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Friday, October 24, 2014

Doctor Who: A Painted Backdrop No More

Spoilers exist in more (and less) than 3 dimensions..
     How do you explain “out” to a 2-dimensional person? Say a very talented painter, one so talented that he could quite literally breathe life into his paintings, one day painted a picture of a person. A painting so exquisitely detailed that the person on the canvas came to life. When that 2-dimensional person wondered who created them, how could the painter put into words an answer they would understand? How could they explain “out” to their creation? More importantly, what if their creation didn't care? What if their creation could pull them into a painting and kill them?

     The series so far, whilst for the most part very good, has only hinted at creepy. Previous series have brought us giant killer dolls, man-eating shadows, and the weeping angels, but this series has been very pulp-sci-fi heavy, with lots of aliens and killer robots and retro spaceships. I've loved it, but I've been wondering where the creep factor has been. Flatline delivers, where episodes like Listen have merely teased.

     I'm honestly surprised that a show that's explored alternate dimensions and regularly deals with a ship with interior dimensions vastly larger than the exterior dimensions has never broached this subject (I'm choosing to ignore Fear Her). The execution of monsters that exist only in 2D, which I think Twelve called “The Boneless,” was brilliant. This was obviously cheap CGI, but the design of the monsters, once they leave the walls and enter into 3D space was terrifying. The budget CGI actually may have made them more distressing. I have not seen a monster quite so disturbing to human sensibilities in some time. I'm hard-pressed to say that there's been a monster in the new series to match them. My skin crawled seeing them stagger unsteadily through the tunnels, like zombies you can't quite focus your eyesight on. And the sheer horror of how they take their victims, sapping them of a 3-dimensional existence and reducing them to a mere image or projection... I really can't express how unsettling these monsters are. Poor #22 George...

     If I'm disappointed by one thing, it's the lack of opportunity to use the joke that someone's performance was 'flat.' Taking a step back from the creepiness and excitement, you have to stop and admit that Peter Capaldi spent pretty much the entire episode stalking around the console room and ranting, and still managed to make it feel like he was an active part of the story. Clara's growth continues, and she seems to be moving in a very interesting direction. It feels like some of the scrapped plans for Ace back in the day are being adopted for her. I would go so far as to say that's she's being inadvertently groomed, like Ace was supposed to be, to hold her own in a situation The Doctor would normally find himself in. I'm not going to say she'll end up a Time Lord herself, but I really don't think we're going to get a standard story's end for a companion with her.
Possible mini-TARDIS courtesy my kitchen counter
     Clara really does take the lead in this episode, in a manner unlike any other companion has, and it's very interesting to see how naturally she takes to the role of leader, even getting her own Companion. From “the one chance you've got to staying alive” to Missy's having “chosen well,” Clara leads the charge in this episode, with the Doctor reduced to Mission Control role, much like you'd find in a video game, little more than a voice in Clara's ear, occasionally handing her a tool. And Jenna Coleman sells the hell out of it. These are the kinds of companion-led episodes that you'd normally only find in the novels or Big Finish audios. I'm really looking forward to where this is all building to.

     This episode was written by the same person that wrote MummyOn The Orient Express, Jamie Mathieson, and given that he's now 2 for 2 in excellent episodes, I hope they invite him back next year. He's batting a higher average right now than even Neil Gaiman did. I like the little touches that were thrown in, too. The Addams Family reference, resulting in Twelve hilariously piloting the TARDIS Thing-style. “Siege Mode” basically resembling a tiny Pandorica, and the Doctor's hair seeming flatter in seige mode. The fact that the mini-TARDIS looked almost exactly like the “flight and sound” TARDIS toy for the 5.5 inch scale figures. Twelve's speech at the end about having to play the role he's dealt as he comes charging out to banish the Boneless back to two dimensions as he declares himself not just protector of our universe, but our very plane of reality.

     “Good had nothing to do with it.” Clara is understanding, on a level few companions have, how much darkness and burden that the Doctor has to carry. I hope she's strong enough to carry that, because I get the feeling she might soon have to.

Next week: The forests of London

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