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article imageReview: Flatline sees Doctor Who become Clara Who (VIDEOS)

By Mathew Wace Peck     Oct 22, 2014 in Entertainment
Season 8, Episode 9: a second “Doctor Who” adventure from the pen of Jamie Mathieson saw Clara take on the role of the Doctor. Did it work?
Flatline saw our world — well, Bristol (a.k.a. Holby City country), in the UK, anyway — threatened by entities from a 2D universe, which meant that, for much of the episode, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) was trapped inside his space–time “Ship,” the TARDIS.
This, in turn, allowed his companion Clara Oswald to become Clara Who, sort of taking on the role the Doctor normally fulfills.
This premise enabled Capaldi to be absent from much of the filming (though you wouldn’t think so given the amount of actual screen time he received) so that he could get on with filming another Who episode at the same time. Known in TV parlance as double-banking, apparently, it’s something the Doctor Who production team make use of most seasons, relegating the Doctor to the back seat in various ingenious ways.
It’s the first time, however, that they’ve done so by making the companion into a substitute Doctor, though not the first time the companion has become so (see below). Obviously, this presented the opportunity to show what a woman playing the Doctor could be like.
Ever since Tom Baker bid farewell to the part he’d inhabited for the best part of a decade, rumours have abounded that a woman would be chosen to play the Doctor. At the time, it seems, the BBC had no intention of doing so — the whole thing was started by Baker himself who, in trademark mischievous form, wished his successor — “Whoever he or she will be” — all the best. In the event, another man, Peter Davison, was cast as the Doctor and every subsequent actor to be cast has been male, too.
However, the rumours have persisted, reaching fever pitch in 2013, when Matt Smith announced he was leaving the show after four years. Although many female actors were linked to the role, including Helen Mirren (The Queen), Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch) and Sheridan Smith (Cilla), once again the BBC cast a man: Peter Capaldi.
As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time we’ve been given a glimpse of what a female Doctor would be like. In 2008, in Journey’s End, by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies (Banana), Doctor Who companion, Donna Noble — as played by Catherine Tate (Big School) — briefly became the “DonnaDoctor” as a result of the failed regeneration of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor — otherwise known as the “Human–Time Lord Meta-Crisis.”
And, although Coleman pulled off her Doctor duties OK in Flatline, for my money, Tate’s Time Lord turn in Journey’s End has the edge.
Surely, though, there seems little doubt that the BBC will cast a woman as the Doctor, sooner or later.
Daleks, Danny and the Doctor
If Clara was the Doctor, then who was the companion? For Flatline, those duties were taken on by Riggsy, a graffiti artist — obviously based on Bristol’s real-life graffiti hero, Banksy. When Riggsy stumbles into the Clara’s universe, the young man is serving a community service order — presumably, for his graffiti!
Brought to life by Joivan Wade — who plays Failia in the E4 series Youngers — Riggsy made a pleasing one-off companion who, given the chance, would make a welcome addition to the TARDIS crew. Riggsy for Doctor Who companion starts here!
Flatline was quieter than some of this year’s episodes but in its way, with the depiction of the 2D creatures, the Boneless, as creepy, for my money, as the mummy in Mathieson’s previous outing, Mummy on the Orient Express.
No doubt, Steven Moffat is already in talks with him to provide more, even if Jamie Mathieson (ALT) himself jokingly replied that he was unaware that there was to be another season of Doctor Who when asked by Den of Geek about the possibility of him writing for the show again!
Season 9 of Doctor Who is set to go before the cameras in January 2015. In the meantime, Season 8 continues this coming weekend with In the Forest of the Night:
One morning, in every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to face the most surprising invasion yet.
Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth.
It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the final days of humanity have arrived …
In the Forest of the Night — which more or less takes its name from a line in "The Tyger," a poem by William Blake — has been supplied by Frank Cottrel Boyce, the well-known British screenwriter, children’s author and writer of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, which was directed by Danny Boyle.
Doctor Who Season 8 continues this coming weekend, as does Doctor Who Extra, the show's companion making-of documentary series. The show will then take a short break before returning to TV screens for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special — Capaldi’s first but the tenth such since 2005 — which has recently completed filming.
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