back to article Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots

El Reg's resident Doctor Who fans – Brid-Aine Parnell, Gavin Clarke and Jennifer Baker – have come together to discuss the plot of tonight's episode, Flatline. Please note: THIS IS A POST-UK-BROADCAST REVIEW – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! Brid-Aine says: Well, that didn’t last long. Rather than having the whole Danny/Doctor/Clara …


  1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

    Thanks for all the fish!

    I spent the whole episode thinking "what will The Register be saying about this scene today" rather than sitting back and chilling in front of the telly, glass of wine in hand. I'm reminded of the nerd that attends conventions ready to point out to the auditorium that the science in a particular scene is wrong, how stupid that the producers must be, and how clever he is for pointing it out. I think I wont be following this column next week.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks for all the fish!

      The NEW Doctor Who, written for women.

      All this equality has turned the storylines into mush and the Doctor into a parody of his former self.

      Pull your finger out and give me a proper Doctor story, not this feminist soap opera it has become.

      My wife hated Doctor Who and now watches it, and that says everything there is to say.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks for all the fish!

      Are we going to have Dr. Who reviews every week? Why that show and no others?

      As it is sci-fi there is little real science and therefore I have to question why it's on the Reg site?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for all the fish!

        "Why that show and no others?"

        Because for many of us, it was our first taste of scifi, and we grew up with it. Cardboard sets, comedy monsters and all, but of late appreciatively growing into Ecceleston and then Tennant's contributions.

        Sadly the current palava is caused by the fact that having updated the programme to acceptable graphics, good camera work and good acting, the BBC have thrown it all away by turning the whole thing into a shitty soap opera. The rot started under Matt Smith, who was always too effete for the role, but the storylines had caught a does of something nasty at the same tine. And now, well, it's Holby Fucking City in Time and Space (HoFuCTAS).

        So, HoFuCTAS? I'll tell you who, the knob ends of the BBC. And the c*nts at BBC Worldwide don't help, always badgering to have UK-focused content dumbed down for the international market.

        I can remember when the Beeb did not just good stuff, but brilliant, world class stuff. Now they've thrown away all the orgasmically beautifully filmed nature programmes, they shat on their previously fabulous costume dramas (1), and worst of all they've messed with Dr Who. Bastards, every last one of them, navel gazing from the inside, because they're up their own arse.

        (1) Not my bag, but I know a good thing when I get an hour or two to myself on Sunday evening.

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Thanks for all the fish!

        Why that show and no others?

        Because it makes for the best click-bait?

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

    Major takeaway points

    Tiny TARDIS toy in good time for the Christmas shopping binge. Actually a tiny TARDIS that could crawl along "Thing-like" using a hand might be fun. For a while.

    Clara turned to the dark side as a villain. Hmmmm tasty.

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: Major takeaway points

      Ha, I assumed they were using an actual tardis toy. I've seen them in stores.

      1. Slacker@work

        Re: Major takeaway points

        You can indeed get them in shops - had one for years that makes a "TARDIS landing noise" when picked up. Once found my, then 3 year old, son trying to stuff his favourite teddy into it as he explained "but daddy, its bigger on the inside"

        1. Lionel Baden

          Re: Major takeaway points

          Yup have two tardi('s)?? myself, of two different sizes made me chuckle at the episode, until almost tripped over both today in my sleep induced coma

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Major takeaway points

            Time to drag the Hornby gear out from under the bed... it's next to the Airfix TARDIS kit... How come they made an episode of Doctor Who with the contents of my bedroom?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The end ?!

    Fear this is going to be the final series of the Doctor -- the original series ended for similar reasons -- the plot lines became thinner and thinner and the actors became either lame (McCoy) or impossible to work with (Colin Baker).

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: The end ?!

      That's interesting, in the sense that it is wrong in every possible way it is to be wrong in a single sentence. Good job!

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: The end ?!

      I saw precious little of Colin Baker, but McCoy was a pretty strong Doctor in my opinion. He was no Tom Baker, but he wasn't bad.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: The end ?!

        There I would have to agree, but then again after Colin Baker it would have been hard to go further downhill and be any worse. I envy your precious little seeing of him...

        And sadly, at least in terms of written character, Capaldi is giving me horrible flashbacks of what they tried to do with CB. A frustrating shame given quite what PC is capable of as an actor if given writing that's up to the job.

        1. sisk Silver badge

          Re: The end ?!

          I'm still wishing that the attempted backdoor pilot with McGann had worked honestly. He's a great Doctor, but there's a huge chunk of Whovian culture that barely knows he exists because he's only been on screen twice.

  4. Marcus Aurelius

    The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

    This episode wasn't half bad.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

      Not necessarily killjoy, comes across as more unrepresentative of the broader opinion .

      It strikes me that the three of them are similar in outlook on the series.

      To paraphrase Perkins from MotOE - "can we get another reviewer?"

    2. dz-015

      Re: The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

      "This episode wasn't half bad" - no, it was whole bad.

      I don't see what's wrong with analysing something shit in order to point out exactly why it's shit; or why it's actually necessary to tolerate shit when this programme could be so much better, if only it had some decent stories and scripts.

    3. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

      It wasn't half good either....

      Last Weeks Galaxy Express 999 Ep. Was actually One of the few good Ep's to have come outta Nu-Who though IMHO...

      1. Marcus Aurelius

        Re: The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

        Oh come on - we've had "Listen", "Mummy on the Orient Express", "Flatline" and "Time Heist" in descending order of greatness, which makes nearly half of the current series which were highly memorable. I think this is higher than Matt "Fluffy Bunny Doctor" Smiths incarnation. I grant that David Tennant incarnation stands well above the rest, but the series with Capaldi is certainly not lacking.

    4. illiad

      Re: The Register is becoming a bit of a killjoy

      you heard of YMMV ???

      and the TV guide does not help...

      'an enemy that exists beyond human perception' ?? no, it was '2 dimensional' perfectly easy to 'see' by all the people in the episode...

      'doctor in the tiny tardis' - No, as any DrWho fan knows, the tardis exists outside earth's dimension, so it may look small, but inside it is normal sized... it is just the door that changes size.. the *outside* of the tardis gets so small she can put it in her handbag!! :)

  5. The_Idiot


    ... of course, feel free to ignore. after all, I'm an Idiot (blush) :-).


    The last scene cuts to the enigmatic Missy watching Clara from some kind of tablet. “Clara, my Clara, I have chosen well,” Missy says wistfully.


    From 'The Doctor's Wife':

    The Doctor: How did you know about the boxes? You said they'd make me angry. How did you know?

    Idris: Ah. It's my thief.


    Idris: Do you ever wonder why I chose you all those years ago?


    Clara could, to some eyes, be seen as being forced to act in a way a Time Lord would. And if Idris in these quotes were replaced by Missy, and The Doctor by Clara (who has been on Gallifrey more than once, and at least once very close to a bunch of TARDISs - er, TARDIi - er, Time Lord Boxes (blush), the same relationship might make sense...

    Or, of course, not. After all, I'm an Idiot (blushes again).

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Speculation...

      Idiots often see the truth, because of their unblinkered innocence. (Only kidding; I'm sure you're not innocent.) We also had the scene (I forget which series and episode) where Clara directed an 'early' Doctor to a particular place, the implication being that she was nudging him into selecting a particular TARDIS when he ran away from Gallifrey. She certainly is well scattered through his timeline.

      Then we have the bits with Matt Smith where the TARDIS seems to react against Clara in a passive-aggressive way.....

      My personal opinion is that there may have been a long term 'arc' in someone's mind but it's all getting fragmented and too much trouble to develop and present in a coherent way. After the first two episodes of this series, I stopped watching (more in sorrow than anger) and now I just just read a few reviews on Sunday morning, none of which make me regret my decision.

    2. bpfh Bronze badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Speculation...

      You may have somthing there actually.... When Clara jumped into the time vortex on Trenzalore to counteract The Great Intelligence, at one point, she stopped the escaping Doctor and make him choose another Tardis - and in In The Doctor's wife, Idriss mentionned "You chose, me.... And I chose you!"

      So, is Clara, the impossible girl a Tardis in human form? Or a Time Lady, or just under the Influence of either the Time Vortex or the Doctor's Tardis?

      Black helicopter icon, because...

      1. The_Idiot

        Re: Speculation...

        Well, it has been said that 'Tardises are not made - they are grown'. So the idea of Clara being a 'baby' Tardis isn't impossible (and I'd love it to be true).

        On the other hand, if you were a 'rogue' Tardis (perhaps you'd 'lost' your Time Person in some suitably HAL-esque way), or a TARDIS that had recently matured ('recent' in TARDIS terms), it might not be easy to find a Time Person in the absence of Gallifrey. So you might have to, um, start 'growing' one of your own. Clara has been shunted towards the Doctor a number of times (for instance the helpful little old lady in the shop who gave her the Doctor's number). If you want to grow your own, then sending her to school with the (apparently, ignoring The Doctor's Daughter, The Master and any others the script writers want to come up with) Last Time Lord might be a start...

  6. Mr Templedene

    I enjoyed it, same with last weeks, he's stopped being so irritable.

    Good fun romp, it's just not worth being picky.

    1. Pet Peeve

      Same here, I laughed out loud at the sledgehammer and the "Addams Family" thing (er, Thing), and it's a rare tv show that does that when you're watching it alone.

      The stuff between The Doctor and Clara was loaded with fine dialogue and bits of business, Clara has had the opportunity to try on the role of The Doctor in a way that I don't think any companion in any series (leaving out Romana) has had a chance to, and besides that, it was just FUN.

      Not sure what the negativity is about - it's like some people mourn their fandom instead of enjoying it. If that's the case, watch something else. Hate watching is stupid, and hate watching just to rant about it in a 3 page register article is even stupider.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge


        Is it just me, or did he start channeling Captain Kirk a bit too much when he was trapped in the TARDIS though when the life support went on the blink? The slow and emphatic delivery (and randomly placed emphasis) to tell us all about it was just pure Shatner...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People are still watching?

    I gave up after 3 or 4 episodes, it was just dull.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People are still watching?

      I / we (my SO and I) gave up 2 series ago - Smith-Moffat wasn't all that. Moffat, as being responsible for both writing and producing, reminds me of Rick Berman with Star Trek.

      And we all know how well that turned out...

    2. Purple-Stater

      Re: People are still watching?

      If you can't bear the mediocre parts, then you don't deserve the good parts.

  8. No! The red button Igor ...

    You're still reading the reviews though, and commenting!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reading the Reviews?

      Of course I'm reading the reviews, I want it to improve, I want it to return to a decent tv show that I can enjoy, but from the article and all of the comments, that looks very unlikely. If I'd voiced an opinion on something I hadn't watched then I'd say you had a point but as it is your point is moot.

      Incidentally, try using the reply button next time then I can be sure that you're talking to me and not the author of the article.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Ridiculous! Idiotic!

    "After just a few weeks of experimentation, the aliens figure out how to make themselves 3D, ridiculous, and even worse, suddenly have the power – literally at their fingertips! – to turn other things 3D; brain-mushingly idiotic."

    Well the Doctor did just rock up in a Tardis with all of its dimensional power which the aliens were sucking away, which is why it was getting smaller.

    I quite liked it, the last few episodes (and by that I mean most of the series) haven't been at all bad.

    1. Carneades

      Change is all around...

      This episode was definitely better than last week's. But Who is supposed to be Science Fiction, so one might reasonably expect it to use some science from time to time.

      The concepts were indeed interesting, although not original, and the pace this week was significantly improved. But two things occur: in the real world I sometimes believe the US approach to writing would be better. Teams, rather than individuals, frequently produce better content, and although there are always exceptions, by and large British drama has always suffered from (often rather ropey) character centred plots, which is exactly what good science fiction avoids.

      The other factor is that the show really should aim to deliver as much accurate science as possible, otherwise it becomes just another Magic show. It does a disservice to intelligent youngsters by not at least attempting to explain how and why some things happened. How did the normally invincible TARDIS lose energy to the 2Ds? And how was it very nearly destroyed?

      The teaser about Clara (monster, villain, the next Dr?) seemed almost tacked on, and makes one long for the return of Riversong, but it was a far better episode overall than last week, and that’s at least encouraging.

      Here’s an idea: the most compelling episodes of Dr Who have (to me) always centred around discovery and a sense of wonder. To that end, perhaps the show should start looking at established Sci-Fi writers as sources for ideas and move the Dr away from the current space/time position. Lots to see at the end of the Multiverse…

    2. Rogue Jedi

      Re: Ridiculous! Idiotic!

      I was under the impression that the 2d people had absorbed the diminsion increasing energies from the 2dis mk1 when it failed to make the door handle 3D and released the smoke.

      my biggest problem with that episode was that the Doctor used the Sonic Screwdriver to send the ailiens home after going on for quite a while that he needed to recharge the TARDIS to stop them, yes it appered that the Tardis had frozen them in place but could he not have just asked Clara to return the screwdriver for him to reprogram then return to stop them, and is the screwdriver powered directly from the TARDIS?

  10. Phoenix50

    I'm done with it...

    ... The Register reviews each week obviously, not Doctor Who.

    I love Doctor Who and certainly don't need to analyse the shit out of it every week.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: I'm done with it...

      Me too, Why don't they pick another british tv series to overanalyze ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm done with it...

        "Why don't they pick another british tv series to overanalyze ?"

        Because this is DOCTOR WHO - it's a bit more special than most other programmes on the telly. It's been around for decades, it's part of British heritage! It's got a long back story, legions of fans, and it's mysterious - how many other shows can compete with that?

        And you're here reading about it - would you have clicked on a story about many other TV progs if they had written about them?

    2. ukgnome Silver badge

      Re: I'm done with it...

      I'm with you. Not only are they rubbish reviewers but I think they are possibly rubbish journalists too.

      Time for the intrepid 3 to start flipping burgers for the Golden Arches. That way they might find a few taxi drivers that care for their drivel.

  11. Wibble

    Clara the teenager

    To move from the quite strong plot of "The Impossible Girl" to this mush is quite frustrating. Clara's supposed to be strong and clever (c.f. The Impossible Girl), but it's seems she's regressing to become an irrational teenager, vis the boyfriend nonsense.

    We're now mid-way through this series and it still feels like it hasn't started yet.

    It would be good to see Clara spun off to a C-Beebies sub-series and leave The Doctor to get on with it.

    1. Doctor_Wibble

      Re: Clara the teenager

      > It would be good to see Clara spun off to a C-Beebies sub-series and leave The Doctor to get on with it.

      This might be the actual cunning plan, maybe it will become standard practice though it remains to be seen if it is reward or punishment...

      [ disclaimer : no relation, above or below ]

      1. Seanie Ryan

        Re: Clara the teenager

        I have to ask what has actually happened to the idea that she was the 'impossible girl' there through all of time with all doctors? has that just been 'forgotten' and now she is just and annoying sidekick?

        how did this happen?

        Can anyone explain this leap to me? Did I miss a scene in some episode where this is explained?

        I am trying my best to stay watching DW. Girlfriend has given up. Hates this season.

        Orient express in space was just a re-hash of Titanic in Space to me. Coming soon, Route 66 (in space)

        This week was a bit more fun though. maybe because Capaldi featured less?

        also, just to annoy someone

        " watching Clara from some kind of tablet" - its clearly an iPad... it is the "Promised Land" after all !!! ;-)

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          Re: Clara the teenager

          I have to ask what has actually happened to the idea that she was the 'impossible girl' there through all of time with all doctors? has that just been 'forgotten' and now she is just and annoying sidekick?

          how did this happen?

          Can anyone explain this leap to me? Did I miss a scene in some episode where this is explained?

          IMHO, the only connection between the impossible girl and the annoying sidekick is that it is the same actress. If someone else had been cast instead then the producers wouldn't have felt obliged to claim some sort of storyline link and we wouldn't be in this position.

          1. lorisarvendu

            Re: Clara the teenager

            Well to be fair she isn't some superhero called "The Impossible Girl". Her splintering through time was caused by the Doctor's sparkly left-behind-after-dying timeline thingy. It didn't give her superpowers, and all through Series 7 she was shown to be boringly human.

            Presumably all her past splintered selves still exist throughout the Doctor's timeline, but the Clara in the modern day is all she ever was, an ordinary human being.

            As someone pointed out on another forum, whenever Clara has nothing to do she's called annoying and whiny, and whenever she does anything Doctorish, the Moff is accused of having a Feminist Agenda.

            If Clara was actually a male character (Clarence, ha!) the series wouldn't get anywhere near this much stick. For all their supposed open-minded liberalism, some Doctor Who fans really are horribly sexist at times.

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    A joy and a fear

    This episode was a joy. Clara finally being able to go back to ass-kicking goodness instead of that slushy love puppy crap. I also enjoy the Reg reviews - a billion year old regenerating time lord in a sixties style police box, no problems. Weird 2D/3D aliens? Nah, we're not buying that...

    The thing is, I have a great fear that the underlying storyline with Missy is going to turn out to be a great big misfire. If this is ultimately Clara's goodbye, then we really need to have Clannad-style feels going on, instead it will be some hokey rushed alien-induced soap opera like Rory/Amy and the Angels. A brief "wah!" and it is all but forgotten. Clara deserves better.

    On the whole, obvious plot rubbish aside, this was one of the better episodes because Capaldi wasn't being gloomy and pushing the plot in the wrong way, and also because it didn't try to be anything it wasn't. [oh the epicness of a train in space that is really a lab to try to .... mummified soldier? seriously? omfg what a wasted opportunity]

  13. Rol Silver badge

    Who is the target audience?

    Well, I'll go out on a limb here and suggest it is intended to be consumed by children. My friends 8 year old son is obsessed with it. He has all the merchandise and is a walking encyclopaedia of all things Dr Who wise.

    Just like many other popular children's tv programs it isn't a bad idea to throw the parents a few bones to keep them amused and add a family dimension to it all, BUT if it focusses too much on keeping ma and pa riveted it is missing its whole raison d'etre, beginners SciFi for the next generation of dreamers.

    As Peter Capaldi did state, right at the outset, and I forget his actual wording, but in short, the stabilisers are off. At the time I didn't quite understand what he meant, but I now believe he was referring to the end of making it palatable to adults. It is for children and as such you must view it as a child to get any enjoyment out of it.

    You might as well critically review the Tellytubbies for all it matters to the real target audience.

    I for one like the new format and yes I am aged eight and three quarters for about 45 minutes a week.

    1. Lamont Cranston
      Thumb Up

      Re: Who is the target audience?

      You're spot on, here - Doctor Who is a kids' show, always has been, always will be. It's going wrong because it's trying, and failing, to appeal to adults, rendering it incomprehensible to children (quoth my youngest: "THIS IS BORING!").

      I think it might also be suffering becuase the stories are crushed into 35/40 minutes, and thus have a hurried resolution - I don't necessarily want a return to the 4 cliffhangers + 1 resolution, of my childhood, but the decent stories of the past 2 episodes have had very rushed conclusions ("it's a flag, he's a soldier, I'll salute him and he'll fall apart" / "I'll leap out of my tardis, brandish my magic wand*, and they'll fall apart"), so maybe it ought to be split over 2 nights (Fri/Sat or Sat/Sun)? It's in the wrong timeslot, anyway - it should come before Strictly!

      *about time the Sonic Screwdriver went, too - occassionally well used, mostly just a crutch for lazy writing

      1. lorisarvendu

        Re: Who is the target audience?

        Yup, Approximately 19% of the audience are below the age of 15. 16-25's only make up half of that (9%). And the over-65's make up another 11%. Since most children have 2 parents, I guess another 30-40% are the parents of the under-15s (like me). Easily a family show.

  14. ShadowDragon8685

    Is everybody a barking madman around here?

    Is everybody a barking madman around here?

    This episode was *bloody brilliant.* Danny Pink and his subplot got shoved firmly to the back (his whole plot got what, maybe 90 seconds of screen time, and he himself got maybe 20?), Clara was forced into the position of being The Doctor, and she did so in such spectacular fashion that you'd think she actually put on Matt Smith's Bowtie. She DID use his sonic and psychic paper, for crying out loud, and we all know that entire companionships go by without the Doctor giving up his sonic for so much as five minutes, let alone a whole bloody episode.

    And she was good at it. As for the Doctor, well....

    I'm starting to think that he has more in common with Danny than he'd allow you to speculate without clobbering you. He's clearly burnt out, millennia of fighting with great evils and seeing people he couldn't save get killed have taken their toll on him. His lines were telling: "You were a spectacular Doctor, Clara. Goodness has nothing to do with it." Remember earlier? "Clara... Am I a good man?"

    A fellow who believes he's not a good man, who's lost the faith in the righteousness and the rightness of what he does is a goner. That's a wound that you can't regenerate from, that's one that'll stick with you no matter how many times your body regenerates. And the Doctor is clearly an old boy, showing his age, his weariness with it all...

    Wild and Irresponsible Speculation: I think that they may be planning to kill off The Doctor for real, only to have Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl, take up the mantle entirely. Possibly even Regenerate her and reveal she's been a Time Lord all along, or else Capaldi-Doctor gives her any remaining regeneration juice he has to kickstart the process. Then he expires, or worse, physically survives, but is completely mentally exhausted. Upset and traumatized, but realizing that something has to be done, Clara Oswald rises from the metaphorical ashes (or knowing the sometimes hamhanded imagery this lot uses, literal,) and says "I am the Doctor." Hopefully to Danny Pink.

    Or, better yet, something like....

    "I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord, the Inheritor of the Oncoming Storm, adopted daughter of Gallifrey, I'm 25 years old from the planet Earth, and I need to figure out how to fly a TARDIS before we crash!"

    Hell, if they can do it to Thor, son of Odin...


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