Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who: Flatline

Time for plenty of cross-media references this week.

1. Doctor… Or Ambassador?

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The Ambassadors (1533)  by Hans Holbein the Younger hangs in the National Gallery, London. I saw it last month. It contains one of the most famous examples of anamorphosis in paintings, a stretched and distorted image that can only be seen from the right angle. Which is what we saw today.

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2. The Wall Is Another Country

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We also got a great example of Flatland. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions was an 1884 satirical novella by the teacher Edwin Abbott Abbott, that explored a theoretical two dimensional plane of existence as a way to satirise modern society, where different shapes had different castes in life (the narrator was a upper class square) and the invasion of a three dimensional sphere, only understood as a circle increasing and decreasing in size. Also recreated by the Sleaze Castle comic as a Cockney soap opera Flatlanders

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This really emphasises the return this series to big science fiction ideas crammed into a small TV show with limited budget that gets into them quickly, without fuss and then ejects them. Along with Kill The Moon and Listen, this episode takes a big sci-fi idea and does it in one. Then moves on…

But it also ties into the imagery of the blackboard, repeatedly seen, as another Flatland. And for those still tinged with all things Russell T Davies, do recall the last time we had people disappear into drawings, it was the appalling Fear Her.

3. Doctor In My Pocket

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James Bolen plays the eponymous Grandpa in the successful CBeebies show Grandpa In My Pocket, about a mischievous grandfather who can shrink himself down with his shrinking cap and get into all sorts of scrapes. And with a few set pieces from tonight's episode of Doctor Who as well. It also appears to have a higher CGI budget than Doctor Who.

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When you can't afford to shoot a train in motion, it looks as shoddy as the space shuttle crashing on the moon. However, the semi-3D Flatlanders looked absolutely wonderful, the limitations of budget becoming an absolute strength in their uncanny valley portrayal.

Note, this is also what they call a Doctor-Light episode, in which Peter Capaldi stays in one location for a long time, with the lead handed to Jenna Coleman, rather literally in this case, which rather helps with his shooting schedule. Other examples include Love And Monsters, Blink and The Girl Who Waited.

4. The Mary Poppins Bag

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It has been theorised that Mary Poppins is a Time Lord and her bag is her TARDIS. It too is bigger in the inside that the outside. There's certainly a very strong comparison of method in this episode.

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5. Wall-To-Wall Coverage

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Banksy is from Bristol. If you're looking for street artists, it makes for a good location. Also, the scene cleaning up graffiti seemed right out of Misfits. So close to a crossover…

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6. She Can Use The Sonic

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Not only can she be the Doctor, but just as last week, she can also swing a sonic screwdriver and look like she knows what she's doing. Possibly doesn't, but hey, isn't that what being the Doctor is all about?

7. Living In A Box

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The Seige TARDIS does look a little Pandorica-ey doesn't it? After all, the Doctor can't get out….

8. The Sonic Also Turns On Subtitles

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Just in case you didn't get that. Murray Gold got a bit enthusiastic there.

9. It's All About The Morality.

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"You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness has nothing to do with it."

Especially after last week's Mummy On The Orient Express, we have a series where the Doctor sacrifices people to save the rest, each time getting closer to the solution and never before so clearly laid out for the Companion to see – and now participate and emulate in. The lesson from The Day Of The Doctor now forgotten, Kill The Moon but a memory Clara is now an accomplice. This Clara would have aborted the moon, have blown up Gallifrey, and this inconsistency is what is so delightful in this series. Every episode is now the Doctor holding those two wires apart in Genesis Of The Daleks and every episode gives you a different answer. In many ways, this is what the production team were trying to do with Colin Baker, yet failed utterly through their lack of skill, experience and talent. But tell me you can't hear him speaking the line above…

But Davros' accusation about the Doctor turning those around him into weapons still rings true, and truer than ever with Clara, with this episode and the previous one.

10. Gotta Catch 'Em All

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And a return for Missy. The woman who gave Clara the Doctor's number, who exists in the Nethersphere, who collects those the Doctor has sacrificed, or who have sacrificed themselves for him, gather in the Promised Land… Missy… Missing Episodes? Will we find Marco Polo there? We did see that gong in Time Heist after all… and she has Clara on her iPad 2 now. I hope she didn't upgrade to iOS 8.

So… what did you all think?

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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