Flatline was the ninth episode of series 8 of Doctor Who. It was written by Jamie Mathieson, directed by Douglas Mackinnon and featured Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald.
Flatline was Mathieson's first script for the show. Two years before writing it, he had pitched his ideas for a story to Steven Moffat but was unsuccessful. When he again met with the executive producer, he showed him four ideas for episodes, complete with his own illustrations, aided by his background in art college. Taking an interest in the monster he had created for what would become Flatline, Moffat asked Mathieson to produce a story outline and he got the job to script the episode.
It was only after writing several drafts that he was told the episode would need to lock the Doctor away in a single location, as Peter Capaldi's scenes for the episode needed to be filmed quickly to abide by the production schedule.
Mathieson decided to write a script where the Doctor was "in the dark". For this to be successful, he had to create an unknown quantity to feature as his alien enemy. Much like his next creation, the Foretold, he elected to have no dialogue for the aggressors, allowing something about them to remain "unknowable". (DWM 479)
Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension.
But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception.
A man is on the phone with the police, explaining in whispers that he knows what happened to the people who went missing. When they ask him to speak up, the man tells them he cannot; he needs the police to protect him as the culprits will be coming for him. Hearing something, he screams in fear and vanishes from the room. The officer on the line asks the man if he is okay, getting no response. The camera pans to the trim on the wall of the room, showing an image of the man stretched through the trim, screaming.
After some adventures, the Doctor is piloting the TARDIS back to Clara's time to return her home. She is hurriedly packing her things, to which the Doctor tells her is not necessary as there is literally infinite space in the TARDIS for her possessions. However, Clara says Danny has gotten possessive and doesn't want any of her things in the TARDIS.
Not really caring, the Doctor lands the TARDIS, telling her it's the same time they left. However, he then adds "[the] same place-ish". Realising something is wrong, Clara demands the Doctor not give her that; however, he retorts that the readings he's getting are "ishy". As he looks at the monitor, Clara heads to the door. She stops, shocked; she calls the Doctor to her. He looks at the door as well, stating it's very not good: it's shrunk!
The Doctor and Clara exit the TARDIS, albeit with some difficulty as the exterior shell has shrunk to almost half it's original size. Amazed, the Doctor begins wondering what happened and starts scanning with the sonic screwdriver. Clara looks over at the nearby tracks, reading the sign; they're in Bristol rather than London. She states it's annoying; he retorts she's annoying. What's happening here is huge; something nearby is draining the dimensions of the TARDIS.
The Doctor tells her "my house isn't going anywhere" until what's leeching off it has been stopped. He gets back inside for equipment, directing Clara to look around for the source of the problem. She meets Rigsy, a graffiti artist working community service for his art; he tells her that locals are disappearing, and mystery murals of them have appeared in a nearby pedestrian tunnel. Clara calls the Doctor, bringing him up to speed. She asks where he is since she can't see the TARDIS. However, he tells her he hasn't taken off. To her amusement, the TARDIS has shrunken to the size of a toy.
The Doctor lightens the TARDIS, allowing Clara to carry it in her purse. He hands Clara his psychic paper, the sonic screwdriver, and an audio/visual earpiece so he can keep in touch with her. Clara takes this as being chosen to act as his stand-in; that itself is a complete honour. Annoyed, the Doctor tells Clara that she's not being him.
Clara goes back to the mural tunnel, scanning around to give stats to the Doctor in the TARDIS. Rigsy finds her again, asking for her name. Clara calls herself "the Doctor". When Rigsy asks Clara what of, the actual Doctor states "of lies". However, Clara decides to get back at him by saying "I'm not sure. I think I just chose the title because it makes me sound important." Being a blow to the Doctor's ego, he sneers "why Dr. Oswald, you're hilarious." She asks Rigsy to take her to where someone vanished.
Rigsy leads her to the flat of the most recent missing person, where there's a strange desert mural. Rigsy gains help from a police officer to gain access to the flat of the first known missing person. The Doctor instructs Clara to tear out the walls, believing the energy source to be within them. While they work, PC Forrest is sucked into the ground out of view of Clara and Rigsy, and when they reach her screams, she has disappeared. They look around the room and find another strange mural, and the Doctor realises it's likely to be PC Forrest's nervous system and believes the first mural was a closeup of human skin of the latest victim. Clara shows the TARDIS to Rigsy, getting him on the same page.
Hearing a bizarre sound, the Doctor shuts the TARDIS doors as the creatures behind draining it of its dimensional energy are at it again. Clara and Rigsy see what appears to be air moving like fluid coming at them. The Doctor quickly explains his theory that their adversaries are creatures from a 2-D universe, and must have been experimenting on the three-dimensional world, trying to understand it. As Clara and Rigsy try to avoid the entity, which is in the walls and ground, Danny phones Clara, and she manages to avoid questions of her whereabouts and quickly hangs up. The Doctor, who is listening in, recognises that Clara has lied to him about Danny accepting her continued travels in the TARDIS.
Clara and Rigsy return to the rest of the community service group, who are about to paint over the murals in the pedestrian tunnel. The Doctor realises that the images are masquerades for the two-dimensional creatures, attempting to understand three dimensions; after the creatures take one of the services workers, Clara leads the rest away with the creatures chasing them. They take shelter in a nearby engine repair warehouse, where the Doctor tells Clara that a leader will soon emerge and that she must make sure it's her. When Fenton demands to know who she is, Clara coldly states she's his best option for staying alive. The Doctor is impressed; he'd do the exact same thing to make people listen.
The Doctor helps Clara to try to communicate with the creatures using mathematics. When another worker is taken, Clara and the surviving members flee into a disused subway tunnel. As they explore, they find their only escape route has been flattened to two dimensions by the creatures. The Doctor provides Clara with a device to restore the dimensions, and they just manage to escape. The Doctor also tells Clara that he has worked out a way to stop the creatures and return them to their home dimension, but the TARDIS doesn't have enough power.
In the chaos, the TARDIS is knocked down a shaft on to an active railway line, with an oncoming train heading right for the TARDIS and the Doctor. With some advice from Clara, the Doctor is able to get the TARDIS off the rails by using his hand to move it, resulting in the Doctor doing a little victory dance for saving his TARDIS and himself. However, his victory is short-lived, as the TARDIS tips over onto the rails again. In order to protect the TARDIS from the oncoming train, the Doctor activates its siege mode at the very last minute, but without power is unable to return it to normal. The lack of power is also causing the life support systems to fail.
Clara uses the sonic screwdriver to stop an out-of-service train, and they attempt to use it to ram the creatures to prolong time to get back in contact with the Doctor. However, the train is simply transformed into two dimensions; as they escape, Clara finds the TARDIS now looking like a plain cube with Gallifreyan symbols and takes it with her.
Taking shelter in a disused office space, Clara comes up with a plan to provide energy to the TARDIS by having Rigsy paint out a fake access door on the back of a large poster. Unsure if Clara can still hear him or even if she is still alive, the Doctor praises her performance, saying that she "Made a mighty fine Doctor." When the creatures attempt to pull the fake door into three dimensions, they instead feed their energy into the TARDIS, restoring it to normal.
Realising they have no interest in peace, the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to stop the creatures, whom he dubs the "Boneless", sending them back to their own dimension with a warning to those who survive the trip that "You are not welcome here. This plane is protected. I am the Doctor."
The Doctor returns everyone to the surface safely in the TARDIS. Clara rejects a call from Danny, catching the Doctor's attention; he notes that she enjoyed 'playing the Doctor' for the day. She asks him to admit that she was a good Doctor; he reluctantly tells her that she made an "exceptional Doctor," but that "goodness" had nothing to do with it.
- The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
- Clara - Jenna Coleman
- Rigsy - Joivan Wade
- Danny - Samuel Anderson
- Roscoe - John Cummins
- PC Forrest - Jessica Hayles
- Fenton - Christopher Fairbank
- Al - Matt Bardock
- George - Raj Bajaj
- Bill - James Quinn
- Missy - Michelle Gomez
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- The Doctor names the device he creates 2Dis.
- Clara suggests mimicking a hand motion as performed by the disembodied hand character Thing from The Addams Family to enable the Doctor to move the shrunken TARDIS out of the path of an approaching train.
- Forrest was investigating the disappearance of Mr Heath.
The Doctor's TARDIS Edit
- The Doctor puts the TARDIS in siege mode.
- When the TARDIS is in siege mode, Gallifreyan writing is clearly visible on the exterior.
- When Clara asks if the miniature TARDIS will be light enough the carry around, the Doctor explains that the TARDIS is always lighter, as its true weight would fracture the surface of the Earth.
- Fenton is not tricked by the psychic paper; the Doctor suggests this is due to a lack of imagination.
- As he is trapped in the shrunken TARDIS, the Doctor hands Clara his sonic screwdriver and psychic paper.
- This episode revisits a minor theme from Voyage of the Damned in that in the end it is felt that the wrong person survived; Fenton, like Rickston Slade from that episode, is a very selfish and unpleasant man who thinks only of himself, doesn't learn from the experience and cares nothing for the people that died.
- The Doctor knows a race made of sentient gas who throw fireballs as a friendly wave and a race with sixty-four stomachs who greet each other by disembowelling.
Story notes Edit
- The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of Christopher Fairbank as Fenton, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.25 p.m. / Will guest star Christopher Fairbank be on hand as Clara is forced to go it alone?"
- The first train bears the number A113, an animation in-joke first known to originate in the Amazing Stories episode "The Family Dog" and used in many other movies and television shows. A113 is a classroom used at the California Institute of the Arts for graphic design and character animations, widely recognised by alumni of the institute.
- The shrunken TARDIS and siege mode TARDIS  props were cast resin, fabricated by propmaker Nicholas Robatto.
- Coincidentally, this story aired at the same time as the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, COMIC: The Eye of Torment not only featured Clara taking on Doctor-like responsibilities, it also had her taking a gamble with someone's life in similar fashion and ended with a similar sombre exchange about Clara beginning to think like the Doctor.
- 6.71 million (DWM 481)
Filming locations Edit
- Barry Island Heritage Railway
- Maelfa Shopping Center (Cardiff)
- Barry Island Shooting Range
Production errors Edit
- The Doctor's hair is noticeably shorter in several scenes, starting when the TARDIS falls onto the train track and ending when the TARDIS returns to the surface after the defeat of the Boneless. This makes it clear these scenes were filmed out of order, during a different time than the rest of the scenes in the episode, when Peter Capaldi had recently undergone a haircut. In his regular column for Doctor Who Magazine, embarrassed showrunner Steven Moffat admitted to this continuity goof and that it was because of the scheduling.
- When the TARDIS was first small, the Doctor used one door to get out due to a lining in between in the doors. The second time the TARDIS was very small, both doors were open with there being no lining in between the doors.
- The distance between the shrunken TARDIS and the tracks decreases. It is a safe distance from the tracks as the Doctor was climbing the dirt hill with his fingers, then it appears a little closer to the tracks the next scene when he pulls his hand in, the next scene, it is close enough that when it topples over, the top is laying on the tracks. Also, when the TARDIS topples over, the shock created inside the TARDIS by the fall throws the Doctor towards the doors, even though the TARDIS landed on its rear wall and the doors are facing upwards.
- When Clara's phone rings towards the end of the episode, the ringtone is clearly heard. However, when held up, the icon for silent mode is visible at the top of the screen.
- When the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to banish the Boneless, its diode doesn't illuminate.
- When the Doctor opens the TARDIS door and declares himself as "The man that stops the monsters" the interior, which can be seen behind him, ripples, revealing that it is just a backdrop.
- As the Doctor tells the Boneless "You are not welcome here." he sweeps his arm across his chest, and it ends up at his side. However, when the scene cuts to the front view of him saying "This plane is protected." he is suddenly pointing towards the Boneless.
- As the Doctor dives under the console to activate siege mode, the piping in the time rotor isn't lit up. However, in the next shot, as the camera zooms out to view the console room, the piping is lit up and can be seen going out just before the camera cuts to the shot of the train passing over the TARDIS's location.
- A version of the shrunken TARDIS prop made of moulded rubber parts was prepared for the scene in which the TARDIS is dropped. During filming the main prop, made of cast-resin parts, was inadvertently used in the scene and dropped instead, requiring repair. 
- The TARDIS exterior has shrunk on several previous occasions:
- When the TARDIS doors opened during flight, it was made smaller upon materialisation in England in 1964, as were the First Doctor, Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. (TV: Planet of Giants)
- When the TARDIS materialised in a miniscope, the Third Doctor and Jo Grant were drastically miniaturised. (TV: Carnival of Monsters)
- In 1981, while the Fourth Doctor was fixing the chameleon circuit, the TARDIS was reduced in size after the Master interfered with the Logopolitan's Block Transfer Computation. (TV: Logopolis)
- The TARDIS was twice miniaturised while inside the Teselecta. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song)
- The Twelfth Doctor briefly states that he has "literally acres" of space available in the TARDIS, and adjusts the TARDIS' relative gravity so that Clara could pick it up. He says that if the TARDIS were to land with its true weight, it would fracture the surface of the Earth. The TARDIS was said by Romana II to weigh fifty thousand tonnes in Alzarius' gravity. (TV: Full Circle) "Seventeen thousand tons of thrust", stated to be "Twenty-five percent of the architecture." of the TARDIS was once jettisoned by the Fifth Doctor to escape Event One. (TV: Castrovalva) One time, when the TARDIS mapped its exterior dimensions onto its interior ones — making it the same size inside as outside — it was larger than Gallifrey. (PROSE: The Ancestor Cell) It was once described by the Eleventh Doctor as being infinite. (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)
- The Doctor again uses "pudding brain" as a mocking description of humans and their intelligence. (TV: Deep Breath)
- The Doctor uncovers Clara's lies about Danny's stance on her travelling with him. (TV: Mummy on the Orient Express)
- Isolus and the Mona Lisa were able to transfer the two dimensional into the three dimensional, and vice versa. (TV: Fear Her, Mona Lisa's Revenge)
- The TARDIS doors are opened from the console, accompanied by the classic TARDIS door sound. (TV: An Unearthly Child etc.) The Eleventh Doctor previously closed the doors via console, though on that occasion it was the result of the Doctor putting the TARDIS in lockdown. (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)
- When the Doctor is ruling out possibilities of moving the TARDIS out of the way from the train, he mentions the Heart of the TARDIS. (TV: Arc of Infinity)
- There are people naturally immune to the psychic paper; however, where William Shakespeare couldn't be fooled because he was an absolute genius (TV: The Shakespeare Code), and others had training against it (TV: Army of Ghosts, A Good Man Goes to War ) the Doctor implies that Fenton saw nothing reflected at him due to his lack of imagination.
- The Doctor is uncomfortable with how easily Clara assumes his role. Previously, Davros and Rory, in different ways, noted the Doctor's tendency to turn his companions into reflections of himself. (TV: Journey's End, The Girl Who Waited)
- The Cloister Bell sounds as the TARDIS in its weakened state and about to be struck by the train. (TV: Logopolis, etc.)
- The Doctor tells the Boneless that this plane is protected, as he similarly told the Sycorax (TV: The Christmas Invasion) and the Atraxi (TV: The Eleventh Hour) about Earth. A similar statement was pronounced about the planet Trenzalore. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
- As he has done many times in his past, the Doctor offers his enemies a chance to go away in peace, before fighting them. (TV: Rose, World War Three, The Runaway Bride, The Next Doctor, Day of the Moon, etc.)
- Clara pretends to be from Health and Safety as she previously had done with the Doctor. (TV: Hide)
- Clara mentions that the Doctor has rules. (TV: The Big Bang)
- Rigsy would meet the Twelfth Doctor and Clara again, living in London with his partner and child. (TV: Face the Raven)
Home video releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
- This episode, along with every other episode of Series 8 was released on DVD on 9 December 2014 in Region 1, 24 November 2014 in Region 2, and 19 November in Region 4.
Blu-ray releases Edit
- This episode, along with every other episode of Series 8 was released on Blu-Ray on 9 December 2014 in Region 1, 24 November 2014 in Region 2, and 19 November in Region 4.
Digital releases Edit
- The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
- In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
to be added