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 …

Re: Is everybody a barking madman around here?

Agree it was a reasonably good episode.

The rumours seem to be that Clara is leaving at Xmas so I can't see her as replacing the Doctor and I don't think it would be a believable transformation anyway. However it was a good way of trying out the often mooted idea of a female Doctor which might increase the chances of that happening sometime in the future.

As to the Doctor I'm wondering if we are at the start of him descending into somekind of mental breakdown. Remember this is about when the Valeyard is supposed to orignate.

Imagine if the Doctor has a breakdown and seeks some futuristic treatment where he is bought face to face with a physical manifestation of all his negative aspects so as be able to work through his issues and then that manifestation somehow escapes to become the Valeyard.

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Trollface

Assistant: "DOCTOR, DOCTOR, DOCTOR.....

...DOCTOR, DOCTOR, DOCTOR, DOCTOR, DOCTOR, DOCTOR!"

Doctor: "What you want BITCH?"

In my version the role of the 'Doctor' is played by JayZ.

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Alien

Did anybody notice...

... that the "2dis" device that they use to "unflatten" things looked almost exactly like a Sinclair Cambridge calculator? </nerd>

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Re: Did anybody notice...

Yes. Probably a Scientific but could have been a Programmable. Need to check the stills. And it still worked! The display was clearly visible at one point.

Hope they didn't ruin it.

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Re: Did anybody notice...

It was a Scientific. http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/scientific___giant_scientific.html

To be honest, all this easter egg hiding classic tech within Dr Who episodes is ruining it for me as I now spend the entire episode looking for really old props. Last week they had an ORIC-1.

Should get out more.

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Are they killing more people in Dr Who now or am I just being more observant?

Last week it was people getting wiped out by the Ghost Mummy and this week it was the Attack of the 2D Monsters.

It's a very death-happy event for a Saturday evening BBC tv show.

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Re: Are they killing more people in Dr Who now or am I just being more observant?

More deaths than recently perhaps, but not than in the classic period.

Personally I'm wondering if the new series can manage a Horror of Fang Rock type body count (100% of supporting cast) or a Terror of the Vervoids (total sentient species wipe out)

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Re: Are they killing more people in Dr Who now or am I just being more observant?

You are Mary Whitehouse and I demand your big goofy glasses.

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Re: Are they killing more people in Dr Who now or am I just being more observant?

They should rename the show to "The Doctor Who Dalek Hour" since Daleks come back over and over and over and over.

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FGS

"...watching Clara from some kind of tablet."

It wasn't 'some sort of tablet'. It was an iPad. A Fucking iPad. In the afterlife (or whatever it is), which clearly is NOT in the present day.

Are they implying that Apple is alive and well in whatever millennium they're in, and that the iPad hasn't changed a bit?

God what am I saying? That would imply Apple has imagination....

BBC and Product placement?

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Flatline... is that the name of the episode or a description of the series

I love the new Doctor, but the writers are giving him nothing. They seem to be more concerned with fitting Clara into some bizarre plotline. The series isn't so much Doctor Who any more as it is "The Adventures of Clara the Impossible Girl and her Time Travelling Companion". Capaldi desperately needs a Donna, some decent writers and preferably the resignation of Stephen Moffat as well. Maybe then Capaldi and the show might stand a chance of recovery.

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Anonymous Coward

Finally, a Good Episode

Fun idea, nasty monsters, interesting character development for Clara (as opposed to random mood swings), some amusing visuals, and almost no bloody I-went-to-drama-school-and-all-I-got-was-this-one-Droopy-reject-face soldier boy. What's not to like?

The complaint about the monsters simply doesn't stand; these are classic "from another universe" Dr Who monsters and that's just fine with me. We've all seen the Moon Egg episode, and we all wish we hadn't, so perhaps the first reviewer could try to move on before anyone mentions the Zarbi.

If the series never gets any worse than this from here on in to the inevitable "Tell me, Clara, would you say that the Doctor was a Good Man?" line in whatever trial Missy is planning to call her as a witness for the prosecution in, we'll be doing okay.

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Re: Finally, a Good Episode

So, some 2D monsters who only know about us from the tyre tracks and footprints left on the pavement decide to let rip on the people of Bristol. Why? What could the people of Bristol have done to the pavement that so miffs off a species that it breaks the third wall and sets out on a jihad against anything 3D? Possibly all the pavement pizzas left on a Saturday night. Yeah. That'd do it.

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Re: Finally, a Good Episode

They don't like Banksy

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Re: Finally, a Good Episode

On the other hand, Bristol, Saturday night, up against the wall... 2D-porn.

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JCB

Take off the sign saying POLICE

and replace it with one saying TAXI. Everybody seems to ride in the Tardis these days. It used to be off limits to ordinary people, didn't it? Perhaps when the doctor finally loses his bottle, he will see out his remaining years as a taxi driver. There's an idea for a new show, "Taxi".

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Re: Take off the sign saying POLICE

Taxi? You'd have to have an assistant called Carla. Sorry, Clara.

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Goodness

...has nothing to do with it.

Seriously. If that line leaves you confused, then you simply should not be watching, nor whining about it.

He's The Doctor. He tries to do the right thing, and he does what is necessary for the right ends, but goodness has nothing to do with it.

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Re: Goodness

Right. In the end, he ended up probably killing the lot of these monsters (he did say that Some, Might, return home alive), and this is a type of life he's never seen before - for all he knew he was genociding the only ones in existence. That he saved some lives (and not necessarily the right ones) doesn't make that unalloyed good in anyone's book.

That's a pretty mature concept for a kid's TV show to address even tangentially. I'm proud of them.

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banksy.com

When I realised it involved graffiti and Bristol I was on the lookout for toff wall dauber and trademarked recluse Banksy dot com as a cameo amongst all the two dimensional characters.

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Devil

So you get iPads in the afterlife? The only question is it Heaven or is it Hell?

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TRT
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We've already seem Missy relaxing in Paradise, aka The Walled Garden from the Handbot episode.

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"suddenly have the power – literally at their fingertips! – to turn other things 3D; brain-mushingly idiotic."

Actually this isn't quite what happened. They could turn things 2D (which was central to the plot) and also turn them back again. Crucially they could not turn 2D things into 3D things, hence how Clara saved the day.

Having said all that the monsters were developed way too fast. They could have explored a lot more what they could do as purely 2D monsters (perhaps as a two parter) before they became pretty generic baddies.

It's hardly strange that Missy's bit feels tacked on, after all it was probably a bit that Moffat added to Mathieson's story. Although it is strangely reminiscent of purgatory from Being Human. I like these overarching story lines, but they don't seem to be weaved in to the episodes as well as in the Amy Pond era.

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Anonymous Coward

"Having said all that the monsters were developed way too fast."

That's a format issue - 1hr is too short while 2x1hrs is too slow-paced for the export market.

I don't agree that the story-arcs have worked at all well from the return onwards. The method of having stand-alone scripts which the script editor then patches just doesn't work for me, quite apart from the fact that none of the story-arcs have been interesting or even made much sense, starting with the gibberish that was "Bad Wolf".

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Bad Wolf

Bad Wolf was introduced in a very subtle way.

It was not rammed down our throats, as in Here's the ARC you're looking for. It was more Hang on a second, didn't we see something like that a few weeks back. And it sort of made sense, with Rose, while she controlled the power of the Tardis, touching all of her timeline with the Doctor to leave some clues as to what had to happen.

I wonder why she didn't see any evidence of Clara though. Oh, of course, no multi-series ARC (Babylon 5, why could you not have had more influence on other series).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Wolf

"Bad Wolf was introduced in a very subtle way."

Yes, but it didn't make any sense whatsoever once it was revealed. Subtlety ain't the issue.

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Coat

News Flash: The premise of the show is a 2000ish year old alien tooling around time and space in a craft that violates the laws of physics as we know them in half a dozen ways. It is not and never has been a hard sci-fi. That's not what the fans watch it for.

If you can't learn to suspend your disbelief and let go of the science long enough to enjoy a show which never made a claim to be scientifically accurate long enough to just enjoy it you really should stick to hard sci-fi and leave Doctor Who and the like to people capable of enjoying it. The reviews I've read here lately are about as credible as someone criticizing an action movie for the star getting out of situations he shouldn't have been able to survive.

Now if you want to slam the stories, go right ahead. I happen to disagree (this week was a SUPERB story in my opinion), but at least you'll be credible doing it.

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Anonymous Coward

What is the point of this?

Clickbait, thats all I can see.

I don't read these reviews much now, because they are SO badly written it's shocking. I popped in this week to see if the quality had improved at all, but simply put, No.

Most people watching this show are enjoying it hugely (myself included). I don't see the point of sitting these 3 cretins down each week to watch something they clearly do not enjoy and asking them to comment on it. Put them in front of Human Universe if they want science. All this weekly 'review' (and I am using the word loosely) achieves is click baiting and shows the Reg has totally no ability to deliver TV reviews. Which I must also point out (again) is not something I want from a Tech site. Perhaps, giving you a little credit, you just want rid of these 3 and this is a chance to pad out their CV's slightly before you bounce them out?

Just give it up please Reg, it's so sad to see you putting this absolute rubbish up. You are a Tech site, not a TV review site. Stick to what you are REALLY excellent at, and give up the un-necessary crap, please. I do recall at one point you were called a 'popular Lesbian site' but I've still yet to see much Lesbian focused content. On the other hand, I don't remember reading that you were a TV review site, so why are you shoving this in?

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Re: What is the point of this?

@Ian Bonham " I don't see the point of sitting these 3 cretins down each week to watch something they clearly do not enjoy and asking them to comment on it."

Well said. That's definitely the impression they're leaving me with every week.

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Re: What is the point of this?

Den of Geek. Better reviews, and more respect for their readers.

More abuse in the Comments section though. You win some, you lose some...

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MJI
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The tunnel - lots of odd things

Well that tunnel has no doors in it, and no passageways behind the walls, also no ladders nor stariways..

Simply is a curved hole under a hill.

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Can't say I disagree with the reviews

Personally, I think it was a huge mistake to start into the whole Doctor/Clara/Danny triangle without giving Capaldi and the writers a few episodes to find his character. Yes, it probably makes perfect sense when considered in the abstract - Clara struggling to come to terms with the new Doctor - but as a viewer, I find it's not easy to get interested or involved in something like that when I'm still struggling trying to buy into a new Doctor myself!. And it certainly doesn't seem to be helping that both Capaldi and the writers *also* still seem to be struggling to settle on a real character for his Doctor - to date he still seems more like a ragbag of quirks and traits than a rounded character we can empathise with. It doesn't help, either, that we've had some pretty ropey story lines and scripting along the way, and some downright embarrassingly bad ones (the schoolboy science errors in Kill the Moon were frankly appalling scripting). As for the putative "Missy" subplot... it feels utterly tacked on; it certainly hasn't hooked or intrigued me. And if anyone wants to disagree, fine - but as a simple fact this series has been weak enough to completely lose the interest of my wife, who has casually enjoyed watching DW with me since the early '70s.

Just my opinion; YMMV. But this has NOT been, so far, a shining example of DW at its best. Nor am I convinced it stands a great chance of becoming one.

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This season has had its clunkers, but it's MILES better than Matt Smith's bloody awful final season (specials discounted, because they were on the whole excellent). This episode was fresh, lively, funny, and had genuinely disturbing villains (and deaths). More of this please.

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I though the Doctor's assistant's job was to be a plot device?

"Doctor! I'm just going over here... Oh, I've been captured."

<Doctor rescues assistant.>

"Thanks Doctor!. Now I'm going..oh, I've been captured..."

<Doctor rescues assistant>

"Thanks!. Now I'm just ... Well what do you know,.I've been captured..."

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Re: I though the Doctor's assistant's job was to be a plot device?

That was so a 6th Doctor and Peri script. You should write for the series.

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I really enjoyed it.

And I didn't roll my eyes once. Lots of excellent, inventive bits. Mixing humour and horror like the best stuff. And the monsters were genuinely scary and exciting. And it's taken me until last episode to realise that I didn't like Clara because she was previously (and probably will be again) written TERRIBLY. These last two episodes she actually came over as an actual person.

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What we learnt...

The Tardis turns into the Pandorica when it goes into siege mode...

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Re: What we learnt...

Looked like Lemarchand's box, to me!

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Its been an excellent series with brilliant acting from the new Doctor. Way better than the last series, anyone remember that daft episode with the leaf ?!

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Bah!

Tardis materializes.

The door opens and out falls The Doctor, who collapses to his knees then doubles over gasping for breath:

Doctor, clawing air with one hand: Bring...in...proper...SF...authors...to...write...scriiiiiptssssssssssssssssssssssssss

Doctor collapses as credits roll. Cut to re-run of Blake's Seven.

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Re: Bah!

OK, full disclosure, I have made some snarky remarks about this current series in the recent past.

Currently it's not so much the acting, or the actors, and there have been some flashes of brilliance, but the tendancy of working in a story arc, come hell or high water, is pushing it... I do remember though that some of the episodes were reordered for some reason, and this could have totally screwed up the storyline.

I'm currently hoping that all this confusion will come about and make a lot of sense in the future, but a lot of the big story arcs, as I have already noted, have petered out to nothing (silence controlling one tardis, a tardis (same?) sitting on the house pulling in pilots to escape, who blew up the tardis with a reasonable and clear explanation. How the silence knew that the Doctor should not go to Trenzalore, and the Great Intelligence... all sort of petered out to zilch. Also, the only really frightening enemy of recent times was the Great Intelligence, as, to the contrary of Daleks, he could not be stopped, and could not be talked out of his revenge. Maybe Paradise *is* the Great Intelligence?

Anyway, going from the series reboot, the doctors always saved the day, always had a laugh, there was always some subtle humour, a lot of treknobabble, some science(ish) and fiction, and except the 2 parters, the end of the episode always had the doctor globally coming through.

We now have the Clara subplot, that is an open end, the Danny subplot, that is another open end, the Doctor who has no idea what is happening, and is being a total arse about everything and he should know better as the "never cruel" part of his Doctor"s Promise has been largely ignored in the script.

In the end, we have some very good actors, and some terribly bad story lines. If there is not a massive plot twist at some point, my current confusion will very quickly give way to apathy...

Finally, can someone rewrite Listen? It was a cracking story until it fell apart at the very end when it revealed that there never were any monsters and we were all having a quiet, inexplicable group hallucinatory out of body experience at the end... Even by current Dr Who standards, that was in my opinion a very, very cheap shot...

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Coat

Red lined coats

It's a Crombie, http://www.crombie.co.uk/the-coat/ Start saving!

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The Real problem

I don't even watch it any more. It's not because I don't like it, it's because the production have dropped the ball in actually getting it produced.

When was Series 7? Two years ago? Seems like it. And the DVD's come our one episode at a time and they try to sell them for 20 bucks each. And the Christmas special, and when they do come out with the entire series, they do it in two parts with many moons between each.

I'm not paying for that.

I'm not waiting for a half baked series.

I'm done with it.

I'm now looking at some nice indy projects online.

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laughter....

The scene where the Doctor walks the Tardis off the train tracks with his fingers....I laughed for 5 mins straight.

I'm the expectation for the Doctor to say "f*ckety bye!" is waning...

P.

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Re: laughter....

He did say "shuttity up" in the bank robbery episode...

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