Doctor Who: Tiny Alien Regulates Destruction of Insubstantial Scribbles

by thethreepennyguignol

I’d like to draw your attention to this. A dear friend of mine and long-time reader of my Fifty Shades of Grey recaps (so she politely claims in my presence, anyway) is currently fundraising for a trip to Ecuador where she’ll teach English to kids, and you should give her all your money because she’s excellent and because if you don’t I’ll think worse of you. But seriously, it’s a trip to give a all-round top-notch human female a chance to do real good, and any donations would be amazing. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.On with the review!

This week’s Doctor Who, Flatline, was a very solid episode. I’ve been saying for weeks now that this Doctor and Clara just don’t match up, and splitting them up- as they did here, with the Doctor trapped inside a miniature Tardis and Clara assuming his role as the roving, innovating saviour of the day- gave the episode a brisk, fun energy that’s been missing in Clara’s storylines of late. A huge shout out to Jenna Coleman in this episode, too, who did a trememdous job reminding us why she’s one of the finest assistants to ever grace the show’s writer’s room. Here, she took on the role of the Doctor- Matt Smith’s Doctor, specifically- which allowed her some great interactions with a very solid supporting cast.

Once again, the monsters this week- two-dimensional creatures who sucked unsuspecting victims into walls and floors and suchlike- were good, but basically irrelevant. Den of Geek pointed out in their review that the monsters for this series are increasingly becoming a framing device for the thematic elements of the show, often with great effect- Listen- but this often strips them of any real menace. I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that these creatures might have been all the more chilling in the hands of a different writer, a different showrunner, and a different director. Were they competent? Yes. But they weren’t scary, and they should have been.

Flatline was big on cool special effects- a moment where a train was absorbed into a wall, leaving nothing but the careful outline behind, was excellent- and fun sight gags, like the Doctor’s full-size hand reaching out of a miniature Tardis to give Clara some deus ex machina device to save the day. Aside from being terrifically short on Danny Pink (next week’s episode, which I am insanely pumped for, seems to feature him heavily), it was a strong entry into a patchy series.

There’s something I have to admit, though. For the first time ever, I’m not excited about watching Doctor Who. I watch these episodes because I’m waiting for something to draw me back in, to excite me enough that I find myself hunched over iPlayer waiting for the next episode to come on. Listen almost did it, but was followed by a bunch of episodes that were competent but not compelling. For me, at least, this isn’t must-see television. This is television that’s static. It’s stuck in this endless loop of cleverness and cool themes that were brought up years ago and still fail to be resolved; cleverness is a brilliant thing in a TV show, but it has to be backed up by the substance to warrant it.  Compare Moffat’s masterpiece Blink-which had a strong emotional throughline as well as a fiendishly clever plot- to this series. Nothing has roared through the screen in a trail-blazing mass of unforgettable television; everything is a whimper, not a bang. And this saddens me, because I feel like I’ve grown out of Doctor Who, maybe for good. Of course there will always be a place in my heart for the time-travelling madman, but these episodes aren’t rollicking or exciting or moving or stunning me the same way they used to. Frankly, there’s much better things to be watching at the moment (Vikings and American Horror Story, off the top of my head), and that’s bad when your show has such an original idea with seemingly endless plot possibilities. Is it salvageble? Probably, but it’s going to take big changes to make it so.

I’m far too sad to have Moffat yet. Someone get me a drink.