Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Time Lord 1.9 - One-Dimensional Villainy

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Episode: Flatline
Song: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet by Bachman Turner Overdrive


Our dimension-delineating episode begins with some dodgy bearded middle-age bloke getting killed in his apartment by unseeable things...
Dave: Unseeable monsters that are everywhere? Didn't we see this in episode 4? He actually says "Listen!" about five times during that unhelpful phone call.
Andrew: Yeah, very helpful. I bet the police know exactly what he's talking about so cryptically.
Nigel: "I know who did it all, they might hear me, they're everywhere, we've been so blind!" The cops probably think he's some crazy racist complaining about the darkies moving in next door.
Andrew: He uses a landline. How retro. If he was on a mobile he could've texted them without being overhead.

This really-quite dodgy-looking bloke is turned into a screaming face on a wall.
D: Look! The monsters turned him into graffiti! This is definitely the return of the hider things!
A: Good, it means that episode wasn't a total waste of time.
N: Unless it's a sequel to The Mona Lisa's Revenge with more turning-people-into-paintings shtick...
D: Aw. I miss Lis Sladen.

Aboard the TARDIS, Clara continues her ridiculous subterfuge.
D: Crazy bitch. She couldn't keep it working before, why does she think it'll work now?
N: Could Clara be less convincing as a liar? If the Doctor paid the slightest attention to her, he'd instantly twig she's bullshitting about Danny.
A: And that's not cruel exaggeration, the Doctor says on screen he isn't actually listening to her.
D: Be fair, it's not interesting. She's probably been saying stuff like this a lot.

The TARDIS materializes in contemporary Bristol - and not intentionally.
D: Yay! A random landing - we haven't had one of those since... hang on, did Mark Gatiss write this?
N: Nah, the bloke who did last week's. Jamie Matheson or something. Gatiss did Robin Hood.
A: Yeah. This new Doctor is such a good pilot he never arrives anywhere by accident. Hopefully not knowing absolutely everything about where he's going will make him a bit more likable.
N: Yeah, he actually seems less of a misery guts now he's got a mystery to solve.
D: Mind you, shouldn't this shrinking TARDIS thing have been in episode 2? You know, the one with the shrinking rays?

The TARDIS doors have shrunk.
N: Sweet onion chutney, that is shit! They've just put a cardboard photo in the doorway!
A: Maybe it's some metatextual nudge about sixties sets?
N: Oh yeah, that's justifies the crappest special effect since the playstation controlling the Robo-Santa.
D: Hey look - the windows are finally the right shape!
A: Yeah. They actually are. Guess I was too busy looking at the symbolism of this new big-headed Doctor being so rubbish he can barely get out of the TARDIS doors nowaday.

Clara is not happy.
N: Why is Clara so bitchy? He's excited for once! Oh, yeah, AND TIME MACHINE?!!?
D: She's so determined to be the companion but she hates every minute!
A: Yeah, the Doctor's actually whining this is the first time he's able to be happy about something and she's being a drag! It's just like Six and Peri, the worst possible combination of leads ever...
N: Capaldi's positively smitten today, saying he doesn't want Clara to get crushed.
A: I like how the Doctor qualifies "accidentally". Like he wants to crush her deliberately.

At a local estate, community service losers paint over graffiti that they themselves once did. The only speaking part recognizable this episode is the inappropriately-named Chris Fairchild who is neither a child nor fair. In fact, he seems to have been cursed by a Gypsy.
N: Ooh! It's Johnny Jack from Sapphire & Steel!
A: "Ere comes I Little Johnny Jack with me wife and me family on me back! Me back is large and me wife is small and I'm the father of em all..."
N: Wow, I know that was like 30 years ago, but day-am he has aged! He actually looks more like a goat alien than you'd think hearing him in The Scapegoat...
D: Is he playing a zombie in this?
N: Oh, and another black troublemaker. Note he doesn't get any lines as he has to paint over his work WITH WHITE PAINT! THIS IS WELL RACIST THIS IS!
A: Ooh, that's an idea for a spin off - Django Gets An ASBO.

Clara, of course, instantly zeroes in on the good-looking young black criminal. Who has a name.
N: She's obviously into the dark side, if you get my drift. No wonder she turned Porridge down.
A: He was Warwick bloody Davies! She shoulda strangled him with her bare hands.
D: No, he's got a point. Bar the Doctor, she only seems to have black friends. I mean... even the pupils she talks to are all black. That's quite astonishing isn't it? Statistically speaking?
A: So, you saying if we'd got Patterson Joseph as the Doctor she'd be happier?
D: Who wouldn't?

It turns out lots of people have vanished from Bristol. Clara was unaware of this.
D: Even though it's her own time? Mass disappearances in London and she didn't notice? Danny didn't notice?
A: It doesn't seem anyone noticed. There's what, thirty people vanished from one area in a short space of time? Surprised UNIT haven't already cordoned off the county...
N: It's coz Brixton is full of blacks! Racists!
D: This is Bristol. Not Brixton.
N: Bristol's the one full of tits, isn't it?

The TARDIS has shrunk smaller than a Dapol product with the Doctor trapped inside.
A: Is that the best model they could find? I mean, it doesn't look like the full-sized TARDIS. It looks like part of a Character Options Galaxy 4 playset. (Which, for your information, was planned way back in 1965!) The Doctor's face isn't the best CGI work either.
D: "Stop laughing! This is serious!" Is he plugging that ABC Comedy doc? Because I think there is no one on Earth who has ever said that and been listened to...
N: The Doctor mentions the time the TARDIS had its true weight and sank into the surface of a planet. This occured in the comic strip The Deal.
D: I needed to know that.
A: It also involved locking out his companion and leaving them to die for being so horrible.
D: Hrm. I like where this is going.
A: I notice they didn't CGI Clara's face inside the doorway. It's nothing but sunshine.
N: I notice Clara gets grossed out by the Doctor sliding his hand through the door and flapping it about. Another clear reference to episode 4 where she fingered the TARDIS. Clara isn't in to fisting, apparently...

Trapped in the TARDIS, it's up to Clara to become the main character. Or at least stop pretending otherwise.
N: She thinks a sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper are all she needs to be the Doctor? How insulting!
D: Mind you, this Doctor hasn't shown much more than that.
A: I see where this is going. Clara's going to go mad with power, call herself the Doctor and make Danny her companion. Mwahahahaah!
D: I can't honestly say I dread that scenario.
N: So... the Doctor can see through Clara's eyes. I hope she doesn't use the loo. Or get her period. Or start watching lesbian porn on her laptop. Or...
D: ENOUGH!

"The Doctor" goes on the prowl to use Rigsy (aforementioned black young criminal) to investigate.
A: Clearly, Rigsy is young enough for Clara to treat him like a child. Or, as we would say, like a human being.
N: Sadly, the Doctor treats him with the contempt he has for all bipeds. But now no one else can hear his racist abuse. This really shows him as nothing but talk, doesn't he?
D: A locked room mystery. Oh well, can't be worse than the last series of Jonathan Creek.
A: Please, we don't need a reminder of how another one of Verity Lambert's brainchildren has gone wrong...
N: Is it me or does the sonic screwdriver look kinky when Clara holds it? Maybe it's cause her hand's smaller or something, or the way it buzzes in a quicker manner...
D: YES! YOU FIND HER SEXY! WE GET IT!
N: Jeez. Someone needs to get laid...

Rigsy's basic intelligence gets some respect from the Doctor.
N: Whoa. Did someone swap the script over? The Doctor's suddenly nice and respectful while Clara's the strange and offputting one. Which is not much of a leap for Clara.
A: Maybe that's because the Doctor's now the companion and Clara's now the Doctor?
D: I like how Rigsy instantly guesses they're aliens. See? The whole "people know about alien life" isn't a huge barrier like Torchwood always thought it was...
N: The Doctor's actually polite to Rigsy face to face! Clearly getting treated like crap by Clara is teaching him humility... for a change.
A: Rigsy notes how no one in the media or anyone is discussing the disappearances, so I guess Clara's ignorance makes sense if there's a media blackout.

Clara and Rigsy investigate the house of the first disappearance and there's a copper there.
D: Um. Why? Was there a cut scene? Did they go to the police station?
A: I like the sad policewoman who notes how utterly useless the coppers are. That's a nice detail, kind of like that bit in The Idiot's Lantern only without making me want to vomit in my mouth.
N: "PC Forest". Is that a pun or something?
D: Hah! The TARDIS finally gets used for hammerspace as a hammer. Lovely pun!
A: And the way everyone, even Clara, tries to ignore how freaky it is.
N: You know dudes I might actually be enjoying another episode. Is this a good sign?
A: Maybe this Mathison guy can take over from Moff.
D: And Rigsy gets police permission to vandalize a house. Karma, people! KARMA!

The walls of the appartment start to melt like an LSD trip.
D: Again, these perfect hiders are eager to show themselves.
A: Are they the hiders? I think they're filed under Jack's missing years, the Silence and all the other crap Moffat can't be bothered to explain. This could be new.
D: Maybe not just new but good as well...
N: And look! Another nice black character dies horribly. This is JUST SO RACIST!
A: The white guy died first. All those murals seemed to be of white folk.
(...)
N: YOU SEE?!?

The moving 70s wallpaper is the perfect medium for the LSD trip to swallow people up.
D: You know, I can't think of another plot idea like this, but I'm sure it's been done before. Creepy though.
A: And the way things seem to get shattered as they go flat suggests violence very well.
N: The Doctor's quick on the uptake again this week. I think it's because he's not trying to strut around proving a point for once.

Danny of course, rings at that point so Clara has to start lying. Sorry, CONTINUE lying.
D: Heh. Danny's so trusting he not only buys Clara's explanation, even though it sounds like Rigsy's giving her an orgasm. Mind you, would Clara be so stupid to answer in the middle of sex?
A: She was stupid enough to answer in the middle of being attacked by aliens.
D: Yeah, does Clara think she'll sound convincing as she gets eaten to death over the phone?
N: Rigsy's quite the screamer, isn't he?
A: I like the Bhudda in the garden. The first victim was obviously cool at interior decorator.
N: This is one of the many reasons we never let you go to Bunnings or Mitre 10, Andrew.

The Doctor is pissed off Clara's lying.
N: Hey, Doc, it's not her fault you fell for it!
D: Is he upset that Danny's being lied to or that Clara lied to him? Actually, why the hell does the Doctor care at all? He doesn't give a shit about Danny. As long as Clara sticks by him, he should be well... not happy because I'm not sure Capaldi can do that emotion... but content.
A: Man, it's pathetic while Clara tries to justify her pathological lies and no one bothers to listen to her. It's very the boy who cried wolf. Instead of, you know, stupid. Why keep a liar in charge of the early warning system? Morons...

More importantly, the monsters aren't the hiders from Listen but from the 2-D universe.
D: Wow. Neat idea.
N: Yeah, when Malcolm Hulke came up with the Flatlanders in 1973!
A: You're never happy, are you?

Rigsy is furious that the murals of missing folk are being painted over except the murals are really 2D-monsters determined to consume all 3D life!
D: Was the working title for this "They're In The Walls"? It gets said a hell of a lot...
N: No one noticed the painting of the murals, no one noticed the disappearances... does anyone in the Bristol area actually have an attention span?
A: Had Johnny Jack finished painting over the murals, would that have defeated the monsters?
D: No idea, but it's nice that both the Doctor and Clara have stopped bitching. It really makes things seem serious.
A: Ahah! Johnny Jack sees through the psychic paper! He must be a transient being! I notice his ID photo is from when he had red hair. And Clara handed the wallet over upside down - does the Psychic Paper work upside down? I forget.
N: Isn't one of the monsters disguised as Rigsy's aunt? You think that would affect him?
D: Bet it's a cut scene we never see on DVD.

The monsters are dubbed Killer Graffiti in lieu of a better name. Clara is made leader of the survivors in lieu of a better option.
A: She's a school teacher, she already knows how to organize unruly rabble! But no, she has to go round telling people they're dead meat if they don't obey her. Is this frightening the Doctor or pleasing him?
D: He doesn't like it when she points out he lies in order to give people hope, does he?
A: It's certainly disturbing Clara can back up her idea anyone with a sonic screwdriver can be the Doctor...
N: Of course, the moment the Doctor suggests the Killer Graffiti might be friendly is the moment it's obvious they're totally irredeemably evil. Has the Doctor ever guessed right on that?
D: Let's find out.

The Doctor tries to communicate using maths. This goes as well as can be expected.
D: It's like Phase IV where they communicate to ants using circles and symbols and just like then they make threats against the asshole bipeds.
N: Are they picking targets? I mean, how can the Killer Graffiti understand the numbers on the guy's lapels are mathematical symbols? Are they actually after the SS?
A: Johnny Jack might be a git, but he's still right that there's more evidence to suggest they're hostile. I mean, he's not being totally stupid, just unpleasant. It's the nice ones being stupid, kind of like Horror of Fang Rock in reverse where the more useful a character is, the more you want them to be Rutan-fodder.

Either way, more community service redshirts are swallowed up and our heroes flee.
D: This really is like a horror film. I mean, the sort you'd actually see like The Tunnel or Attack the Block. I bet it turns out some cannibalistic zombie monsters live in this tunnel and will eat any intruders.
N: "Another flat handle?" Did we get another cut scene? Did the Graffiti chase ahead of them or what?
D: Is this the same tunnel from The Doctor's Daughter or Sherlock and the Blind Banker?
N: I do like Rigsy's murals, even if they all seem the same broken glass motiff.
D: Odd that you'd do it where no one can see it.
A: Maybe he was practising for the big mural on the Estate?

The Doctor helpfully builds a deflattener but it doesn't work.
N: "Why do I bother?" he says. Yeah, why? Maybe if you spent more time getting the damn thing to work instead of doing crap puns...
A: That's the thing about this Doctor, isn't it? No one likes him, no one finds him funny so why should we?

A giant hand grows out of ceiling and kills the last extra.
All: GAHHHHH!!!
D: OK. I'm freaked. I admit it. This is scary sci-fi.
A: Must be these things being sadists, since they could have just sucked him into the floor. They really like scaring people before killing them.
N: Hang on, how come they're 3D all of a sudden? We've barely had one episode and already they've abandoned their core concept. Even the Voord managed better than that!

Zombies grow out of the tunnel floor and chase our heroes.
D: Called it.
A: They are... freaky. Like lumps of clay with superimposed bodies on them. Very freaky.
N: This is giving me a feel of those old sixties Doctor Who Annuals with beings from other realities that could not be understand but threatened all life with dissection. All they need is to breathe ammonia...

Johnny Jack throws the tiny-toy TARDIS down a pit.
N: Wow. I can't remember how often I've wanted to do that since Capaldi took over.
D: It's interesting it's the first thing Jack's done that's actually been stupid or reckless. And by accident.
A: Or is he working for a Higher Authority? *hums Sapphire & Steel theme*

The TARDIS is, like any decent Looney Tunes character, in the path of an on-coming train.
A: OK, so it might be vulnerable now the power's gone, but surely it's small enough for the train to pass over harmlessly?
D: I do like the Doctor telling Clara to focus on saving the innocents. It's a rare reminder of him being selfless.

Clara suggests he does a Thing From Addams Family Thing and use his hand to drag the TARDIS to safety. The Doctor does so, does a stupid dance, the TARDIS falls onto the rails so the Doctor presses a magic button that puts the TARDIS into siege mode (aka a silver Pandorica).
A: Nuff said.
D: That was... well, it was just padding, wasn't it? Like the 2Dis thing not working.
A: Was that some generic happy dance or some kind of pop culture reference I didn't get?
N: You realize that if the Doctor used the siege mode in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, the whole plot would have been resolved prior to the opening titles? Or did he build it on Trenzalore?
D: Oh, who cares?

Clara flags down a train which Rigsy tries to kamikaze against the monsters. Clara saves him, the monsters flatten the train and the whole thing was a waste of time really.
D: Don't get me wrong, this is scary, but literally this whole sequence adds nothing to the plot.
A: Yeah, what did they think they were going to do? Let it crush them?
D: Surprised they didn't just get out of the way.
N: How did Rigsy know how to drive a train?
A: And that hairband stuff really took a lot longer than necessary. I thought they were in a hurry to get off the damn train!
D: Yeah, what would Clara have done if Rigsy still stayed on the train? Bet she wouldn't have cared.
A: Interesting. This episode is making Clara less and less likeable after last week's made the Doctor more and more likable. Obviously now she's dressed him down, there's nothing left except to write her out of the show.
N: Meh, she's been in it for three years. That's longer than some Doctors.
D: I like the train driver, though. He's only had two lines and he's more fun than the main characters. "I've always wanted to ram the train into something!" Hah! They need his sort on the Island of Sodor!
N: You know this means everyone can now sabotage a dead man's switch and cause untold chaos on British Rail. And it's all this show's fault!

Clara finds the TARDIS in seige mode and somehow recognizes it.
A: ...hang on, that means it was nearly hit by a different train to the one we saw flattened. What happened to the previous train? Did it get flattened too or what?
N: I like how Johnny Jack is handling explanations cause Clara can't be arsed.
D: This is like that bit in Cloverfield with the monsters hunting them through the railway.
A: Or The Web of Fear. Remember? They found that?
N: Not all of it.
A: They found enough.

Clara has a plan. Everyone, even Rigsy, thinks she's just gone nuts.
D: It doesn't take much to lose faith in her grip on sanity. She really have a "go for the neck" smile.
N: The Doctor being trapped in the TARDIS while his companion takes the lead reminds me of Planet of the Daleks. I wonder if he'll change out of that horrible Pertwee outfit while the air runs out?
A: Johnny Jack's gone all stupid. Why is he sticking with her if he thinks she'll fail? Surely he'd have a better idea or something by now.

Clara has used Rigsy to paint a faint door so the monsters try to de-flatten it but instead recharge the TARDIS instead, undoing the damage.
A: Um... how did Rigsy paint such a photorealistic door? Why couldn't the monsters percieve that? Why does their energy go through the TARDIS? How did Clara know they'd even try to do that?
D: Why are they zapping the door even after it's clearly a poster peeling off the wall?
N: More to the point, why are they zapping the door instead of walking around the corner less than a metre away? I mean, there's unknowable alien abominations and there are idiots...

The TARDIS is restored and the Doctor gives a name to the monsters before blowing them to oblivion.
N: Wait. Did he just say... the Bogans?
A: I think he said "Boneless"...
D: Killer Graffiti is a way better name.
N: What is it with him naming things this week? First the 2dis and now the Boneless... maybe this Doctor would be better working in advertising. Maybe it's revenge for the old Doctor using Buffy Speak all the time?
A: But this Doctor and Clara say "it's a thing" at least once a week...
D: Um, we have a totally new alien villain. And the sonic screwdriver kills them all. Lame.

The Doctor drops the surviving humans on the surface with varying levels of gratitude.
D: I really like the train driver. He's like the Oroog.
N: Johnny Jack's being extra horrid, but notably he's not saying they deserved to die, just that he isn't sorry they could be saved. It's a lot subtler than that bloke in Voyage of the Damned who kept screaming "Hey, I'm rich! HAHAHAH!" to make the audience hate him. Johnny still thanks them both with sincerity for saving his life, rather than just ignoring them too.
A: What's more, his basic point - better some of them survived than none of them - is exactly the same argument Clara is using.
D: The Doctor is really sickened seeing his "moral compass" shrugging off death and destruction, isn't he? It's like he long ago gave up any moral highground and leaves it all to his friends to keep him on the straight and narrow, but now Clara's become as amoral and callous as him.
N: Yeah, that is a nice revelation. The Doctor's a misery guts because he hates himself and everyone else just suffers his transference. I guess the Doctor really came to hero-worship Clara after a thousand years on Trenzalore. It's like finding out Jesus likes bumfight or Obama is a serial killer...
A: It's a bit like Rusty that someone homages the Doctor by only seeing the worst in him.

The Doctor gives Rigsy a warm farewell. Certainly warmer than he's giving Clara.
A: Wow, he can barely look at her. It's clear we're not meant to be on Clara's side any more.
D: I think I stopped somewhere in Listen. Which this story turned out not to be a sequel of.
N: We know. We're right here. And now Clara's refusing to answer her phone to Danny. Bitch.
A: Why didn't she do it earlier?
D: She's desperate for the Doctor to tell her she's awesome, which makes me wonder if she's insecure or else suspecting rightly that she's turned into a horrible, stunted human being.
N: Clara's going to end up like Gwen Cooper, mind-raping the Doctor and shouting "SAY THAT YOU FORGIVE ME!" while she gibbers in a corner.
A: It's amazing that Amy was the one with psychiatric problems when she was never as cracked in the head as Clara... I miss Amy. I think having Amy would snap the Doctor out of his funk. She'd be better company than Clara at the moment.

N: I think Rigsy would be a better companion than Clara. Mind you, right now Dodo would be a better companion than Clara. Turlough and Kamelion high on meth screaming "Kill the Doctor" would be better companions than Clara right now...

And it seems Missy agrees on that point.
D: So, Missy was the highly-esteemed Woman In Shop from 2013. That's a better turnaround of plot than you'd expect. She was the one who sent Clara all along!
N: Which means she is either the Master in drag, the Black Guardian in drag or someone else.
A: I still reckon she's some cosmic counterweight to the Doctor not dying of Trenzalore...
D: Hang on a minute, Missy can watch events from the afterlife on her iPad?
A: Maybe it's another leaked work print?

4.5/5

A: That was surprisingly impressive. Scary as shit, interesting ideas and a round condemnation of the two colossal pricks our main heroes have become.
N: And some surprisingly complicated characterization - can you imagine someone as layered as PC Forest in a Mark Gatiss story? Or even a moral-grey-bastard like Johnny Jack?
D: It was another downer ep, though. Creatures from another dimension turn out to be evil, go on a killing spree, are murdered and the Doctor realizes Clara is turning into a monster.
A: It's gone all Angel, with the characters being their own worse enemies than any monster.
N: Still a cracking good episode.
D: Yeah, but like the Doctor said - it was excellent but "goodness" had nothing to do with it.

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