There are writer's names that echo down through the ages of Doctor Who. There's Terry Nation, of course, and Ian Stuart Black. There was Robert Holmes and the one and only Douglas Adams. In the modern era Steven Moffat hit pay dirt so deep at times only Neil Gaiman could top him, Now I think we've added another to the roster. Jamie Mathieson is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who scripts in years.
"Flatline" was a brilliant outing. Utterly gripping, horrifying, and philosophically devastating. Almost totally without fault, it was the highlight of Series 8 and weirdly, Peter Capaldi's finest moment despite being largely out of the action for the most part.
The Doctor and Clara land back in present day Earth, but not quite where they meant to. Upon landing, they discovery that the Tardis is having its dimensions shunted off by an unseen force. What's left is a battle between the denizens of the three-dimensional universe (That's us) and The Boneless (That's the terrifying monsters who embody the worst of ghosts and zombies all at once).
There is nothing cuter than a Tiny Tardis with full-sized Doctor trapped inside. The Adipose, maybe, but watching Capaldi stick his hand through the doors and try to drag the old girl along like Thing from The Addams Family is corny and silly and exciting and wonderful all at the same time. Capaldi has a real gift for making the ridiculous look suave, a far cry from Matt Smith who often brooded on his lack of cool. Calpaldi, by contrast, never says anything is cool because it never for a second occurs to him to wonder what is and is not.
The Boneless are a truly terrifying monster, and the saddest thing is how far both Clara and The Doctor go to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't think I've ever seen any Doctor or companion go to these lengths to try and hope for the best even as everything dies around them and people are yanked into nothingness like that freakin' hand monster from The Legend of Zelda.
Best off, they stand as a metaphor for the emotional arc Mathieson has charted in his two episodes. Nothing is two-dimensional. Nothing is black and white. Everything is hard and difficult and sometimes good people die and bad people live and it must get bloody exhausting living that every day.
In many ways this is a remake of "The Girl Who Waited", but with Clara serving as a welcome stand-in to The Doctor rather than as a bitter renouncement of him. She plays The Doctor well, even if she is constantly conscious of the irony of her doing so. It's hard to call to mind any companion other than her who really understood what it was like to be him. To love him, rely on him, help him, keep him in line? Those are legion. But has he ever really traveled with someone that could see things though his eyes and judge as he judges?
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Only Rose and Donna ever came close, and it almost killed the both of them. Both of them needed the touch of a Time Lord's power to do so, but Clara manages it through simple empathy.
The rumor is that Jenna Coleman will be leaving after Christmas, and if she does I will be very sad. This should have been the second episode of Series 8. The third at least. I think this truly the first time that that Twelve and Clara have "consummated" their relationship as Doctor and companion, and the result is pure magic.
Series 8 has been difficult to like, but there are now at least two episodes that should define it for the ages. "Flatline" deserves to be in the top ten of the revived series.