike, thus setting in motion the events which lead to the first strike.

For that matter, this would also describe the Time War, especially the view of it that has it starting in Genesis of the Daleks because of the Time Lords predicting the events of Journey's End, themselves set in motion by Genesis.

Flatland's such a good story. The bit about round pi in the episode in particular reminded me of it, since so much is made of circles and their ranks and qualities in the story.

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Jarl 3 years ago

Man, remember when everything was 11?
"Chapter 11's the best."
"How much danger are we in?" "Out of ten? Eleven."
"Whiskey is the eleventh most disgusting thing in the universe."

You'd think they'd keep that sort of thing up, what with 12 being so much more interesting of a number.

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encyclops 3 years ago

What are we making of Missy's comment about Clara?

I thought of a dumb idea this morning while sitting in traffic: perhaps Missy has chosen Clara not as her pawn but as her successor. Maybe Danny's is the "Death in Heaven" and Clara inherits Missy's role in order to stay with him forever in the (ugh) "afterlife."

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nimonus 3 years ago

Dan:

I think you are slightly missing the point in the same way that Clara did. It's not about *cold* utilitarianism. It's about agonized utilitarianism.

Last week, we learned that, as the Doctor sees it, sometimes the only choices are bad ones, but we still have to choose.

This week we get the (imo absolutely necessary) corollary that Clara entirely misses: the fact that we have to choose doesn't make the our ultimate decision any better. The lesser of two evils is still an evil. The minute we forget that, if even for an instant we celebrate it as an unambiguous good, or worse, revel in our own hubris and power at getting to make that decision, we become monsters.

This is classic Christian Realism territory, as articulated by Rheinhold Niebuhr amongst others.

The Doctor *does* care. The costs weigh on him. He doesn't always let it show, but it is there. What is scary, is that by the end of this story, Clara really didn't care.

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Daru 3 years ago

Och yeah, you're right, was just generally thinking that the idea one dimension warring with another made me think of Fringe. As yes, the two universes fighting out of sync in their timelines poses particular problems!

It could be argued that the Daleks in The Chase actually pre-empted the events of Genesis of the Daleks and set the whole Time War in motion then - a great example of this was done by Moffat in The Curse of Fatal Death, except that was not different dimensions or timelines.

Yeah Flatland is wonderful - good to have an almost callout to it in the title of the episode.

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Martin Fowler 2 years, 11 months ago

One theme, that was strong in this episode, but also present generally in the series, is that of truth and lying. Clara and the Doctor often accuse each other lying, although it seems to me the Doctor has done very little lying this series, while Clara has done a lot. I wonder if this is connected with the Doctor’s change in personality - in that he’s less inclined to white lie in order to be sociable. While this is naturally linked to his regeneration, it could also be explained by his time on Trenzalore - spending hundreds of years in a truth field would surely affect anyone’s personality.

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