DOCTOR WHO (2005) series 8, episode 9
WRITER: JAMIE MATHIESON
DIRECTOR: DOUGLAS MACKINNON
AIR DATE: October 18 2014
As he attempts to get Clara (Jenna Coleman) back to London, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) finds that the power of the TARDIS is being drained away by some mysterious force, causing them to go off course and materialise in Bristol instead. On landing, they are shocked to discover that the baffling power drain has caused the outside of the TARDIS to shrink while leaving the inner dimensions intact. The Doctor asks Clara to investigate the vicinity around the TARDIS to search for any clues relating to their predicament while he tries to stop the power drain. As she explores the neighbourhood, she meets a local graffiti artist named Rigsy (Joivan Wade) who is on mandatory community service, working with a small crew to clean up the graffiti. Rigsy tells Clara that a number of local people have recently gone missing and that a strange mural has appeared on a pedestrian tunnel wall which appears to commemorate the missing persons, displaying them in eerie lifelike fashion with their backs presented to onlookers. On returning, Clara finds that the outside of the TARDIS has shrunk even more, so that she can now place the time machine in her hand and the Doctor can only push one of his hands out through the open door. He passes her his sonic screwdriver, psychic paper, and an earpiece to let him communicate with her, and asks her to carry the TARDIS with her in her bag. She meets up again with Rigsy, assuming the role of "Doctor Oswald" and adopting some of the Doctor's mannerisms.
At a house where the most recent disappearance took place, they find nothing amiss except for an unusual mural of what appears to be a desert on one wall. Accompanied by PC Forrest (Jessica Hayles), they investigate the house of the first disappearance. While the policewoman searches in a different room, the Doctor instructs Clara and Rigsy to tear out a wall, believing the source to be within. In the next room, PC Forrest screams out as she is suddenly absorbed into the floor. By the time Clara and Rigsy arrive, she is nowhere to be found. The Doctor is drawn to another strange wall mural and, realising that it depicts a human nervous system, he surmises that this was the fate of PC Forrest. He further surmises that the desert mural in the other house was in fact a close-up view of the last victim’s skin. From the evidence, he deduces that the world is being broken into by creatures that exist in two dimensions, which he will come to name as the Boneless. The Boneless suddenly begin rippling across the room from all directions toward Clara and Rigsy, closing in on them and trapping them in the room by flattening the door handle into two dimensions. With the help of a hanging chair, Clara and Rigsy escape by crashing through a window. During the escape, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) calls Clara. The Doctor overhears the conversation and knows that Clara has lied, both to Danny about ceasing her travels with the Doctor and to the Doctor in affirming Danny's approval of her traveling with the Doctor.
Clara is handed the sonic screwdriver
(yes, still bigger on the inside)
Clara and Rigsy run to stop the other community workers from coming into contact with the murals in the tunnel, because the Doctor has worked out that the Boneless are hiding within the images. After an unsuspecting worker is absorbed when he tries to paint over the murals, Clara leads the rest of the group to a nearby train depot. There she follows the Doctor’s instructions and tries to communicate with the Boneless. When the Boneless absorb another worker by stealth, the group flee into a disused tunnel. However, their escape route is cut off when the Boneless outwit them and flatten the tunnel exit door into two dimensions. As they watch in horror, the Boneless begin to take on the forms of their past victims in three dimensions and begin lurching toward them. The group is saved when the Doctor gives Clara a device to restore the tunnel door, but this allows the Boneless to lock onto the TARDIS, draining its power and shrinking it even further. It spills out of Clara’s bag and falls down a shaft onto an active train track. The Doctor is then forced to use the remaining power of the TARDIS to avoid being destroyed by an oncoming train, but this desperate move results in breaking off communication with Clara.
Meanwhile, Clara stops an out-of-service train and they use it to smash into the approaching Boneless to buy some time. However, the Boneless simply convert it into a harmless two-dimensional image. As they continue to flee, Clara finds the TARDIS which now resembles a Gallifreyan cube and takes it with her. In a disused office, Clara devises a plan and gets Rigsy to use his artistic skills to paint an authentic-looking door on the back of a large poster, which they then hang over an open doorway in the tunnel. When the Boneless reach the false door, they try to unflatten it with their power, not realising that the miniaturised TARDIS is behind the poster, feeding on the power and repairing itself. The Doctor is now free to exit the TARDIS. On emerging, the Doctor uses the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver to banish the Boneless back to their own dimension, warning them never to return. The Doctor returns everyone safely to the surface. He notes that Clara enjoyed playing the role of the Doctor for the day.
The episode ends with Missy (Michelle Gomez) sitting in a darkened room, observing Clara on a tablet computer and declaring that she has "chosen well".
an odd mural
After last week’s foray into horror, we get another horror-themed adventure courtesy of the same writer, Jaimie Mathieson. And just as last week’s episode was brilliant, the brilliance is still very much intact, which makes me hope that Mr. Mathieson has earned a place in next season’s Doctor Who writing team. Because this man really knows how to write good sci-fi horror.
First, I loved the creepy concept of two-dimensional creatures seeping into and infiltrating our three-dimensional universe. The fact that the intentions of the Boneless were unclear in the earlier part of the episode was well done and kept viewers intrigued. Were they simply feeling their way into our world and exploring a new aspect of existence (a third dimension) or was something more sinister afoot? Were they scientists or invaders? Not knowing the answer immediately to this question allowed for some good building up of tension throughout the episode. Of course, the proverbial train could have come off the tracks if the execution of the concept had fallen short, because there was always a chance that the rendering of two-dimensional creatures could have turned out horribly cartoonish (think of season 2 episode Fear Her, for example), thereby detracting from the horror element. Indeed, Steven Moffat has even recently confessed that he was afraid, before he saw the end results, that the Boneless might come off badly in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, kudos must be given here to the Doctor Who special effects team who once again knock it out of the park. The Boneless were genuinely disturbing and had a juddering quality that was reminiscent of the convulsing creature from the psychological horror movie, The Ring. And that’s no small compliment. The bottom line is that I would very much like to see them again.
uses the sonic screwdriver
Of course, as with all good Doctor Who episodes, the best moments are always found in the characters and their relationships. And this is definitely an episode for Clara to shine yet again. And shine she does, with a sparky, clever and charismatic turn from start to finish. Some online critics have griped that modern Doctor Who companions, particularly Clara, are being given far too much responsibility and focus, subtracting from the Doctor himself, but I have to disagree. What I want in a companion is someone who is both strong and deeply flawed at the same time. And that is what we are now getting with Clara in season 8. In season 7, she was the bold and vibrant Impossible Girl, a strong character but not really showing enough in the way of human frailty. I feel that this imbalance has now been significantly corrected in season 8, and we are seeing a much more flawed character capable of poor judgment, questionable morals and, on occasion, bad behaviour. In this episode, her slyness is spotlighted when the Doctor realises that she has being lying to both him and Danny. Also, she likes the fact that the Doctor is side-lined for most of this episode and that she is in the driving seat, showing a controlling side to her nature, something the Doctor himself notes. She is contemporary, relevant and realistic (within the boundaries of sci-fi, that is), and I couldn’t be more happy with her development as a character.
So, another outstanding episode, bringing the total of outstanding episodes so far this season to four – i.e., Into the Dalek, Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, and now, Flatline. With three more episodes to go, let’s hope the series can reach the finishing line in grand style.