Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 9
Rule Number One: The Doctor Lies.
Even when The Doctor is Clara Oswald.
Series 8 continued Doctor Who‘s hot streak (seriously, there has yet to be an outright clunker this series) by delivering a cracking good story with a terrifying villain, fantastic special effects, hilarious visual gags, great dialogue, and a fascinating role reversal with the Doctor and Clara. I almost flailed off the couch several times in my initial watch of the episode, and did so again when I rewatched the episode on my morning commute a few days later. (Yes, I was the basic bitch on the train clutching her pumpkin spice latte watching Doctor Who on her iPad and overreacting. Fine with it.)
At the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express” we saw Clara lie to both Danny and The Doctor about continuing her travels. While we don’t know how much time has passed since then, it is clear that there are some adventures in the interim between the end of that episode and the opening of “Flatline” (fanfic please). “Flatline” opens with Clara hastily packing up all of her stuff after another trip, like she is some sort of one night stand not wanting to leave anything behind in the TARDIS. “You CAN leave some of that stuff here,” The Doctor says. “We literally have acres of room.” So basically, The Doctor did the equivalent of offering her a drawer at his place. (Sorry, Sage, not helping you with your shipping problems.) Clara brushes off the suggestion, once again placing the blame on Danny, and turns to exit the TARDIS when she notices that the exit has shrunk. Uh oh.
Brief annoyance at being in Bristol aside, Clara is easily convinced to investigate the area while The Doctor remains behind with his magically shrinking box (a moment to appreciate how he wouldn’t let her go back in the TARDIS for fear that she would get trapped in there). After all…who has time for lunch on a park bench with Danny when there are mysteries to be solved? This is where things start to get hairy…while Clara is off investigating (and picking up her future companion Rigsy), the TARDIS shrinks again (down to the size of my TARDIS cookie jar, which I will obviously never look at the same again) trapping The Doctor inside. The Doctor has no other choice but to hand over the psychic paper and the sonic screwdriver to Clara while she delightedly tucks the TARDIS into her purse. It’s up to her to save both The Doctor and the world. At first Clara takes on the persona of “The Doctor” just to needle him (as he is listening and seeing everything through an earpiece) but as the episode progresses we see Clara transform into The Doctor with ease. It’s almost second nature. All of her travels with him have prepared her for this very moment. The Doctor may loathe to admit it, but he’s trained his soldier Clara QUITE well. From her wielding the Sonic Screwdriver like a boss to grabbing Rigsy by the hand and saying “Run”, Clara was The Doctor through and through. She even repeated back lessons she had learned on The Orient Express. “Give them hope,” she said. “People with hope run faster. People who are scared dawdle.” She eventually lost The Doctor’s Voice in her ear (or so we thought) once the TARDIS shut down as it went into siege mode…but by that point Clara didn’t even need him. She was that self-assured in her choices.
As recently as “Kill the Moon” we’ve seen Clara wrestle with confidence in decision-making. There was none of that hesitancy in “Flatline”. She was ruthless in her decisions and not once did she stop and wonder if she was making the right choice. She was commanding and clever and self-reliant and demanded respect (“I am the one who’s going to save your life.”). She was not afraid to make tough choices and she didn’t fall apart when people died. She was, as The Doctor admitted ruefully, an excellent Doctor. I do think it made him sad to admit that though. Not because The Doctor doesn’t want Clara to succeed or that he wasn’t a little proud of how capable she was. He was sad because if there is one thing The Doctor wants its for his companions to be BETTER than him. This Doctor especially doesn’t consider himself to be an overtly good man, so it saddened him to see Clara become him with such ease. I think he was reminded of what Davros once said to him…that he turned his companions into weapons. As he looked at Clara at the end of the episode, as she was beaming and asking for his praise, a look of sadness flitted across his face. Surely he must have thought of what Rory Williams (Pond) said to him…
“You know what it’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks, it’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.”
Indeed. And as we saw at the end of the episode…it certainly seems Clara is in danger. Missy has her eye on her. Missy has CHOSEN Clara for some unknown purpose…and there is no way it’s a good one.
I’ve said it in previous recaps of this series, but if you had asked me a year ago that I would be THIS concerned about the fate of Clara Oswald, I would have laughed at you. Series 8 has definitely been the Year of Clara and it’s been wonderful to watch her come into her own…but also scary. She is actually reminding me of Series 2 Rose Tyler…and we all remember how THAT turned out (The A.V. Club even compared the episode to “Fear Her” which directly preceded “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”). Clara is being reckless. She is playing fast and loose with all sorts of lies, both white and substantial. She lies to Danny, she lies to the Doctor, but most of all she lies to herself. She’s lying to herself that she’s not completely addicted to traveling the universe with The Doctor. The look on her face last week when she said “Shut up and show me some planets!” was the look of a drug addict getting a fix after a long stretch of sobriety. She’s a Time Travel Junkie and she’s beginning to make all sorts of sacrifices to maintain that high. I love that The Doctor called her out on her lies, as he caught her in the middle of one to Danny (pesky thing that ear device was). I think he was incredibly HURT by that lie and then tried to brush it off saying “Lying is an essential survival skill”. To quote the Tenth Doctor…a storm is coming and I am terrified for what that storm may bring.
BECAUSE CLARA OSWALD DESERVES TO DIE IN HER BED AN OLD LADY HAVING LIVED. DO YOU HEAR ME STEVEN MOFFAT?
Speaking of the Doctor, his role was a passive one for most of the episode, given that he was trapped in the TARDIS. I thought it was a fantastic way to do a “Doctor Lite” episode, because his presence was still felt very strongly. It actually reminded me a lot of “The Christmas Invasion” down to The Doctor having a triumphant Deus Ex Machina moment in the final act. And what a moment it was! I almost fell off my couch from flailing when The Doctor finally realized there was absolutely no reasoning with these monsters. They WERE just monsters after all, hellbent on destroying Mankind. And The Doctor…even this prickly and aloof regeneration…will ALWAYS be the man who stops the monsters. So with a pop of his collar and a flourish of his coat (“Heeeeeeeey, look at my dick.”), we finally FINALLY got the triumphant “I am the Doctor” moment we (okay *I*) have been waiting for all season.
“I tried to talk, I want you to remember that. I tried to reach out, I tried to understand you; but I think that you understand us perfectly. And I think that you just don’t care. And I don’t know whether you’re here to invade, infiltrate or just replace us. I don’t suppose it really matters now. YOU’RE MONSTERS! That is the role you seemed determined to play so it seems that I must play mine – the man that stops the monsters.
I’m sending you back to your own dimension and who knows, some of you may even survive the trip, and if you do remember this: you are not welcome here, this plane is protected. I am the Doctor; and I name you the Boneless.”
The Doctor may not always be a good man. He always has to make difficult and painful choices. A lot of people (often the wrong ones) may lose their lives along the way. But one thing remains true. The Doctor will ALWAYS fight for the greater good. And we should all feel a little safe knowing that he is out there fighting for us.
Timey Wimey Observations
– Having written this episode and “Mummy on the Orient Express”, Jamie Mathieson can most definitely stay.
– Bless this exchange. Clara really knows how to take the piss out of him.
– Have I mentioned how much I loved the special effects?
– For a Doctor that has come under fire for being callous towards humans, his final exchange with Rigsy was incredibly heartwarming. “Your last painting saved the world. I can’t wait to see what you do next.” (Makes up for the fluorescent pudding brain comment)
– Also, forever amused at the outrage on Tumblr thinking Danny said “What up, bitch?” when he called Clara from the Park Bench. True, there was some very unfortunate close captioning, as I have seen the screencaps (manipulated? discuss) but come ON people. It’s one thing for Capaldi to sneak in a rude gesture, it’s an entirely different thing for Danny to say “What up, bitch?”. It’s a FAMILY show. And he CLEARLY said “I’m at our bench” as he was waiting for their lunch date. Also they have a bench.
– Petition for 12 to do a Victory Dance in every episode. Seriously, Peter Capaldi killed the comic moments of this episode.
– I love how The Doctor had no problem confessing to the empty TARDIS how wonderful he thought Clara was, but couldn’t do it to her face. Perhaps he was put off by her cocky attitude, but perhaps he just can’t say how he feels about her to her face. (SORRY SAGE)
– “Can’t you just move it? Like Addams Family?”
That’s it for this week, Whovians! Sage will be you guide through “The Forest of the Night” next week, where it looks like once again we’ll be getting some Doctor/Danny interaction. Will they get along better this time? Will they stage an intervention for Clara? Stay tuned. Till then leave your thoughts about “Flatline” in the comments.