[alert-announce]Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s been hard to understand the character of Clara Oswald this season, but we finally see her progress, a reflection of the Doctor himself, and one that he hates and fears.[/alert-announce]

One hobbit-sized TARDIS coming right up.
One hobbit-sized TARDIS coming right up.

First off, apologies for missing last week’s recap. Real life can be quite a demanding mistress at times. Mummy On The Orient Express was a decent enough episode (and Jenna Coleman looked absolutely gorgeous with that hair cut), but this week’s Flatline is the stronger of the two, both by new Doctor Who writer Jamie Mathieson.

Flatline starts where Mummy On The Orient Express left off. Clara (Jenna Coleman) is sneaking off with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), returning moments after and leaving Danny (Samuel Anderson) in the dark. On one such occasion, instead of returning home, the TARDIS arrives in Bristol, where people have been disappearing mysteriously (of course it’s mysteriously). And that’s not all… the TARDIS has shrunk on the outside to hobbit-size.

2D isn't all it's made out to be.
2D isn’t all it’s made out to be.

Trapped inside the TARDIS, the Doctor hands Clara his sonic screwdriver, a earpiece and his psychic paper, and it’s up to “Doctor Oswald” to save the day. She befriends a graffiti artist on community service named Rigsy (Jovian Wade), a nod to the real life Banksy, also from Bristol. They discover the missing people have been “flattened” into two-dimensions by an alien race from a 2D-universe, and barely manage to escape, but not before Clara’s lies fall apart when a certain Mr Pink calls to check in on his date.

The latest in digital advertising.
The latest in digital advertising.

Without the Doctor in person, Clara is forced to take on the role of team leader as she meets with the rest of the community service group, telling them “I am the one chance you’ve got of staying alive”, and impressing the Doctor in the process. Unfortunately, not all of them make it, something which Clara quickly comes to terms with (much like how she accepted the Doctor couldn’t save everyone in Mummy On The Orient Express).

It's alive!
It’s alive!

When another member of the group snatches the now-purse-sized TARDIS from her bag, it drops via shaft onto the rail below, further damaging its shields. The Doctor takes a page from the Addams family to avoid an oncoming train (A113, for those who noticed), but just when he thinks he’s succeeded, it tips back over onto the tracks. The Cloister Bell sounds, but the Doctor manages to activate the TARDIS’ “siege mode”. While it saves the Doctor and the TARDIS, it also cuts him off from Clara and affects the life support.

Now truly without the Doctor, Clara uses an empty train in an attempt to destroy the creatures, sacrificing her hairband to stop Rigsy from doing a kamikaze run. It fails, of course, when the creatures turn the train into 2D, but Clara manages to pick up an object that looks strangely like a tiny Pandorica, which turns out to be the TARDIS in siege mode. Inside, the Doctor, in what he believes to be his last moments, tells Clara she was good, and she’d make “a mighty fine Doctor”, even though he believes she can’t hear him (we later find out she could).

"Draw me... a shrubbery!"
“Draw me… a shrubbery!”

In a last ditch effort, Clara gets Rigsy to paint a graffiti of a door on an old poster, tricking the creatures into trying to turn that back into 3D and powering the TARDIS behind it in the process. The plan works, and the Doctor, in a great Capaldi monologue, says he tried to understand the creatures and communicate, but realises that they had no peaceful intentions. Emerging from the restored TARDIS, he labels them “the Boneless”, and sends them back to their own dimension, telling those who survive to never return as this universe is protected.

"FUS RO DAH!"
“FUS RO DAH!”

Clara, pleased with her performance in the Doctor’s absence, asks him to admit that she did good. The Doctor, seemingly saddened, tells Clara she was “an exceptional Doctor”.

“Goodness,” the Doctor says, “had nothing to do with it.”

Missy, viewing the events through a not-iPad, looks lovingly at Clara’s face and says she has chosen well.

“Clara… My Clara…” she says, eerily reminiscent of Matt Smith’s Eleventh.

Definitely not an iPad. Nope. Can't be.
Definitely not an iPad. Nope. Can’t be.

Thoughts:

After what seemed like a few episodes of limbo, I’ve been quite pleased with the last two episodes. The success of Flatline is in no small part due to Mathieson’s wonderful script. The interaction between Capaldi and Jenna is excellent, even more so considering the amount of time the two spend apart on screen during the episode.  Hardly a “Doctor-lite” episode at all.

Doctor Clara Oswald, ready to save the day.
Doctor Clara Oswald, ready to save the day.

We finally have a direction which Clara is headed in. In last week’s episode, we saw her coming to terms with lying – not only with the Doctor, but with herself, choosing to lie to the two important men in her life. She accepted the Doctor’s role, and realises that he can’t save everyone, but he saves as many as he can. This week, we see her relishing it. People die, but she managed to save the world, and she’s proud to have done so.

The Doctor recognises this giddying power trip. He’s seen it in the Meta-Crisis Doctor, he’s seen it in himself, he’s seen it in a younger River Song, and it worries him. Capaldi’s Doctor has a lot more self-loathing than the previous incarnations (again, Matt Smith and his Flesh clone pretty much looked like they should get a room), and given what Missy said at the end of the episode, I’m wondering if she could be… an alternate version of the Doctor himself?

I want one for Christmas.
I want one for Christmas.

Whatever the case, it sets up an intriguing finale in the coming weeks. Steven Moffat and gang have spent an entire season redefining the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, and ultimately have to top the season 7 finale where we saw Clara enter the Doctor’s time stream and become the Impossible Girl.

At times this season, it feels like the series flatlined a bit, but in Flatline there’s a renewed sense of direction and enthusiasm. Hopefully it’ll be enough to sustain it through to the season finale.

What did you think of this week’s Doctor Who episode? Let us know in the comments below!

Follow Bryan Huang on Twitter @bryanhjq