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Doctor Who Recap: “Flatline”

Doctor Who Recap: “Flatline”
  • On October 21, 2014

Welcome to my obsession. All the recaps are here. Spoilers below.

Flatline made my nine year old say to me “So, this show is kind of scary sometimes. Remember that library episode? Never watching that again.” I got to tell him that Doctor Who has a rich tradition of being viewed from under a blanket or behind a couch because while kids love the Doctor, the show can be scary sometimes. That seemed to help him feel better.

This was a fun recap but guys, you really should watch this one yourself. The special effects are magnificent.

So, we begin with a scared, bearded man telling someone over the phone that he “knows who did it.”


It was the one armed man!

“Listen,” he says, “listen. The’re all around. We’ve been so blind.”

Side note: Did anyone else think of the episode “Listen?” Just me? Okay good to know I’m still over thinking everything.

The man on the phone is freaked, and it seems he should be because a moment later he vanishes with a scream. The camera pans over to his wall and we see this image on what looks like a wallpaper runner:


Looks like a picture from those old Gameboy printers.

I’m guessing he’s not too thrilled about being turned into wallpaper.

Post credits, we return to find the Doctor and Clara having an awkward conversation about Danny. She tells the Doctor that while Danny is TOTALLY FINE with her traveling, he’s not as great about her leaving her things in the TARDIS. Clara is a terribad liar, it’s painful to watch. Meanwhile, the Doctor says they’ve landed sort of where they were supposed to, but the readings are weird. Clara tries to leave but discovers a problem with the TARDIS doors.


Curioser and curioser.

They emerge, with some difficulty, to find the TARDIS is much smaller than usual, maybe five feet tall. Clara’s frustrated and wants to leave. The Doctor reminds her that it isn’t often that he gets to solve a true mystery anymore, so she relents and offers to go look around for suspicious happenings. The Doctor gleefully examines his new tiny TARDIS.


I need it for my front yard. NEED IT.

Elsewhere, a youth is being forced to paint over graffiti for community service. The guy overseeing community service is a huge jerk. The other guys try to stick up for the youth, but mean guy makes them all get back to work painting over street art. No fun is had.

Clara wanders down by the crew and finds a memorial. There are some stuffed animals and flowers, and also a painting of people’s backs.


They look good from the back.

The rebellious youth goes to talk to her, and we discover he’s lost someone. Clara asks what’s up with the memorial, and he explains that people have gone missing all over the area. Clara phones the Doctor to fill him in, and discovers the TARDIS has had another setback:


I NEED IT. This is a very visual episode, isn’t it?

She pretty much can’t stop laughing at tiny TARDIS and who can blame her? The Doctor is very concerned, though. For one thing, he’s trapped in there now. He tells her that it’s not a shrink ray like in Into the Dalek, but that the TARDIS’s exterior dimensions have changed and that something has leached them. He tells her he’s found a source of the leaching, and she should head that way.


No like a really visual episode.

He passes her the psychic paper and the sonic screwdriver.

Clara: Does this mean I’m you now?

Doctor: No it does not so don’t get any ideas.

He also gives her a little gadget that lets him see through her POV. Thankfully, they don’t use the first person cam much, or I’d have had to watch the rest of the episode with my eyes closed thanks to terrible motion sickness issues.

While she’s scanning with the sonic, the irascible youth appears. Clara introduces herself as the Doctor, much to the Doctor’s chagrin. The youth’s name is Rigsy.

Rigsy: What are you a doctor of?

Doctor: Of lies.

Clara: Well, I’m usually quite vague about that. I just pick the title because it makes me sound important.

Oh burn, Clara.

Rigsy takes Clara and the tinyest TARDIS (in her purse) to the apartment of the most recent missing person. Clara introduces Rigsy to the Doctor via the earpiece she’s wearing, and the Doctor calls Rigsy a “barley sentient local” and a “pudding brain.”

Side note: It’s like you have to prove your worth to him, now. It used to be that he thought everyone was worthy. Now he’s not so sure.

It’s about now that Rigsy posits the theory that the people could still be in the room. The missing people were found in rooms with locked windows and doors, and everyone knows that puzzles like that end with the people being inside the room. The Doctor is duly impressed, and revises his opinion of Rigsy by telling Clara her opinion of him is totally wrong. I swear to God he’s like a ten year old, can’t take responsibility for anything.


Rigsy and the case of “why the hell would you have dirt painted on your wall?”

Clara does some sonic scanning, then suggests that the missing guy has been shrunk and he’s tiny. Rigsy decides to nope out. Clara shows him the Doctor inside the tiny TARDIS.  The Doctor tells them there’s no tiny man in the room according to the sonic scanning. Something suddenly makes a noise and drains more energy from the TARDIS. The team decides to vacate the premises.

The Doctor is angsting–why can’t he understand what’s happening? Dimensions are kind of a Time Lord specialty, usually. He wants more data, so Rigsy shows Clara to another missing person’s apartment. This time she uses the psychic paper to impersonate MI5 to a policewoman so they can gain entry. It’s like the “watch Clara lie badly” show.

Side note: I’m pretty impressed with the number of women with agency and people of color in this season. I wish they would make a main character of color. Like say, a Doctor. That would be great.

The Doctor tells her if the people aren’t still in the room, maybe they’re in the walls. He passes her a sledgehammer which she then pulls out of her purse like some demented Mary Poppins. They start sledging the walls and the policewoman goes into the next room to take a phone call. As she talks, the walls start to ooze around and make noise. Then the floors start to ooze and suck the policewoman into them.


That’s not good.

Her screams draw Rigsy and Clara but by the time they get in there, she’s vanished. All that’s left is her flashlight, still on. Clara scans around, and the Doctor grumbles that the TARDIS should know what’s going on. He sees (through Clara’s eyes) a mural on the wall, and determines it to be a scaled down, two-dimensional portrait of a human nervous system.


Our guts really do have a lot of nerve, don’t they?

He thinks that this is what’s left of the policewoman. And the painting of dirt in the earlier apartment? Human skin. EWEWEEWEW.

The Doctor suggests that whatever is going on, it is an experiment on humanity–dissections and studies. Before they can contemplate this creepiness further, the door to the room shuts and the handle turns 2-D.



The entire room starts to go 2-D, and the Doctor says “they’re” in the walls. Rigsy and Clara jump onto a hanging chair, because they can’t be touched by these 2-D creatures or else they’ll go the way of the policewoman. Just as the action gets intense, Rigsy and Clara trying to escape, Danny calls Clara.


She answers.

What the hell, Clara? Did no one tell her she’s the worst liar on earth? Someone needs to. So she’s out of breath and frantically trying to escape the 2-D monsters, and makes up some weak ass story which no one would remotely believe. He doesn’t either. She tells him it’s a long story and she’ll tell him later. I don’t envy her that conversation, seeing as how he has no idea she’s still running around with Doctor Meanypants. All of us wonder whether she realizes that caller ID allows you to not answer a phone when you don’t want to.

>>insert commercial that implies the next episode of Doctor Who is the season finale. I throw a fucking remote control because they HAVEN’T FIXED HIM YET and can we even discuss the crazy Missy chick because you cannot do that in one more episode what the fuck grrrrr. I google to learn there are three more after this one, and feel a bit better.<<


The Doctor comes back to announce that he thinks there are creatures from a universe with only two dimensions wandering about in our universe causing all this havoc. He’s very pleased, he loves all new things. He wonders what Clara will tell Danny, and compliments her excellent lying.

Clara: Yeah? I thought it was pretty weak, myself

Doctor: I meant to me. You told me that Danny was okay with you being back aboard the TARDIS.

Clara: Well, he is.

Doctor: Yeah, because he doesn’t know anything about it. Congratulations, lying is a vital survival skill.

Clara: Well there you go.

Doctor: And a terrible habit.

The Doctor starts breaking up so he instructs her to sonic the earpiece. She does so.

Clara: Does it even count as lying if you’re doing it for their own good? (Yes. Yes it does. This is pretty basic relationship skill stuff, Clara).

Rigsy and Clara come upon the work crew from earlier about to paint over the mural of all the missing people–the one with all their backs turned. Rigsy tries to stop them. The Doctor is watching, and when he can’t get Clara on the earpiece he yells out of the tiny TARDIS doors, sticks his hand through and points to the mural–that’s no mural! Those are the actual missing people.


Hand in a purse. Like dick in a box.

Clara flashes her psychic paper and claims to be Health and Human Services. The really mean head worker guy from before says “that’s just a blank piece of paper.” He beats the psychic paper–the Doctor claims that it takes a real lack of imagination to do that (or genius, since Shakespeare was also immune to it). He orders one of the workers to go to work painting over the “mural” but before the man can, he is sucked into the wall.

All the mural people proceed to turn around and face outward, then start climbing out of the wall. This is when my kid went to get his blankie, because this is some creepy shit. Clara tells the remaining workers and Rigsy that it is time to run right now, as the people ooze off the walls and onto the ground.


The special effects are pretty awesome.

They all run into an old warehouse.

Worker: Are we really hiding from killer graffiti? This is insane.

Doctor: I agree. We’ll have to think of a better name for them than that.

The Doctor suggests Clara take control of her band of street cleaners. She tries, but meanest worker starts in on her, demanding answers. She tells him she’s the only one who can get him out of this alive so shut up and behave. Which he does, because he may be less than imaginative but he isn’t stupid.

Rigsy tells them they can all escape through a door into old subway lines, if they need to. Mean worker calls Rigsy filth, Clara ignores him and pats Rigsy on the back for finding them an escape route.

This perfect dialogue happens:

Clara: I just hope I can keep them all alive.

Doctor: Ha. Welcome to my world. So what’s next, Doctor Clara?

Clara: Lie to them.

Doctor: What?

Clara: Lie to them, give them hope. Tell them they’re all going to be fine, isn’t that what you would do?

Doctor: In a manner of speaking. It’s true that people with hope tend to run faster whereas people who think they’re doomed–

Clara: Dawdle. End up dead.

Doctor: So that’s what I sound like.

Me: YESSSS please please please let this be sinking in.

The Doctor thinks the 2-D beings were trying to talk through some of the initial graffiti. He postulates that maybe they were trying to reach out and may have no idea they were hurting us. They decide to hack a speaker system in the warehouse and figure out how to talk to the beings. The Doctor says the TARDIS can’t translate because the beings are so bizarre she can’t work out the language. They decide to project pi into the speakers in some 2-D kind of way, I guess (don’t ask questions). There’s an amusing joke about pi and pie.

They get a response! 55. 55 turns out to be the number on the flattened worker’s jacket. At first, everyone wonders if it’s 55 trying to communicate back, or an apology, or gloating but then the number changes to 22. That’s another worker’s number (George), one who’s standing off in a corner. He looks down at his jacket, up at them. There’s debate about whether it was a threat or a communication and then:


That answers that.

Everyone runs for the tunnels. So much for communication. They look for ways out but every door they come across has been flattened by the 2-D creatures. The Doctor says he can help if they give him five minutes. He hands her a device that should be able to “restore dimensions” but refuses to call it a de-flattener. He put a name on it, though: 2DIS. She asks if it’s “two dee us” and he’s like, you idiot it’s toodis! Toodis, get it? and then he gets a bit butt hurt she didn’t get the joke. I enjoyed this interchange a lot–at least he’s trying to have fun.

In any case, the Toodis doesn’t work. She points it at the flattened door but the Toodis just starts smoking and stuff. Bummer.



The 2-D beings start leaching TARDIS energy again, this time with her doors shut and everything. Her power is starting to drain away and the Doctor is stuck inside. Clara decides they need to find another way out, pronto. Meanest worker starts bitching that no one put the Doctor in charge either and before they can make a decision, a giant hand flies up and grabs the last red shirt worker dude, then flies away.


I played that Zelda dungeon. It sucked.

The Doctor says of course–what’s the next step? The beings are able to achieve three dimensions. We look down the tunnel to see the paintings from earlier emerging from the ground. Seriously you have to see the effects because they are pretty amazing. Screencaps don’t do it justice.

The Doctor hands up the Toodis again, and this time it works better, getting the three of them who are left through the door. Clara reverses the process and re-flattens the handle, slowing down the creepy advancing 3-D painting people. Rigsy says if they can find a ladder, they can get down into the newer tunnel then head into the daylight. On the other side of the door, the painting people can restore 3-D as well and break through the door.


Well they’ve almost gotten the whole 3-D thing.

The Doctor says there’s good news and bad news. Clara points out that she’s living the bad news. He says he can send them back to their own universe, but they’ve stolen so much TARDIS energy he can’t do it. Clara asks what she should do. She is in the process of pulling the TARDIS out of her bag when meanest worker grabs it away from her, and then she drops it. Drops the TARDIS.

He has no shields, his structural integrity is failing, and now the TARDIS is on her side in the middle of the modern-day train tracks. And there’s a train coming, naturally. He thinks through his options–he has no power to do anything to move the TARDIS out of the way. He tells Clara to get those people out, that she’s stronger than she knows. She suggests he move the TARDIS himself, like “Addams Family.”


The Whoest of Doctor Who moments.

He drags the TARDIS to the side of the tracks and when he succeeds he does a little Cosby style happy dance you really have to see to believe. Naturally, the TARDIS falls back onto the train track just before the train comes. He rolls toward the control panel and yanks a lever. Clara appears to lose contact with him.

Clara, Rigsy and meanest worker emerge into the lower tunnel. The worker snaps at Rigsy, demanding to know whether there is another way down. Rigsy says there is, an old service elevator, and sure enough, off in the distance we can see the painting people approaching. Honestly this guy is hella mean, and negative, and I’m vaguely wishing he would get painted except the last thing the 2-D people need is more meanness.

In the TARDIS, we learn the Doctor has put her in “siege mode,” no way in or out. Life support is failing.

Clara stops an incoming train with the sonic, and the engineer asks what’s up. Clara (with a suprising assist from meanest worker) says there’s a “blockage” up the tunnel, and could she use the out of service train to ram it? The engineer says he’s always wanted to ram something, but you have to hold a handle down which would mean someone had to stay in the train. Meanwhile, the train starts up again because Rigsy has already figured this out.

Clara climbs on, and Rigsy asks her to let him die a hero. In beautiful Clara fashion, she says he can, but she thinks it might be better if she just use her headband to hold the handle down. Rigsy jumps off the train with her, and they send it empty into the painting people. It hits them and becomes nothing more than a train graffiti on the wall.



The painting people come back out of the ground and start their slow, lurching pursuit of Clara and her crew. As they run past, Clara finds a little grey cube with Gallifreyan all over it. She surmises that it’s the TARDIS, now in full self-protection mode.

Side note: I was curious about how often the TARDIS has changed shape on the show, and found this delightful history of the Chameleon Circuit. Enjoy. (Answer: not all that often, and usually with great reluctance.)

They hide in a little office, and Clara comes up with a plan. “Doctor, what would you do now?” “No. What will I do now?” She enlists the help of Rigsy to create a picture of a flat door. Meanest worker thinks she’s gone crazy, but he hangs around. Probably because the 2-D people are outside.

In any case, she sets up the painting of the door on one side of the wall, and the TARDIS on the other. Thinking they’re changing 2-D to 3-D, the painting people unwittingly recharge the TARDIS full of energy. They seem pretty annoyed.

Clara: Rule number one of being the Doctor: use your enemy’s power against them.

Side note: No. Rule number one is that the Doctor lies. But I’m sure it’s up there.

Not aware of this, the Doctor makes a recording for Clara as his life support runs out. He tells her she was good, and that she made a “mighty fine Doctor.” *sniffle*

The TARDIS eats up all that energy and like Cinderella she twirls herself back to her former glory. It’s pretty awesome.


Full power, bitches.

The Doctor, now full of opportunity, makes a Doctor speech.

Doctor: 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 them. I don’t suppose it really matters now. You are monsters. That is the role you seem 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. 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.

Bam, he sonics them back to whatever shit universe they apparently came from. It’s pretty fucking spectacular.

Endings come, the engineer seems properly dazzled. He kisses the ground and everything. He wanders off, pretty happy with life. The Doctor and Clara discuss how a lot of people died, but the meanest worker points out that it’s like a forest fire–the objective is to save the big trees and not worry about the small things. The people who died didn’t matter anyway. The Doctor says they were people, not brush. The mean worker says he won’t lose any sleep. The Doctor says “I bet you won’t.”

Side note: Man I hope he is taking the point here.

Clara asks the Doctor if what he said about her being a good doctor was just him being delirious because of lack of air. He looks her straight in the eye and says yes, and neither she nor I can tell what he could mean. Is he giving her a hard time? Or is he dead serious that she didn’t do a good job? Maybe he doesn’t know, himself. She gets a confused look, but gets interrupted by Rigsy saying goodbye before anything else can be said about it.

Side note: He’s so damn annoying, the Doctor. He’s like sometimes squishy but also so very cold and shut down. I really want to get a handle on him but I can’t predict what he’ll do or how he’ll be from week to week. I honestly really like this, although it is very difficult to relate to. I miss my Matt Smith love, but I do like how this is going.

Just after dissing Clara, though, the Doctor tells Rigsy that his most recent painting (the false door) saved the whole world, and he can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

Ugh what even Doctor how do I feel about you?!

Once Rigsy takes off, Clara pins the Doctor down.

Clara: Why can’t you say it? I was the Doctor and I was good.

Doctor: You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it.

Side note: In the middle of this conversation they miss a call from Danny again, which I believe is related. I think he’s angry at her for lying to him and to Danny. I think he might be reminding Clara that she doesn’t want to emulate the Doctor because he’s not a good man. We’ve talked about this, and she even agreed that he may not always be a good man (even when he tries to be). Why on earth would you want to be like him? She needs a good kick in the butt for treating Danny this way, and the Doctor is giving it to her. I hope she listens.

And in the last 30 seconds we see Missy/God/Mary Poppins mooning over Clara on an ipad. WHAT EVEN?!


Aren’t I just the creepiest little plot twist?

Next week: TARDIS at a zoo, or something. Looks cool.

(screencaps from

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